NORTHBURN 100 MILE 36hrs 25 mins

my Dunstan to clyde

The What

Northburn station is a large private 14,000 hectare sheep station in Central Otago New Zealand that runs 10,000 merino. It is virtually treeless like much of Central Otago, the terrain covered with tussock, grasses, thorny matagouri, rosehip and spaniard grass. There is almost no flat place on the whole property, all hill, rock and biting wind that will blow you off your feet! Fortunately, the 2019 version of the Northburn event had fantastic weather, but verging on a little too hot in the first 12 hours or so.

The event has races that cater to all levels, ranging from kids races of a couple of km to the longest race, the 100 mile, spread across 48 hours which is the maximum allowed time for the 100 miler. The race director is a sadistic type, there are some big hills on the station and wherever he sees one, he plots the race, yep, right up it. Overall for the miler, there is a total of 10,000m climbing and 10,000m descent. Don’t ever let anyone say that downhill is easier, it uses less energy and you move faster, but it really, really, REALLY hurts!

The Why

I’ll try to explain the why, but I’m not sure it’ll cover everything. There are a few reasons why I wanted to do this race. I had always kept my eye on it and knew that it is one of the most challenging milers in Australasia. It ranks up there with UTMB and Hardrock in difficulty but without the altitude. It is relatively close to where I live, just a short flight and I just love Central Otago where I have visited regularly for holidays when I was younger. I am sure that our family camped on the banks of the Clutha river almost exactly at Northburn before Lake Dunstan was formed. Last year I followed friends as they ran and I really wanted to experience it. I also followed people who were racing Hardrock last year & Northburn is one of only two races in Australasia that is a qualifier for Hardrock. So I decided I have to be in to give myself options….. watch this space!

The prep

I didn’t enter immediately as I knew the race didn’t fill up quickly and this race really scared me and I wanted to be confident of getting to the race in one piece. I also didn’t tell Kylie how hard it would be and she was blissfully unaware that I would need a lot of preparation. I was planning to run Bogong to Hotham (B2H) in early January to give me a good build up race, but I hurt my foot on a training run in mid November. I took six weeks+ off running, waiting for the foot to come right and decided to pull out of B2H. I started running again around Christmas day. Lucky the foot came right because us runners can be difficult to live with when we can’t run!

I had kept active after hurting my foot, I spent time at the gym and rode a mountain bike, but it just does not match running training. Despite that, I ended up building a good training block quickly and do feel that the extended break before Christmas actually benefitted me overall. The only scare was three weeks out from the race, I strained a calf slightly so began tapering a tiny bit earlier than I thought I should. I really put my trust in coach Scotty Hawker to get me up to speed. I was a bit nervous about the rate of increase in load, but it all went well. It is scary doing a 2.5hr very hilly run on Friday night after work, then getting up early for an 8hr mountain run from Katoomba on Saturday morning. Looking back, I think I was as fit as I could have been before race day.

As usual, Kylie would rather have me running the last portion of the race with a pace/safety runner. I knew no one in NZ who would be up for it, so I contacted Mal Law of Wanaka, who knew many potential candidates, I provided a sweetener of donating to his mental health charity. There were quite a few volunteers, most fell by the wayside, but Steve Tripp always said he would do it. He was racing the 50km on Saturday, but would still be keen. I locked him in nearly two weeks out from the race and the rest is history. He was a fantastic, experienced pacer and I never even realised I was being challenged to keep my pace up until I look back now.

The course for this race is a bit of an enigma. I poured over the course profile, but never really worked it out properly. In comes a connection that Scotty set up with Eemon, another of his clients who had done the hard work of setting out the run in a logical stage by stage format. This was great material, if only I had chosen to read it properly! For some reason, I had it in my head that during the first 50km loop, I would pass through the main check point called TW half way around. I had planned to change to cooler clothing and pick up more food. More on that later.

Getting there

We decided to make a bit of a holiday of it and left Sydney for Queenstown on the Wednesday to spend a couple of days chilling out. Queenstown (and Arrowtown) is a great place for this and we ate and drank well, all good Kiwi things that we miss. A famous Ferg Burger on the first day is a great way to start!

I went for a run on Thursday morning around the lake shore and got talking to Shannon-Leigh Litt who I discovered was also running at Northburn, but using the 50km as a training run, so was out on a 30km+ run that morning. She would have done Northburn on tired legs, but she still finished strong considering she told me hills were not her friend.

On the Friday, we drove to Cromwell. We met up at Lowburn (directly across lake Dunstan from Northburn) with an old school friend of Kylie’s who generously allowed us to stay in their ‘holiday’ house for a few nights. Little did we know we would rattle around in a 5 bedroom house on 6 hectares with amazing views of mountains all around. The stay there was a fantastic race base where we wouldn’t disturb anyone else with comings and goings at all hours.

We went to gear check on the Friday afternoon and then the race briefing. We were early and I caught up with a few friends that I don’t see very often. The atmosphere was pretty good and the weather hot. It was forecast to be similar the following day. The briefing was entertaining, Terry the race director tried his best to scare everyone, but I had read it all before. Anyway, there was no way that I would not give it my best, whatever the conditions and terrain.

Final preparations of drop bag and then early to bed, though not the best sleep as per usual the night before a race.

The Race

Loop 1 (50km, 2650m+- 7hrs 44min)

The race started at 6am. We were there early as it was only 10 mins drive from Lowburn. There were plenty of nervous faces about, but I was just keen to go. I dropped off my TW checkpoint bag and started the race with a short sleeve wool top and arm warmers. It was still dark and we started the race with a 5km loop called the loop of deception which looped back through the start area again. I called out to Kylie who watched us go through, it was still pretty dark so I’m surprised she recognised me.

After the loop, it finally started to get a bit lighter, but cloud prevented a bright sunrise. I was hiking up a large hill and there were lots of others to talk to. This was tough, but I was dreading the fence line that was supposed to be tougher. Actually though, the fence line was fantastic. By this time, we were reasonably high and once we left the 4 wheel drive track, the flora was amazing as it was alpine-like and the water ways were very pretty and with soft moss underfoot. There are no trees up there, but what there is, is thick scrubby bushes that only grow no higher than 300mm. There are not many runs where you can say that you ran through the tree tops!

We finally reached what I think is the highest point of the loop and there were a couple of red utes which made up the aid station. I stopped for a water refill and they said it was about 10km to the next aid station. I asked about TW and they said we wouldn’t be going through it. I was shocked and realised I had planned this really badly with my first thought being I am going to roast in the clothes I was in. I also didn’t want to uncover my arms as sunburn was the last thing I wanted. About 1km down the track I than also realised I wouldn’t have enough food for the 50km leg either. I had prepared for around half that distance maximum. I wish I had realised that at the utes and nearly considered going back to stock up with what little food the aid station could provide in the way of chips and muesli bars. Oh well, I just had to take my time and spin out the food that I had and minimize the pace to stay as cool as possible.

Most of the rest of this loop was downhill and despite preserving myself, I think this whole loop was the most enjoyable of the whole 100 miles. The running ‘off piste’ was just amazing, but I was wondering how much time the flora might take to recover from the runners feet pounding through.

Once back on the track, we started to descend quickly. Eventually we got to a little aid station which had fresh home grown grapes. I was pretty hungry so threw down several handfuls. The tannin and acid sat in my stomach badly, so maybe it wasn’t the best decision, but overall I think it had no real effect and the energy was a bonus. I met up with Glen Nicol, who is also one of Scotty’s clients and we ran a fair way until I slowed down again when I got too hot. It was great to finally get to the start/finish point and with Kylie to look after me. I probably spent about 25 mins here, a bit longer than I wanted, but I wanted to get cool. Someone filled my water bottles and added ice, I think the weather had approached the high 20’s and there is never any relief from the sun at Northburn. Kylie plastered me with enough sunscreen to last the rest of the race (and it did). I must have looked very pale!

I did confide with Kylie that my urine was looking extremely dark red but I thought that it was due to the beetroot juice I had been drinking over the last few days to see if it worked as a secret weapon. I felt really good so decided it wasn’t serious…..
I ran the 50km loop far too fast, but that is what happens when there is plenty of energy left over from tapering.

Loop 2 (50km, 3700m+- @100km = 18hrs 44min)

I knew the next climb would be a biggie. The race director had a name for it and think it included the word death in it! We would reach the highest point in the race after only 14km. I didn’t make it to there without lying on the track (part of the Loop of Despair) watching the view for 20-30 minutes, waiting for my body to stop spasming. Better to do that and finish than not finishing at all. I am getting wiser. It looks like my race planning mistakes were beginning to catch up with me. I realised my electrolyte balance was out of whack and I took electrolyte tablets, which I wouldn’t normally do.

I finally got up and going again and ran a bit with Paddy (a fellow Sydney resident, but from Ireland) into the Leaning Rock aid station which is the highest point of the race and part of an out and back. Paddy and I left together, but I was able to run more and ended up running alone down to TW, which is the main aid station where I could finally get all the food and clothing that I needed. The air had started to chill down again, so I left all the warm clothes on and headed for Mt. Horn. My go to food was tinned spaghetti and a bottle of ginger ale.

