Blog Northburn 100 Miler: 100 Mile # 6

Northburn 100 Miler:
100 Mile # 6

March 18, 2023

You feeling strong for the 100 miler? I received a text from Dr Andrew Stanley on the Sunday afternoon less than a week out from the Northburn 100 Miler. I was still feeling a bit sluggish post Ironman NZ so I text back, Not at all! Will start building strength from Monday. I hadn’t done the Northburn before but word on the trail was that it was bloody hard. The event motto was ‘where suffering is the prize and everyone’s a winner!’ so that gave a good indication of what to expect. I messaged a friend who’d previously participated in Northburn and his ‘best advice’ was that the race organiser was a sadist and liked getting into your head. He also advised to go easy on the downs, don’t do the first lap too fast, and learn how to handle 40 hours on your feet. How does one train for the latter? Anyhow, physically I knew I was up for this but I just had to mentally commit now. My will had to be greater than my skill. The following Monday morning, I was up at 5am in preparation for my usual 5.30am swim. I was determined to give my final taper week full respect. No short cuts. No slacking off. No excuses. If I was serious about completing Northburn, then I had to commit early and my attitude towards my final training sessions was key. I worked right until Thursday evening but I made sure that I prioritised and completed all my training sessions. On Thursday night, I read all my Northburn emails again and jumped onto the Northburn website. Compared to other events I’ve participated in, information on the 100 mile course was rather scarce. There was a map for each of the 3 loops for the 100 miler so I printed these out. The first loop was 50km with 2600m of vertical climb, the second loop was 60km with just over 4000m of climbing, and the third loop was 50km with just under 4000m vertical climb. This made for a total climb of about 10 000m. To put this into perspective, the Tarawera 100 Miler by UTMB has 5500m of climbing so the Northburn was no joke. However, outside of the maps, finding information about the course was limited. Distances to major landmarks or any aid stations were omitted so there were a lot of unknowns. I guess I could’ve cut a small bit of string to scale and measured the distances to the aid stations on the maps provided, but I didn’t have the time (or energy) to do this. It just reaffirmed my suspicion that this was all part of the race organiser’s plan. Limited information meant it was difficult to prepare and it was this fear of the unknown which cultivated more doubt and panic. I was already going into this event blind and the scarcity of information certainly wasn’t confidence building. This bloody Northburn is all mental. I knew I needed to be adaptable, control my ego, and have a very strong mind. I did one final flexibility session early on the Friday morning before boarding my 8.40am flight to Queenstown enroute to the Northburn Station in Cromwell. I was up for the challenge. You need to think strong to be strong. I was ready.

The Northburn 100 start line

Having listened to previous race briefings from Terry Davis (who is also the race director of the notorious Mt Difficulty Ascent 44km event) I’d come to appreciate that he was brutally honest. He was so honest that people would laugh at what he would say because it sounded so outrageous when actually he was telling the truth. So as I stood at the back of the race briefing on Friday evening, I listened contently to what he had to say. And this is what he said. “Suffering is the prize and I want to make sure you get value for your money. The weather will be okayish but okayish in Northburn is really, really cold and windy. It will be colder than you can imagine. If you’re worried about the first hill, then you’re in for a really bad day. This course will shock you. Everything is longer and harder than you think. It’s the downhill that kills you and what sets Northburn apart from other races. Beware of the prickly Spaniard plant. It has sharp thorns that will go through anything (e.g. your gortex pants, your shoes) and the end of the thorns are laced with poison which can be sore for days. The water-race section is particularly horrible. It’s not if you can finish, it’s can you be bothered to finish. The DNF rate is 40%. If you feel like you’re going to die, then try to die on a ridge line where there’s cell phone coverage so you can call us.” He’s a sadist trying to get into my head. I could feel the cross hairs on my back. I knew I had to remain calm. If I were to conquer Northburn, then I’d need to conquer my emotions first. I was ready.

