Friday, 30 November 2012

A trail tale

I dragged Tidus around my 'tiny trail treat' loop in D'Aguilar National Park (formerly known as Brisbane Forest Park) yesterday. We hammered out the first 10 km but after that we slowed down and by 14 km Tidus fully remembered why the loop hurts so much. You can check out the trail with photos on Garmin Adventures, but here's a teaser:

When others say it better

Sometimes other people say things better than I ever could—like ultra runner Tim Olsen, in this wise blog post entitled #WhatWouldiDo. His words capture my thoughts so perfectly:
I love giving my opinions, but I am not an expert on what will work best for you. I think it is wise to hear other people’s opinions and see if they work into your lifestyle or maybe an idea you have not thought of.
Tim goes on to describe the power of the body to look after itself, if we give it the chance:
The body is smart and it is wise to listen. I see many people including myself push their bodies just a wee too much, resulting in injuries that take months or longer to get back. I would love to see less people get injured and enjoy the activities they love. 

So instead of following what this person or that person is doing, listen to your body, experiment and see what works best for you. Maybe a paleo diet or fruit diet or running 200 miles a week works for some people, but before you decide to follow what so and so does, check in with yourself and listen to yourself. I think it’s great to get pointers from people who have had positive outcomes from ideas they have researched and tried out. But before you decide that’s how you are going to improve in your sport or health make sure it’s not giving you negative results.
And his conclusion?
My hope is that people can become more conscious, mindful and body aware. The more you understand what works for you the more you can enjoy life and be happy! Lets all be self-aware, think #wwid [what would I do?], thank the volunteers, encourage all the runners, and celebrate the day.
Smart guy—or, at least, a guy whose thinking I totally agree with.

Read more on Tim's blog. 

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Why I think you can do it (even if they say you can't)

In this sport of ultramarathon running, people are going to tell you what you can't do. Sometimes it's petty, like saying you can't wear the race shirt because you entered the 100 mile but only finished the 100 km—even though the 100 km runners got an identical shirt. Sometimes it's the rules, like when you miss a checkpoint cut-off and the officials say you can't continue. That's a bummer, especially when you feel strong enough to finish, but you get over it.

Then there's those other times when it cuts deeper, like when you're told you can't continue because you're too sick or sore, even though you don't feel all that bad, or when someone says you can't even start because you're not good enough to finish or even to qualify. When these words get fired at you in quick succession, it can be hard to tell whether it's being said with good or malicious intent.

I like to think that ultra runners are a friendly and generally encouraging lot. When I was starting out, I received so much encouragement that I genuinely believed there was nothing I couldn't do, so long as I had time to prepare for it and the good sense to accept my fitness and work within it. This feeling has grown over time and blended with the awareness that I'm not unique nor special; I now believe that anyone can do these things we do, given those same conditions.

But there have been times when I've doubted the goodwill of other runners, times when I thought maybe they said I can't because they weren't sure they could. Maybe they didn't want me to do it first, or maybe they wanted to feel better about their own decisions to quit, or maybe they wanted something they could only gain if I pulled out. Or maybe they just genuinely didn't think I could do it.

But even if what's said is said with good intent, where is the harm in encouraging someone to try? Why tell them they can't? I see no harm in instead saying, 'That is a very big task you've set yourself; I'm not sure you yet know how big. You will need to train very hard, and be very sensible, and I wish you the best and hope it all works out for you.'

Sometimes being told you can't spurs you on to great success, but it can also lead you astray, striving after goals that won't make you happy simply to prove someone wrong. It can be hard to stay true to yourself if you're a fighter by nature. Sometimes, just having one person believe in you is all you need to achieve great things—things that bring you joy—in the face of all that negativity.

Doubt me? I've seen some of my friends undergo remarkable transformations this year to the amazement of others—women who have gone faster and further than they ever dreamed they would. But not faster nor further than I dreamed, because I knew they wanted it and were determined to get it, and all that remained was for them to do it.