I was running OK, initially it was downhill. I caught up with Glenn Sutton and pretty much spent the rest of that loop travelling with him. He had a wealth of knowledge as he had run every year since it started and has won the event twice. He was recovering from a serious injury, but still participated and I thought was moving relentlessly forward. We made good enough time and I was feeling pretty good since it was dark and the temperatures had dropped. We were watching for headtorch lights behind us but I felt we were moving better than most. The only person to pass us was Sally Law. At the time this confused me as she had passed me about 30km back looking strong.

We got to the start/finish the 100 odd km point in 18hrs 44 and I was feeling pretty good but was planning to spend more time there than Glenn. I downed more tinned spaghetti and then had some apple. My pacer Steve was ready to go and I was keen to get back out. The apple suddenly didn’t sit right and everything turned to S*%t! I felt nauseous and began to shiver. The race director was not keen on me going back out into the night until I looked better. I started to drink hot sweet tea. They weighed me and I had lost 5.5% body weight so I decided I needed a bit of re-hydrating. I wrapped up in blankets and kept on drinking horrible sweet tea. Glenn came up to me and gave me the bad news that we had taken the wrong route down and that is how Sally got ahead. That meant that we would have to do the section that we missed by doing it in the last loop!

100km picnic
100km picnic

Kylie kept on asking me what the plan was. She hadn’t got much sleep and it was now after 1am. Suddenly, the tea had just got too much and I vomited it all up, completely emptying my stomach. Combined with having to run outside the marquee and empty my bladder, I felt that I was ready to go again. The vomit had re set my stomach and I was ready for the challenge. All up I had spent two hours at the checkpoint. At least the urine was clear and no longer dark red!

Loop 3 (60km, 4100m+-)

This loop is easily the hardest and most soul destroying of the race. Initially we followed a different route up to TW and when I got close I knew that I needed a bit of a sleep. The horizon has just started to lighten. I told the CP crew that they needed to call me in 15 minutes. I closed my eyes and slept in a tent with a sleeping bag on an airbed. When they woke me, I felt completely alert and mentally clear. Only the body struggled to get going, in fact it was a battle to get out of the tent without cramping!

We set off on the first of two loops from TW. The first one is the loop of despair (Steve and I thought it should be renamed to Loop of Awesome), the sunrise was just awesome. It is a very steep bit of track that took us down a gully, just to bring us back up again. All up about 600m of descent and ascent. It was on this track that I had my ‘rest’ during the second 50km loop. This time I felt good and had passed a few people including friends Tom and his pacer Gene. Back at TW, I ate more spaghetti and cracked open a V. All went down well and we had to do the second loop.

This loop first of all went back up to Leaning Rock, then returned and went down an extremely steep track which is the water race. This track was murder on the quads, we were again walking on top of the low scrub and very scoured track. After what seemed like forever, we got to the bottom and came across an angel sitting in a beautiful spot outside a tent. One thing about this race is the dedication of the marshals and other volunteers. She was at this spot for a long time and still had a smile for us. It is very remote and sheltered with the most amazing view to lake Dunstan down to Clyde and Alexandra.

Now for the UP! We had climbed another 500m down, so now had to climb back up to TW. At least it is mostly on a dirt road. Finally back at TW, I finished my spaghetti and had another V. That is most of the uphill completed, now for the big downhill, except for the little sadistic up bits! Mentally it was so good to know that I was on the home stretch, barring any catastrophe, I was going to finish. I passed through Mt. Horn aid station and we told the marshals that we would be taking the pylon track because we had missed that on the second loop. There was no way that I wanted to say that I hadn’t covered the proper course. Now with quads screaming, I had to do the part that was going to add an hour or so onto my finish time. The pylon track was not much longer, but it had some seriously slippery grass lined technical track for tired legs. I wasn’t surprised, but we came upon another runner, Glen of course was also doing the loop. I had caught nearly 2 hours on him since the 100km mark. It gave me some confidence that I was doing OK. I then had a bit of an episode with an energy gel. I had not been eating well all day, but this gel went in and I immediately dry retched. I have no idea where the gel went, but it stayed in there! I pulled ahead of Glenn as I was running better downhill than him.

Finally, we joined the main track and pulled into an aid station just after Tom and Gene and a couple of other runners had left. We had to turn right up the last major climb of the day, bicycle wheel and we caught them. It seemed to go on forever and we were now a group of about five runners plus a few pacers. The lone bloke at the CP at the top seemed grateful to see people and plied us with food and drink. He told us it is now all downhill to the finish.

The quads were now singing loud and clear, STOP! It was at this point I mentally blocked out the pain and know that going slow will not make the pain any less, just prolong it. I pulled ahead of the group of runners and wanted to get to the finish as soon as possible. I could see that everyone hurt, but I wanted to demonstrate I didn’t hurt at all. They all dropped back. Once we got about 3km for the finish the terrain is dirt road and nothing steep, I planned to run/walk it in.

When we were about 500m from the finish, I had a quick look back and spotted a runner behind, less than 100m away and running. I said to Steve, we will have to pick it up a bit. We started running again at a reasonably slow jog, I thought this would be plenty fast enough to stay ahead. I didn’t dare look back again, but Steve did and said they were gaining. I picked up the pace a bit and realized we would have to run all the way and wasn’t looking forward to the rise out from the river. At about 50m from the finish line, there was a sizable finish crowd now. I looked back and saw that there were two runners at what I thought was nearly an all out sprint! That was it, there was no way I was going all that way to lose two places at the end and I sprinted as hard as I could. The crowd started screaming and I heard Kylie really shouting for me to move. I still didn’t dare look back. I saved the last bit of energy that I could summon to do a jump across the line and beat the other two in a photo finish. Boy, that is not the way I wanted to finish, but it was such a buzz! I have seen two different videos of the finish and I just can’t stop watching them!

The aftermath

Once I had finished, I collapsed on the ground and didn’t get up for at least 20 minutes. That race and course is just epic and to finally finish after months of planning and preparation is so satisfying. I didn’t think that I had done any damage with the sprint, just sucked the last bit of energy out of my body and it sort of went into shock. I had so much gratitude for Steve for the pacing and for Kylie looking after me at the aid station. We didn’t hang around too long, only to see Tom come in with Gene pacing, but I had stretched out quite a lead in the last 7km or so. I did weigh myself again and all up, had lost 5.3kg (7.2%)!

Eventually we got back to Lowburn and I didn’t really feel up to eating or drinking and felt very ill. I was just a zombie and had a shower and went to bed but felt too hot. Kylie came and woke me again and fed me some paracetamol and water and I went to sleep again. I woke up in the night and suddenly felt myself again. The very act of finishing consumes me and I disregard everything else to finish then the body must go into shock. Sometimes it can take a few hours before I can feel better. The sprint finish did not help!

That race really took it out of me, the rest of the week in New Zealand was just resting and recovering. Funnily enough in the airport on the way home, my hand baggage was put aside during x-ray. I was asked to open it, bugger, I thought, what have I left in it! Then it twigged, the Northburn buckle is a really heavy piece of metal so I pulled it out of my bag. I said there was no way they could take that off me, they just smiled and let me through. I doubt they had any idea about it, but decided that it wasn’t a weapon!

The review

Nutrition and fluids

I still cannot get food right. I tend not to be able to eat enough and revert to high energy items based more on sugars. These are OK for awhile, but eventually my stomach cannot even take these. I was still able to eat tinned spaghetti at the aid station, so I need to find some real food that is more portable that I can eat. Steve fed me some sausage and cheese at one stage and it went down and stayed down, so this might be on the right track.

For fluids, I used Tailwind for the first couple of hours then carried water for the rest of the race. Ginger beer, Coke and V were still good to consume after that, but I didn’t overdo them which seemed to be the right balance.


Other than the complete stuff up with the drop bags, the gear was as near to perfect as it could be. My hydration pack chafed my back a bit, but this was manageable. For my feet, I wore Injinji socks, Trail Gaiters and Hoka Speedgoat 3 shoes that are half a size bigger than usual. Apart from a slight discolouration of my left big toe nail and a bit of discomfort from the shoes tightening up in the last 10km, I got through the best ever miler without any shoe change. In the cooler periods I used short sleeve Icebreaker shirt with thick Ground Effect polyester arm warmers and Buff, perfect, except when I had to wear them in the heat! During the hotter part of the day I used a white polyester shirt with white cooling arm sleeves and a white legionnaires hat which was ideal. The best choices overall were the shorts and underwear, I used T8 Clothing’s Sherpa shorts and Commando underwear which are the best items for an ultra I have ever worn. I cannot recommend them highly enough.

The reply                           Kylie’s bit

Now let me put in my 5 cents worth & tell it how it really was

Correct, Stephen failed to mention this was the toughest race to date, but I did attend the race briefing where my inexperienced trail running brain was inwardly in a state of shock over hearing what lay ahead. I know enough to know this was serious business but I best not dwell on it and no way was I to discuss it with the Mr who was still packing gels and snakes into bags. After a rip roaring heated discussion over his plan for food bags for aid stations, I had given up trying to understand this race and its three loops.

