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Glasshouse 50 Mile Walker in 1998by Melanie Jonker
At 5.30 a.m. on Saturday, 26 September a number of ultrarunners and walkers gathered at the Glasshouse Mountains sports ground to participate in the Glasshouse 100 mile, 50 mile and 52 km trail events. This year the 100 mile event attracted 9 runners and 1 intrepid walker. My target was to walk the 50 mile distance in a "reasonable time" with the aim of not getting lost and finishing in a reasonably "compos mentis" state. Brisbane had experienced some rain the week prior to the event and in particular on the Friday. However, the forecast was for a fine weekend and things were looking good. Temperatures weren't too high and there was a bit of cloud cover.
The first 7.3 km traversed a grass footpath which ran parallel with the main road. Ian Javes (Race Director) had told us about certain areas of the trail which were covered in water. However, I didn't expect to be confronted with a massive expanse of water only a few kilometres into the race. Wet shoes in the early stages wasn't part of my game plan but there was no way to avoid it. The first major climb was at Mt Killerburrum (whoops sorry that should be Mt Beerburrum). The majority of the runners were returning from the climb as I was still attacking it. Things were going well and I was thinking to myself that this wasn't too bad at all when suddenly the road petered out and a small concrete path appeared with a sign beside it stating "steep climb 700 metres". That was the longest 700 metres I've ever walked, staggered, crawled. It was a killer and I didn't think I'd ever reach the summit. Going downhill was difficult especially as a section of the track was covered in leaves which proved to be quite slippery. Rachel Smith, a 100 mile runner had slipped in this section on her way down and so I walked very gingerly. Once I had reached the bottom it was a 5 km walk along a fairly level dirt road to aid station 3 where I proceeded to remove the ankle support from my left foot. I was hoping to protect my ankle from any undue stress as I had injured it three weeks prior at a 24 hour walk. However, the support seemed to be too tight and was causing my foot to ache. I was a bit concerned that 15 km into a 50 mile event I was already experiencing problems. Anyway, I proceeded along another 5.5 km of dirt road to aid station 4.
Another 5.3 km saw me approaching the medical aid station 5 via a short steep climb by road to the lookout. I was weighed and the medical staff were amazed that I'd actually put on 5 kg after walking only 25.9 kms. After a few deliberations, the medics came to the conclusion a mistake had obviously been made at the initial weigh in. Phew! That was a relief to hear.
The next 5 km was through the infamous Goat Track which as it's name implies was made for goats and not for humans. Short steep downhills followed by short steep uphills. Because of the recent rain the downhills were a bit hazardous. I was then confronted with Hennessey's Hill which I've struggled up on a few occasions and it's still the same tough climb. By the time I reached the top my heart was pumping rapidly but at least I didn't have to attack it again during this event.
At aid station 6 I replenished my fluids, had something to eat and proceeded to no 7 (7.5 km) plus another small 4.1 km loop and then back to no 6 again (7.5 km). I found this to be a fairly monotonous section of the course as it seemed to go forever. It was also one of the wettest areas with some parts impossible to pass without submerging your feet in water. By now I knew I had some pretty big blisters on my right foot as I could certainly feel them. After what seemed an eternity I was finally back at no 6 and ready for the 5 km walk back to the medical station at no 5. After gingerly walking down one huge hill and then up the next, it was simply a series of small ups and downs before I eventually reached no 5. Prior to arriving a couple of the medical team drove out to see where I was. I was really impressed with how well the runners and walkers were monitored. If you didn't arrive at a station within a reasonable time, someone would be out searching for you.
I decided it would be in my best interests to try and do something about the blisters and wet feet as I still had another 27.4 km to go before the end of the race. The medical staff were great - took my wet shoes and socks off and attended to the blisters. It was sheer bliss walking in clean and dry footwear. The afternoon was wearing on and the next section of the trail was a huge loop (15.2 km) which would eventually finish back at the medical aid station. I took a gamble and didn't carry my head lamp, only a Mini Maglite.