So I'm going to put it out there today: whoever you are, I believe you can train, qualify and finish that ultra, simply because the desire to do so burns in your belly. Finishing an ultra did not make me special or different; you are just like me. The only thing that separates ultra runners from the rest is that we've finished an ultra and, once you've done that, you will see that is really no difference at all.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Feminist Theory and Sports Injuries. Huh?

Those that know me may be amused to hear that I never really thought of myself as feminist until recently. Looking back at what I've achieved, yeah, I find it a bit funny, too.

I feel very fortunate that my first feminist influence was my high school English teacher: a stylish, vivacious, feisty and educated woman who perfectly embodied everything that a person could be. She seemed to know exactly who she was. She was passionate about her literature and that inspired passion in her students, even the most unlikely ones.

Perhaps my next feminist influence was my boxing coach, who was a man, and a former Army officer. How odd! Yet he told me that I would achieve great things not despite the fact that I was a woman, but because of it. And I'm pretty sure he's right.

Difference is a wonderful thing. I am not the same as a man. I am not the same as another woman, either. I'm precisely, exactly like me. I've always felt that way; only recently did I learn that this is a feminist attitude.

And, now that I understand feminist texts, now that I'm finally studying some cultural theories and considering the world with new eyes, I'm starting to get it.

What I didn't expect, however, that this would be relevant for my running identity. But today, on Jezebel, I read 'One Mistake Won’t Ruin Your Life. Remember That.' The article challenges a dominant narrative fed to women (but not men) throughout their lives: that a single mistake can undo everything and you will never recover from it. Hugo Schwyzer highlights how this narrative is seeping out in stories about Amanda Todd; that she should not be used as an example to reinforce this myth.

But in the course of the article, he also made a very unexpected link to injuries in female athletes (although it was focused on college team sports):
The heartbreaking tragedy of Amanda Todd fits all too well into the larger cultural narrative that demands perfection from girls. Her "error" serves as a very public stand-in for all the other possible mistakes young women can make that will, we tell them, mess up their lives. The perfectionism that drives young female athletes to ignore warning signs of injury much more consistently than their male counterparts (a growing phenomenon documented in Michael Sokolove's Warrior Girls) reflects a belief that admitting fragility or exhaustion is a mistake that can both ruin a soccer career and reflect badly on their future chances of success. The "Supergirl crisis" is far from over-hyped, made worse by a culture where male underachievement just exacerbates the pressure ambitious and anxious girls already feel. The end result is a cruel double-bind: "you can be anything you want to be," we tell our daughters, "but you're so fragile that a single mistake can wipe out everything you've worked for." That's a recipe for exhaustion.
I've left the links included because I think the books look fascinating—I've added them to my wish list.

I have been aware of that demand for perfection; even when there is no apparent external pressure, I've felt it. I followed the path of greatest resistance simply so I had something to fight for. But at some point, in my mid-20s I think, I changed; I no longer seek the resistance, but I still feel it.

As always, please share your thoughts.

Friday, 26 October 2012

So I'm Not the Only One

Taken from p. 4 of Ride On magazine's October–November 2012 issue:

So that pretty much agrees with what I had to say about the thirst mechanism in my post on nutrition and hydration. It's nice to see common sense making a comeback in the field of sports nutrition.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Ship's Stern and Dave's Creek, Binna Burra

A few days ago, I posted about communities built on sharing outdoor adventures, constructed as stories. I thought I'd encourage you check out EveryTrail by giving you a tantalising taste of our adventure on Thursday. The full story is on the EveryTrail site: Ship's Stern and Dave's Creek, Binna Burra

I sent Ruth a link to someone else's trip (possibly this one) and she loaded it into her GPS so she could practice following a track on it; this is a skill she'll need for the Great North Walk 100 Mile Run in a few weeks. We both tracked the run as we went. Our route is slightly different from the one we were following, because we visited different lookouts and occasionally decided (deliberately) to take a different fork for a better view.

As you can see from below, another advantage of this community is being able to plug your trips straight into your website or blog.

EveryTrail - Find other trips in Lamington National Park and beyond

In case you're interested, I also created a Garmin Adventure: Ship's Stern and Dave's Creek, Binna Burra | Garmin Adventures. It has a few more photos in it (mostly because I did this one first, and had lost momentum by the time I got to EveryTrail). It looks really pretty, but it's definitely less accessible.