Dr George Watkinson (left) and Dr Andrew Stanley (right) taking in the sunrise during the first 50km loop

At 5.45am, Dr Andrew Stanley, Dr George Watkinson, and I squeezed into the tiny Toyota Yaris rental that George had splashed out on ready for our 6am start. Dr Stanley and George had committed to the 50km event which was essentially the first loop of the Northburn 100 miler. Although the gravity of what I’d committed to had sunk in for me the week prior, it seemed to have just dawned on Andrew and George now. They were planning to finish in about 8 hours and George was already talking about going to the Five Stags bar later that night to celebrate with the local women folk. Meanwhile, I was hoping to finish the 100 miler in about 36 hours so I wouldn’t have to run through two nights if possible (course cut off was 48 hours). As we got closer to the start line at Northburn Station, Dr Stanley and George feel compelled to impart their own words of wisdom prior to my 100 miler. “Be the lion!” George shouts out. Dr Stanley then adds, “If you need inspiration in the middle of the night, look at your own reflection in the water sources and find your hero.” “And see the lion” George chimes in. “Like in the Lion King”. They begin to chuckle at their own advice and I thank them for their sincerity. You know you’re in deep shit when you start taking advice from Timon and Pumbaa, I think to myself. When we arrive at the start line, we’ve got 5 minutes to spare. We wish each other the best of luck and part our separate ways. I drop off my drop bag at the start/finish marquee and then head right to the back of the starting field where it’s nice and quiet. This is where I like it. Away from the hype and energy at the front. This is where I can ease into my own all day pace. I hear the countdown from 10 amid supporters cheering and a couple of dogs barking at all the commotion. 3, 2, 1, and we’re off. I walk across the start line. I’m pretty sure I’m the last person across the start but this is all part of my plan. Start slow and ease into it. After all, I’ve got 48 hours to finish this thing. What’s the rush?

