My success at Northburn 100 Mile was the result of a long 4 month intensive trail, mountain, speed and endurance training program. This was all off the back of a successful trail running year. In 2012 I completed 5x 100km events as well as 3x 42.2km plus events, a 30km, 25km and a whole heap of speedy 10km events and a few others I can’t remember. I was in peak form at the end of 2012 to complete my first 100 mile event.
It was not meant to be. At the end of 2012 I pulled out of the toughest 100 mile event in Australia. The Great North Walk 100 (GNW100) in November with haemophilus influenza. I was guttered. I’d unknowingly battled the illness for about a month. At the Great Ocean Walk 100km event in OCT 2012, which I won and broke the record by 30 minutes, I felt like something was wrong with my lungs. I felt like I only had about 80% lung capacity. I put it down to the asthma that I’d only just be diagnosed with back in June 2012. I should have probably not have started GNW100. I was so sick. I battled the super bug for 110km before I decided it was too dangerous for me to continue through the night with only one lung functioning properly.
I knew that I had that I had the possibility of an entry into Ultra Trail Mont Blanc (UTMB) in 2013. I had to complete a 100 mile event before I headed off the Europe. I was contacted by Ultra Running Legend Lisa Tamati in November to be the race Ambassador for Northburn 100 in New Zealand. I was thrilled and I jumped at the chance. I wanted to test my legs against the mountains of New Zealand. The 100 mile course had the elevation ascent and descent of 8000m. This race was the race to help me prepare for the French Alps. I also discovered that I was to travel to Japan, Ultra Trail Mount Fuji (UTMF) in April too. This was my last chance to complete a 100M event before I was to represent inov8 on the international stage.In February I was contacted my the race Director of Tarawera Ultra. I was asked to come over and race in the 100km event. This event was going to be totally different to Northburn 100. I decided that is was s good idea to head over and test my speed against some of the best runners in the world. The only catch was that Tarawera Ultra was only 1 week before Northburn 100 mile. Northburn will be my 2nd 100 Mile attempt and I could not fail.
At Tarawera Ultra, my race did not go to plan. To say I had gut issues, due to the possibility of being a celiac. I suffered from 30-60km. From 60-75km I felt great, but then I discovered blood in my urine. I played it safe and pulled the pug on the Tarawera Ultra at 85km. I was in such bad shape that I was hospitalized just to make sure I was okay.
I returned back to Sydney not knowing what I should do. I booked into see my doctors every day that week. I had tests and re-testing. The doctors could not find anything major wrong with me. I was referred to a Sports Physician and NSW Institute of Sport Dietitian. I could not make a booking with them before Northburn though.
My husband was so supportive throughout this whole experience. He was the only one who really believed in me and my body. We decided that I was doing something wrong with my diet pre-event and during the event. I’m a Sports Nutritionist so I should know diet and exercise inside out. I was doing something wrong. Mikey my hubby with my guidance wrote my pre-event and race day nutrition plan and I approved it. I had to test out my nutrition and Hydration before I traveled to Japan and Europe. Northburn was my last chance to get this all correct.
My pre-event nutrition pretty much was made up of Potatoes, rice and anything gluten free. My pre-event Breaky was a Hammer Choc Chip Bar. That was it. Oh and a coffee.
On Northburn 100 Race day I lined up at the start line, nervous as anything. I decided that I would pick a runner to pace me out for the first 50km so I did not run too fast. The runner I picked was the experienced 5 times Badwater Finisher Ray Sanchez. Ray and I ran together for the first 25km of climbing. I just wanted to stay chilled, steady and well under my an-aerobic threshold. I wanted to make sure my body was going to make it through the first 50km without a gut issue. I enjoyed the views on the climb and relished tackling spectacular mountain terrain in my trusty inov8 Trailroc 245’s. Due to me being asthmatic, I had to wear the inov8 bluff to prevent the cold dry air from irritating my lungs.
When I had made it over the first major climb for the day and hit the awesome 15km descent I had the biggest stack of my life. I almost flipped head over heals I hit the ground so hard. I jumped back up quickly, brushed myself off and surveyed the damage. I had a bruised knee that was swelling.I decided that I could not afford to fall over again.
At 40km I was sooooooo hungry! I could not believe it. Usually this was when I was starting to have problems with my stomach in an event. I was so hungry. I was out of Hammer Gels, Perpetuem and Hammer Choc Chip Bars. I fortunately came across a Check Point vehicle and I managed to find an apple. This New Zealand Otago apple was amazing. It went down like a dream. A few kays later I was still hungry, so while I was passing a bloke I managed to scab a choc chip and raspberry muesli bar off him. I promised to only have half, but 5 minutes later I stole the other half off him. I soon left him behind me. Being so hungry was a fantastic sign. My stomach for the first time in a long time of racing was going to be able to absorb the calories it needed to fuel my body.
