Brendan Davies reflects on the biggest win of his ultra-running career and smashing a Kilian Jornet course record.
I chased my dream and last Saturday I finally caught it.
It’s a dream that’s evolved and has never had a determined end point but I knew at 4:06pm that I’d found some sort of conclusion. I don’t know if it’s the end of chapter 1, 2, 3 or 10 but I was asked many times over the weekend ‘when did you start training for this year’s TNF 100 race?’ Each time I said ‘six years ago!’
I believe everything I’ve done – every training run, every race, every recovery session led to that point, the pinnacle of my career thus far.
To win this 100km trail race means more to me than anything. Not because I conquered what I believe to be the toughest pound for pound course in Australia, not because I won, or even knocked off the great Kilian Jornet’s record, but because it all happened in my own backyard with the people I admire, respect and love by my side.
Soon after the start we hit the first section of single-track. This gave me the chance to test how my trailroc 245 shoes would handle the dry conditions. They were perfect.
My confidence was sky-high and I continued to move well.
Around the 6km mark I put in a few surges and found myself moving away from the rest of the field. From that point on I was out on my own -for the rest of the day!
The landslide at 15km is always a very tricky section, and one that I don’t particularly enjoy. This year, however, it was different. My feet and brain were working fast and my focus was sharp.
The Golden Stairs came and went -my training really paid off here as I moved with power and purpose -before I hit Tarros Ladders, where I bounded down the rocky outcrops faster than ever before.
Next came the technical track through Little Cedar Gap. Running at pace, I swerved, ducked and weaved my way past obstacles, all the time having complete faith in the outstanding grip offered by my shoes.
I continued to run strong into checkpoint two, taking on board solids and drinking plenty of water.
Following that I stormed up the climb to Iron Pot Ridge -the strength, fitness and endurance gained from the recent 100-mile Ultra Trail Mt Fuji race definitely benefiting me.
Knowing I had a four-minute lead, I galloped down the descent off Iron Pot Ridge, using the trees as emergency brakes!
At the 54km checkpoint I was greeted with generous applause from the crowd. At this point I was told that Ryan Sandes (2012 race winner) had dropped out further back down the course. I didn’t let that affect me. I had my own race to run, plus I knew there were equally talented runners still chasing me!
The km’s came and went before I hit Jamison Creek, and the start of the 6km uphill grind of Kedumba. This was always going to be make-or-break. In previous years I’ve had no choice but to surrender to the course at this stage. Not this year.
That’s not to say I didn’t have any problems, the most notable being that I discovered I was out of water in my pack’s bladder. Thankfully the boys manning the nearby gear check station had some water. I was saved by their supply! That brief stop aside, I ran all the way up what is a beast of a climb.
I continued to move strongly after that, over varying types of terrain.
Approaching the finish, the penultimate km seemed to go on forever. Then, after a final climb of stairs, I was into the last couple of hundred metres. It was all a bit of a haze, but I remember, on seeing the finish line, getting emotional and hearing the cheers.
I had kept my focus razor-sharp all day but in those final 50m to the line I allowed myself to shed a tear.
After crossing the finish line I fell to my knees. I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was my wife, Nadine, and we embraced one-another. It was the best feeling in the world to share that moment with her.
It was not until in an interview after the race that I was told my time (9:16:12) had broken the course record, previously held by Kilian. I couldn’t believe it. I had realised my dream -and so much more.