Full aid station during first loop

For the first loop of the Northburn 100 miler, the miler athletes are also joined by the 42km, 50km, and 100km athletes. Hence it’s very important that you don’t get caught up in someone else’s race. For the first loop, my focus was on going as comfortably slow as I could. I also needed to keep my emotions under control. Knowing that you’re going to be on your feet all day, all night, and tomorrow, can be very overwhelming so you’ve got to keep your emotions in check. Being nervous or excited increases your adrenaline which makes you go faster than you should. You’ve also got to be aware of how other people and external stimuli can affect your emotions. This was very apparent when I was passed by a large group of people towards the end of the ‘home loop’ (a short 5km loop which takes you back to the start/finish area again). From afar, you can see the lights near the race marquee and as you get closer, the bells and supporters cheering you on become louder. I know that I’m pretty good at holding a pace, so when I’m passed by this large group of runners, I knew that they’d sped up rather than I’d slowed down. Whether consciously or subconsciously, they’d let the start/finish area and the cheering of supporters influence their pace. About 10-15 minutes later, we’re away from this ‘high energy area’ and I pass them all again. Once more, I knew I hadn’t increased my pace but rather this group had slowed down. External stimuli like the above can easily throw you off your pacing. In the same vein, it’s very easy to increase your pace when you see a runner in front of you and accelerate again once you’ve passed them. It can also be tempting to increase your pace once someone passes you. You must resist these temptations and keep your emotions in check. If one can control their emotions/ego, then you’ll successfully hold a sensible pace throughout your run. Just let it go. Let people pass you. Passing people early on in the run is not important. Save that for the back end of a race where passing (or not being passed) becomes more pertinent. As the sun begins to rise around 7am, I make a mental check of this. This is good information to remember and look forward to after a night of running. I remove my head torch and put on my beanie and gloves. It’s suddenly become cold as the sun’s first rays spread across the land. As I’m ascending up an honest climb, for whatever reason, I hear the words of my old Sgt Major in my head. “Molloy! If you’re wearing all your warm gear now, what are you going to put on when it gets cold?” Hmmm. Good point Sgt Major. Comfort is a continuum. I was a bit too comfortable and I knew it would be much colder later tonight. In a miler, invariably at some point you’re going to be in a lot of discomfort. Hence, it’s best to introduce a little bit of discomfort early so you don’t give your body too much of a shock later on. I decide to take off one of my gloves and kept climbing so at least one of my hands is cold and uncomfortable. After the first water stop at Middletons, for the next 4km, we follow a fence line up relatively steep paddock. There is no track as such so most of the time you’re looking for the best sheep track to walk along. It’s somewhere along the fence line that I become acquainted with the prickly Spaniard. Whilst walking along a sheep track, I feel a sudden searing pain in my left great toe. On looking down, I see a small prickly Spaniard and curse. Prick. He was telling the truth. That bloody Spaniard went right through my shoe! From then onwards, every prickly Spaniard (even the baby ones) was treated with the utmost respect and given as much clear space as possible. For the next few hours, a large proportion of the course was along trackless terrain following orange tape. If you were lucky, you might be able to stay on a well-formed sheep track for a while. The vegetation consisted of alpine moss, tussock, and the prickly Spaniard. If you were to set your screen saver at home to change from alpine moss, tussock, and the prickly Spaniard every 10 seconds, then you’d get a fair appreciation of the scenery. After a while, this backdrop is replaced by vast open country and hard moss fields which was quite interesting to run across. When I reached the first (and only) ‘full aid station’ for this loop around the 25km mark, it was just after 10.30am. The aid station was a 4-wheel drive with a trailer on the back. On the top of the trailer was a container of water and Tailwind, a bag of chips, and a packet of chocolate biscuits. I topped up my water and took a handful of chips and biscuits and kept moving. The next part of the course went along alpine streams which was quite beautiful and helped take your mind off the enormity of the challenge. By now, it was also getting pretty hot so I regularly dipped my hat into the fresh cool streams to stay cool and conserve myself for later. After quite a steep, long downhill section along 4WD track, the final part of the first loop ended with what Terry described as a “punchy” Loop of Deception. Once again, he was true to his word and there were a few sharp uphills and downhills as we headed back into start/finish area. When I arrived back at the race marquee, it was around 3.30pm and I’d completed the first loop in just under 9 hours and 30 minutes. I didn’t expect Dr Stanley and George to be waiting for me but they were. They’d completed their 50km in just under 8 hours. “You wouldn’t believe what we’ve seen whilst we’ve been waiting for you” I’m told. “Some people have been in here for 50 minutes!” “Really?!” I respond. “What have they been doing?” “Standing around, talking on their phone, groaning, getting changed, walking around” Andrew replied. With the help of Andrew and George, I was out of the marquee within 5 minutes. All my drinks were topped up, night lights packed, and George had prepared warm buttered and salted potatoes to eat on the move. I thanked them profusely and wished them luck for the night ahead. As I headed out of the marquee, I made a conscious effort to keep my emotions in check and recompose myself again. Although I’d tried to take the first loop easy, the reality was that I could still feel the strain of 50km and 2600 metres of climbing. And the ominous thing was that this was just the warm up…