If you have any problems with the map above, please leave a comment to let me know what browser and operating system you're using.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Injury, Weight Loss and Pure Speculation

Nearly every female runner I know who has tried to maintain a low body weight has ended up with overuse injuries—myself included.

I have a very strong body. My bone mineral density is high for a woman of my age despite the fact that I have been on inhaled corticosteroids for my asthma (but not so high as to make my bones brittle).  On minimal training, I can go out and run incredibly long distances. My body doesn't fall apart; I don't take time off due to injury. I've only had one major injury in the last five years, and that was when I came off my 50 cc scooter at over 50 km/h and skidded across the road with my foot trapped under the bike. I fractured my fifth metatarsal. It healed up perfectly and hasn't been a problem since.

But I wasn't always so strong. When I was competing in triathlon, training 22 hours per week, I used to supplement my diet by drinking a meal replacement shake between breakfast and lunch, and another between lunch and dinner… and sometimes a third one before bed. I couldn't eat enough to keep the weight on, and if my weight fell below 60 kg I got injured, every time. Knee inflammation. Muscle tears. Overuse injuries. Shin splints, even when my form seemed excellent. If I had drawn a chart plotting my days spent injured against my weight, you would've seen the most amazing thing happening around 60 kg: on one side, many days injured, on the other, very few.

My case is not the only one, and it's not a scenario that's exclusive to ultra running. It's well documented—look up Female Athlete Triad (with the unfortunate acronym FAT). Yet despite the many studies conclusively showing that there is such a thing as being too light, the unhealthy myth of 'lighter is faster' persists in our sport. It's a myth that is perpetuated at races where relatively chubby runners like me rarely place highly. (Note: I said relatively. I don't think I'm chubby, but I am much larger than most of the podium finishers.) Perhaps lighter is faster, but I'm almost certain that longevity carries a little more weight. Have a look at runners that keep performing moderately well for a very long time in the sport. We're not skinny, but we're still here.

Does low weight cause injury? I'm not sure. Low body weight generally means you're burning a lot more energy than you're ingesting. So it's also plausible that you're going through more essential nutrients than you're consuming. This may directly upset your body's functioning, such as low iron reducing the oxygen carrying capacity of your blood. It may also have a less direct effect. For example, if there's not enough calcium in the muscles to sustain contraction, it starts leaching out of your bones. Hello, stress fractures. But it's also possible that low body weight or low body fat are not the cause of an increased risk of injury but rather that they are both effects of some other underlying cause. A diagnosable example of this could be coeliac disease; who knows what other diseases are yet to be discovered?

Influenza and a few long races had left me alarmingly thin by the time I fronted up to Caboolture in July. My appearance drew comments: I was described as looking great, really fit, no fat on me, stronger and faster than ever, and so on. To me, I was way too skinny. I felt I was putting myself at great risk by racing when my weight was below 61 kg and dangerously close to that 60 kg mark. I held together, though, and afterwards I was at great pains to put the weight back on before I raced again.

I'm not going to try to convince everyone that we need to get heavier, that light women won't run faster and win more races. We can only do what we think is right for ourselves. But I urge you to be really honest with yourself. Ask yourself why you have to be a certain weight to run fast. Where did you get the number from… was it a Facebook quiz? Did you model yourself off someone else? And finally: do you track your weight and your injuries? Do you notice a correlation?

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Climb Every Mountain

I love climbing mountains and fording streams. (If you like The Sound of Music, then this reference won't be lost on you.) I love to explore new places with a map and compass and some good friends, and I love reliving the adventure by poring over the log from my GPS.

A couple of weeks ago, I upgraded to the latest version of Garmin Basecamp and promptly ignored the new feature they'd added in called Garmin Adventures. Some time later, I paid it some attention. It's fun. You load one or more tracks and waypoints into an Adventure, write a description of the course, and add any photos, videos or annotations that seem appropriate. It's all neatly kept together as a story you can 'play', and it's nicer to view than a simple folder of the relevant files.