Good to later find out I was in fact correct and he had no clue what he was talking about and in fact had completely misunderstood the loops and TW. Hence he was left in woolen shirt and seriously lacking nutrition.

Anyway, at the first 50km meet up point, I did ensure I absolutely covered him in sunscreen so much so, I was later to go full panic mode when I considered his skin may not be able to breathe nor sweat and he would be lain out on course surrounded by sheep.

The snacks I had purchased for my lunch he ate and was in fine spirits when he left soon after midday. I chilled then returned about 9pm to race base as the large house was beginning to spook me, possums, rabbits, I don’t know, but by the time I left I was convinced someone was in the roof and every shadow was a spook.

On arrival, I parked up the rental and could not believe me “all the gear no idea” had not remembered to bring a headlamp! Lucky for the full moon or maybe not, tends to bring out the weirdos. Asked the Ladies how #11 was going I really did struggle following the Yachtbot tracker & like I said i’d given up understanding the 3 loop business.

Woop woop, I think midnight he arrived, looked great sounded great, ate and I’m like awesome I’m outta here! Boom! After the spaghetti and 10min break that was it, the old demon nausea/shakes were back. OK, you want my blanket, here put on my jacket. Yes, I was tired and yes, I was politely asking “what are your intentions?”, “where to from here Stephen?”. Fed him green apple, I’d heard they’re good for hangovers I’ve more experience in them than endurance events, but of course that was not a good idea. I made tea half sugar half water, probably six cups, he seemed to like it! I was tired and cold, the patience was gone. I messaged Steve the pacer & said if you guys go, I’ll sit in the car and make sure you are well clear.

Finally he vomits & then has the cheek to say I know you’re tired and just want to go to bed, ha, like he meant it! I didn’t bother with an answer. Speech bubbles were “yeah mate but really can’t complain you’re the dickhead who’s potentially gonna be out there 46 hours!

All of a sudden he goes I need to go for a pee. Finally I know he was good. I stuck to my word and slept in the car until 7:30am & told myself no more worrying one way or another I’d get a call to pick him up.

Filled my day, checked Yacht bot but gave up, too confusing! Then he disappeared altogether! People were messaging has he DNF’d? is he OK? etc.

Had decided to shower and head down to race start with my blankets for another night in the car. About to shower & phone messaged “be there in an hour”. I thought from Stephen then I freaked it wasn’t his number! Shit, no way, omg! Like finishing, or in an ambulance?

I can’t believe I showered, dried hair, yes, anyone who knows me it’s a process! Arrived at the finish line, asked the ladies & they say he should be coming in now, there’s a group of them. Omg, he’s actually done it, this is unbelievable! I ran out and he’s coming down, there’s a runner on his tail. Mooove! GO STEPHEN! You beauty, absolutely amazing woohoo!!!

He may have felt like shite but he looked like he had been on a stroll. Took him home, dealt with the horrors of washing his gear and left him to sleep. Was slightly concerned when he seemed to be burning up, but wet cloths cooled him down. We’ll just put that down to the beetroot juice or I will be saying NO MORE!

Coast 2 Kosciuszko 2017

Now for a completely different type of challenge.

I consider myself a trail ultra runner, running Coast 2 Kosciuszko was going to take me out of my comfort zone, but I never thought that it would be unachievable. It has been a huge year for running and I was looking forward to having a rest after all of this. Coast 2 Kosci is not just about the runner, it is also one of the only events in the world where each runner must have a crew to support. This dimension adds so much to the event and makes it even more appealing to compete.

I had seen C2K come and go, but never considered running it as it was not really my thing. Roll onto to 2015 and Gavin Markey asked if I wanted to crew for Dave Graham. I said yep, willing to give it a go. We had a crew meeting and I was in! Trouble is, Dave pulled out shortly before the event. Instead, we crewed for Andrew Layson as a crew of five. Andrew drew me aside the day before and asked if I would crew for another team as we already had a five person crew. I moved camps and crewed for David Billett (Adelaide) from Cathcart with his Mum and the rest is history. I ended up running over half the distance as a mule and got a kick out of it. I even got a real kick out of David coming 2nd last by the skin of his teeth!

At the end of that weekend in 2015, Gavin and I made a deal that we would both give it a go in 2017. Gavin pulled up a bit lame after GNW miler and couldn’t do it, this sort of race is not the sort to enter half hearted. I had it on my radar (for 2 years!) and had entered the GNW miler to give myself more of a chance to gain entry. I had the best performance at GNW that I could have hoped for, now just needed to carefully prepare for C2K.

I decided to structure my training around races that would serve me well (in conjunction with Scotty Hawker from Mile 27). I entered the Crater Rim Ultra (50km & 2300mD+) in Christchurch NZ to start it off. Strangely enough, a Morton’s neuroma flared up in my left foot the week before and although it was agony I finished well enough. So good to be racing in my home town and I was embarrassingly overdue a visit to see Mum and Dad! The neuroma was a sign it would be a tough training run to C2K.

I had a bit of a break again for a week to recover and then got into some more serious training. I had three good weeks averaging 110-120km with good vertical. I included Carcoar Ultra 60km, where I had a fantastic run. Not super fast overall (still a PB), but Scotty gave me the goal to run negative splits for each 20km block which I did and it gave me more confidence and some ideas on how to run C2K (speed and nutritionally).

Now for the wind down and taper for C2K. My foot was sore, not really an injury, but not making running very enjoyable. There is a lot of organisation that goes into this race. I hired a van to make it as comfortable and roomy as possible and bought quite a bit of gear including 2-way radios and camping stuff. My crew had been sorted 2 weeks after I had confirmation of my entry, Todd, Rochelle and Kylie (wife). I could not have chosen a more disparate bunch. One organised bossy machine, one easy going dude with focus and one redhead who loves to run. What a crew to pick (all newbies too), at least I could spend all the time on the road! From my point of view, I could not have asked for more from C2K virgins. All were fixated on the summitting of their runner and I never felt I was forgotten. Except for the flyscreen incident (more on that later).

A fair chunk of the prior weekend was spent packing. Preparing food and tubs of gear which were all highly organised by Kylie. I think she was stressing more than me, but it is a different stress, at least I knew exactly what I had to do, she was going into the unknown. The Wednesday before, I had to pick up the rental van. I had done quite a lot of research into the vehicle, then it was a search of where I could rent a Hyundai iMax from. In the end I ended up having to pick one up from Darlinghurst. A big hassle, but worth it for comfort and space.

Todd and I took turns driving to Eden on Thursday morning. I was stressed, wanting my crew to get into the atmosphere of the race by participating in the Cossie to Coast event. I didn’t want to get to Eden too late. Todd and Rochelle competed and really enjoyed the tough little 7km fun event. Kylie was saving herself for the Kosci summit.


Sleep the night before was not all that good. Perhaps 4 or 5 hours only, but I knew that would be the case and had tried to get as much sleep the previous week as possible to make up. The alarm set for 3:45am went off well after I had woken. Here we go, the big day! All I had to do was liberally lube and have some breakfast. Weetbix is all I usually have and that was heaps. Toileting wasn’t much and I resigned myself to carrying the whole lot to the summit. The only thing that moves in an ultra for me is my limbs! We were staying only a short drive from the start of the race, I am not the sort to be late and I had to be check in between 5am and 5:15am for a 5:30am start. We got there in plenty of time. The obligatory photos, touch the water and then we are all lined up ready to go. There was definitely a buzz of anticipation, especially from 13 of us C2K virgins.

Calm before the storm


Stage 1 to Towamba School (24km)

A very discrete, low key count down and off we go. Keep the sand out of shoes type of shuffle seemed the best approach, but I still got a bit of grit in there. I chose Hoka Speedgoat 2 shoes in the end as they had served me well over all sorts of terrain and cushioned my neuroma. Even so, the first 70km was very painful, but I wasn’t worried as I could deal with that pain. I talked to Nikki, Jeri, Rene, David and more than I can remember and really took it easy. The first 24km is beautiful and peaceful with bush clad hills that I enjoy. The trail ran out after about 4 km and now we were on gravel road / sealed road for the rest of the race. I just took it easier than I thought I should, although relentlessly forward and was looking forward to seeing my crew for the first time. In fact I was practicing running slow. I got to the checkpoint and the crew were ready with a table and anything I would need. I grabbed half a bacon and egg roll and lollies and said I’ll see them in 4 km, off we go!

To CP1 (Rocky Hall 50km)

This section to me was pretty uneventful. I didn’t push too hard, cruised and took it easy as I knew there would be plenty of time to dig deep later. I chatted to Sharon quite a bit during this stage (I think). The windows of the van started to get plastered by signage. My nieces and nephews in New Zealand were sending me encouragement and Todd was transforming them to signs on the windows. Whoa, tell Uncle Stephen I will buy him a pony! (My 4yo niece said). Miss 15yo “Run like you stole it!” Mr 13yo “Eat my dust” and Mr 7yo “run like a cheetah”. I didn’t understand the “only 3 or 4 km to go”, but later realised that was to the next crew stop.

