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1998 AUSTRALIAN AND QUEENSLAND 48 HOUR AND QUEENSLAND 24 HOUR INDIVIDUAL AND TEAMS RELAY TRACK CHAMPIONSHIPS
Maryborough, Queensland, Australia, 4 - 6 September 1998
Before the start
After walking six ultra events during the last 10 months, it was time to tackle my first 24 hour walk. Preparation involved two 12 hour events (February and August) where I experimented with food varieties and quantities and coping with being on my feet for a number of hours.
My event started at 9.00 a.m. on Saturday so I drove up to Maryborough on the Friday, arriving at 12 noon. After booking in at a nearby caravan park, I drove to Eskdale Park to offer support to the three entrants who had already commenced the 48 hour event - two runners (Peter Gray and Shelley Smith) and one walker (Kerrie Hall). It was quite warm although there was a slight breeze. I familiarised myself with the lapscoring area and decided where I would "set up camp". Kerrie's support crew were her husband Charlie, son Anthony and friend Michaeline. They had also offered to help me out for which I was extremely grateful. During the afternoon, I did some lapscoring for Kerrie. It was a real challenge to constantly watch her to make sure I didn't miss any laps. Kerrie always made eye contact with me to ensure I had seen her pass by. As the circuit was only 360 metres, lapscorers were kept quite busy. I stayed until 7.00 p.m. before leaving as I had to prepare some of my food and attempt to get some sleep before the start of my event.
I arrived back at the field at 7.30 a.m. Too nervous and jumpy to wait it out at the caravan park, I thought I might as well spend the time leisurely preparing myself. I had enough food and gear to last me for a month. However, not knowing what the weather would be like, I had packed for all four seasons! I'd only managed about three hours sleep the night before and couldn't wait for 9.00 a.m. to come.
I met the other runners, walkers and their crews. They were all so friendly and offered me their assistance during the event. Joan's (the only female runner) husband, Greg offered to massage my legs when the need arose.
The Mayor of Maryborough City Council, Councillor Alan Brown wished us all luck and started the 24 hour event.
There were three walkers and six runners.
It was another fine day but luckily there was still a breeze which at times became quite a strong headwind. I had my walkman with me and listened to a book on tape which took eight hours to finish! I also had plenty of music tapes as well. I religiously ate small meals every half an hour during the first half of the event and also consumed lots of water and sports drink. The race direction was changed every two hours. My lapscorers changed quite frequently during the first half of the event and it kept me alert trying to remember who to signal to when I completed a lap.
Towards the late afternoon the temperature started dropping and it became quite cool. At 5.30 p.m. Peter Lewis (my lapscorer at that time) suggested I come off and get on some warmer clothing. I was going to wait until 6.00 p.m. but decided to heed Peter's advice. There were showers available but unfortunately the water was only very luke warm (if that!) After a quick wash I donned running tights and two long sleeved t-shirts. By this time Michaeline had heated up some minestrone for both Kerrie and I and I must say it went down very well.
During the night
I was back on the track not long after 6.00 p.m. feeling relatively refreshed and ready to start clocking up those laps again. After a couple of hours I could feel my legs really starting to ache. It was now about 8.00 p.m. and I was nearing the half way point and starting to head into unknown territory as 12 hours was the longest I'd walked prior to the 24 hour. My eating patterns were also starting to slip although I was still managing to take something in every 45 minutes or so. My fluid intake was still good. I found the easiest food for me to eat during the latter stages of the event were containers of jelly and fruit, pikelets and jam and small tins of spaghetti all due to the fact they didn't require much chewing. Although Kerrie's crew was helping me out, I had prepacked all my food into containers and bags and was simply grabbing them out of eskies (coolers) as I walked by my gear. Ultimately, I needed someone who would determine what I should be eating and at what time. Although I must admit, deciding what to eat each half hour helped to pass the time to some extent.
I came off the track during the night and decided to take Greg up on his offer of a massage as my right calf muscle felt as if it was going to cramp. He did a wonderful job easing the pain and told me I had left it a bit late as there was quite a build up of lactic acid and I'd probably need to come off every hour for a massage (and he was right!)
