I'd been very happy with my buildup and my coach Sean 'Long Arms' Williams was telling me I was in the best form of my life. After slogging away all year I felt that it was coming together nicely. I was confident of finishing in sub 40 hours. It was now just a case of executing the race plan that I had developed. BlueBel, Timmeister and GraeGrae were back with me again but the addition of Brendan 'Virtual' Mason filled me with a lot of confidence.
After the usual pre-race rituals at Boydtown Beach, we were off and running. I set into a nice comfortable pace running with all the girls. It was evident from the first climb that Pam was very strong on the hills and she soon pulled away from us. I was happy in the company of Susannah, Seris, Lisa and Rick and we enjoyed some nice conversation while the early kms ticked away. That was until the aid station at 14km where Susannah just ran through and Whippet told Seris that the pace was too fast. It was now just Lisa and I until we started the long downhill where I opened up the stride and started to reel Susannah in. I would end up running with Susannah until we first met our crews at Pericoe Rd. Susannah was looking forward to breakfast at this point so after getting some supplies from GraeGrae I set off up the hill on my own and I could see Brick ahead in the distance. It was now time to settle into my own company and continue to build the momentum that I had built until this point. The ipod came out and became my companion for the next couple of hours. I had lost sight of Brick and the only way of knowing who was in front of me and behind me were the crew cars as they drove to their next stop. That was until I was coming up to the 40km mark and I could see Tim Cochrane walking with Michelle. As I ran past I waved to acknowledge Tim. I wanted to say something to him but did not want to upset him. It is always hard when you see a runner of Tim's ability having a bad day. I soon hit the marathon mark in 4:53 which is similar to last year's split. It is not much longer when I catch sight of Brick again. I manage to pass him just past the manequins and before the climb up Big Jack Mountain. There is no nude crew amongst the manequins this year so all very subdued. Susannah goes past me just after this but stops with her crew before commencing the climb up Big Jack Mountain.
Paul walks with me for the start of the climb and I tell him of Virtual's message not to do anything silly on the climb. Paul agrees and says it is a good time to replenish on the food and drink which I do. I am drinking heaps on the climb and am grateful to Team Spink when they give me a bottle of water. Soon after this one of Lisa's crew gets out of the crew car and asks me if I want some company, which I happily accept. Having somebody to talk to really helps take my mind off what is becoming a very taxing climb. I am soon on my own again as Susannah catches me again and blows me away by running away from me on a big climb. I don't expect to see her again but remind her not to clock off as she has done every time she has passed me before. I am happy when the climb is finally over and the road flattens out on the way into Cathcart. The only problem now is the heat and the flies. GraeGrae drives ahead into Cathcart and comes back to meet me with a very welcome Weiss ice cream. I now find myself looking forward to meeting up with BlueBel, Timmeister and Virtual who are expected to meet up with us around this point. I ask GraeGrae to drive ahead and see if he can get some phone coverage and try to call them. I soon find myself running low on drink and am really feeling the heat at this point. Lisa finally catches me and I ask her crew if they can spare me another bottle of water, which they are more than happy to give me. Lisa's mother even agrees to crew for me until I meet up with GraeGrae again. I am amazed at the generosity of spirit in this race. All runners and crew want the best for everybody out there and we all share Paul and Dianne's wish for a 100% finish rate. I thank her but I expect to see GraeGrae within a few kms, which I do. He has not been able to get phone coverage so has not been able to contact the other members of my crew. Lisa decides to stop off at the loo at Cathcart and Susannah emerges. I don't know who is more shocked to see each other but she is soon running off into the distance and I will not see her again until Charlotte Pass when she has finished her race and I am getting ready to begin the ascent to Mt Kosciuszko. I check my phone for coverage and am happy to finally get some. I ring BlueBel to see where they are and she tells me they are about 18km from where the course crosses the Monaro Highway. I am thrilled by this news as I am within a few kms of this point myself so I realise that by the time I get there, my whole crew will be with me for the first time. I meet up with them and we are all happy to see each other. Timmeister looks great wearing my akubra and Virtual and BlueBel are happy to be amongst it. I go on ahead and reach the 81km mark at Bukalong Siding Rd in 10:03. I pull out my phone and text Uncle Dave. I also reply to a text I receive from my GNW crew Marg and give her the same news.
I really start to struggle on this section and am passed by Lisa again. Maggot also catches up with me not long after. BlueBel changes into her running gear and joins me on the road and starts asking me a lot of questions. It is soon evident to her and Virtual that I have been neglecting my nutrition and they start pumping the food into me. I am not finding it easy to eat in the hot afternoon. Virtual then discovers the SPC Ardmona Fruit Snack Packs that were donated by a friend of Rick Cross. I have an apple puree and am amazed how quickly it gets into my system and how much better I start to feel. BlueBel keeps me moving but is concerned that she is slowing me down. I assure her it is not her slowing me down but me that is causing the slowdown. I continue to eat at regular intervals but am passed by Meredith and Marie. BlueBel ends up running 16km with me before handing over the pacing duties to GraeGrae. It is around this point that Brick is now less than 100m behind me. I don't look around again and am encouraged by GraeGrae to lift the pace for the first time in a long time. The initial lift in pace causes me a bit of discomfort but I am soon walking yet another incline. Virtual drives past and tells GraeGrae to make me run as much as possible and tells me it is not a walking race. We pass the dead tree which represents the 102km mark in around 13 hours, which is a similar split to last year.
