How to navigate Great Southern Endurance Run
On the 17th November 2017 I set out to run my longest endurance race to date, the Great Southern Endurance Run or GSER for short. A race distance of 100 miles which is equivalent to 161km this ultra run in terms of distance ended up being 181km but who’s counting? Me, I was counting.
A course I described as brutal as it was beautiful this race still has me suffering a slight case of PTSD when exposed to the terrain which saw me scramble, hike, run, walk and hallucinate my way through for 47 hours. I was pretty comfortable with 98% of the course, its the other 2% that still leaves me a little traumatised; this can be said for both the terrain and the hallucinations that I experienced for a good part of the race.
As an endurance runner I was getting use to challenging myself both physically and mentally, this is what I am beginning to love the most about ultra runs but being relatively new to this sport at the time, my maturity and experience was only a drop in the ocean for what this race required. Experience can count for absolutely nothing or absolutely everything so thankfully I did have some but what I also needed in order to navigate my way through this terrain from start to finish was:
- Lack of fear
- Sense of boldness
- Methods of distraction
- Everything possible to meet the challenge
For some strange reason the course did not really scare, frighten or intimidate me. This was an event I was meant to run. For whatever reason something just felt right, it was like the universe had pre selected this event for me and my name was already part of the starters list long before I entered the race.
The above four traits were in my ‘pack’ right from the word go; I would not fear the descents, climbs or wild dogs, I would be brash and bold running like a pro, I would use distraction methods such as meditation, breathing and counting to see hours feel like minutes and I would trust that I did have everything possible to meet this endurance challenge, after all ignorance is bliss right?
This was not your ordinary running race, actually using the word ‘running’ is a bit of an exaggeration but for ease we will call it a running race. There was so many elements to this race so what I needed to do was break it up into small manageable pieces ticking off each milestone avoiding at all costs thinking about the race in its entirety. This will and can be the undoing.
Mt Buller to Upper Howqua – First, second and third thunder and lightening storm and my first few conversations with a higher being (maybe God) to please let me survive, I was asking her to ‘not let me die today’.
Mt Speculation via Mt Buggery and Horrible Gap – Crazy, crazy thunderstorms where lightening did strike once but I survived and my fastest ever descent down a mountain!
Mt Speculation to East Buffalo – slowest most technical part of the course, mentally tough as during the night, log section which made the race more like an obstacle course than a run.
Mt Despair – Slippery under foot due to the slate & continual rain
The Viking – 6m chimney climb with ladder which had me taking a deep, deep breath and telling myself to ‘get on with the job at hand’.
East Buffalo to Selwyn Creek – This is where I was ‘re born’. I ran into this aid station at dawn only to see my first and last sunrise of the event. This was magical. An experience that warmed my heart and brought a tear to my eye.
Selwyn Creek to Mt St Bernard via Barry Mountain and The Twins – Hallucination city baby! Think polar bears, brown bears, families eating breakfast with Dad reading the paper. I saw bus stops, dinner tables and window ledges, it was a beautiful, strange and comforting sight. To make this section even better I happened to call my twin sister as I ascending The Twins. Timing is everything.
Mt St Bernard to Harrietville via Diamantina Hut, Bon Accord and Washington Creek Junction – Re set and run as fast as you can. This section will be forever etched in my mind as the fastest part of the course. I literally had wings.
Harrietville to Bright via High Point, and Wet Gully Track – I was running on a rubbish tip, well so I thought. As it turns out they were just rocks but this is where I drafted a long letter to the council in my head to complain about the lack of care in this area. There was empty chip packets and baby nappies, I was truly appalled but in the end none of that existed. Nor did the people at the bus stop or the two runners I had a conversation with asking them if they were OK only to have them reply to me they were having issues with a sore back! This was a strange moment.
My experience when it comes to endurance racing will be very different to everyone elses. When I eventually look to run GSER again in 2021 I will no doubt have another very different experience. Anyone who normalises endurance racing is often asked by those around them ‘how do you do this, you must be mad’. Yes there definitely needs to be an element of madness to do this but there also needs to be strength, trust, belief, passion and desire. You have to want to do these races because despite the finish line feels, they are bloody hard. But it’s the hard that makes them so great.
We spend too much of our life feeling comfortable and safe, we are slowly losing our greatest power of hunt and gather and being comfortable with putting our bodies in flight and fight mode. You are never truly alone in races such as this, help might not come immediately but it will come eventually. You carry mandatory gear for safety, you wear a GPS and you have a mobile phone, compass and fire starters if things get really out of control.
You are fearless, you trust yourself and you are a moving warrior. You need to remind yourself of this all of the time and in the words of Christopher Robin: You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.
Great Southern Endurance Run
To find out how you can reach your peak and enter the 2019 event from Bright to Buller or the 2021 event from Buller to Bright visit the GSER website.
To read more about the events that Amanda has participated in visit the Planted Runner page.