On Sunday I ran my second 6 Inch Trail Marathon. Just shy of 48km on the Munda Biddi Trail starting at North Dandalup and finishing at Dwellingup in Western Australia.
Last year I ran 6 Inch in 6:01:01 and I felt invincible. A week later I blew out my knee with an injury that sidelined me for 6 depressing months. So, after finally finding the right physio (Lauren Shelley no less) who figured out what the problem was, I was on a fast track to recovery. Lauren was confident in August that I’d be able to get to the 6 Inch start line in December. And she was right.
Looking back now over strava stats, I did virtually zero training of any sort for the first half of the year. I only started running again in the last 2 weeks in July, and totalled about 500km between August and 20 December. In that 5 month period I clocked all time PBs for 5km (25:01), 10km (54:29) and 21.1km (2:06:38). I was getting back into form at a rapid pace. I have my bestest running buddy and coach Scott to thank for most of it. Not to mention a swag of happy parkrunners who kept me company and kept encouraging me to keep going.
So without a whole lot of dedicated training, more an ad hoc approach, I managed to find myself scrambling to get organised the night before the big day. A 4:30am race kick off time meant an attempt at an early bed (forget it) and a broken “I hope I don’t miss my alarm” sleep. 1:55am and I was up, taking an unhappy early morning selfie.
Race prep requirements are slightly hilarious at ridiculous o’clock. For example, I had to giggle at the fact I was slicking up my lady parts at 2:15am. Totally necessary. Slightly unhinged thing for a normal person to do. But, ultra runners are not normal people. So, lubed up, wedged into my gear and ticking off the list of necessities we bundled off in the car. The following things of note happened:
• Tom’s car wouldn’t start so he couldn’t come to my house for a lift. We had to implement an emergency plan to swing past and grab him.
• On the way out of my garage I reversed into something with a fucking huge bang. I realised I’d left the hatch open on the boot (it’s a big car) and had successfully taken the garage door of one of its rollers. Literally, 2:30am and we are arsing about trying to get the garage door back on. Tick tock tick tock
• Ben messages to politely enquire as to our tardiness. Arrived 2 minutes after agreed time.
• Collected Tom and GPS took us the most arse about way to the North Dandalup hall.
Fast forward – hall, high fives, check in, bus, start line – GO
Now, when I read back what I’ve just written it seems completely idiotic to have had a 5:30 goal time in my head. Never one to let common sense get in the way of a good idea, I had my plan and I was running with it (see what I did there?). Goldmine hill is an arse of a hill. But this year I managed to get up it about 2 minutes faster than last year. Big hills are NOT my forte. Ben likes to see how hard he can punish himself up a big hill, and that kind of training saw him WIN WTF this year. The admiration I have for Ben is huge. He trains hard. He wins hard. I just hate the hurt. Perhaps 2016 I’ll train enough to embrace the pain. Not quite there yet.
The bigger field trooped up the hill and onto the narrower track into the bush. It was fun to chat with Michelle and Cassie and I managed to keep up with them for a cruisy 10km start at my goal pace. I dropped back a bit after that and continued on my own. I was trying to get into a groove. Then 11km ticked over and my newly recovered knee started to groan. At first I thought it was just fatigue until I realised I’d only been running 90 minutes or so, pretty early for fatigue. It got worse and worse. Happy days for being right in the fucking middle of two aid points. Stop? Call someone for help? Keep going and risk injury for ANOTHER goddamn year? Fuck Fuck Fuck. I had a black cloud over me. I was furious. Sad. Gutted. I thought I’d persevere to get to aid 1 (22km mark) and see how it felt. I was walking pretty slowly. I watched my average pace blow out. I took an ibuprofen to see if that would help. 30 minutes of beating myself up about how I should never have started, and how I was a fucking idiot for thinking I could do it, and how embarrassed I’d be to DNF, my knee suddenly came good. I couldn’t believe it. The ibuprofen was working. I could keep going!
I came in pretty happy to aid 1, knowing I could keep going. I didn’t refill any water because I’d barely drunk any of the 1L I was carrying. The day was cool so far, really nice breeze. I’d consumed my tailwind concentrate (5 scoops in 400mL of water) so I refilled it (this time with 4 scoops and 400mL of water). Last year my hydration and nutrition plan worked really well. This year I was a bit over confident and winged it a little too much. Ah, it’s all a learning curve. I didn’t drink the concentrate as often as I should, not regularly at 1km intervals, I just drank when I remembered then slugged the final bit at aid 1. Not very consistent delivery method for my body. I drank probably 200mL of water MAX.
Fast forward – I managed to keep my average pace pretty much where I wanted it and noticed that I was running up inclines that I’d walked the year before. I toughed it up some hills I normally might walk. I was feeling ok. Not 100% but the plan was to give 100% so half way through to still be feeling good I thought wasn’t too bad. I hit the half way mark in 2 hours 42 minutes. I was on track for a 5:30 finish! I powered on.