Coming back from my first loop

Leaving for my second loop with buttered and salted potatoes in hand

If the first loop was about going as slow as I comfortably could and keeping my emotions under control, then the second 60km loop was my ‘moving loop’. After holding myself back in the first loop, I was hoping to make some good inroads during the second loop and catch up to those who may’ve gone too fast during the first loop. Whilst eating warm potatoes on the move, I headed up the ‘Death Climb’ as it was affectionally known as. Previously, this part of the course was tackled at the 100km mark but this year we were hitting it after 50km. Terry tried to put a positive spin on this saying that our legs would be fresher. However, he also said that it could be a little bit worse as we now had to climb 14km all the way to the top at Leaning Rock. And goodness me did that climb go on forever! I think after 90 minutes of relentless climbing, I hit my first miniature wall. I somehow managed to save myself from a full crash by eating a whole bag of lollies, a chocolate bar, the remainder of George’s potatoes, and a large fluid bolus of Tailwind and water. After 3 hours and 30 minutes of constant climbing, I stopped taking note of the amount of time spent going up. It was certainly long enough to see the afternoon change into evening. On the way up, I saw someone I knew who’d just slipt into their survival bag due to developing hypothermia. I felt for him but this was simply not the place to stop. We were halfway to nowhere! Being of medical background he asked for my advice. However, I knew the best practical medical advice centred around preventing hypothermia rather than treating it. “Once you stop, it’s going to be very difficult to get going again” I answered. I’d seen many people’s races end in a survival bag. It seemed like once you entered a survival bag, it was impossible to get out of it again. A survival bag not only kept in the heat, but it also concealed the doubts, fears, and disappointment one may encounter when they consider stopping. His friend who was accompanying him was worried that the winds would only get colder up top and insisted that a quad bike was on its way. Not wanting to push the envelope, I wished him luck and carried on. Your second-best ally in the fight against hypothermia (second only to your brain/behaviour) are your muscles and movement. I knew I had to keep moving or I’d suffer the same fate myself. When I finally arrived at Leaning Rock aka our second ‘full aid station’, there wasn’t much there bar a big rock and a gentleman sheltering in his station wagon from the increasingly cold wind. Not too keen to stop long due to the cold, I quickly fill up a Snap Lock bag with chips and grab a couple of muesli bars and take off. I can see the sun about to set in the distance and I’m desperately keen to do this “horrible water-race” section whilst it’s still light. The 4WD track towards the water-race is a gentle decline and in pretty good condition so I enjoy being able to run normally again. “Woah! Way to go!” shouts out one of the volunteers. “Thanks mate, I’m feeling pretty good” I reply. “That’s the one!” he exclaims. “Maximise the highs and minimise the lows” he says before directing me down towards the water-race section. As promised, this part of the course is rough as guts and quite a steep gradient down. The sun is just clinging on in the horizon so it’s light enough to see my footing. I’d hate to be doing this in the dark, I think to myself. As the descent bottoms out, the ground becomes swampy and I manoeuvre cautiously to avoid getting wet feet before night fall. The next section is even more gnarlier and it’s basically just following orange markers and white electric fence posts across a cliff face. It’s at this point I pass a couple of competitors who don’t seem to be having a good time of it all. As I pass one of them, I engage in brief conversation “You would’ve thought he would’ve put us on a nice 4WD road back to TW (the next full aid station)” I comment. “No” he responds gruffly. “It’s just more of this same old bullshit” he