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May 1998 - Glasshouse Trail Run/Walk - 54kmby Melanie Jonker
I walked my 4th ultra event in a time that exceeded my wildest expectations - 7:13:13. Looking back, I had doubts about even finishing this event due to the amount of rain the area had been receiving. There was heavy rain on the Saturday when the Race Director (Ian Javes) and his helpers marked the course. I drove up to the Glasshouse Mountains on the Saturday afternoon and stayed in a local caravan park. Because it was a 5.30 am start I decided staying overnight would give me an hour or so more sleep and would also avoid the long drive before the event. There were a couple of light showers in the early evening and I hoped it wouldn't get any worse because the noise on the caravan roof would have been deafening. As it is, I don't sleep very well before an event, but for some unknown reason I had quite a sound night's sleep.
I was up at 4 am (the alarm actually woke me up) and arrived at the start just before 5 am. It was still very dark but luckily with the aid of a flashlight I managed to recognise a few of the other runners and walkers. Before the start, Ian explained the course to us. It had been changed slightly to what was described in our race pack due to the heavy rain which had caused unsafe conditions. We were required to do an initial short 4 km loop which brought us back to the start and then two 25 km loops.
As Ian shouted out "Go" at 5.30 am we all set off, the runners in front and two of us walking - Kerrie Hall and myself. The ground was very slippery, muddy and soft in some places and I was pleased I had brought along my recently acquired Mini Maglight to guide us along. Once the first 4 km loop was completed (and we were back at the start) I handed my flashlight to Phillipa Medill and Kerrie and I continued on our way.
We set quite a brisk pace and I was hoping I could maintain it for the next 50 kms. The flat areas and the undulating terrain were okay but once we started hitting the hills, I started falling behind Kerrie. She literally flew up them - a very strong walker who trains regularly on hills. As in all my ultras, my main aim is to finish. To finish in a good time is an added bonus.
Just before reaching the first aid station (H) I came across Hennessey's Hill (more commonly known as "Cardiac" hill for obvious reasons). I had expected to see Kerrie half way up the hill but she was nowhere to be seen. She must have flown up that hill! I trudged up and up and up. Finally reached the top - my legs were killing me and my heart was thumping away. As I arrived at the aid station, Dale (Kerrie's brother) asked whether Kerrie was still behind me. "No, she pulled ahead of me on the hills". Apparently, she hadn't been through the station. We both came to the conclusion that she'd pulled off the track for a pit stop.
I kept walking wondering where she was. The next section was flat for a while and then a huge downhill followed by a subsequent up hill. It wasn't until I was half up the hill that my legs began protesting again. Luckily, the rain was holding off and it was cloudy and fairly cool still. Great walking conditions. I love walking the Glasshouse trail events. The routes are always different, they're very well marked and there's so much to see. Some really spectacular views. The mist on the mountains looked wonderful in the early morning. I reached another huge down and up hill and it wasn't until I was nearly at the top that I heard a voice calling in the distance. I turned around and it was Kerrie. She yelled out something about a snake. I yelled back at her and our voices echoed back at us. Sounded really eerie.
I kept going until I reached the next aid station (M). Meanwhile Kerrie must have been really moving because it wasn't long before she met me at the station. Apparently, when she had gone of the track she had been confronted by a snake and in her rush to get away, had fallen over in the mud and was subsequently covered in it.
We decided, all going well, we'd try and finish the course together. It's always nice to have a company and it certainly passes the time when you're walking with someone. It's also a great way to get to know someone. There's usually not much time at the start of an event and at the finish you simply want to get home and have a shower!
The distance from aid station M to N seemed to go forever and I wondered at one stage whether we'd ever reach it. The hills really slowed me down. Kerrie always reached the top first but I managed to catch up to her on the flatter sections (although I'm almost positive she slowed down so I could!) Parts of the trail were very muddy and there were a number of puddles of water. At one of these, poor Kerrie tripped on a tree root and went down like a "ton of bricks". She was even muddier than before!! But like the true athlete she is, up she got, had a laugh and kept going. I couldn't believe we were setting such a fast pace on the flatter parts of the course.
