How to Run Heysen 105 70km Ultra Endurance Run
This was meant to be a training run. Being competitive was not part of the original plan set out only the night before. The best laid plans are meant to be broken right?
I guess if I wanted to do a training run, I wouldn’t have signed up for an event. I mean, I’ve paid for an entry, I’ve pinned on a race number and at the start line I’m sizing up my competitors both male and female (I do not discriminate). These are all the ingredients to see yourself racing.
When the gun goes off
I have noticed at most of the South Australian events, people seem to fear being up the front…they stand a good 5-10m away from the start line for reasons I still don’t understand. You may not win the race (but then again you just might) but this shouldn’t stop you from owning and trusting your ability to back yourself. No imposter syndrome should exist at this point; it’s an even playing field – everyone is a runner.
I stood confidently at the front of the pack focused on my running line and when that imaginary gun went off, so did I – it was on! At this point, I was being competitive with myself, I wanted to give the 70km a good ole nudge and if the wheels fell off well before the end well so be it, I was mindfully aware of what I was doing, for good or bad.
At this point, I noticed three other fearless women owning the field too and it would be two out of the three women that I would spend the rest of the day with until the very end.
What’s time got to do with it?
I haven’t run a 70km race before, so this was new territory for me. I was excited about the distance and the shorter time out on course but it’s a bit of a false economy….the shorter the distance the harder and faster you run.
Since returning to Adelaide after a 25-year hiatus in early 2021 I have ‘enjoyed’ entering 50km races to test the faster pace and my endurance; I can happily say, it’s been a welcome surprise and a distance I have really enjoyed learning to master. Keeping with the shorter distance, 70km seemed fun but challenging run but time wise, no idea.
I looked up the previous year’s times to give me an understanding of what I should aim for; I looked at both the women’s and men’s times and basically took a stab in the dark. I had only run about 10km of the course and rest was unknown although I knew the profile which gave me a good understanding of what my pace might be.
I noted down all the aid stations and the times I should be coming through them and a finish time of 7:42. I didn’t know if these times were achievable but at least I had some sort of guide.
Sometimes you just know
To my surprise, I was within a minute of the aid station times and finished in a time of 7:43; honestly how does that happen? And how did I know? I guess I know myself more than I give myself credit for.
It’s a battlefield
The course was touted as a ‘runnable course’ so my race times were based on this knowledge although I hadn’t yet experienced the course. Yes, runnable in some sections but wow the climbs mainly out of Myponga were something of a surprise. I couldn’t help but marvel at the scenery but equally curse the climbs as this is where I was losing ground and pace.
I have always been a strong hiker, as my coach tells me ‘Hike the shit out of it’ but after running the soft and often cow poo-soaked fields (at one point I was ankle deep in poo) my legs were feeling the fatigue and overall heaviness of the terrain. When it came to climbing, I was in struggle town.
I had to get myself out of my head; the inner turmoil was a hinderance not a help, time to turn the inner conversation into something more peaceful and productive. I reminded myself of my strength, my endurance and most importantly my grit – experience was on my side calling upon my learnings from previous races to work through the steps digging myself out of my self-pity hole.
I quietened the mind; I focused on the breath, and I worked through continual body scans to become further connected with my container. It worked. When I felt myself wavering again, I just brought myself back to my senses, by breath.
Good things come in three
This was one of the only times I have battled it out with fellow competitors for a podium finish from start to finish. At each aid station, I was scanning to see if I could see the other two women I was running against; we were always within meters of each other.
At the last aid I had planned to change my shoes into roadies as I knew the last 9km was on road but looking over my shoulder, no chance I just had to keep pushing forward. For the last 10km of the race it was a cat and mouse game, friendly conversation as we passed one other before settling in on our own pace to finish the race off.
Once we hit the bitumen section, my legs ceased up. I don’t normally experience cramps, but I could feel the muscles waving through the calf making it near impossible to run. The chaos in my head was increasing and I longed for the race to be over but at the same time, reminding myself to be present.
I was in second place, but it wasn’t a comfortable second, it was ‘I am being hunted’ and the hunter knew I was suffering.
I didn’t think I could go any faster but with 100m to go, third place was basically on my back, so I had to lift…I had to sprint my way to the finish line.
Going for gold
As I accelerated my body went into shut down, my reflex of gut distress was evident, and I was dry reaching as I was picking up the pace – I felt sorry for the spectators seeing this unfold. As I crossed the finish line my body went into shock and this shock resulted in a minute of vomiting – yeah, I had given this race everything I had.
Everything has an opposite
There was so much adrenaline running through my body eventually I had to adhere to the heightened senses and find a sense of calm. But first I had to walk off the energy before finding refuge on a recliner lounge where I found myself sitting/lying for over 2 hours – this race had used up a lot of energy, now I had to find some time to replenish.
I often wonder where the fighting spirit comes from, its buried deep within most of the time but when I need to call upon it, it has my back. I gave this race everything, I pushed and tested my own limits and won. I explored how my training had been to date and I opened the calmness in my mind to create a peace despite the fury of the physical demands I was pushing my body too.
I am proud of this race. I trusted myself enough to find a new level and this is something I have been hesitant to do in the past. I ran for myself despite those running around me, I kept in control of my race all the while being aware of the race unfolding around me.
There are not many races that you walk away from and not question the ‘what ifs’.
- What if I didn’t spend so much time at the aid station.
- What if I had a caffeine gel earlier in the race.
- What if my competitors were not racing that day.
- What if….I just learnt to trust myself and see where that takes me.
For my competitors, Emma Burgess and Indi Zammit thank you for helping me find my limits and being genuinely great sports people who played the game so graciously.
All the women who raced the Heysen 70km showed such strength and power; we should all be proud to be ‘up there with the men’ and owning our abilities to just do.
Until next year.