Then, if you choose to, you can publish it on Garmin's website for others to view or download. So it's like Garmin Connect but with a focus on exploration instead of training.

Here are three tracks that I've created and shared publicly:

But there's a catch: while anyone can view it online, you need to install Basecamp if you want to download the adventure. I really like Basecamp; it's free and it's a great piece of software for managing all the maps and data associated with a GPS. It even lets you output data to KMZ for use in Google Earth. But I don't want to force everyone else to use it to see my adventure in detail. I also don't expect that everyone who wants to run on a trail has a dedicated GPS, and those that do may use a brand other than Garmin with its own software.

On the other hand, EveryTrail is a free, online community which also makes it really simple to upload adventures with text, photos and videos. The key difference is that any member can download a file in an appropriate format for their GPS. You can save your favourite tracks, and add comments. You can easily share trips on Facebook or Twitter or embed content in your blog. Don't have a dedicated device? It doesn't matter, because can download the free EveryTrail app for iOS or Android, and load up your tracks on your phone. You can also download mobile travel guides.

I've added a widget to the right hand side of this blog, which links to my profile and my recent adventures on EveryTrail. I'd heartily encourage everyone to join up. I've been using EveryTrail to find run routes for ages; but Garmin Adventures prompted me to finally start contributing to the community.

There's one more great GPS site I'd like to share with you: GPS Visualizer. Here you can convert between multiple GPS file types and show tracks using different mapping sources…and it does so much more. But it's also a partner site of EveryTrail, so when you create a file on GPS Visualizer (perhaps to add to a Google Map) you can publish it on EveryTrail just by clicking a link. How easy is that?

So now there's no excuse to not climb every mountain, ford every stream and run EveryTrail :D

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Nutrition and Hydration, or Just Plain Eating and Drinking

It's probably fair to say that ultra runners have a bit of an obsession with nutrition and hydration, to the extent that many of us have forgotten how we used to just call it eating and drinking. I needed Steve Brydon to remind me of those old-fashioned terms, even though I'm not all that fussy about my food.

When prompted to think about it, I realised that I tend to eat very wholesome foods when hiking and running. My favourites are mixed nuts, liquorice, oat-based slices, beef jerky and dairy foods. That last category is a bit of a contentious issue, but milk, custard and cheese seem to settle my stomach and boost my energy levels. I'm don't think I'll ever get enthused about Bill Thompson's staple, though: a tub of cream. I also like a good Snickers bar and a few chocolate coated coffee beans.

A universal rule for me has been to consume solid foods in longer events. The exception has been in very cold conditions, where my need for calories seems to take priority and I get sudden cravings for energy gels. I have recently discovered that drinking a hot herbal tea aimed at improving circulation seems to help me overcome the cold and give me a kick, despite its negligible calorie count. My favourite is Circulation Spice from tlicious, but similar blends also work.

I also enjoy a hot cup of freshly plunged coffee with sweetened condensed milk—loaded with calories and caffeine. Of course, the majority of my running is not done in the middle of the night, and I like the odd Coca Cola as well. But I've come to the conclusion that most of the time, sugar is a far more effective way for me to combat the sleep monsters than caffeine, so long as I am careful to keep consuming it so I don't come down from the high. For this reason, I've replaced most of my event Coke consumption with lemonade or red Fanta and I honestly can't tell the difference.

I don't drink much electrolyte drink, because most of them are horrendous, disgusting, evil beverages. However, I find the Peach Tea GU Electrolyte Brew Tablets delicious and will happily down a few bottles of it during an ultra event, just for variety. Aside from that, it's plain water for me, with an occasional salt tablet if I really need it—and the only salt tablets I use are Succeed S! Caps.

Now, you may have noticed that I implied I don't use many salt tablets. This is true: at the Glasshouse Trail 100 mile last month, I only took about five tablets. I didn't need any more than that, and I wasn't eating excessively salty food. I put this down to my heat training, which numerous studies have shown reduces the amount of salt lost through sweating. (Here's one example, but if you want more, just search for them.)