Rocky Hall was achieved without much drama, honey wraps were the fuel of choice for most of this section. We had brought along 2-way radios that they were good fun and helpful too. Todd would be the welcoming committee 100m+ from where the van stopped and would call in the runner requirements.

To CP2 (Cathcart 70km)

Next major milestone was Big Jack. This is a 7km hill climb where a crew member was permitted to accompany the runner. Rochelle drew the short straw and off we went. She brought her poles along, I gave them a go but was not familiar with them and still had plenty of energy, so only tested them. The hill seemed to block out radio coverage until right at the end, so it was difficult to forewarn the crew. Never mind though, I was happy to have a quick break. I ate some cold tinned spaghetti there and it went down a treat. One more stop then Cathcart. As the crew drove past, they asked me what I would like at Cathcart. I yelled out Ice cream! Lo and behold when I got to Cathcart, Kylie held out a fly hood. In my grumpy manner I asked what’s that for? That’s what you asked for! No I didn’t, yes you did, you asked a for a fly screen! Ahh, the penny dropped, not fly screen, ice cream! I really saw the funny side them. Todd raced into the shop and got me one. No time lost and it was just divine.

To CP3 (Snowy River Way 106.7km)

The country now started to get a lot more open and exposed and, like, BIG. Straight after Cathcart, we turned right, back onto gravel again I was slowly catching up to Jeri Chua. She suddenly stopped in the middle of the road just ahead. By the time I caught her, a crew car had stopped beside her too, then a member of the public behind the crew car. I wondered what could be wrong. Just as I got there, a large red belly black snake slithered across the road and into the verge in front of Jeri and the car. It was great to see, although I did not see much other live wild life during the whole race. Most of the time it was road kill and was normally smelled before being seen! I caught up to Kevin Heaton and passed him, then caught up to Jane Trumper for a chat. I decided to tuck in with Jane for awhile and draw from her experience, we both enjoyed the company. Kevin then went past and surged on ahead in his run/walk style. We finally got to the dead tree at 102km (just under 13 hours) and Jane said she was on PB pace. I know the race wouldn’t really start until Jindabyne, so I was happy to idle along with Jane. Sooner or later I knew it would start to get hard going. We finally made it to CP3 at about 7:30pm with still plenty of daylight.

To CP4 (Dalgety 148km)

This is when the race just got a lot harder. Generally I had been enjoying myself with food going down OK, alternating between more solid food and lollies. We left the CP, planning to meet up in 7km, but for some reason, Jane’s crew only went 5 km up the road. We were planning to have a slightly extended break and get more food down and prepare for lights and the first pacer to join me. I ate most of a pot noodle and Rochelle was going to do the first pacing stint to Dalgety. One of Jane’s crew, Sarah Jane, had bad gastro, so it was decided that my crew car would service both Jane and I, while they went and dropped SJ off at Dalgety where she could be miserable in comfort for a while. So off Rochelle, Jane and I went into the sunset. We were hoping to get to the wind turbines before it was too dark, but no luck, they never seemed to get close very quick. As the night wore on, I seemed to get more nauseous as the sleep monsters took hold. Jane’s crew finally returned, but we still stayed together for some time. At about 7km from Dalgety, I suddenly felt really ill. I don’t really remember the sequence of events very well, but the van must have been nearby. I flopped into a chair and couldn’t go any further. Jane carried on into the dark. I vomited everything out of my stomach, but it mostly seemed like fluids. I finally pulled myself together and was only stopped for 17 mins. I ate some apple to clear my palate and off we went. I took it a little easier from then on, grateful for Rochelle’s company. We came upon the crew just at Dalgety where there was a fork. They wanted to make sure that we took the correct one into the checkpoint, I was just concerned that they weren’t getting enough rest. the notes show that I arrived at 3am and then left at 3:44am so this was a long stop.

Before entering the hall, I had to be weighed, just 1.6kg lighter than when I started so all good and maybe a little heavy. Entering the hall was like walking into a furnace. I was feeling nauseous and was keen to sit down. Perhaps it wasn’t the wisest choice? A volunteer asked if I was OK and I asked if there was a medic to tape up my toes. She arranged for Matt the medic to come over. I was going to change my shoes anyway to Hoka Cliftons as the Goats were starting to hurt. I admired his willingness to get in and tend to my feet while I busied myself gazing into the bottom of a green bucket. This is where I vomited what little was in there back up again. The middle three toes on both feet were blistered, I think because I was clawing them. I saw Jane leave whilst I was feeling miserable. I chatted to other crews, summoning the courage to leave and go back out in the cold. My only regret here was giving Kylie the bucket to empty in the toilets, I think the whole hall heard the retching sound effects that she made doing it. Not that I realised at the time, but this is where my crew were not feeling that good either.

To CP5 (Jindabyne 184km)

Eventually I started to feel better and off I went. It was pretty slow, but over time I warmed up. I had Todd as company and enjoyed his subtle ways of getting me to move a bit faster. My nausea had mostly passed and I was hoping to make a bit better progress. I felt I would have Jane as a target to catch up to again. I sent Kylie and Rochelle 7km ahead so they could get a bit of sleep themselves. We saw a line of crew cars stretched out in the distance with lights flashing and was trying to pick which one ours was. In this section before Beloka, there were lots of runners and crew cars, all struggling through that difficult pre-sunrise period where the body is at its lowest ebb. We eventually caught up to the van and I insisted I needed a quick sleep break. Todd and I hopped in the back and Todd said we were having 10 mins sleep (no complaints!). I feel asleep instantly, then woke up 5 mins later in a panic wondering if we had been there hours and was anyone looking at the time. Todd was trying to sleep too and said he had the alarm set, I had slept 5 and had another 5. Instantly I fell asleep and before you know it I’m back out in the cold climbing Windy Hill. One of my most favourite spots on the course for good reason.

No words needed
Off into the cold after a sleep


My instructions to the girls was that they should go forward 4km or to the bottom of Beloka hill. Todd and I arrived at Beloka and they weren’t there, their name was mud! As it turned out Beloka was only a couple of km and they came on the hill without realising it so went up and found a fantastic stopping point with a view (forgiven!). I had more spaghetti and coffee here which was really hitting the spot now and was a great breakfast. I had passed several runners at the bottom of the hill and then they re passed me. Including Keith and Jeri who were powering up the hill with a little speaker blaring out Oasis. The singing was terrible, but it looked like they were enjoying themselves even though they were on the wrong side of the road!


View from the breakfast stop on Beloka hill

I carried on up the hill and was passed by Jan for the first time. He is just an amazing hiker! At the top of the hill, most of the other runners stopped for a break, but I carried on as I was feeling good. It was here I made quite a break on those runners and although Jan passed me again, there was plenty of downhill and my running was starting to go well again and I re-passed Jan. We made good time into Jindabyne and  passed Greg Wallace on the bike path. It was starting to warm up a bit now, but I didn’t stop at the check point and it was Rochelle’s turn to run.


To CP6 (Perisher 219km)

The next part was running (well more walking this stage!) with Rochelle. I knew now that the road would go up a bit more. The day was getting warm and the asphalt reflected back quite a bit of heat. Flies were beginning to be a problem and I got the opportunity to use the fly netting hoods. They really made a difference, but made it much more difficult to eat and drink. Kylie had bought me a really cold almond milk based chocolate breakfast drink which went down a treat. At about the 195km mark, for some reason I started to get serious sleep monsters again. there was nothing else, but to have another quick kip. The crew put a cold wet towel on me in the back seat, I didn’t go to sleep immediately, but I slept for about 8 minutes which gave me a welcome boost. My ITB was beginning to get tight as it had over the last 50km or so. I stretched out my glutes which fixes it and gets me moving better with less pain. It still continued to get hotter and hotter as there was no breeze until we got well inside the National Park and away from the thicker bush. Although it was hot, I did not over heat. I was wearing all white (including white arm cooling sleeves) on the top half of my body which really seemed to make a difference.

Breast cancer support pink flouro vest – Thanks Celine!


Once we got to the National Park Gates, Rochelle got her poles out. I decided to give them a go under her tuition. I used one at a time first to get them going in the right rhythm, then I soon got the hang of it and did not want to give them back. I had really requested Rochelle to bring them for the possible snow on the trek from Charlotte’s, but now I found out what sort of advantage they can give and wouldn’t give them back! Somewhere along here Todd took another turn running with me. Once into the National Park, I also found I had got ahead of a few runners, the crew cars coming past thinned out a bit, except for Jan’s wife, I knew the walker was not too far away! Eventually I could see Smiggin Holes way up ahead and Todd pointed out what we thought was another runner, that might be Jane, I’ll try to catch her. After Smiggin Holes, Rochelle swapped with Todd so that he could be ready for the trek to the summit. Passing through Perisher was like passing through somewhere after a nuclear holocaust. Everything closed up and mothballed for the summer season, I could only imagine what it would be like during winter.

