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Glasshouse Mountains : 100 miles : Did Nothing Fatal

100 miles : Did Nothing Fatal

by Kevin Tiller
I have had a dream for at least the last 3 years, possibly 4. To be able to complete a 100 mile trail run struck me as a great idea pretty much the day I first heard that such a thing existed. I'm weird like that : just get some crazy half-assed idea stuck in my pea-brain and I just can't seem to shake it loose. Of course, back then there were NO 100 mile trail runs in Australia, only in the US of A. I travel from time to time and so figured I'd end up there at some stage.

Fast forward to 1996, I find myself with 30+ marathons under my belt including a bunch of 8 hour plus runs, including one 24 hour. I find out that there is a 100 miler in Australia the coming September. Magic. I make some half-hearted attempts to train up for it, but it just never really happens. I fail to send in an entry form, but convince myself that in 1997 I will enter come what may. For the 1996 event there are 5 runners who turn up for the 100 miles, and none finish, due to excessive heat on the day and probably a bit of inexperience too. My resolve strengthens thinking that I will show those guys a thing or 2.

The event is on again for 1997, and as planned I enter, although my fitness isn't really any better. About my best shot is three 80km races in 4 weeks (back in January) and a bunch of personal worsts. A 100 miler is a totally different proposition, as my spousal unit reminds me often and continuously.

The event draws near and I pack myself up and head north to the race. The glasshouse mountains are approx an hour's drive north of Brisbane, and the course is a 3 lapper of "trails". As luck would have it, probably the most experienced 100 mile trail runner in the world is also in town for the race, Suzi Thibeault. Luckily, she is a good sort and doesn't mind spending time with a drop kick like myself. Her 35 finishes compare favourably with my big zip, and so the chance of driving over part of the course with her is too good to knock back. We note that if the temp is similar to the day before then it will be HOT HOT and OPEN with mucho chance of being burnt alive. All of the course is fire trail and likely to be dusty. Suzi guesses that there will only be 3 runners in the running on the last lap (there will be 8 starters).

We are staying at the Glasshouse Mountains Motel, just a couple of km from the start. The place is full of runners, doing either the 100 miles, 100km or 58km events. Sat morning dawns (early) like 4:00am. The start at 5:30am is just at the daylight hour, with the weather warm, but cloudy. The first lap has the main climb of the event, Beerburrum, a 2km up and down of a short peak which reduces everyone to a walk. Coming down I find Suzi and US counterpart Janine DuPlessy peering off into the bush looking at a wallaby. I am trotting along nicely, eating and drinking plenty at the aid stations (every 5km or so apart). BY 9:30am all trace of the clouds has been well and truly been burnt off. It is turning into a scorcher.

At the lookout aid station I am told that my blood pressure is "different" than at the start but they are unable to tell me if that is a good or a bad thing so I clear off quick before they change their mind. I pick up with a couple of others for the loop around Beerwah. Ian Javes, the race director, calls this a goat track, but its still a fire trail, although it is a real roller coaster with some VERY nasty ups and downs. We drop one of the runners and eventually I drop off with the person I am running with. Along this stage Janine came past me, as well she should, being a sub-24hr Western States '97 finisher.

By the return thru the lookout (46km) I am running by myself, slowly, and heat-weakened in a kind of survival shuffle. Suzi Thibeault catches up with me and we attempt to make progress together. Its difficult as I am a slog-it-slow-all-the-way type and she walks the hills and runs downhill and a bit of both on the flats. Her running pace is really VERY noticeably faster than mine. Still, she is very gregarious and is probably keener on running with someone than pressing on to get a quick time. We continue for approx 8km until almost the end of the first lap, remarking on some of the front runners coming back out on their second lap. Before the end of the lap, my pace slumps such that I am really now going slower than walking pace. I come into the turnaround quite some time after Suzi and she is about to head right out.

She takes one look at me and thinks that I am a goner so goes back out for her 2nd lap. Despite my pleadings to everyone who'll listen about "they'll have to pull me off the course - there's no way I'll quit" its not obvious to me that I should continue. I have never quit a race NEVER not one - of ANY distance so I will not even think about quitting in a normal event. But after 58km of a 160km race, it is clear that I am in deep strife- the chances of me finishing one more lap are slim and of the complete thing slimmer (pretty non-existant actually). I am not really suffering, its just that my pace is near zero - under trained you could say (I would).

Club mate Mike Ward, a 58km finisher, checks me to make sure I am not going back out before going off to stay with his family. I haven't quit, I am just having an extended aid stop. I phone my wife in Sydney to see what she thinks I should do (prefers me to get my lazy butt back out on the course but on the other hand doesn't want to bring up my offspring alone). I lay down and have a think about it (probably doze off to sleep here). After a couple of other runners go back out I decide that I must continue. I have some more food and drink and start off, promising I'll quit at the next aid stop if I'm no faster.

I eventually get to the next stop, 4.7km down the track, no faster, probably even slower. I still don't quit but am reduced to walking out of the aid station and dwon the track. I am contemplating turning back when I realise that the next aid stop is quite a few km away, the other side of some rocky pineapple plantations. That doesn't appeal.

I am woken from my mind-wanderings by the sound of a jeep. Suzi has a gammy knee and has pulled out and that pretty much makes my mind up for me and I hop in the jeep. I had never thought about quitting a race before but I think it was clear that on this day I was just not going to finish. Although disapointed I am not going to beat myself up over it - its my own fault for not focussing enough over the last few weeks. As it turns out, most people think that I should have quit at the turnaround and even Suzi was convinced I would. It pleases me that I continued beyond the sensible point to stop.

We both DNFd at approx 11 hours into the event, me completing about 64km and Suzi approx 70km. Suzi's explanation of DNF is not the usual "Did Not Finish" but "Did Nothing Fatal" which is probably true in this case.

We went out for a chinese meal and had a sleep. Come the morning, the rest of the runners had finshed, bar one. We all cheered him in (Bill Thompson), just before the awards at lunch time (see special trivia note).

Clearly the organiser Ian Javes is happy with this year's 3 from 8, over last years 0 from 5. And I for one am looking forward to next year's race.

Suzi was right about the number of finishers also.

The prize trophies were of local Ironbark, the hardwood symbolising the tough nature of the course and the runners.

Special Trivia Note:
Last year, the organisers were laying the course when the local custard-apple farmer, Bill Thompson, asked what was going on. He was told about the race and entered the 106km event, on no training (other than walking round his orchard and climbing his fruit trees) and pretty much walked the whole way round on no training in just a pair of plimsoles and old clothes. This year he trained up in a cheap pair of runners, planning on walking most of the way, with a little bit of running. He finished (just) inside the 30 hour cut-off.

Kevin Tiller
co-owner CoolRunning Australia
Sydney, Australia

email: info@coolrunning.com.au, personal webpage http://www.coolrunning.com.au/kevintiller

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