We turn into Snowy River Way just after 7pm and Virtual tells me that the Mellum Mothership pulls into that intersection about 7 minutes after I left and tells me Tim is about 20 minutes away. There is a little bit of banter and gamesmanship between him and Whippet about how he is going to run Tim through the night into Dalgety and they are coming after me. As the sun is now setting and I have been looking after my nutrition better over the last couple of hours, I am now starting to feel great. GraeGrae is setting a good pace and is dragging me through well. At some stage along this road I see about 4 or 5 runners within a few hundred metres just up ahead. It ends up being all the runners who passed me along Bukalong Siding Rd. I go past them all within a few kms. The last of these runners is Colin Solomon who I have not seen at any stage of the race. It is evident that he is struggling a bit but he is hanging in there toughly. As I edge ahead of him, he is determined to stay with me. We nickname him the pit bull because of his fighting spirit. GraeGrae is starting to feel the effects of his great run at Kepler the week before and soon realises it is time to pass the pacing baton to Virtual and be the first crew member to go ahead into Jindabyne and catch some sleep. He has run 20km with me and has been a great help. Virtual is happy to join me on the road and is very positive about my running and has decided to run me into Dalgety. We set ourselves the goal of reaching there by 1.30am. We bump into Paul and Dianne and Paul is surprised that it is me in this position and tells me how I've surprised him with how well I am running. Not long later we bump into Sean MrG Greenhill and Mel and they are very encouraging and telling me I am moving as well as anybody in the race with the exception of Jo Blake. We are soon joined by Darrel Ourimbah Robins who has decided to come down and run a few kms with a few of his friends. He is also very encouraging and tells me I am flying. Out of all the runners he has seen only Rob Hall was moving quicker. He even tries to tell me I am moving as well as Meredith. I know this is a porky because Meredith had caught me within the last hour and was now out of sight. We pass Kelvin's crew car and he is changing into some warmer clothes. I give him permission to have a sleep if he needs one. He is not going to take my advice and I expect him to catch me in the daylight hours. We reach Dalgety just before 1.10am about 20 minutes ahead of target. We had decided that I would take a break here, go to the toilet, take the opportunity to lube up again and try to massage the lactic acid out of my legs to keep me running. While I am having this break Brick goes past and I will not see him again until the ascent to Mt Kosciuszko.
BlueBel takes over the pacing duties and I ask her to keep me running as much as possible. I am happy with how I am moving and know that I am feeling much better than at the same stage last year. Marie passes me along this section and I won't see her again until not long after Brick. I am happy to reach the bottom of Beloka Range which represents the 100 mile mark in 22:38, giving me a second 50 mile split of just over 12.5 hours. It is also only just over an hour slower than my only 100 mile track run in Adelaide last year. I am rapt with how well my run is going but I realise there is still 50 miles to go and a large part of that is all uphill. Belinda keeps me moving well up Beloka Range and I soon realise that Kelvin and Hermie are not far behind as I see their crew cars drive past. Belinda stays on the road with me until the top of the climb. Virtual has gone off to have a sleep and GraeGrae fresh from his sleep is happy to resume his pacing duties. We start to see more of Kelvin and Hermie's crew cars and I realise they are catching me and I expect to see Kelvin come charging past soon. Not long after this I am caught by who I think must be Kelvin but it is Hermie with his pimp hat on. He tells me he has dropped Kelvin on the long descent from the top of Beloka Range. It is around this time I pass a crew car that I have not seen in the race this far. I go over to enquire who it is and find out it is Danny Hooley who has been quite sick. I tell his crew that I remember him from Caboolture last year when he was having the same issues and he still managed to come back and finish with 111km in the 12 hour event. I know of his toughness and know he will be back on the road soon. This must have had the right effect on him as he is soon back on the road and going past me. As we head into Jindabyne he edges about 100m in front of me and Hermie is probably 100m ahead of him. Virtual has woken from his slumber and has agreed to meet BlueBel so she and Timmeister can catch up on some sleep. GraeGrae leads me onto the bike path and I am happy to find the right path this year and it is well marked. I notice Hermie is just ahead and walking with Fossil so I take this opportunity to catch him and pass him. I ask him if Danny Hooley has gone past him but he hasn't. So I am now ahead of both of them.