Just through Perisher


To the finish (Charlotte’s Pass, 2nd time 240km)

After the long up hill from Perisher then onto the downhill. I saw someone in the distance who was walking. That prompted me to run and I caught Brett Easton. He said his stomach had given up the ghost, something I can relate to, but for once the only thing slowing me down was my right achilles. We got to Charlotte’s Pass, but it seemed to take forever. I stopped and changed into some warmer clothes and prepared for the trip up.

Arty photo near the summit


Gear check had to be done, but the marhals said I could start my way up while my crew looked after all the gear checking. They then checked the slowest person’s gear first, which was Kylie and she caught me up first. Then it was off we go as a team. I knew the time of the day was going to be nearly perfect. From this point until the start of the trek down, we didn’t dawdle, but my goal time of under 40 hours was forgotten about. I think I was just overcome with the fact that there was absolutely no doubt by hook or by crook that I was not going to finish this beast. I was so pleased to be doing this in daylight, two years ago I did this at night and I think I missed out on so much. This is only the second time I had been up here!

We had been told that there was still snow up there, there were quite a few patches about that made the hills look like orca’s when the light dropped to semi dark. Just before Seaman’s hut there was a patch right beside the track, my crew stopped for the obligatory photos, I just carried on, wanting it to be all over. Next came Rawson’s Pass and I had to use those high toilets. There was now quite a chill in the air. We then came upon Jane with her crew (Adam) and all wished each other luck and congratulations. Just before the large snow patch we came upon Andy the medic who had a coffee shop set up for orders on the way down. I ordered hot chocolate, but there was a shortage of fuel so the others missed out. He wished us well and offered poles for the icy patch. He had cut steps in it, but it was still pretty slippery and Kylie took a set to take the pressure off her knee as it wasn’t strong on the slippery terrain. Andy said we would be the only team on the summit.

For only 700m, it seemed to take an age to get to the top and then we were there. I had only one thing in mind and that was to get on the monument and stand on it with my $8 NZ flag. We felt like we were on top of the world. All up, we were up there for about 18 minutes. Brett Easton and crew made it up behind us and they took some photos of us all together, then we took one of him and crew. It was time to go just as Jan reached the summit. It was now a dash to Charlotte’s and to beat 40 hours.

We had a very brief stop with Andy for the hot chocolate, but I apologised that we were on a mission. We calculated that we needed to travel at minimum 10 minute per km and we would be there in time. That was pretty tight for my legs, so off we marched and Todd went out front pacing at 8 min per km fast hike. This was easily fast enough, but I didn’t want to leave anything to chance, so I didn’t want to put the brakes on even though I wasn’t feeling the best. We kept on getting waylaid by runners coming up, Nikki, Doug, Damon, Renae, Sharon, Taras, Greg, Jeri. Sorry Guys if you felt we didn’t greet you for long, but I had a tight schedule.

Grandeur in the high snow

It was getting pretty dark, putting on head torches would take time and we were hoping to beat darkness. My crew got theirs out, I just kept on going and used the light from them, there was no way I could break into much of a run. Suddenly there was the 1km to go marker, but OMG, it seemed to take forever to get to the finish. I was struggling with the pace and slowed down a bit. I was confident we had plenty of time. The crew didn’t hold my confidence and tried to encourage me to go faster.

I think that last bit seemed to play with my head. The finish was hidden around a last corner and we could not be sure until the last second, but finally I was there. The crew allowed me to cross by myself while they recorded it for posterity. I got the flag out just before the finish and the race director Paul gave me a hug. They sat me down and Kylie went to the car for a blanket although I didn’t feel cold immediately. Matt the medic came over and questioned me, making sure I was all OK. I was just exhausted, I didn’t have much emotion, the race had robbed me of that, I was just so relieved to have finished and within my goal time sub 40 hours. The race was harder than I thought, but I never thought the whole way that I wouldn’t finish. The 40 finishers out of 42 starters is a testament to the quality of the starters, it felt a privilege that Paul and Diane had the confidence that I would finish.

Actual finish time 39hrs 45 mins 08 seconds

The wind down

Now for the drive down to Jindabyne, which wasn’t without its dramas. Avoiding wildlife, including a huge owl that flew up from the middle of the road, then a head torch that dropped to the floor and switched itself on and blinded the driver. I don’t know how Todd managed to drive in such a tired state, but I was very grateful he got us there in one piece. Luckily the crew had checked us in earlier in the day when we ran through and grabbed the key, as the only thing I needed was my bed. My head was whirling and I think I was constantly having micro sleeps and dreaming at the same time so I don’t think I was very coherent. Everything hurt, but I managed to have a shower and hit the sack. I fell asleep immediately.

The next morning I felt much better. Not very mobile, but my head was back together. We had breakfast with all the crews and the dining room was abuzz, then waited for the prize giving to start at 9am. There was crowd clamouring to get in, suffering in the sun, but finally they were ready and opened the doors.

Paul spoke about the race and with so much emotion. Everyone was presented with either hat pin (repeat offenders) or Akubra hat and pin (newbies). I can’t believe how much mine suits me! My crew and another crew were presented with a bottle of wine and the Richard Peacock memorial crew award for helping Jane Trumper’s crew in their moment of strife with crew sickness. This is an example of what this race is like. Everyone helps each other, be it crews or competitors. Every runner had low points, but everyone knew how much they wanted a finish, there was no shortage of encouragement or assistance from anyone.

Thank you

This is the point where I would like to thank all the people who supported me in my goal to finish this race. Thanks to Todd for flying down from Northern NSW for the sole purpose of crewing for me, being a PT working for himself, he also didn’t earn anything during that time. Thanks to Rochelle for the company during training runs and also donating her time to support me in the race. Thanks to Scotty Hawker for the coaching and getting me to the finish in one piece. Thanks Callum also for the training runs. It’s much better then doing them alone. Finally to Kylie. She put up with me on a daily basis complaining and grumpy when I was tired. She picked up the slack in the household when I was spending so much time training this year. Kylie was also instrumental in the massive organisation feat that goes with this race. If it wasn’t for her organising, that van would have looked like a bomb site inside. To do this race takes a bit of cash and Kylie encouraged me and supported me to do it no expense spared. Lastly, the race direction and volunteer dedication for the event is second to none.

Now, initially I thought I will never do it again. I have changed that to “I will run it again, but not next year”. Hopefully 2017 wasn’t just luck!

From a different point of view – Guest words from Kylie, part of the super crew and long suffering wife.

I support Stephen’s running, but I’m just not a fan of ‘the big ones’. I’ve seen him after the 100km at the medical room vomiting, half out of it, totally munted and just don’t get it. As for the miler’s, just don’t go there all I have is the stories from others. He entered C2K after spending 2 years trying to explain and get me to understand his need and absolute wish to do it. He entered and I prayed, even considered contacting the race director begging for him not to be accepted as this really wasn’t the race for him


I didn’t and just hoped against hope whatever communication came from the race director went to his junk email!

We waited and waited then all of a sudden one Sunday morning while he was standing at the kitchen bench, I heard him roar YES!!

Shut up I told him! My worst fears had come to fruition, he’d gotten in!

This fella may be able to clock up the Strava km’s, but he’s crap at online banking, I could not believe my luck when I see his entry fee had been returned as he’d sent it to an unknown account. Hmmm, perfect, his C2K ain’t gonna happen.

Only then I decided that he had put so much into this over the last 2 years, he’d better give it a go.

In typical Stephen style, his organisation was last minute. In fact if it wasn’t for my harping, he’d still be getting around to booking the time off work. Pre race organising is not his strong point and how he expects to pack the night before a jaunt like that, one will never know. The week before, I spent 8 hours with him packaging 15 minute lots of chicken crimpies, lollies, Xmas cake and other food he decided he’d need.

I’m still not sure how I feel about the few hours of you tube we watched the weekend prior. The emotion behind this epic adventure probably made me more stressed than ever but when I was actually living it, it all seemed to fall in to place if that makes sense.

I’m not an ultra runner, but in the last few years have given a few runs a go and call my 22km one of his ultras. I enjoy reading race reports and getting ideas about what others eat and do, to enable a finish. Spaghetti, Kendal mint cake and instant mash were hot tips and absolute winners. The mountain of food he’d requested wasn’t used.

I like to be organised, structured and yes, bossy. Dithering is not my strong point, so having the 2-way radios was perfect. Took the food orders and prepped in time for him to pass.

Sleep was interesting. I’m a regular afternoon napper but found I needed very little during the race. Being a rookie meant I had no clue to the fact I was singing (something I just don’t do), feeling nauseous, couldn’t look at food, let alone people meant I was well overdue sleep.

My biggest fear happened before Dalgety…..he was vomiting but this time it was different, he was in good spirits. He was focussed, strong and still committed. This was just a glitch. Now I knew he’d made an awesome decision to enter. When I finally snoozed for 20 minutes after Dalgety, I felt heaps better.

Stephen’s mid morning snooze just after Jindabyne, he claims he had “under control”. Bollocks! I’d watched a YouTube about a C2K entrant who has trained himself to have 3 minute sleeps. I figured old mate was untrained, so I’d give him 8-12 minutes sleep. How funny @ 10 minutes I wake him up and say get out there. He’s like I’ve had no sleep and I’m like yeah, you’ve had an hour. That made him move!!!