And, of course, I drink water. (When it's exceptionally hot, I also pour it over myself, which seems to work more quickly than sweating. More on that here.) I have never consumed large volumes of water nor have I forced it in when I'm not thirsty; I refuse to believe that human beings could 'evolve' to a state where our thirst mechanism works too late to be effective. That makes no sense.

But these days I drink more water than I used to, because I have a better strategy: I guzzle. For years, I drank in small sips. Then I started copying my boyfriend in his morning habit of drinking a pint of water. It gave me a great kickstart, so I started drinking larger volumes but less frequently when running, with great success.

I tested this out at spring camp and ran 15 km of trails with no water, and then another 15 km straight after on only three slurps of about 300 – 250 mL each. It seems to clear my stomach far more rapidly and I feel better hydrated. So why was I sipping for so many years? I suspect I was trying to relieve my dry mouth, so now I've taken to rinsing and spitting when I'm not actually thirsty. I also cover my face when conditions are dry, which helps prevent my mouth drying out and reduces the fluid lost through breathing. (It also seems to help control my asthma, by giving me moist air to breathe and preventing so much dust and pollen from getting in.)

Of course, this is all anecdotal—one woman's personal experience. It may not work for others. It may not actually work for me, even though it seems to. If you've seen any research on the matters I've mentioned above, please do share them in the comments, and enjoy your food and drink…or is that nutrition and hydration?

Monday, 15 October 2012

Tam's T-bar Trail Bars

These are my T-bar Trail Bars because I made them using a Tupperware T-bar Set for a day on the T-bar (Toowoomba) trails with Tamsin and Ruth. They're easy, tasty and loaded with natural energy. And did I mention they're tasty?

1 cup quick oats
1 cup dry roasted nuts and seeds
1 1/2 cups mixed dried fruit
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup golden syrup
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 tbsp molasses
15g butter
pinch salt
2-3 squares Nestlé Plaistowe dark chocolate

For the nuts, I use the Lucky Smart Snax nut mixes. I also like to use chopped dates, so it works out to about 1/2 cup dates, 1/2 cup mixed dried fruit, 1/2 cup berries from in with the nuts. These ingredients and the chocolate are usually available in the baking section of the supermarket. Try to get organic peanut butter with only one ingredient listed (100% peanuts).

1. Place oats, nuts, seeds and dried fruit in a large mixing bowl.
2. In a small saucepan, mix honey, golden syrup, peanut butter, molasses, butter and salt in a small on low heat and slowly bring to the boil.
3. Stir the liquid through the oat mix until it's all thoroughly coated and clumping together.
4. Scoop into T-bar mould and press down with the plunger. (If you don't have one of these, just squish it down into a pan or container that you don't mind scratching.)
5. Refrigerate until cool. Allow at least an hour for this step.
6. Use the back of a knife to separate the bars from edge of the mould, then turn the bars out onto the lid. (If using the tray, tip the bar out and cut, or do it in the reverse order.)
7. Melt chocolate until smooth and drizzle over the bars with a spatula. (2 squares will give a nice drizzle; 3 squares will give a thin coating.)

You can melt the chocolate in the microwave, covered on medium heat, 30 seconds at a time and stirring well in between. When it's close to melted, adjust in 10 second increments.

Ups and Downs

It's been quite the year of running for me, not that you'd know it from the blog. 

After Alpine, I sorted out my health and decided to do the Coburg 24 Hour race. Then Pop (my paternal grandfather) fell ill and my brother came home from Singapore to see him on the weekend of Coburg. That put me in Victoria on the right weekend, but several hours outside of Melbourne, so I missed out, although I got to watch a bit of it after dropping my brother back at the airport.

I caught a cold or the flu in June, just in time for the Oxfam Trailwalker, which I did with Mallani, Ruth and Sara. We were the second female team home in 19 hours 45 minutes or so. It was probably a fair bit slower than what we were capable of, but these things happen. I had a nasty cough—my asthma always plays up after having the flu (which is why I suspect flu, not a cold, was the culprit)—and by the end of the race I had lost my voice. I had an asthma attack on the way home, but the next day I did a few gentle reps up the Kokoda Track in Mt Coot-tha. I was pretty fit.