concludes. When I eventually reach a well-formed road that heads straight up towards TW, the sun had finally ended its shift and it became dark quickly. I hoped to get to TW before sunset but at least I’d negotiated the worse of the water-race so I wasn’t too distressed. The air became cooler and the wind started to pick up again. In the distance you could see sporadic headlights from other competitors on the course and by now the field was well and truly spread. After a steady climb, I arrive at TW and it’s freezing! This aid station is very exposed and the wind is just buffeting into this area. I take shelter in the trailer with all the drop bags. There are a few competitors who’ve stopped here and it looks like they’ve put on everything bar the kitchen sink (jacket, trousers, the works!) I quickly surmise that it’s bloody cold here so I had two options. Either stick around and put on my warm gear, or get what I need and get the hell out of here! I went with the latter. Drinks topped up and more spuds in hand, I was out of TW in a flash. As I descend down, within the hour, you’re sheltered from the wind and it actually got pretty hot such that I was running in my normal day clothes again. I’d been warned about the next section around and up Mt Horn by my friend Dennis Hunt (“This was a good mind screwing shit up. Then coming down winding around and around, I was sure I was going back up. A classic Terry Davis case of getting into your head.”) With this in mind, I just chose to focus on the cone of light in front of me rather than the lights of Cromwell in the distance (which seemed to move 360 degrees around me). When I arrived at the Mt Horn aid station (i.e. a station wagon) it was as freezing as TW! After mere seconds of stopping, I felt cold. I grabbed a couple of muesli bars and thanked the two volunteers for their brave efforts. The last push from Mt Horn past Brewery Creek and back towards the race marquee was actually quite enjoyable. Down low and sheltered from the wind, the temperature was conducive to good night running. I’d managed to keep my running legs whilst others around me were losing theirs so I passed quite a few people heading back in. Although I wasn’t aware of this at the time, I’d finished my first loop in 47th place (out of 64 starters) and after my second loop, I’d moved up to 18th place. When I arrived back at the race marquee, it was around 3.30am and I’d completed the second loop in 12 hours. As I approached the marquee, I tried to reflect on what I’d just experienced. I think the words horrible and horrific sum it up best. When I passed Terry Davis just outside the marquee, I knew I wasn’t going to give up but I sympathised with all the other runners out there and said “You’d almost feel like giving up after those two loops”. “Oh no you can’t do that” he responded. “If you did, you’d be back here again next year doing it all over again.” “Oh f*** that!” I reflexively responded. When I entered the race marquee, to my surprise, Dr Stanley and George were waiting for me. It sounded as if Dr Stanley had coerced George from the comforts of his own bed (the last time I had spoken to George, he seemed to have no intention to visit me at death o’clock). After 110km and 23 hours, I wasn’t finished but I was feeling it. “Man! if this was Tarawera, I would’ve been finishing by now!” I confided to Dr Stanley. “Instead, I’ve got another bloody loop to do!” For those two, I’m very grateful. As if by intuition, they had already prepared my Maggi Chicken noodles and more boiled potatoes (even though I was starting to grow weary of the latter). They topped up my fluids and changed my battery on my head torch for the rest of the night. George offered me a massage but I declined. And I advised I needed more lubricant applied but he declined. Although not as quick as my first stop, I was out of the marquee within 10 minutes. Another competitor I knew reasonably well choose to sleep for 2 hours before leaving again. I knew that it wasn’t sleep that I needed. I needed to finish this bloody thing. It was time to enter the void again so I stepped out into the night.

