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Australian 48 Hour & Queensland 24 Hour Track Championships

Australian 48 Hour & Queensland 24 Hour Track Championships

20-22 August 1999 - Maryborough, Queensland

My 24 Hour Walk - Melanie Jonker

At 9.00 a.m. on Saturday, 21 August 1999, I set off on my second attempt at the Queensland 24 hour championships - walking category. Last year, I attained the distance of 105.985 and this year my goal was to walk 120 km. It was a comforting thought as I started the race that I was in the hands of a very experienced and reliable crewperson - Kevin Cassidy who has run many ultras over the last decade or so. Kevin also lapscored for me which made his job even more demanding.

The track was in a great condition and the weather was perfect which was extremely fortunate as Queensland had been experiencing a very wet 1999 (it rained not long after the event finished). As the 48 hour runners and walkers were already on the track, the 24 hour competitors blended in without too much disruption. There were also a number of 24 hour relay teams participating.

My aim this year was to stay on the track for the full 24 hours with the exception of toilet breaks. With Kevin assisting me this was quite feasible compared to last year when I also had to crew for myself and spent valuable minutes leaving the track to gather food and fluids. As per usual, I packed massive amounts of food, fluids, clothing, etc. However, I always feel it is better to have too much than not enough. My son Richard also accompanied us to Maryborough and helped with lapscoring in small bursts. I suppose this is something a 12 year old boy doesn't find too interesting after a while especially when there are other boys to "hang around" with.

Kerrie Hall was again putting in a gallant effort in the 48 hour walk (her sixth attempt!). Peter Waddell was the sole 48 hour male walker. Seasoned ultrarunners Graeme Watts, Tony Collins, Peter Gibson and Peter Gray were running the 48 hour event.

Novice 24 hour runners were Vicki Tanner, Jodie Watts and John Fowler. Novice 24 hour walkers were Peter Lewis and Bob Burns. Although Bob has run multi-day events, a recent injury has found him walking to keep fit and he entered this year's event as a walker. His consistent pace, positive attitude and friendly nature (as well as a great walking style) was an inspiration to all.

The running/walking direction was changed every two hours and this is how I focused on the event - in two hour segments. It is quite daunting to know you still have 20 hours to go after you've been on the track for only four hours, however, just thinking two hours ahead seemed to help me a bit.

Things were coasting along quite well until I'd been on the track for just over seven hours and I started feeling queasy which is a totally new experience for me during an ultra. Kevin and I put it down to the possibility that I was eating too much so we reduced the food intake slightly. Luckily Kevin had had the foresight to pack some "Gastrogels" which were to be my saving grace as they helped to settle my stomach.

It became quite windy during the afternoon which was a bit of a nuisance and the thought on most of our minds was whether it would mean a cold windy night. Luckily, the wind dropped as darkness blanketed the field.

After eight hours I decided to change into warmer clothing as the sun was rapidly dropping and the night air was moving in. At the same time, I very bravely removed one of my shoes and socks and viewed a rather nasty blister which had formed on my left heel. To make matters worse, my left ankle was starting to ache which worried me as it was still so early into the event. Kevin lanced the blister, dressed it with tape and I was back on the track. It took a few laps before the pain of the blister "numbed".

After 11 hours I was again feeling nauseous and had another couple of "Gastrogels". This was probably the lowest part of the event for me. I really didn't think I would make it because of the nausea and sore ankle. I had so many thoughts about pulling out of the event rushing through my mind but realised we had no accommodation booked for the Saturday night so I'd have nowhere to go anyway!

Every lap when I past Kevin to acknowledge he had recorded my time, I always managed to give a smile, however, he even noticed that all I could manage at this stage was a grimace. After 13 hours it was again time for a couple of "Gastrogels". Feeling nauseous is bad enough but when you're weary and walking around in circles it certainly doesn't help.

After 14 hours I came off for nearly 13 minutes for a toilet break and a quick leg rub. I can't believe how quickly that 13 minutes flew by before I was back on the track. It took a couple of laps to stretch out and get my legs moving at a comfortable speed.

After 16 hours it was back off the track for 10 minutes for another quick leg rub. These short breaks also helped to give me a boost mentally. My next sit down was just after 18 hours and was for 11 minutes.

I reached my 100 km in 18:56:05 which was a PB for me. At 20:22:26 I reached my 1998 distance of just under 106 km. This was a great milestone as there was still just over 3 hours to walk another 14 km.

Once the sun rose, there was a flurry of activity on the track as everyone seemed to find their "second wind" or maybe it was the thought of the finish which was only three hours away. Between 21 and 23 hours my speed increased and at 23:09:42 I reached 120.24 kms. This exceeded my expectations as I still had 50 minutes to go.

At 6.00 a.m. Kevin suggested that rather thinking I had three hours to go I should think in terms of laps. At that stage, he calculated I had 30 laps to reach 120 km which would take approximately two hours. This was so much easier for me to handle at that stage as two hours sounded so much better than three hours. We started the countdown at seven laps and it was a very happy albeit weary walker who reached her goal. I was so tired and my legs were aching but somehow I managed to keep the pace going until I reached the 120 km point where I knew I could ease off a bit. Kevin was giving me so much encouragement and positive feedback as I completed each lap. This certainly helped to lift my spirits.

At 9.00 a.m. on Sunday, 22 August 1999 a number of very weary walkers and runners heaved a collective sigh of relief as the event finished. My final distance was 124.346 km which exceeded all my expectations.

All I can say is that it was definitely a team effort. Without Kevin's unfailing support and encouragement I would never have reached my goal. He did a tremendous job of crewing and lapscoring for me. Kevin also kept a very comprehensive list of statistics throughout the event which will make very valuable studying for when I attempt my next 24 hour walk. Oh that's right, I told Kevin after the finish that I wouldn't inflict that pain on my body ever again!!

Now it's time to prepare myself for the 50 mile event at the Glasshouse Mountains on 25 September.

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