I went on to try the Sri Chinmoy 24 hour race at Blacktown (west of Sydney) the following weekend, but that nasty cough wouldn't leave me and as the sun went down my peak flow plummeted with it. By 8:00 pm I was wearing nearly all of my clothing and still feeling cold; having only covered 80 km in 10 hours I decided it was best to go have a hot shower and a sleep. The temperatures went negative that night, so I think it was an excellent decision; the following week, my doctor agreed with me. 

A longer course of Prednisone sorted out my asthma and got me back to a decent level of respiratory health ready for my New Zealand ski trip in July. I didn't sign up for anything until after this, lest I break a leg on the slopes. I am a klutz, after all. When I came back, I signed up for the Caboolture 48 hour race and then panicked at the thought of it. But I calmed myself with the thought of having run in the wilderness for 46 hours before; I fronted up and ran 272.822 km to become the women's national champion and third place overall.

Five weeks later I went to Matt Cooper's Ultra Made Spring Training Camp at Fitzroy Falls, with Ruth. It actually snowed on us as we drove in, which was a bit crazy, and the whole weekend was cold. The people were amazing, though, and I made many new friends. Coops has a great philosophy on running and life and how to experience 'Present Energy'. The camp focused on the mental, emotional and spiritual levels of running rather than the physical. I noticed during the camp that my hip flexors were still very fatigued from Caboolture, but this didn't stop me from running up a hill with 480 m vertical in 4 km of track; nor did it prevent me from running up 5 km of a big hill 15 km into a run on the Monday.

Glasshouse rolled up two weeks after camp. It didn't sink in until much later that this was only seven weeks after Caboolture. So my hip flexors were still sore. But the whole run was a comedy of errors for me. I had been too optimistic in my planning, so lights were in the wrong drop bags; it was colder than expected, so I dropped my morning thermals in the wrong bag; my shoes were too loose at the start (toe jam) and too tight later (foot cramps and bruising) and my spares were a long way away at the 107 km checkpoint. My tight hip flexors ended up upsetting my lower back badly (perhaps the sacroiliac joint) and I ended up quite swollen in the region. Despite that, I ran a 2 hour 20 minute 100 mile PB of 26 hours and 4 minutes and I didn't get sick, lost or run over by a 4WD.

Now I'm seriously enjoying relaxing, studying and fixing my back up with some Bikram yoga. The focus is all on Alpine next year, where I am going to run 32 – 36 hours, but preferably the former.

I've been sharing lots of my knowledge with friends recently, and I've realised that I should share some of this knowledge with the world instead, so that's what I'll be blogging in the near future. Here's an outline of some things I've learnt, which I may post about in the coming weeks:
  1. Iron deficiency can apparently lead to stomach upsets in races. Both Mallani and I have been less sick during races since sorting this out.
  2. I can run up most hills, so long as I keep it light and relaxed. 
  3. I can get by on much less food and water than I think I need.
  4. I don't need to sip water; if I am thirsty I can drink, and if my mouth is dry I can rinse and spit.
  5. Power naps work a treat in long races.
  6. Not all foot care routines are equal, nor are all foot fungus creams.
  7. I make the best trail bars.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Race Report 2012

I feel like a spoilt brat for saying it, but I am totally devastated by my piss-poor performance at the Alpine Challenge. I trained my arse off, I had packed light but appropriately so, and I had prepared an excellent race plan. I still don't know exactly what went wrong, what made me so sick.

I know that getting through the 100 km is a huge achievement—especially for those who signed up for the 100 km, like Todd (whose race went perfectly) and Ruth (who also had some tummy problems but pushed through regardless). It doesn't change the fact that I signed up for 100 miles and DNF'd. Yes, I understand that I was sick and that it would have been stupid to wander off towards Mt Hotham on my own, but that doesn't make me feel any less sad.