It's amazing the number of highs and lows I went through during the whole 24 hours. During one of my worst "low" periods through the night (or was it early morning? I can't remember) I felt so close to bursting into tears. As I came around to the lapscorers' area Dave Holleran joined me and walked a couple of laps with me and I will be eternally grateful to him as it did wonders for my moral. It took my mind off my aches and pains and got me thinking about something else.
I was leaving the track every 1-1 1/2 hours to have my legs massaged. I noticed Kerrie and Shelley were also taking advantage of a massage. They were both working incredibly hard (don't forget they started 24 hours before me!)
Around 3.00 a.m. I came off as I felt the need to have another dose of hot minestrone. I heated it in the microwave and shared it with Kerrie who had just finished receiving a massage from Dave. As Greg was busy looking after his wife I asked Dave if he'd mind giving my legs a massage as well. It felt so wonderful sitting down, eating hot soup and having all the aches rubbed out of my legs. Dave noticed that both my ankles had swelled a bit and the top of my socks were actually getting too tight. I was reluctant to change them as the couple of blisters I did have weren't worrying me unduly and I was worried that different socks would cause a problem.
I was back on the track with a sudden burst of energy and pounded out the laps. This was one of the "highs" and boy did it feel great.
Nearing the end
Gradually dark became light and there was only about three hours to go. Everyone was feeling the strain - some runners were mainly walking and some walkers mainly shuffling!!
I finally hit the 100 km mark and was ecstatic. This was my overall goal and to reach it before the finish was a huge accomplishment for me. Kerrie's goal was to get to 211 km but one of her feet gave her problems during the night and it was beginning to look doubtful. However, like the dedicated person she is, she spent the last hour or two powering around the track like the Road Runner determined to get the distance she wanted.
One hour to go and I kicked off my shoes and walked the remainder of the time in my socks. As it was a grass oval it wasn't too hard on my feet. It was getting hotter now and I was peeling off my layers of night weather gear.
At last the end was near. We were each handed a small plastic bag with a couple of pebbles in it, ready to drop when the event finished. I looked at my watch as the minutes and seconds went by and fell to the ground in sheer relief as the gun went off heralding the end of the event.
This was definitely one of the "highs" of the walk. I was so proud of myself and couldn't believe that I had actually finished, what was, my biggest walking challenge to date. We all staggered back to the start area, congratulated each other and then proceeded to remove shoes and check out the damage!!
Memorable points during the walk
Kerrie Hall never ceases to amaze me when it comes to long distance walking. Her goal was to reach 211 km which she did. However, at one stage she was barely putting one foot in front of the other due to blisters and problems with one of her feet. To watch her walk through the pain barrier towards the end of the event was truly inspiring.
I will always be full of admiration for Shelley Smith who, at times, battled to finish her 48 hour event. She managed on very little sleep and suffered from aching feet and knees. At one time when she did try to sleep her legs started cramping and she was in utter despair. Although tiny in stature, Shelley is huge in "sheer guts and determination".
Alana Watts had never walked an ultra event - in fact, she had barely even walked a fun run distance. Her husband Graeme is a talented multi-day ultrarunner and Alana usually crews for him. However, she wanted to experience what it's like to actually participate in an ultra event. She paced herself extremely well, took breaks when she felt the need, had a short sleep and with great pride finished the event.
All the runners and walkers were really "lifted" when Dave Holleran played his guitar and sang songs on Friday and Saturday nights. It certainly broke the monotony of those lonely night hours and created an almost festive atmosphere to the event. I'm sure this will be a memory no one will forget.
Many thanks to all the people who lapscored for me during the 24 hours - Peter and Lyn Lewis (who came for a visit and were up during the entire night), Michaeline, Charlie and Anthony Hall and Dave Holleran.
Michaeline who kept my water bottles filled, wet my towel during the hotter part of the day, walked a couple laps with me, heated my meal up, helped me pack my car after the event and constantly asked me if I needed anything. Although only 13, she is a very mature and reliable young lady and I will be eternally grateful for her help.
To Brian Evans, the race director who organised a very successful event as well as participating in it.
To all the other crew members who so generously offered assistance and encouragement to me throughout the event.
To all the runners and walkers who helped me finish by simply being out there with me.
To my son Richard - my greatest achievement and inspiration in life.
Melanie Jonker Brisbane, Queensland, Australia