At the 30km mark I was powering up a hill when all of a sudden my left big toe felt like I’d sliced half of it off with a Stanley knife. Owwweeeeeeeee!!! I hopped around like an idiot and couldn’t even put my foot down. Fuck. I had to get my shoe off. Race Didi said “Oh but what about your average pace?” and then Sensible Didi said “Ummm you can’t go anywhere without sorting out your fucking foot”. Ok… I peeled off my sock and saw that I’d burst a big, painful blister. Well, no amount of race prep had me prepared for this scenario. What should I do? Hop barefoot the next 6km to the aid station? Ask someone for help? Fuck.
Then I remembered that some RD genius had required us to carry mandatory first aid supplies. I whipped off my pack and dug out my kit. I felt a little bit like MacGuiver as I rifled through my options. Tape. Padding. Boom – get the fuck on with it. It was pretty stingy as I whipped the tap around and around my big toe. Every single runner who passed me offered assistance. They were all concerned that I’d hurt myself. I told them I was ok.
I reassembled myself and stood up. Pain was intense. Oh yay. I’d had enough of sitting on my arse not moving so I just started to walk on. What other choice was there? Eventually I managed to get my toe comfortable. I pushed on running. No point being disappointed about my goal time going out the window, I just needed to bloody finish!
Ohhhhh the escalator was next… I was pretty grumpy with myself, a grumpiness which quadrupled when my right big toe suffered the same fate as the other one only 1km from aid 2. Oh for fuck sake. I struggled up the stupid fucking hill, motivated by the fact my sister was there. She would fix me. She would help me. If only I could get to her. So. Damn. Slow. I was starting to feel pretty weak. Weak mentally I mean. I was fading. I got to aid 2 and quite dramatically demanded Kelly avail the first aid kit to me immediately. I love that woman. Unflappable, she presented the supplies to me and offered solutions to my blister problem. I was probably short and grumpy with her. Sorry Kell, you’re a champion. Amy patched me up, snapped a few photos of my grumpy self. Andrew plonked himself down next to me and offered the last 2 pieces of watermelon. I wanted them both. As I stuffed my face with one piece I was trying to fix my foot. I thought Andrew was about to leave with the other piece. I vice gripped his arm: “Don’t. Take. That. Away.”…. hahahahahahaha… Andrew was very calm. He reassured me very gently that he wasn’t going anywhere, that the watermelon was all mine… I’m sorry, I was tired, hurting, and in desperate need of watermelon. Thanks for understanding. All the smiles at aid 2 were awesome. I got a huge lift there seeing everyone when I was in such a bad mood.
I’d like to say that the final 11km were a joy. They were not. Every single step hurt. I couldn’t rustle up much enthusiasm for the event and I couldn’t recall last year hurting like this. I knew then that my nutrition and hydration plan was a bit off, and was rapidly paying the price after every kilometre. In my head I was only 15 minutes off my goal time. In reality when I did the proper maths, I realised that not only was I nowhere near my goal time, in fact if I went any slower I was going to blow out well past 6 hours! Oh fuck! I almost just stopped and had a cry right then and there. Then I realised I didn’t have time to cry. If I couldn’t get my goal time then get fucked if I was going to come in SLOWER than last year. Fuck. That. This meant too much to me.
I hit aid 3 and continued on. I’d still not picked up any more water since the start and still had probably half of it left. No wonder I was feeling pretty average. I smashed the emergency gel Scott had made me take with me (who knew he knew a thing or two)… I kept thinking “If you want it, it has to hurt”… I thought about my friends who would have finished already – Ben, Tom, Michelle and Scott… I thought about Aimee who was behind me, still coming. I just had to give it everything. Every incline I had to push myself up it, on the verge of tears because I was so shit at hills. Ben popped into my head “C’mon mate, walk with purpose… with purpose”… I lifted my chin up, imagined a goddamn clipboard under my arm (we’d joked about this in training runs) and kept pushing forward. When I wanted to stop completely, Scott popped up in my head “Relentless. Forward. Progress. Didi. Don’t stop moving forward. One step. Another step. Just don’t stop.” I didn’t stop.
I thought I was making ok time. I snuck a look at my watch. I was only just going to scrape it in under 6 hours if I continued at the current pace. I didn’t think I could hold it. I was desperate for the finish line – how far was it from here? I started to cry. Stupid, girly tears. I wanted it to be over. I wanted to be under 6 hours and I didn’t know if I would make it in time. A few people were starting to line the trail as they’d walked up from the finish. How far was it? Every single metre counted for me! My watch said 47.3km… It couldn’t have been much further? Then I rounded the last corner and the marshals were there and I could see the gantry. OMG I was done!!!!! More stupid tears, and a final desperate push to the finish and I was done.
Did I make it sub 6?
Awwww yeahhhhhhh!!!!!!! I got my medal, I hugged my friends and learnt how they’d gone. Some super impressive times and happily Michelle hadn’t died, just run a cruisy 5:35 time ha! Scott PB’d by almost an hour and Ben wiped of 41 minutes from last year. Tom came in about 5:20 and I was thrilled for everyone.
We topped the day off with a BBQ at my place and we relaxed in the pool and decompressed after a helluva day. I’ll be back next year.