Part of the ‘Death Climb’ during loop two

Somewhere near TW during loop two

Leaning Rock in the distance

Sunset during loop two

If my second loop was my ‘moving loop’ and my first loop was about going slow and keeping my emotions under control, then I had no preconceptions about my third loop (in retrospect this was an oversight). I guessed that if I made it this far, then it would’ve been much of the same. You get to a point in a 100 miler where you’ve suffered so much that any further suffering is inconsequential. Oh how wrong I was for Northburn! As I left the marquee, I looked at my GPS which showed another monstruous climb back to TW. In my head, I thought that would’ve been the worst of it and I would’ve broken the back of Northburn. I climbed solidly for another 3.5 hours. Along the way, I negotiated a rather outrageous assault up a cliff face towards Mt Horn whilst keeping my emotions in check. When I reached the aid station up top, I really felt for the volunteers sheltered in the tin shed whilst the wind smashed into everything around them. I was losing dexterity in my hands and could barely open anything so I was grateful for their assistance (and BBQ chips!) Heading up towards TW, I also got to witness a slow evolving sunrise. First it was pink, then purple, then orange, and then finally pure golden yellow (I’ve since read that the colours of any sunrise can be variable). When I reached TW, it was light enough so I ditched my head torch into my drop bag. It was also at this point that I first encountered the ‘two Sarahs’. As all three of us headed out towards the Loop of Despair, I was left in awe as the two Sarahs simply left me in their dust on the downhill. Respect to anyone who can still run like that after 127km. With the sun just rising, it was starting to get cold again so I decided to stop and put on my jacket for the first time (my feet were starting to get numb and I was struggling to run). Soon enough, my warm core blood flowed to my peripheries and running became slightly easier. Not long after that, I was beginning to overheat so I removed my jacket and put on my gloves and beanie. Not long after that, the sun was in full force so I changed into my hat and sun glasses whilst still moving. As I descended along this Loop of Despair, I began to develop an uneasy feeling about how much we were descending. Afterall, what goes down, must come up. And sure enough, my worst fears were confirmed when after a shitload of down, there was a rather sharp turn and we were heading back up again. However, this time, it wasn’t on a reasonably well-preserved grass trail, but the bare remnants of a fresh quad bike track that had driven straight back up again! It’s at the start of this climb that I surprisingly pass the two Sarahs again whilst they’re delayering in the developing heat. Up until this point, having started right at the back of the field, no one had passed me. So when one of the Sarahs overtook me again, I was rather impressed as she was the first to overtake me all day. She then continued to smash the uphill and in no time, she was out of sight and I was left in awe. By now, the other Sarah was as far behind me as I was behind her namesake. With both Sarahs out of eye sight (and mind), the brutality of this climb struck me. It was absolutely relentless. Every false peak was followed by another false peak. The sun was also beating down on me now such that by 8am, I’d already dipped my hat into an opportune cold stream. More hills. More climbing. More fences to climb over. More false peaks. Then suddenly out of nowhere, the other Sarah just surges past me. It’s at this point that I accept that I’m keeping strong company. One of the best things you can do in a 100 mile race is to control your ego. As far as I was concerned, these two girls were running a good race so good on them. Playing cat and mouse with them was the least of my concerns as I needed to control my emotions/ego and focus my energy on getting to the finish line. When I finished the Loop of Despair, I soldiered back into TW again. I was pretty keen to get in and out as per usual. One of the Sarahs was sitting on a seat so I plonked my sorry arse in the drop bag trailer and took what I needed. As I was about to leave, Mal Law (quite a well-known trail runner and creator of ‘The Wild’), asked me how the Loop of Despair went. “That was inhumane” I shared. “Well you’re pacing pretty well” he chuckled. “Man, those two girls are good though” I said. “Yeah, I’m actually surprised that you’re managing to keep up with them” he counters. What?! What did he mean by that? By now Sarah had left and was thundering down the road again towards Leaning Rock for the small out and back. As I stood up, I got into my trusty shuffle and got a cheer from Mal and the other volunteers as I left. And then Mal shouts out “Watch out Sarah! John’s going to catch you!” Dammit. Whether it was intentional or not, Mal struck a fuse and for the first time, I’d lost control of my emotions. After surging past me not so long ago, I knew that most runners would struggle to back up such an impressive surge with another. And so I kept shuffling while Sarah ran the downs and walked the straights and ups. Eventually I caught her. And then I passed her. Just before the Leaning Rock aid station (by now it was known to me as Stupid Rock), the other Sarah who I’d lost sight of ages ago, had reached the turnaround point and was heading homebound. Wow, I’m not that far behind her. When I got to Stupid Rock, I took some chips, chocolate biscuits, and muesli bars for the road and simply turned around again. It was time to make a surge of my own. For the first time in this whole race, I ran the downhill gradient unrestricted and I didn’t hold anything back. When I arrived back at TW, Mal seemed quite surprised and asked “Where’s Sarah? I turned around and realised that she