When we come out on the road I am conscious that this will be the last section that I will be able to run in a while so make sure I run all the way. I have now pulled away from Hermie and am happy with how I am moving. When we hit the Thredbo River this represents the end of the running and the beginning of the climbing. I work hard on my walking, realising it is not my strongest point but I am happy to be staying ahead of Danny who has now gone past Hermie. The climbing goes on and on and I see Kelvin's crew car for the first time in a long time and realise he must be catching me. He soon does this and runs past me as the climb continues. I find it amazing that somebody can run hills at this stage of the race and he is soon out of sight. I run where the course flattens out and appreciate the downhills. We are getting close to Charlotte Pass and my crew sets up about a mile from there for me to change into my warm clothes for the ascent to Mt Kosciuszko. While I am doing this Hermie goes past. I finally reach Charlotte Pass just before 4pm just as Susannah is finishing.
My crew including Timmeister is ready for the big finale that we missed last year. I shout out to everybody there that there is a mammoth waiting to be spanked and how she has spanked me bad but I will get my revenge at the summit. I relax the relentless pace I have been setting all day as I want to enjoy the last 18km with my crew and really want to soak in the experience. I realise my goal of sub 40 is in the bag as long as I don't fall apart. Meredith is descending back to Charlotte Pass as I hit the 1km marker. Brick comes flying past not much later and is on course for a sub 35. Not much later it is a clearly struggling Rob Hall but he has had a great run after his disappointment of Glasshouse. I don't see anybody for a while but am amazed to see Kelving motoring down the hill. He is moving so fast RMC can't keep up with him and Kelvin has covered an extra 222km. Marie Doke is next and Graham is flying while trying to keep up with her. Halfway between Seaman's Hut and Rawsons Pass I see Blue Dog who is not moving well at all but he is on his way to completing the first Aussie Ultra Grand Slam. Timmeister decides to test the highest toilet in Australia out and we start to wonder where the sewerage goes. The funny things that come into your mind when you have been running and walking for the best part of a day and a half. Not far from the summit we see Hermie coming down and after what seems a never ending winding path we finally reach the summit. I start spanking the mammoth and shouting as loud as I can. I then get the bottle of sea water I collected from Boydtown Beach and pour it over the monument to signify the fact that I have come from the east coast of Australia and reached the highest point of our great nation. The crew then gather around the Strezleki monument for more photo opportunities. We are getting ready to leave when the film crew arrive and ask to interview me which I am more than happy to comply with. This will be my few minutes of fame and I am not letting this opportunity pass by.
We now start to descend and bump into Danny Hooley around the same point I saw Hermie on the way up. Then we start seeing the stream of runners who are ascending the mountain. First Tim then Allison followed by Lisa. Not long later it is Rick Cross followed by Seris then Colin Solomon who has Maggot snapping at his heels. Not long later we see Buzz and I am so happy to see that he has made it this far and I am happy to tell him the mammoth is up there waiting to be spanked. It won't be until the next morning that I hear about the problems he will run into and unfortunately be withdrawn from the race at Rawsons Pass. This news shatters everybody and there will be plenty of tears shed. We are happy to pass each km marker and we are quite delirious when BlueBel takes a photo of the 2km to go marker. This triggers a great deal of laughter and we are having the time of our lives. We look up towards the mountain and see a couple of lights moving very quickly down the mountain. We realise it is a runner and they are running very quickly. Our fleeting happiness is soon shattered when Allison comes charging pass with just less than a km to go. Danny Hooley then passes me a minute or two later and it is gut wrenching to be passed by 2 runners within a km of the finish. This is a great reminder that the race isn't over until it is over and that if I didn't relax the pace so much, this wouldn't have happened. We are happy to reach the finish in 39:42 and achieve the goal of sub 40 hours.
Once I reach the finish line all I want to do is sit down. When I sit my body temperature starts dropping very quickly. I ask for a blanket and Dianne gives me a sleeping back to wrap myself in. I ask my crew for the champagne we brought. We pop the cork and Belinda pours me a glass but after having a sip all I want to do is get into the car and get warm. Getting my shoes and socks off becomes a major operation and I can't get my sandals on so I can walk to the car. It is amazing that you can keep pushing yourself for 240km but once you stop you can't even take your own shoes off. GraeGrae eventually helps with this operation and I hobble over to the car and am happy to get into the warmth of the car. I enjoy my glass of champagne and promptly fall asleep.
Thanks to Paul and Dianne for their vision and for creating THE BEST RACE on the calendar. Thanks to my crew for everything they did for me. You cannot do an event like this without a crew but they were the PERFECT CREW. BlueBel and Timmeister, you are always there at my greatest triumphs and we did it again. I love you both so much. GraeGrae, thanks for backing up after the shocking weather last year and a week after your great run at Kepler. Also for crewing solo for the first 9.5 hours. Virtual, thanks for fitting crewing for me into your very busy schedule. Your advice and support out there were invaluable and I have learnt a lot from you. To all the other runners and crews, thanks for sharing this wonderful event with me. There is no other race where everybody bands together to collectively spank the mammoth. The post race breakfast and presentation is the highlight of my year and I look forward to partaking in this for many years to come.
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