I'd never walked this part of the course and it sure was an eye opener. Mainly ups and downs all around Mt Beerwah. By now my ankle was really screaming out in protest every time I had to go downhill. I had slowed the pace heaps for fear of treading on unsteady terrain and wrenching my foot to the side. After 8.2 km I eventually reached aid station no 8 where Ian Javes very kindly lent me a roll on container of insect repellent as the mosquitoes were getting pretty savage. As I left no 8 for a 7 km trek back to no 5 I knew I had made a mistake in not bringing my head lamp with me. Very soon the sun had gone down and I was grappling to see all the white markers with only the aid of the beam of the Mini Maglite which only just did the job. Luckily I was walking on a road so I concentrated mainly on swinging the beam from side to side. I couldn't see far enough ahead of me to know whether I was heading up a hill. It was only when I felt my legs working harder, I knew I was going up. As you can imagine, there were absolutely no normal "city sounds" only the odd rustle in the grass. Suddenly my heart jumped into my throat as a horse neighed beside me. I don't know who had got the biggest fright - the horse from the beam of the light or me from the neighing of the horse.
I eventually found myself back on the trail and had to really concentrate on my foot placement. Finally, I saw a sign pointing left which led to no 5. Because I couldn't see too far ahead, I turned left directly before the sign and realised after a while there was no track and I was simply wandering nowhere. I was just about to turn around when the lights of a 4WD came up behind me. Charlie Hall was passing when he saw the beam of my flashlight and knew I had turned too soon. He pointed me in the right direction and off I went. It was always a comforting feeling knowing that if you got lost Charlie would eventually locate you. It was with a sigh of relief that I entered the medical station for the last time during the walk. My weight, pulse and heart rate were taken, I put on my headlamp and it was only 12 km to the end!!
This was the most soul destroying part of the whole event for me. I was really exhausted, I was whimpering with nearly every step, I'd never been in the mountains before at night and I really needed to concentrate on those white markers. The first part of the section was on a dirt road followed by an uphill climb where I was passed by a couple of runners. I knew they were behind me as I could see the beam of their flashlights bobbing around. It was just great having a bit of company albeit for a short while and it spurred me on a bit.
I recalled Ian Javes warning us at the beginning of the race about the steep downhill between nos 5 and 1 (7.6 km) which was where I was now heading. It was a major battle getting down, especially as the ground was wet and slippery and I was concentrating so much on keeping the beam in front of me. There were so many noises in the grass and I presumed they were mainly toads. By this time I was in such a zombie state I simply couldn't have cared less what was out there!! Eventually, I found myself back on a dirt road which seemed to go forever and ever. Occasionally, I could hear the cars on the highway so I knew aid station no 1 wasn't too far away. However, just as quickly the noises disappeared again and everything went silent. Suddenly, out of the blue was the sound of a train. Now I knew I was getting close. It was with a great sigh of relief I reached no 1. There were two fellows manning that aid station and my first words to them were "When I've finished this race, I'll have proven to myself that I could do it and I don't ever need to do it again - never again". I had a couple of electrolyte drinks and headed off for the finish which was 4.6 km away. I noticed the flash of a light coming towards me and as I was wondering who it was a voice yelled out "Is that you Mel?". Wow, it's Kerrie Hall starting her second lap (she's walking the 100 miles). Here I am feeling absolutely "zonked" while this woman was going to put herself through that torture again!! She's simply incredible. I gave her a hug, wished her luck and we both keep going.
It was with the biggest sigh of relief I saw the lights of the Glasshouse Mountains sports club appear. I couldn't even muster an increase in my speed because my ankle was just throbbing with pain. I did, however, manage to rip my head lamp off, raise my arms and smile as I crossed the finish line in 16:28:32.
After receiving a wonderful leg massage from Peter Lewis, I climbed in my car and drove a few kilometres to the caravan park where I was staying, had a shower and collapsed into bed.
As per usual Ian Javes deserves many congratulations for holding such a well organised event. He has a very loyal and capable band of assistants who together, make the event an enormous success. It seems to get better and better each year.
The young army cadets did a magnificent job manning various aid stations. They plied me with food, fluids, encouragement and lots of good luck. Thanks also to Anthony and Des who also manned various aid stations.
As per usual, Charlie Hall did a sterling job searching for the runners who wandered off the track (myself included).
The medics also did a wonderful job monitoring competitors' vital stats, offering comforting words and helping with various aches, pains and blisters.
The weekend culminated with a huge buffet lunch followed by the presentation ceremony. Whilst I was sitting and listening to the presentations, my mind was already thinking about next year's event and wondering whether I could better my time. I'm obviously as mad as my workmates allege I am!!
I absolutely revelled in the atmosphere. I'd met some fantastic people, chatted with friends and again pushed myself to limits I didn't realise I was capable of.
by Melanie Jonker (MJJonker@qdlgp.qld.gov.au)
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