was nowhere in sight. “She’s faster than me” I replied. “But she stops more than me. She stops to change her clothes. She stays longer at aid stations. But she is faster than me.” “She won’t like that” he baits. I quickly topped up my water and kept going. Now that I’d surged, I needed to open the gap on the chasing Sarah and hopefully close the gap on the Sarah in front of me. Inadvertently, I was now caught in the ‘dual of the Sarahs’ but at least it kept me interested and engaged in the race. The descent from TW to Mt Horn was pretty taxing. I had 20km left of mostly downhill but the Loop of Despair had taken it out of my legs and now there was more quad mashing downhill. I didn’t even stop at the Mt Horn aid station as I figured I was beyond aid. I just needed to finish this bastard. Somewhere on the descent from Mt Horn, the wheels started to wobble a bit. I realised that my surge and inability to control my emotions could cost me dearly. I’d burnt out my quads and the downhill just kept on coming with no respite. Running became painful and it became a struggle to run. I had about 15km to go but 15km can take forever if you’re walking. I battled between walking and running and somewhere in between. Even shuffling was tough. I no longer cared about catching people ahead of me but I feared being passed by those behind me. I knew that being passed can be psychologically damaging and I didn’t want to spend the rest of the race slowing down. If I could just go faster than a walk, then hopefully I’d be ok as surely everyone must be feeling the same way by now. I kept trying to run but struggled to maintain my rhythm. I knew I needed inspiration so I dug deep within. “You tell your patients every day to push through their pain, yet you can’t even do it yourself. What kind of hypocrite are you?” The question was complex but the answer was simple. I had to push through my pain. And I did. It was painful. It was reckless. But I did. I must’ve looked like some old spluttering rotary lawn mower but after some few hefty pulls, I managed to maintain momentum and I’d found my running legs again. After what felt like hours of running by myself, I arrived at the Brewery Creek drink station and saw a couple of runners ahead of me. I was feeling rather positive about life until I approached the final hill climb of the course (which was relatively small compared to everything else I’d encountered so far). It was at this point that I lost it. After just regaining my running legs, this slow and long hill climb simply knocked the stuffing out of them again. I think my GPS said it was a 9-degree incline gradient over 3km but it felt like it would never end. I became angry at the race director. I don’t like hating people as its such negative energy but I hated everything the race director stood for in that final hour. I’d lost control of my emotions again. I was angry because I knew that there was a relatively flat track beneath the powerlines towards the finish that we’d taken the night prior. I was angry because I sympathised with all the international competitors who would’ve come all this way to be served up this crap. I was angry because I thought this diversion was completely unnecessary after everything we’d been through. But no. Why go on some easy flat track to the finish line when you can go on another tiki tour up another hill? I became paranoid. My watch told me it was 3km of climbing but my ability to think clearly was clouded by red mist. I was on the look out for any high feature as I was adamant that’s where Terry would take us. No high feature was out of bounds in this psychopath’s world. After many false peaks and more rubbish in and out manoeuvring around hills, the hill finally ended. On the top of the hill was a vehicle with a water container beside it symbolising the last water station. Typical, I thought. Of course, no idiot in their right mind would walk here when they can just drive here. Shortly after this water station, I saw what looked like a cow standing right between the two white markers that I had to move through. No no, no, no, no, no, no. I desperately screened for horns and balls. I don’t have time for this shit. It looked like a cow (and not a bull) but it looked like it wasn’t going anywhere and it just stood there and stared at me. My current state of mind was one of survival mode so even a simple cow looked hostile! As far as I was concerned, at this particular point in time, it was hunt or be hunted. Eat or be eaten. The finish line was about 3km away and this bloody cow stood in my way. I approached slowly with my trekking poles pointed forwards. As I approached the cow, it flicked up its back legs, mooed, and then ran into the hills. Sigh. Relieved I pointed by trekking poles back towards the earth again and kept moving. Adrenaline pumping and anger gushing through my veins, I then had to endure the painful complimentary downhill which followed this uphill tiki tour. Though anger can be negative energy, it was energy nonetheless and I needed to harness it. Fuelled by anger, I finished reasonably strongly. I was determined to not let this course (or Terry) have the last laugh. I crossed the finish line just after 4pm, 34 hours after starting having completed the third loop in just under 13 hours. Terry Davis is waiting at the finish line with a smile on his face. We shake hands but we don’t embrace. It’s too raw for that. Dr Stanley and George are waiting at the finish line. “I’m NEVER doing that again” I say under my breath. “That’s what they all say” Dr Stanley replies. “Are you sure?” I pause for a bit. “Ok, give me a couple of weeks…” Running is medicine.

Running to the finish line 34 hours later

Enjoying my orange juice and sitting down post finish

Helpful tip
Your will has to be greater than your skill. You need to think strong to be strong.

Northburn 100 mile 2023 belt buckle