For weeks before this race I dreamt of how May 20th would look. It would be my birthday of 21 years, it would be sunny, I would be running in the Ultra Trail Australia 100 km, I would run effortlessly and I would win. Simple.
When the day before the race, the course was changed and 35 mm of rain was forecast I assumed that it wasn’t going to be the day I had slept many nights envisaging.
The race starts with a 5 km out and back on the road and I won’t lie, I went out fast. I don’t know why, I never planned this and I knew some of the other girls behind me were crazy fast runners and If I was in front of them then I was working way too hard.
We finished the road, descended the first and what would be the last set of stairs. I took in every step mentally noting what would be the final meters of the race and being distracted by the full flowing waterfalls.
I got to the first checkpoint with a 3-minute lead. I didn’t stop, I kept running just waiting for another female to catch me as this was a fast running section and not my strength. Along this 10 km undulating section high on the cliffs, the clouds cleared, blue sky appeared and all that remained were the low clouds in the valley and tops of surrounding mountains poking out, it was here that I knew today was going to be my day. This surprising sunshine gave me energy and confidence.
Through the next checkpoint, I felt that feeling that all runners seek; effortless, controlled and time flying by, only broken up by talking to other competitors and supporters on the track. Now in the valley we had to climb back up via a set of stairs called Nellies Glen, here I felt like I was walking on the spot, the steps went on forever, my stomach was cramping and I needed but didn’t want food or drink I just knew I needed to get to the next checkpoint where support was allowed and my brother would be.
I expected to get to enjoy a few seconds rest at this checkpoint but my brother treated me like an F1 car pit stop and threw bottles, gels and a pat on the back before I was back out on the trail. I was blown away, I looked forward to seeing him for so long yet looking back I didn’t even notice the Happy Birthday banner set up and the singing of happy birthday as I entered.
Back on the trail I plodded my way along the top of the cliffs struggling with rhythm, struggling with food, regretting the fast start as my hamstring decided it was tired and I just kept waiting for someone to catch me. Before the next checkpoint, I saw the lead men returning. I had been alone for a while and it was nice to hear words of encouragement. It wasn’t much but it was enough for me to pick myself up and keep putting one foot in front of the other counting down the meters until the next checkpoint which would be the last supported spot.
Here there was an added out and back and this is where I saw second place female, Hanny Alston. I was moving uphill like a snail and she was flying downhill… that’s one way to blow your confidence. I looked up and thought “I’ll be seeing you again very soon” but she looked at me and said http://pharmacy-no-rx.net “you’ve got this”. Honestly, as I slowed to a walk as I no longer had to impress her with my energy to still run up hill I thought she was playing with my mind and she would come leaping past.
Again, I anticipated a moment’s rest and enjoying what is considered the party checkpoint put on by my good friends at PACE Athletic but yet again I don’t remember anything but loud music, my brother giving me what I needed and sending me on my way.
I started the grind up the hill and as I got further away I started to have runners coming in the opposite direction as I had moments before. The support, the encouragement, the smiles and the singing of happy birthday lifted me up, drove me forward, made me smile and I felt myself grow taller. It was time to finish this and finish the way I dreamed.
The last 5 km sucked, it always does. I don’t believe I’ve ever wanted to see that staircase again but as I started up I remembered that 10.5 hours before I was descending down it and I ticked off every point that I had noted that morning… however it all came a whole lot slower then flying downhill! I reached the top, I felt my ribs and heart were going to explode. I heard the screaming, I heard my name and I saw my coach Majell Backhausen; he told me just smile and breath, I’d done it.
The piercing sound of the crowd carried me down the shoot and over the line. I had nothing left, I gave my all. In my dreams, I smiled and cruised in but on this day, I cried; I cried with joy, with pain, with total relief and with no other energy for anything more. This moment means more for me than a win, it was a combination of so many hours training, sacrifice, good times, hard times and a lot of peoples’ efforts.
The planned party of my 21st quickly turned to getting warm clothes on, hot soup and home to a shower before returning to watch my Dad finish (which he did so well) and then returning back home with Thai take away and sitting on the lounge room floor whilst watching a MasterChef episode. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
My dream came true. I am still not sure which was the dream before and which was real life but the response from everyone online and in person is something I could never dream. This is what birthdays are made for – spending time doing what you love with people you love.
Thanks for sharing this special day.
Special thanks to:
- Jo and Joe Brischetto (shout out to Rowan for letting me have his bed room for a month)
- Hannah Madge (Crew driver)
- Ashley Bartholomew (being my Dad and inspiring me)
- Majell Backhausen (coaching me and being my psychologist all those weeks)
- Josh Bartholomew (fastest crewing I have ever received)
- Tom Landon Smith and Alina (race directors of a magical race)
- Salomon – I wore the Slab advanced skin 12L vest, S lab exo half tight, Trail runner SS tee and the Salomon S Lab Sense Ultra shoes
- Suunto – I used the Suunto Spartan Ultra
- Cliff Bar – a combination of citrus gels, chocolate gels, cherry shot bloks and margarita shot bloks
- Vital Greens and Protein – used in the build-up and the recovery. Keeping my nutrients in check following a plant based diet.
- Julbo – I used the Julbo Aerolite sunglasses
Photos: Lyndon Marceau Photography