He totally powered on then and caused his crew no issue till he tried to argue the finish was closer than it was. Seriously Stephen, I think the crew were way more with it than you!!!:)

Looking back I cannot believe what sort of fool runs 240km just for kicks but hey I’ll run with that, he seemed to enjoy it and it was pretty cool to be a part of that dream.

GNW 100 mile 2017

Great North Walk 100 mile 2017


21371387_1364060313706802_7446708544589226195_nGNW100’s and I have had a love affair for what seems like an age.

2012: After finishing TNF100 in May 2012 in what I thought was a fantastic time, better than I thought I could ever run it, I was drawn to an even bigger challenge, GNW miler. I managed to conquer it then, but it certainly chewed me up with a time of 31hrs 44min.

2013: The following year I was at Yarramalong to pace Michael McGrath, but that was the Congewai furnace year and very few runners went on to finish, Michael was one that didn’t go on.

2014: The following year, I paced another runner Nahila Hernandez (Mexico) from Yarramalong to the finish with only a few minutes to spare. This was an incredible life experience.

2015: I finally took the plunge and entered the miler again, only to strain my calf a week before. I started, but pulled out at 82km when my stomach shut down. This is my first and only race DNF ever. Oddly enough, it was my stomach and not my calf that forced me out.

2016: I chose to run UTMF in Japan but suffered FOMO watching GNW from home.

2017: I have learned that running this type of a race is more about finishing rather than racing. This year I told myself that I just needed to finish. Finishing would remove my demons that foiled the race attempt 2 years ago. I decided I would have this as a priority in my mind and my “race” would only start when I could be sure of this. I just didn’t know when during the race that this would be.

I decided up front that I would need to run my race solo. I knew it is possible to do it without crew or pacer. Logistics are the main issue with this race as it is point to point, but I had worked out a way to do it. Callum offered to pace in the end and I knew this would be all good for my race so I accepted the offer. It meant that he would be able to drive me home after the finish and there is nothing like sleeping in my own bed afterwards! Not to mention the moral assistance Callum would bring to my journey.

Kylie dropped me off on her lunch break and I took the train from Macarthur to Teralba on the Friday with my big suitcase (thanks Sydney trains 3hr 45min journey $5.95!!!). My cabin accommodation was only 300m walk from the station, so a relaxing day before. When I got there, I sorted all my drop bags and made a final check on race gear then I went for a walk. Bruce Litterick was sharing my cabin, and he was coming up later. Rochelle and family finally arrived (staying next door cabin) and we went to the event dinner at Warners at the Bay Hotel. The race director explained the race start change. Already, due to the dryness, bush fires had begun. There was a large one at Heaton Gap where the race was supposed to pass through. Luckily the race organisation had managed to come up with a great alternative, but the drive to the new start was 40 mins away.


Scary bush fires

Race morning started after a terrible sleep at 3:30am. The race check in was only 400m away and I expected to walk there (with my massive suitcase), but Stephen Redfern (and Pen) came past in his truck and offered Rochelle and I a lift. Fantastic! We checked in, allocated wrist bands, got weighed, had our gear checked and dropped off our drop bags. I picked up my Personal Locator Beacon (one concession to Kylie who insisted I carry one due to the remoteness and wild nature of the race route) and stashed it at the bottom of my bag. Then thanks to the Markey bus (thanks Rebekah), I got to the new start line without nerves. The drive took us past the fires raging away still. We were starting up wind from them and safe, but we didn’t seem that far away and I think we were very fortunate that the race even started. The new start time was 6:30am, but due to the slightly shortened race (2km shorter) all the cut offs remained at the same time of day throughout the race. I hoped the shortened time limit wouldn’t be a problem.


Stage 1 to CP1 (Old Watagan Forestry HQ) 26.4km

Well, I am at the start in the best physical condition I can hope for. There are a few niggles, but these will temper my enthusiasm and stop me going out too hard. I know my main battle will be with my stomach.

The start was very low key and we were off. The road started flat, but soon began to go up and I finally warmed up a bit. The trail was definitely easier than the normal route, but had an out and back part which meant that we could see the front runners which is always great. At about the 18km mark, we re-joined the original race route and still had a fair chunk of the gnarly jungle to negotiate. It is very slow in there, but it is the part of the race that I love to hate and was hoping not too much would be chopped due to the new route. I was not disappointed! Overall I made good time to CP 1 and felt great. I ran in there to a cheer with Kerry Hope (I ran with her quite a bit in the first two stages) who was obviously a crowd favourite. I found my drop bag easily and I think I ate a little too much.


Kerry, myself and another coming into a roaring crowd

Stage 2 to CP2 (Congewai Public School) 52.9km

This stage is the easiest of the race. I had a plan of eating as well as I could for the whole race to try to keep up my energy levels for when the inevitable stomach rebellion happened. It was this strategy (eating too much) where the first rebellion occurred at about the 30km mark! The Tailwind that I was drinking suddenly didn’t go down well. I decided to reset, stop eating for a while and change to drinking straight water. It seemed to do the trick and I felt much better. I then tried another mouthful of Tailwind and the nausea returned. Water it was then and I never touched Tailwind again for the rest of the race. I spent a lot of this stage chatting to other runners, but ran my own pace for the rest of the stage. Once I got to Congewai Rd and the dreaded 8km road run, I found myself alone again. I made pretty good time once I got into my groove and ran most of the way. About 700m from the CP, Kerry caught up to me and we ran in to crowd cheers again! I met up with Rochelle coming out of the checkpoint and we chatted briefly. She was looking strong. Once in the CP, I was weighed (3kg less), gear was checked and Bill helped me out like a well-oiled machine filling my hydration pack and bringing me anything I needed. He has really got the hang of crewing and I left the CP buoyed and happy.


Kerry and I coming into CP3

Stage 3 to CP3 (The Basin Campground) 82.3km

This next stage is one of the hardest and the temperature had risen. I had a forethought to fill my hat with water and doused myself before I left. I think the heat two years ago had a big influence on my DNF. The first big climb is a killer and once at the top I sat on the log and ate some food. I was in this race to finish, not even half way and I knew the stop would reset me after one of the hardest climbs in the race. This stage went well. Whenever I exerted myself too much, I would feel nauseous, so my pace was not pushing too hard. I came upon the point where I took a wrong turn 2 years previous and realised I was well ahead of my pace 2 years ago as then it was beginning to get dark. This time my race avoided that 2km of purgatory of the added out and back and I was enjoying myself.

As I finally got to the really difficult track into the Basin, I realised I was also ahead of my 2012 effort by about 30 minutes. For the next couple of KM, I greeted other runners coming back from The Basin CP. I had a quick chat to Rochelle and realised I was about 30+ minutes behind her. The Basin CP for me is historically one of the best CP’s in the race. This time it did not disappoint. The best pumpkin and carrot soup on earth. This is just what my stomach craved. Sarah and Adam Conner helped me sort my life out. A special thank you to Sarah for understanding what ginger minges are! I couldn’t remember what gin gins were called (ginger chews) and the minges word sort of just popped out! I made the best of the checkpoint and stayed longer than I should which is the story of this race. Thanks Guys!

Just before I left there was a cheer and in ran Kerry again, she had a cheer squad at every checkpoint!

Stage 4 to CP4 (Yarramalong) 102.3km

I had reached The Basin at a perfect time – headlight time! I used my small battery, plenty of power to get me to the next checkpoint. On the 2.5km journey back to the turn off, it was great to see runners coming in the opposite direction. I gave them all the good news – not far now to the fantastic hot soup. The climb out came easy to me and I made good time. Fortunately Rochelle and I had trained on this section a few weeks previous and it had been good to get a refresher.


Nikki, Jochen and I coming into the 102km finish

The steep downhill section to the road was tough on ever fatiguing legs and the final thrill was the pitch black cows and glowing eyes in the paddock at the bottom. These cows must have really wondered what was going on that day. I knew the road section to Yarramalong would be a mental struggle. I started with a run walk strategy that eventually became a constant run once I got my rhythm. I picked up some reflective vests in the distance and this gave me an incentive to catch the next runners. I eventually caught Nikki and Jochen with 5km to go and we ran/walked to the CP. We got our photos taken together across the line and decided on a 15 min stop.

I first grabbed a drink of Coke and it immediately made me nauseous (not normal!). I decided to have some soup, but it was cold. In the end I pfaffed around a lot longer than I should have. Callum was here and helped me out. We were eventually all packed up and ready to go. We checked out then found that we needed another gear check. Bugger! The bag needed to come off and emptied out. I should have been thinking more clearly. In the end, bag packed, light set up with long cable and larger battery, we checked out. The larger battery should last me until daylight now.


Stage 5 to CP5 (Somersby Public School) 130.9km

This stage is one to dread. It was getting very cold. I am glad I took the advice of the gear check people to wear a buff. I was shivering to start with and was looking forward to the climb up Bumble Hill to warm me up. I passed a couple of people up the hill and made much better progress than 5 years ago and passed people rather than was passed. Callum kept me going forward and I don’t think he let me dawdle.

