I woke up at 2.30am and decided that there was no chance that I would get back to sleep. I got up, went through my routine and tried to calm my mind. This was the first time I had ever been confident going into a race. I had spent hours on that course, I knew where I could push, I knew when to hold back and I was ready to go out and give it everything I could. I also knew it was my first 100-mile race and that absolutely anything could happen.
We arrived at registration and sought out some familiar faces. We listened to the pre-race briefing and joined the convoy to the modified start. The unceremonious ‘go’ is heard and we are off running. The new start meant running 20kms that I was unfamiliar with. I decided that I had a long day ahead of me and replayed Tim’s final piece of advice to me which was ‘be patient’. I got into a rhythm up the first climb and naturally fell into a group of other competitors. We ticked along laughing about the absurdity of running these distances and commenting on how impressive the likes of Vlad and Brendan were. We had finished the ‘unfamiliar’ section and we dropped into ‘The Jungle’ which completely breaks your rhythm, is tough to navigate and has some quad busting climbs. I came into Checkpoint One at Watagan HQ (25kms) in 1st place (female) and 26th overall.
I left CP1 at the same time as Alan (who was a friend Tim and I had been fortunate to make recently) who I knew was much faster than me, but thought I would try and use him as a bit of a marker to measure myself off and keep myself accountable. I enjoyed running this section a lot, making sure Alan never got out of sight but also ensuring I wasn’t burning a match too early on. I hit Congewoi Road and my only aim was to keep my body temperature down. It was nice to see some familiar faces on the brief out and back section on my way into Checkpoint Two at the Congewoi School (50km) where I came in 1st place (female) and 23rd overall. We had to do a compulsory gear check at the CP and it was a good opportunity for me to take a breather and get some food in. I knew that the next section would be one of the hardest of the day and I needed to make sure I was on top of my nutrition.
The next section I struggled. Really badly. The ‘Communication Tower’ climb was sending me backward and I did not feel strong. I re-assessed how I was feeling and decided that this section was all about maintenance. I needed to keep the positivity high and just ride out the rough patch. I got to the Watagan Creek climb and climbed as best as I could, which was absolute rubbish. I ran into another competitor who was having some stomach issues and we fell into running together. It’s amazing how much your spirits lift just with the sight of another person. I was not looking forward to the slow trek into the Basin but it was actually one of the most enjoyable parts of the day. The out and back is a great opportunity to cheer on others and see friends. I came into Checkpoint Three at the Basin (87km) feeling worse for wear but ready to reset and get through to Yarramalong. I had come into CP3 in 1st place (female) but 2nd place (Kerrie) came in very shortly after me. I knew I had to get focused and get out of there ASAP.
Leaving the Basin I was running scared. I knew that Kerrie was right behind me and that I needed to keep pushing forward. I got onto the Cedar Brush decent before I had to turn my headlamp on which I was pleased with. I hit Yarramalong Road and was excited to run a mindless road section for 10.5kms. I looked behind me at one point and saw a very bright light coming towards me (questioned whether it was the ‘white light’) and thought ‘here goes the lead, I am about to get passed’ when I hear a familiar voice yell out ‘is that Michaela?’ to my delight it was Doug who was absolutely crushing the last few kilometres of his race. I wish I had the energy to go with him but I knew I still had another 75kms to ‘race’ so thought better of it. I came into Checkpoint Four at Yarramalong (108kms) in 1st place (female). When the lovely volunteer at the checkpoint asked me if I was a ‘miler’ or not I responded ‘my name isn’t miler, it’s Michaela’. Obviously, I was starting to fatigue. We had a giggle, I got weighed in, had a gear check and got out of the checkpoint with the most qualified pacer on the course. We ran out of the checkpoint and passed Kerrie who was on her way in. I thought she looked great and had to make sure I was still pushing myself forward.
The next couple of kms were spent catching up with Tim. Running by yourself becomes lonely and Tim and I don’t spend a lot of time apart so it was nice to be reunited. We pushed up Bumble Hill following the reflective vests of the two gentlemen ahead of me. We travelled along the next section well until I hit the next descent. I all of a sudden became overwhelmingly tired. So much so that I thought it would be a good idea to try and close my eyes while running. I managed this for a short period until Tim started yelling to try and keep me awake. We had a technical decent to conquer which managed to snap me awake but as soon as we hit ‘easy running’ I started to close my eyes again. I knew I had to get to the next checkpoint and down some caffeine. We climbed up the final climb to the farms in Somersby and we had a short drag into Checkpoint Five at Somersby School (130km). I came in 1st place (female) and noticed that Kerrie’s support crew was also waiting for her. I quickly refocused and got out of the checkpoint.
The No Doz and Red Bull I downed did wonders and we powered out of the checkpoint. I ran the next section better than I could have hoped. I was running climbs and powering ahead determined to get to the final checkpoint. We passed one runner and his pacer and wished them well. We got into Checkpoint Six at Mooney Mooney (148km) and surprised Jess who was waiting for us. Jess told Tim and I that she hadn’t seen Kerrie come in at Somersby and she suspected we had a bit of time up our sleeve.
Running out of Mooney Mooney it all of a sudden hit me that I could actually win this thing. I cry at the drop of a hat so I naturally burst into tears at the thought that I may achieve something that I thought was completely unachievable for me. I knew I had what I thought was one of the toughest sections ahead of me so I abruptly stopped crying and decided I had better get on with it. I had developed some serious blisters so every step on the uneven surface was painful but nowhere near as painful as if I had of been passed with only a number of kms to go so I decided to suck it up and push forward. With about 7kms to go, we were passed by the runner and his pacer that we had passed in the earlier section. They looked awesome and I was stoked that he had managed to put in a strong finish but in turn, it absolutely shattered me. I thought that it was the start of a flurry of people coming to chase me down. The enormity of the day hit me and I finally hit the brick wall. I was moving but barely and I finally snapped at Tim after 70kms of running together. We got to the final descent and Tim told me ‘these are going to be the most painful kms you run today but you need to get it done’. I let my legs tick over and tried to ignore the pain. Seeing Patonga Beach coming closer and closer was heart-stirring and hair-raising. I couldn’t believe it was all about to be over. I saw the infamous post coming towards me and I ran as fast I could towards it. I finally reached it in 26 hours and 27 minutes in 1st place (and 11th overall). I got to the post and broke down into tears. I had travelled 175kms with over 6,000m of vertical change under my own power.
I had Tim’s incredible parents in my corner all weekend. They treat me like their own and I am so lucky to have in-laws like them. Also a special mention to my wonderful best friend Jess. You believe in me, back me and support me and I’m so lucky to have you in my life. I’ve met some amazing people through this running caper (looking at you Benny, Joey and Emma) and I feel so fortunate to be surrounded by the most incredible support network.
And of course Tim. You’re the love of my life, my biggest supporter and such a gentleman. We are all lucky to know you and I am lucky to wake up to you every morning.