As I jump into an Epsom salts bath armed with coffee and a Darlene Jacques cupcake I settle in to recap what was an extraordinary experience yesterday, the Bruny Island Ultra Marathon.
And when I say jump, it’s more of a hobble, slide and fall… ‘Soreness’ doesn’t quite cut it. And when I say cupcake it’s more like two, ok, three.
But let me take you back a couple of days… where in my eyes, this event really kicked off.
With the car packed to the brim Adelle, Will (Runphoria relay team) and I made our way down to the Bruny Island Ferry terminal. We soon found Mainy who had his own wheels, which would also double as crew vehicle for the day tomorrow.
It’s always such a hoot getting on the ferry for this event, there are cars lined up for miles and it’s great to spend the queuing time chatting to fellow competitors and soaking up the pre-race hype.
It must be said that I’d been slightly cautious in recent weeks about a surprise for me Mainy had been waffling on about.
In the days prior to packing, I started to think he and Adelle may have found a funny outfit for me to wear or some kind of silly hat for me to adorn the whole way. So when I caught a glimpse of the long-awaited surprise not only was I overwhelmed by its serious coolness but quietly relieved that my planned kit would remain untouched 🤣
The Runphoria car was nothing short of totally rad!
My name splattered across every surface and the logo that Bec and I are so proud of and that encompasses everything about our own little brand reaching right across the windscreen. I was a bit gobsmacked and in that moment I wished that Bec was here to see it in the flesh.
Massive shout out to John at Eye Spy Designs for making it all possible.
We had dinner at the Bruny Island Pub
(chicken schnitzels all round) and after some organising and banter back at the accommodation – mostly about me and my coconut water, which apparently everyone except me in the room hates 🤣– we settled in for an early night.
Saturday 5:30am and my eyes shoot open from what appears to have been a pretty solid sleep. It’s a beautiful morning on Bruny Island, clear sky and I’m guessing about 12 degrees. The crew and I pack up the Runphoria Wagon and start the 50min ride to the start line.
I have to say, when I first found out Toby and I both races on the same day in different states, I wasn’t sure how I was going to go having a crew that wasn’t my husband or Bec but it turned out to be the perfect marriage.
Adelle and I work together and Mainy, well we go way back…. so when I put a shout out on social media for a crew and they both volunteered I giggled as I just knew they’d get along like a house on fire. And as a result make ‘the best goddamn crew a gal could ask for’.
The start is a bit different this year as they introduce timing chips for the first time. As I register James Crotty (race director) greets me with ‘oh you turned up!’ The others at registration joke that I had to because he gave me name to the Mercury for a story the day before so I couldn’t really not run!
The sun is shining bright already and it’s about 7:05am as I farewell my crew and cross the start line.
If you don’t know this race, it’s one of a kind.
64km solo or team relay which can be any combination of runners doing any combination of intervals in 2km increments. And to make it more interesting, you can start any time you like after 4 am as long as you finish between 11 am – 2:30 pm. It always adds that layer of intrigue as you have no idea who’s running what combo and when they started.
For soloists, this makes for a very different kind of running chat. You could literally be running up to someone who started at 4 am or be passed by an elite who started an hour after you did. I just love it.
The crew and I have a plan, I’ll see them every 2km.
Some other crews may not stop for their runners for even up to 10km intervals but I just think this frequency will work for me. A consistent check-in, even if just for a smile from them and a quick chat about what I need next. This approach turns out to be the best thing I did to get me through but we’ll get to that later.
The first 10km is pretty much gravel road and up up up. I don’t stop to walk though and after the first 4km, I start to get a feel for my rhythm and general body sense. I’m feeling strong and it’s at this point that I think it’ll be one of the days where each time I look down at my Suunto I’m going faster than I feel.
The crew find their own rhythm quickly too.
One runs with me through the 2km checkpoints getting a feel for where I’m at and checking what I’d like at the next transition.