It got really cold on Ourimbah Creek road and I was glad to veer off and up the steep hill. This was also a dreaded climb that keeps on giving. On the second part of the climb, the sleep monsters caught up with me. I had to sit on a rock for 5 minutes and take some caffeine. Just saying, Revvies are disgusting, but 80mg caffeine seemed to get me going again. I was beginning to look forward to the CP and was getting increasingly nauseous. I was threatening to Callum that I wanted to take a 15 min power nap at Somersby. I think he pretty much talked me out of it!

This checkpoint again really well looked after the racers. When we finally got there, a lady came over and sat me by the fire. She fetched me some coffee and some soup. I managed to finish the coffee, but battled through most of the soup. The fire was fantastic and you know the old beware the chair saying was starting to come true. Callum was glad when I finally said I was ready to go. I think he thought I was going to settle in! At least I ended up spending a lot less than the 2+ hours I spent here 5 years ago! I was trying to get my nausea to settle. I even had a tablet for it. In the end I decided I had to get going, it wasn’t going to get any better.

Stage 6 to CP6 (Mooney Mooney) 148.1km

As soon as I left the fire, I got cold again. We started out the gate. I got 20m and emptied the soup onto the verge. I vomited until my stomach was completely empty and immediately felt 200% better. I was so worried that I wouldn’t feel better and wished I had done that hours ago! I love this stage. It was a lot darker than 5 years ago and I knew that I was well ahead of that performance. I was pretty sure I would get to the end so I ticked off the finishing priority. I now needed to try to beat my best time.

It was during this stage that we took a little wrong turn. There had been some work going on under the power wires and we followed the most distinct track. The problem was it went down and we missed the correct route. This cost me perhaps 10 minutes or so. I was so relieved to be on the right track, it didn’t affect me much mentally. Once we got to Mooney Mooney creek, dawn had arrived and it is a special place at that time of the day. I was still not feeling 100% and lacking in energy due to not eating enough. Callum took charge and set me a goal. I had to eat a whole Clif bar. It might have taken me 40 minutes+, but I ate it with water and started to get my energy back. Going under the freeway bridge is always an awesome sight (engineering marvel), knowing we were not far from the CP.


A cold morning in the bush. Happy to see dawn

The entry to the CP had changed and once we crossed the dreaded Pacific highway, it was much safer, but a little hillier. Once I arrived, they needed to weigh me. They then broke the news that I had lost 7%+ of my starting weight and I would have to keep me in until I was back to 6%. That was a whole kg! Lucky they had the best stew in the whole universe. I ate this, a cup of tea, water and some ginger beer. I sweet talked them and they let me go on. In hind sight, if I hadn’t had the stew, I might have only managed to crawl slowly to the finish. I knew to complete the last stage in under 5 hours was a challenge. By the time I left the CP, I had 4hrs 37mins to get under my secret goal best case of 30 hours. I thought that it was out of reach.

Stage 7 to Finish (Patonga) 173.3km

This is a bloody hard stage. Callum worked out that I need to do 11 minute km and this sounded really achievable, but the terrain is unforgiving when you have so many km already in your legs. I knew there were three main climbs and I just gritted my teeth and kept the best pace that I could. When I thought we had finished one climb, there would be another and the sandstone was starting to give off some heat. Callum had been given strict instructions by the last CP crew to make sure I drank every 15 minutes. Dutifully he reminded me. In fact I was a little concerned that I wouldn’t have enough.

Finally we reached the tip and I knew most of the climbs were behind me and had about 5km to go. We started to run a lot more and did a few sub 8 min km, even a 6.xx min km. It still seemed to go on forever and until we reached the road, I was not certain we would get under 30 hours. We started to come upon more hikers and finally the road. We needed to put on our flouro vests for the crossing, otherwise risked a penalty. Once over the road we ran all the way.

My phone started to ring. I think that Kylie had a sixth sense that we were getting close. I just ignored it, I was so focussed to get to the finish. After the 8th time I answered it and said I was on for a sub 30hr finish and I would ring her from Patonga if I had signal. She said GO GO GO! Off we went and it seemed to take forever at the end of the road before we started the downhill 150m quad smashing plunge.


So good to finish!

I just couldn’t wait to hear the bell. We reached the beach and due to the still reasonably high tide, we had to run through water. Well, there was no way I was going to take the long route, I was determined to get to the post ASAP. Just after the boat ramp and the pelicans, they rang the bell and I knew we had been spotted by the finishing reception.


I did my best to look like I was out for a Sunday run. I focussed on making my form as easy as possible and ran well to the finishing post and gave it a big kiss. The last stage was so painful, but I managed my main goal to get under 30 hours. In the end, my time was 29hr 39min. The cumulative effort tipped me over and I struggled to keep a straight face and had a sob. The photos are not the best (at least not smiling), but I got my SILVER medal! I thought sub 5hrs for the last section would be tough, but I managed 4hrs 25mins, 10th place for the stage and overall I finished 23rd place.

Thanks to Chantelle Farrelly for the reception. That empathy made a huge difference to me (loved that gilet!).

Thank you

Callum played the mind game with me and thank you for all the help. I know I could have finished by myself, but there was no way I would have finished under 30 hours. The house has suffered a bit in the last couple of months with training and exhaustion, thank you Kylie for supporting me and putting up with my goal.

Thanks to Rochelle for the training runs that we shared and the laughs I had at your expense (snakes!). Thank you most of all the Terrigal Trotters Club and volunteers for the day and the opportunity to do some club training runs prior to the event.

Finally, thanks Scotty Hawker and Mile27 coaching


My silver medal!



Hume and Hovell 100 mile

15/16 October 2016

The Hume and Hovell Miler is a run I knew was coming up, but only decided to run it a couple of weeks before. Just three weeks earlier, I had been in Japan to take part in the Ultra Trail Mt. Fuji 100 mile race, but it ended up being pretty much washed out and reduced to 47km on day 1, then the race organisers allowed racers to run in the STY the day after. After 17km on that day, that race was also cancelled!

I had run in the Hume and Hovell 100km in 2014. It was a small event and I ended up running my fastest 100km to date and was very pleased with my run, so had great memories. The terrain is quite special, the dam lake that we ran beside in 2014 was a grand sort of place to run too. In 2016, the event has grown to add a 100 mile and 22km race into the program and it is in an area that is amazing to run and experience.

Haha, none of that flat lakeside running this year! I knew the race would have a bit more vertical, but I thought the overall 4500m should not make it too challenging (so I thought!). So with something to prove to myself and some extra taper under my belt, I lined up for my second ever 100 miler.

Leading up to the run, I had been working long days, catching up with work that stacks up when you have a two week holiday in Japan. In the few days before, I psyched myself up to get as much sleep as possible, but was only partly successful. On the Friday I made the target of getting away from work in enough time so that we could leave home for Tumbarumba at 1pm. Mark Kraljevic (running the 50km) was driving, I knew I could not drive myself as there was no way I would be able to drive the return on Sunday after the race ready for work on Monday. We both got away on time from work and left pretty much spot on 1pm. That’s a good start!

Leaving that early, allowed us to get to Tumbarumba to check in for the race and get our gear checked the night before. This saves a bit of stress as the rest of the evening and night can be devoted to sorting gear and getting the best sleep that I could, which is usually never good the night before. All went smoothly, then we met up with John McGann (100km) and Alicia Infante (22km) after gear check and we had dinner in the pub. We didn’t hang around and went straight to the cabin which Mark, John and I were sharing. I drew the short straw and took the top bunk.

The night went pretty slowly, a bit of tossing and turning, but I seemed to wake up refreshed. Alarms went at 4am and we set off to the start after a breakfast of Weetbix and Milo. It was pretty cold and temperatures were down around 3 degrees. This was perfect as I don’t like it too hot. The start point was at Henry Angel track head, just 9km up the road. We were there pretty early and things were still being set up a bit. There was no hurry and eventually we had somewhere to drop off the drop bags.

6am came around pretty quick and instead of a gun, the race start was counted down by three kids. The milers and the 100km runners started together to head out to Mannus Lake. The start of the run was on old gold workings beside a creek and generally headed in downhill. I found myself running with two other milers, three 100km runners had gone ahead. I eventually let the other two go on ahead as I wanted to run to my pace. It’s always pretty hard to get the pace right in Ultras and I wanted to be comfortable. The trail followed a rushing river which was more spectacular the further along we got. The terrain eventually got steeper and the pathway narrow and more technical. In some places it was pretty wet and I was having more and more difficulty keeping my feet dry.


The top was finally reached and the downhill was a welcome relief. I was surprised to come upon the other two milers that had gone on ahead. They had lost the trail (and some time) and were not sure where the path went. It was well marked, but they had missed a sharp right turn. Off we went again and I kept up with these Guys, the trail was still a bit uncertain when we got to a cattle paddock, as there was a bit of cotton wool mist around. The cattle paddock was muddy and pooey, now I knew that my feet would not get dry until the finish! We came to the road section and had 5km to the turn around, the 100km runners had their turn around only after 2km on the road. This is where we gained 6km on them.