I ran into the first check point feeling fresh as can be and so happy I’d made it through the first 50km without a gut issue. I was then confident that I was going to be able to finish the whole 100 mile without any problems with my nutrition.
The climbs at Northburn were long, steep and ruggered. The inov8 Trailrocs 245 were the perfect shoe for the conditions. Towards the top of every climb I was hit with 100km gale forced winds that swept my feet out from underneath me if I ran. I was forced to power walk up the climbs in high wind areas, and lean into the wind to reduce the drag.
After 80km I was amazed that I was in second position overall. I’d managed to pass all but one of the blokes up the climb, and only one 100km runner, inov8 Runner Matty Able had also managed to make it past me too. I was so happy with my effort so far. I left the 80km checkpoint feeling great and full of energy, and I enjoyed the 20km descent into the 100km checkpoint at Northburn Station.
At the 100km check point I was informed that I was ahead on last years 100km record by 45 minutes, and I was running about 2 hours ahead of the current 100M record for a female and I was on target for going under last years 100M record. I asked the race organizers how far the nearest female was behind me. They informed me she was 7ks behind. I knew she’d run 100M before and I knew she would come home strong. I was the rookie at this distance. I knew I had to watch my back and be aware that she would be chasing me down.
I headed out of the 100km checkpoint feeling great. So happy with how I’d preformed so far. I powered up the climb. Close to the top I was again hit by those roaring forties gale forced winds. I was so happy I had been given the inov8 Race Elite 130 Base Layer Top, and inov8 race Elite Thermoshell. They really did save my life up on top of that mountain. They kept me warm and my body temperature at a comfortable working level to help prevent me from having an asthma attack also.
The terrain during the final 60km leg of Northburn 100 Mile became so tough, ruggered, hard and unforgiving. I was wishing that the surface would turn from wind swept compacted clay and volcanic rock to gravel. The descents were brutal. Baby scull sized rocks littered the trail and I was forced to follow sleep and cattle tracks to find the least dangerous path over the mountain.
After 130km the track turned to wet, slippery, boggy and tortuous water race. I entered the race with two blokes on my tail but by the finish of the 2km of natural obstacles. I’d dropped the boys. Yet on the final climb of the day I was pushed so violently by the winds down the mountain, and across the mountain that a marshall decided that he needed to check on me as I appeared legless. I was swaying all over the track like a drunk, the winds were blowing me around so much. I was just too weak against the winds. I lost 2nd position. By the top of the climb, I’d lost 3rd.
At the final check point I was having an asthma attack. The temperature was at 1 degree, but the windchill made it much worse. I had 4 puffs of ventolin. Picked up my race food and drink bag. Switched over the inov8 Race Elite Thermoshell to the purple side making the fleece 10% warmer and then ran off the mountain for the final time.
My fast check point change over got me back two positions. 5km later I was caught by one of the guys. We chatted together for some time. I decided that I was not going to race him. I was going to save my legs for my up coming event Ultra Trail Mount Fuji (UTMF). I let him run on and I was left to my own thoughts. I was so happy with how I’d raced and I could not believe I was still running after 24 hours.
I rolled down the last 15km of rolling hills cursing the race directors every now and again. At 158km I was met by a volunteer on a mountain bike. He told me the finish line was only 2km away, but it was an up hill finish. Again I cursed the race directors.
The mountain bike rider left me and I sorted myself out and prepared to finish. I ran across my first 100 Miler as 1st Female and 3rd overall. The 160km with over 8000m elevation gain and loss took me 24 hours 46 minutes. I was so happy and relieved that I’d made it across the finish line. Finishing Northburn 100 Mile has put me in the right mental state to tackle UTMF and the UTMB.
Northburn 100 Mile New Zealand was an important race to finish and to do well in. This race’s elevation profile of oevr 8000m of ascent and descent is the closest training ground that I have as an Australian to mimic the race profile of Mt Fuji in Japan (UTMF) and the French Alps (UTMB). This race has also prepared e mentally to face the Skyrunning Series in France in June and July. I am also training in an Altitude gym to prepare my lungs and body to cope with racing at Altitude.
I have recovered really well from my back to back Ultra’s of Tarawera Ultra and Northburn 100 Mile and I am back running around the Blue Mountains of NSW Australia, training in the Altitude Gym and with my 30 plus Personal Training Outdoor PT Sydney Clients a week.