We’d planned the night before that I wouldn’t ask for anything at checkpoints and need it right then, I’d just take it at the next 2km mark. This quickly becomes a really effective way to operate as it means I don’t actually stop at checkpoints, instead just get handed what we’ve already discussed and keep running.
Later on, this comes back to bite me in the bum as I try to make up excuses to stop for a minute 🤣🤣
All the gear
Today I chose to run in my Nike Epic React shoes, Steigen socks, with my Salomon S/Lab Light Shorts 6, Lululemon Speed Up bra and Runphoria top. And as I write this without a blister or trace of chafe I’m stoked about the performance of each piece of this kit. In fact as I passed through the 56km mark without a sore toe or foot bed, I said to myself ‘if I hit my sub 6hr goal today, I’m treating myself to another pair of these shoes’. They just performed so well.
Anyway back to the race.
Up and out of the gravel roads and rolling hills it’s a nice change to be on the bitumen road and as I pass through the next checkpoint I see Amy Lamprect waiting on the side of the road. Sure enough a few mins later, Jonno her partner in crime comes tearing past me. They’re doing the relay as a team of 2 and smashing out 2km sprints…. super couple right there 🎉
After the next few transition points I’m surprised to look at my watch and notice we’re nearing the 20km mark.
It’s been beautiful bright sunshine the whole way, but I start to feel it’s getting warm and I may need to up the anti on the salts to mitigate for all the sweat loss. Even though I’ve been taking on electrolytes the whole way I ask for a couple of salt tabs for the half way point and also a couple of Panadol at the next stop. I’d been feeling a little headachy and had a scratchy throat the night before and it’s just at this point I feel my head is a bit feverish. There’s no way I let that stop me and in the next couple of kms the painkillers kick in and its as good as gone.
The salt tabs play a huge part in my ability to keep going over the rest of the day as I notice the sun heating up even more and the salt forming on my neck.
I take my first stop at the 26km marker.
I can feel myself getting burnt and Mainy gives my neck and shoulders and good layer of sunscreen while Adelle hands me a gel and water. This right here is one of many moments that I can totally attest to, the crew is everything. Without them thinking and doing and planning everything for me, I’d be in a different space.
I take a toilet stop at the 28km marker… even though I’m in a zone and my head is buried in focusing on the race I try to always take stock of the beautiful surrounds that we’re truely blessed with as trail runners and this spot is no different. The Bruny Island isthmus other wise known as The Neck, is just a spectacular place of the world. I soak it up and then move on.
It’s a magical feeling to reach half way.
32km to go and it’s really from here that I start to play around with the countdown in my head.
This is where my fascination with what the human body can achieve comes in.
At 32km I have very sore right glute, my legs are pretty sore and I’m actually quite hot. 22degrees on a black bitumen road doesn’t sound bad but for me it’s critical that I take on more salts than I think I need. I’m a big girl now and I’ve had enough experience to know how I roll. If I’m truely honest its here that wave in and out of thinking I can actually run the rest. But what I’ve come to realise is that when you run this far, you get to a point where it’s painful and really everything hurts. But it’s not going to get too much worse, so you can actually push through the soreness and the pain and deal with that when you’re finished. It’s when you push through this barrier that things get really fun. Km by km just passing by and the awe of what you’re achieving starts to fuel the next km and then the next. Feels kinda cool to be in this state of gratitude for my health and ability.
The support out on the course is what makes this event so brilliant.
Rani and her team, The Finishers are in sync with us right from the start so we keep seeing them at the checkpoints and they never fail to cheer me on loudly and offer support.
It’s in the stretch from 40 – 50km that I come across some great fellow runners and while I can’t quite remember where exactly in the run we intercept I’m so stoked to have seen Adrian and Trent and then Matty K. We briefly check in with how each other are feeling and then continue on as we bury ourselves in the run. And then of course it’s always so brilliant to see Hayley on course, offering no end of support. It makes the day so much better just to come across familiar faces and encourage each other.