From aid station N back to the start (L) was undulating until we hit another killer hill at the end of Judds Road. I struggled up and reached the top gasping for breath. "You OK, Mel?" Kerrie asked. "Just catching my breath" was my tortured reply. After that it was fairly "easy" going along a gravel road and back to the start.
The cut off the first loop (29 km) was "around" 4 hours and we did it in 3:48. This was really great going as I had predicted maybe 4:15 for me.
Now we were into the second loop and knew what was ahead of us. Hennessey's Hill loomed up in front of us again and it was even harder this time. When I reached the top, I almost felt like kissing the ground!! We reached aid station H, stopped for drinks and some fruit and lollies, thanked Dale and were back on the trail on the way to aid station M which wasn't too far. The longest part seemed to be between M and N. I was in the "robotic" stage now, simply putting one foot in front of the other. Kerrie would call out "You OK Mel?" every now and then. The most I could utter was "yes" because my energy levels were quickly running out. I had brought PowerGel, PowerBars and some Glucodin tablets with me and they certainly helped.
We finally reached aid station N. Fuelled up on some fruit and lollies and as we left, Des (another one of Kerrie's brothers) said "only about 6 more kilometres to go". That certainly gave us a lift. Thanked Des and off we went. However, there still loomed ahead of us the hill at the end of Judds Road. By this time, the sun had actually broken through the clouds which warmed things up a bit. And then there it was - the Judds Road hill. "Okay legs, only one more hill to go" said Kerrie. I struggled up as my legs protested against every step. I tried not to look ahead but just in front of where I was treading. Occasionally, my eyes would stray to the top of the hill and I'd think to myself that I was never going to make it.
Kerrie was waiting for me at the top. "That's it - we're on our way home" she said. With a burst of energy (heaven only knows where it came from) we set off. At the start of the walk, our aim was to finish in around 8 hours and we realised at that stage that we'd easily accomplish that. As we got closer and I glanced at my watch, Kerrie said "you know, I think we can finish in around 7:30". Wow I thought to myself (I couldn't say it because I didn't have the energy).
As we turned around a bend in the road, I looked up and saw a few vehicles. We were a few metres from the end! Kerrie yelled out because we couldn't see anyone. I don't think they expected us to finish that quickly. Ian quickly ran out with the stopwatch and, with legs going like pistons and holding hands Kerrie and I finished in a time of 7:13:13. We gave each other a congratulatory hug and had huge grins on our faces.
"I guess now I'm going to have to find two silver medallions!" lamented Ian jokingly.
What can I say? On Saturday, I had doubts about the weather, what conditions the course would be in, would the rain be that bad that I'd never finish. And here it was, a day later, it was over and I'd walked 54 km in a time I would never have dreamed of!
I can honestly say that without Kerrie's constant encouragement and her fast pace which urged me along, this time (of 7:13:13) would not have been possible. She could easily have left me as I battled up the hills and subsequently finished ahead of me. That's one of the things I really admire about ultra athletes - their willingness to encourage and support newcomers like myself. Thanks Kerrie, you're a credit to the sport of ultra walking.
As I drove home, I actually had a few tears in my eyes. I was so proud of myself. Another ultramarathon walking goal reached!!
As usual, Ian Javes conducted another hugely successful Glasshouse Mountains event. Many thanks for all your hard work, Ian. My thanks also go to Charlie, Des, Dale and all the other willing helpers. Your contributions are very much appreciated.
PS Two days later and every muscle in my body is still aching!
PPS I am also the proud owner of another beautiful Glasshouse Mountains Ultra Finisher pottery mug. Made exclusively for the event, I treasure these mugs.
by Melanie Jonker (MJJonker@qdlgp.qld.gov.au)
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