I took it easy on the road. I dropped back to fourth place when another miler caught up to us. I was happy to run my own race. At the turn around, I measured my distance to the person behind and I knew that I had 1km on him. When we eventually got back to the Mannus Lake checkpoint, I had caught quite a lot of 100km runners, including John just when we got into Mannus. This surprised me as I didn’t feel that I had pushed it too hard. I topped up my Tailwind and didn’t hang around.

The return was pretty uneventful, except I suddenly came upon a white human bare backside just coming up a small rise. A runner was taking a pit stop and thought he was more off the track than he was, lucky I caught him early and saved more embarrassment! At about the 30km mark, I was passed by another miler who was the eventual winner, I was still happy at my pace. I was looking at my watch and knew that I would start to encounter some of the 50km runners who started from Henry Angel at 9am. The first two 50km leaders had gapped the rest of the field by quite a lot, I eventually came upon Mark, but we didn’t stop to chat much! I then came upon one of the other milers and passed him not too far from the Henry Angel check point.

I arrived at the checkpoint in 4th place. I topped up my bottles, used the sunblock as the day had opened up to a beautiful one. This is where I met Chantelle Farrelly. She borrowed my sunblock and saw my name and said she had seen it before. Her reputation preceded her and I knew that she had raced GNW and C2K with good results. I had seen her name at many events but not met! I was very surprised to see her here as I had to be 6km ahead as she was doing the 100km.

The next part of the race was familiar, we followed the old gold workings for 6km or so to Junction camp ground, where I met Liz who was going to be ‘manning’ the checkpoint for the entire race. She was very welcoming and said when I come back through and she is asleep in the chair to give her a nudge. I think I spent too much time here, but it is a beautiful spot.

The next part of the trail was open and undulating. I got to a style and as I climbed over, I spotted a threesome of fine-looking chestnut brumbies. They were a bit shy and I never got a chance to get my camera out, they were perhaps 50m away and took off along a fire trail. In 2014, we were told about the brumbies, but I never saw any, which was a disappointment then. This race was set to be different, in the end I saw upwards of a dozen, mostly in groups of three during the whole race. It might have been the fact that this time I ran solo for virtually the whole race.

Now the trail started to rise up and become more technical. There were a lot of fallen branches and sticks as well as a carpet of gum bark that made it extremely tough going. In some respects, I tripped less when running than walking, but when I did trip it was scary. At least while I was still relatively fresh I could keep a reasonable clip. I eventually got to the next check point called Coffee Pot. I was expecting coffee, but I missed out.


Fuelled up I knew there was only about 10km to the Pines and I was keen to get there as it was a major check point. A bit more uphill, then it levelled out at a small picturesque lake, which I remembered from 2 years ago. My watch told me just 1km to go, but the check point came up at 77km on my watch rather than the 75km on the race information. I finally came upon some large pine trees and realised that the check point must be close. I was the only runner there on arrival and spent quite a lot of time getting myself sorted. Chantelle and Anne came in and I was about ready to go. I was feeling a bit more fatigued by then and Tailwind had started to turn my stomach, so I got some more regular food in me like soup and a vegemite sandwich. I also grabbed a bottle of Perpetuem to try something different. The volunteers there were fantastic.

The next stage is the first of two out and backs from the Pines. I was keen to get to Buddong Falls and get to the bottom before dark. It was a pretty slow trip as I was feeling queasy, I missed a turn due to inattention and ended up running an extra 400m or so as well. I smelled the smoke of the check point before I saw it, there was a roaring fire burning and again I was the only one at the CP. Food was still not good and I ate some chips to try to ease my stomach. The runner in 1st place came in (Stephen Redfern), so I knew I was a long way behind. He was full of enthusiasm and happy to have completed the Buddong out and back in daylight.


Off I went again, hoping I could smash the down hill like I had 2 years previous. I met the 2nd placed runner coming up less than 1km to go, then the 3rd placed runner soon after that. This downhill hurt a lot more than last time, the washout had been repaired, but there were new difficult spots. The river was hurtling down the falls and they were spectacular, another reason to do this in daylight. After the bridge the downhill eased up but it also started to get quite dim. I knew there was going to be a full moon, so resisted getting my light out until after the turn around. I passed the 5th place runner heading down, so knew I was not that far ahead of him.

I went through the 100km mark at about 14.5 hours, 30 minutes ahead of where I thought I would be. I met up with a couple of runners, Roylene and Anthony near the top of the steep section and encouraged them as much as possible as I knew it was a difficult return trip. I was feeling pretty sick by the time I arrived at the check point. At this point I knew I had to rest and wait for the stomach to accept food again. All up I spent nearly 50 minutes here until I stopped vomiting. The 5th place runner came in and went out, I summoned up the courage to trust my stomach and left about 10 minutes later, now in 5th. About 300m up the track I spotted a few lights coming at me. It sort of distracted me and when they got close I tripped and fell flat on my face. I was so close to impaling myself on a branch, but was lucky in the end and no damage was done. The lights ended up being the last runner and the two sweepers on mountain bikes. Without good food, it was a slow plod back to The Pines. I got there only 2 minutes behind 4th place, so somehow I had made some progress.


I was keen to consolidate my small gain, I managed to down some food (very gently) although Coke was my fuel of choice now (it stays down!) and set out in 4th place. This stage of 20km out and back was on dirt road to Granite Mountain. I managed to run a bit, but at one stage I was just wandering along in the dark (Coke is not the most sustaining fuel) and suddenly got the fright of my life when a brumby which only saw me at about 10m just took off into the undergrowth. I met up with third place who I worked out was 16km ahead. I had no chance of catching him and he always looked like he was running strong. At the turn around, the volunteers seemed a bit lonely as they had only seen three runners so far! On the way back, a large bird that was roosting in the dark above the road chose the very moment that I passed underneath to empty its bowels all over my hand! After the initial disgust (it must have been a large bird!), it actually made me laugh and put me on a high knowing that it is actually good luck! About 1km from the Pines, I came upon Roylene and Anthony again and one other heading out. It was great to see them out there plugging away and I gave them as much encouragement as I could, they were pretty close to the cut off.

I finally got back to The Pines and was pleased to see Mark which cheered me up, the CP vollies were fantastic again too. I think it was at this point I jokingly said to Peter the race director that they should have cleared all the bark and sticks off the track when they were marking the course. I suggested that he could have had a rake up his behind doing it! I immediately felt really bad about that comment, of course I would never want them to make it easier than the natural track. They had already cut over 200 fallen trees from the tracks over the last few weeks and some of them were enormous. I learned that Alicia who was going to be running with me on the last 30km, wouldn’t make it. I already thought that might be the case as she had to use John’s gear and I knew that he had left the Pines very late and Alicia wouldn’t get back in time. Peter then told me that I was now in 3rd place as the previous place holder pulled out (that was the good luck from the bird pooping on me!) when he got back to The Pines. This put a spring in my step and I left with enthusiasm and running.

I ran the first 3km as it was gentle down hill. Then everything slowed down again when the Coke high ran out. It was all just a plod now. I got to Coffee Pot and chatted to the Vollie. He found me a can of Coke which was great as it was all my stomach could take. The body was great, just the stomach. He suggested I avoid all the bark and sticks track, by taking a different route. In my sleep deprived state, there was no way I wasn’t going to follow the markers, however difficult it was going to be! Off I went for the most difficult section of the whole race to Junction Campground. It seemed to take forever to get there and I finally got to see Liz again who wasn’t asleep at all and she had heaps of Coke!

I stocked up with Coke and spent more time there than I should. I now had a few blisters and was struggling to run at all due to fatigue, I had been going for over 26 hours and it was all starting to catch up. Navigation wasn’t that simple, but thankfully I was completing it in daylight and there was nowhere to go wrong really. There were cows for company and giant wombat dens burrowed into the dirt to avoid. I knew I must be getting close to the finish, I thought I had read that presentation was happening at 10am, so I should just make it.

The wind had whipped up in the last few hours and at least it was coming from behind. Just one more style to climb with only 200m to the finish, I thought I had better put on a bit of a run to the line. There was a huge crowd to welcome me in and they were trying to rein in a flying pergola in the wind. I probably got the biggest welcome of all the runners as I found out that the presentation had just been completed. First thing I needed was a sit down. Someone put a beer in my hand, but the top wasn’t a twist top. Eventually it was removed and it tasted fantastic.

Well, that was my race. Physically I had enough in reserve, nutritionally it was not a good race. I eventually made the 100 miles in 27hrs 32 mins. I think I ran the whole thing solo except the first few km and a km during the out to Mannus Lake. This race is really well catered and serviced by volunteers and it is them that really makes it a worthwhile trip. It has a real personal feel. Before I entered, I emailed race director Peter to clarify a few things. Instead of emailing me back, he phoned me up! That is an indication of the enthusiasm of the race organisers. The terrain and scenery are just icing on the top.


**NOTE: To clarify, I am not sponsored or paid by Coke in any way**

Thank you Hume and Hovell fb page and John McGann for the photos.