46km in and there’s no doubt the team are truely in sync with my head by this stage…
I feel like I’m not even talking to them at the checkpoints and they’re just picking up on my mutterings and fuelling me perfectly both physically and mentally.
Even though pre race I had my goal average pace all worked out, I literally can’t remember it anymore so Adelle and Mainy have taken it on to breakdown every couple of km for me and what I need to run to make sure I stay ahead of my sub6hr goal. Like seriously… I could never have done this myself and take my hat off to them for the truely spectacular crewing and solid team work that sparkles from the Runphoria Wagon.
As I near the 48km mark I get the strangest and not nicest pulling in my right calf.
It seizes up and then just contracts so tightly I stop instantly and run my fingers over the muscle.. this is a really new feeling for me, and I wonder if I’ve torn something.. maybe a stress fracture.
I really don’t wanna stop but I’m not going to do anything stupid so I test it out quickly. Stretch, press and try running again.. it’s sore buts not painful.. I choose to go on, telling myself I’ll ask for some magnesium spray at the next 2km marker and deal with it later. My right glute is the one giving me grief so I figure it’s maybe overcompensating for that.
At 50km Adelle sprays magnesium on my right calf and I throw some more cold water down my back.
I quickly down a gel and hit the road again. Now I’m not going to lie, things get a little cloudy from here, to say the least. So I’ll try and recap the best I can.
As the hot sun beams down on us on this beautiful first day of Summer, the next 4km gets a little dark…
I’m struggling a little to keep my head above water, and I stop to walk a few too many times for my liking. We start to see a few different teams at the checkpoints and more familiar faces. Cheers of encouragement from Maddie and her team and Simon, Jill, Kevin and Phil’s team are so appreciated but it’s a struggle to pluck up the energy to respond.
Then as I pass through the 52km mark I turn to the screams of the Runphoria Relay Team.
They’re all hanging out the sunroof and windows of the car with Go Pros and cameras galore, music thumping.
I’m a bit regretful that they’ve caught me this point. I’ve been feeling smiley and upbeat mostly the whole way but at this moment I can’t really snap out of my zone and as they run with me though to the 56km mark it’s more grumpy Gabby than anything else. They absolutely pump me up though.. Di, Naomi and Elaine run with me totally picking up on where my head is at, talking to me without any expectation of response.
I know they get it so I don’t feel too bad and as they peel off.
All three yell out ‘you’ve only got 10km to go, it’s nothing’. And they’re right, we eat this for breakfast. That helps me so much and I make my way up (another) gravel road hill… to be greeted by ice cold watermelon from Mainy and Adelle. Every time I see them at a checkpoint I kind of give myself a license to stop and walk and they’re both really good about keeping this to a minimum and getting me quickly back to running…
The crew is on point
I’m in a complete glucose deficient state where I can only manage two – three word interactions and the guys are feeding me info like ‘you only have to run 7:30/kms to the end to break 6hrs’ and every moment makes me realise it’s not far or it’s not unachievable.
Mainy tells me he’s going to jump out with 2km to go and run through to the finish with me.
So trying to make up some time I charge on and over the next 4km. I make use of the few big down hills left as I know this is my strength, and I know I need to make up for quite a few walking stops. I plummet down each one, a suicide run of sorts, sometimes hitting 3:50/km passing a few peeps on the way.
It’s getting so close now and I know this part of the run well. Long long uphill and then quite flattish until the lighthouse comes into sight. Mainy by my side… I’m only offering up grunts and groans as interaction as the last km sees us weaving in and out of traffic on the loose gravel road.
We somehow make it up to the concrete steps to finish on what seems like an endless climb. There’s no shortage of encouragement from other runners and all of a sudden they Runphoria Team jump out at the bushes to cheer us up the final stretch.
I see Steve Warwick in this final stretch and there aren’t really words to describe how in awe I am of the man who’s run 64km solo and just turned 70. I breathlessly congratulate him and push to the top, cross the finish line and just stop. I’m so glad to be finished and so happy with myself.