Sure, there are plenty of things that I did well. My feet were in excellent shape at the end of the run. I kept warm in the very cold conditions, and didn't overheat when it got hot up on Quartz Ridge. While I could barely eat, the food that I had packed was palatable and gentle enough to stay down… in tiny quantities. I moved slowly, but my predicted splits were actually fairly accurate (excusing the really slow first leg). I used pretty much everything I carried with me, except for my emergency gear. I didn't get lost once. My unintended taper (brought on by being too busy) had left me with plenty of energy to burn. My asthma didn't play up, nor did my allergies. I finished the run with excellent balance, my core still strong. I wasn't affected by the altitude. My crew was brilliant. (Thanks, Matt.)

But none of that matters when you vomit before a race and can't eat during the race. I'm surprised I even made the 100 km. I wrote a list of what I ate, and it comes out somewhere around 5000 kJ. Yep, not even a normal day's worth of energy (7,300–12,500 kJ), let alone a mountain run in cold conditions.

And here's the really scary bit. I only drank about 5L of fluid, of which about  2.5 L was water, 1.5 L was soft drink and another 1 L was tea.

I nearly missed the cutoff at the first checkpoint, only 15.5 km in. With no sugar and no caffeine, I had nearly fallen asleep going up Spion Kopje Fire Track. RD Paul Ashton asked what had happened, and I told him. The medics were concerned, but I was still clear-headed enough to make it clear I could keep going: I told them that if I was still crook on the summit of Mt Bogong, I'd call Matt and get him to meet me at Mountain Creek campground, and take a shortcut down there. At that checkpoint, I managed to eat half a cookie and drink half a cup of tea and a little bit of ginger beer.

I missed the cutoff by a couple of minutes on the summit of Mt Bogong; technically, I was instantly in the 100 km race, but if I made it to the next checkpoints in time I could continue on the 100 mile course. I called Matt to update him on my times as I strolled across the summit, enjoying the glorious view despite feeling ill. (There is 50 km or so between the checkpoints, so it can be hard to pace-predict.) Matt told me Ruth was only 15 minutes ahead, so I pushed hard down Quartz Ridge to catch her. When I saw her ahead, I yelled out, 'Ruth! I am so fucking happy to see you!' She was having tummy troubles of the other variety.

We made it to Langford Gap in enough time for me to continue on the 100 mile course, but I was a mess. I couldn't even think straight to get changed into warmer clothes. I knew I had to do it, but I was confused by the whole process of taking shoes off. By this stage I had managed to eat a little bit more, and I had even urinated once. Yes, once, in the 14 hours I'd been running. And I'd managed to crouch down in burrs, so Ruth had to pick them off the arse of my tights for me. That's what friends are for.

I was fuzzy, no doubt as a result of low blood sugar and fatigue. Matt was concerned about me heading off on my own across the high plains; I still couldn't really eat. So I dropped to the 100 km and ran the rest of the course with Ruth.

From Langford Gap (something like 60 km), I started eating pairs of chocolate coated coffee beans whenever I felt slightly more human. I drank some more ginger beer to wash down the bad taste in the back of my throat as my body tried to reject everything I tried to put in. I topped myself up with tea and cuddles at Tawonga Huts before shuffling to the finish past Keep Left signs that only I could see.

Needless to say, I was looking a little skinny. But Ruth had finished and I had 'finished' in 24:47:38 with the key achievements of not being beaten by 100 km walkers and not being beaten by the first 100 mile solo runner; they were less than an hour behind us, though.

I don't know what made me sick. I did everything the same as what I'd done in my training runs; I can't think of anything that Ruth and I ate that the others didn't. The illness persisted for a bit; Ruth and I got carsick and we both had night sweats on Sunday night (which I've never had after an ultra before). I've had a sensitive stomach since then. So maybe it was just an incredibly poorly timed tummy bug.

I feel very fortunate that I was well-hydrated and well-rested going into the event, which is the only reason I got as far as I did.

I know I made the right decision and I never could have gotten through an extra 15–20 hours of death march, but that doesn't make me feel any better. I have to wait another twelve months before I can try again. No other hundred miler matters like this one. So I guess I am a spoilt brat, but I just want to have a cry.

Update: a few days later, I'm getting over it. But I'm so fit that the urge to prove myself is strong. Grrrr.