BRR Race Report (Trucker mouth inclusive version)
My first blog re the BRR 2013 was more about the people I met and the spiritual journey.
This one I will try and give you a bit of an indication as to what it was like to actually run 250km across the Simpson Desert.
Let me start by reminding you (or telling you) that the BRR starts in Birdsville which is the middle of nowhere. A lot of information on the web will tell you that you can drive the Birdsville Track in any vehicle. Well you CAN’T!
It took us three days of driving (staying overnight in Renmark and Leigh Creek) to get to Birdsville from Melbourne. The stretch from Leigh Creek to Birdsville however is mostly dirt road and hitting that road is the point in time where I lost a good 10 years of my life to stress.
When our rental car hit the marble like road, our car went up on its side – to the left, to the right, to the left…..I was convinced that was going to be the end of me, but somehow the amazing Jackie managed to steady the car and silence a few hysterical screams that had come from the back of the van.
We all felt a little nervous after that but then Chris needed to take a bush pee (perhaps change his knickers like the rest of us) and low and behold, out from the bush came a dingo. It stared at him in horror as he soiled the poor dingos home.
Then we saw wild camel, horses, kangaroos, emus, more dingos, lots of cows – it was pretty amazing and we were soon having a bit of a laugh about our near death experience.
We got to Birdsville in time for the pre-race dinner and I was trying not to look like a creep as I stole glances at Lisa Tamati. The thing is – Lisa’s books planted the possibility of running across the desert in my mind. I had just finished reading her last book and was looking up entering the Marathon Des Sables when I accidentally came across the BRR. So to be in the same room as her was pretty amazing. But I controlled myself. I played it cool.
Off to camp and then up bright and early for day 1 – the first marathon. This day was probably the most exciting of all days because it wasn’t only the 250km entrants running but there were also a lot of people running the Big Red Dash – the one marathon.
We all gathered outside the Birdsville Hotel. People were talking to me but I don’t really know what they were saying. I couldn’t hear anything over the internal screaming in my brain “What the f*** are you doing????”
Before I knew it we were off – a nice little loop around Birdsville then out into the unknown. I wore my Garmin the first day (thank you Alan Kissick for saving the day there) and instantly I knew that was a bit of a mistake. I remember Samantha Gash telling me not to get too concerned with pace out in the desert. Well, I was watching my pace like my life depended on it.
I’m a 4 hour marathoner on a shit house day with a weighted pack. The first day out in the desert I finished the first marathon (which by the way, my Garmin said was 44km) in 6 hours and 20 minutes.
I was gutted. I was doubting my training, doubting my ability and most of all, doubting my sanity.
The only place we could get phone reception out in the desert was on the top of Big Red, the biggest dune in the Simpson Desert. So after a gruelling day, I climbed Big Red so I could ring my Dad.
“Did you do the best you could?”
“Is there anything you could have done differently?”
Day two – I left the Garmin in my pack. I’ve never run a substantial distance without a Garmin. I knew I’d have to pace my nutrition and hydration by feel. I could use the aid stations as a bit of a guide but ultimately, I’d need to really listen to my body.
I like to measure the difficulty of my runs by how many f**ks were given. Day 2, not a single f**k was given!
After checkpoint two, Pat Farmer ran with me for a little bit. That man is just a running source of energy and inspiration.
Day 2 was also the day I got to run intermittently with Lisa Tamati. I’m not sure of the detail, but I know Lisa was in a fair bit of pain that day. The checkpoint doctors are usually pretty hesitant to give you anything other than panadol but they were offering her Codeine so she must have been in a lot of pain.
After checkpoint 3, things took a turn for the worst for Lisa. The checkpoint staff had accidentally filled her bladder with electrolytes rather than water. She was sick to her stomach – literally.
About 3km from the finish, Sanja, who I had spoken to over 30km back and who was injured then but had still managed to smash it up to this point, groaned in pain. Lisa turned around and without a moment’s hesitation, handed her her trekking poles.
I have always put Lisa on a huge pedastool, but after seeing that she just got God-like status in my opinion. When I asked her about it later she just dismissed it like it was nothing.
Anyway, I finished day two in 6 hours and 54 minutes and a big crush on both Lisa Tamati and Pat Farmer.
Day 3 – it rained for the first time in the Simpson Desert since March! Whilst we slept peacefully, the race organisers were busy changing the course. The rain meant we couldn’t use the next night’s camp site so there was a lot to sort out.
I put on my Hokas (as by this stage – they were the only shoes I could fit my swollen fat feet into) and made my way to the hot water urn. This 20m walk collected enough clay like mud to add an extra 3kg to each shoe. Before the race had even begun, I was in a grump.
I had to stop many times on day 3 to fix my feet – blisters were forming on top of blisters on top of blisters.
It’s fair to say that many f***ks were given this day. Many!
The highlight of the day though was running with Declan from checkpoint 2-3. We ran in silence most of the way. I didn’t even ask him his name until we finished, but just knowing I wasn’t alone out there was enough to push me on and get me to the finish line in 6 hours and 56 minutes.
Day 4 was the “short day.” I’m told that the reason for cutting the course to 25km was because we had “accidentally” run a bit longer on each of the marathons so the total for the race would remain 250km.
This was a fun day. It was bloody hot – it felt like the hottest day. The flies were out in full force and whilst not many f**ks were given regarding the run itself, many flies were told to “f**k off.”
I trailed just behind the team AON guys for most of the run. About 200 metres from the finish line in the hot afternoon sun, I decided to give chase and started sprinting. Ryan screamed out “NOOOOO….” and the three boys picked up the pace. We all crossed the line in hysterics. It was a great day.
Day 5 – my favourite, the long day. Two marathons in one day. We started before sunrise with the knowledge that we would not reach the finish line before sunset.
A good portion of the first leg of the race I ran with Tom and Duncan, my tent buddies. It was great to run with those guys – a perfect way to finish off the task at hand. Those two have really really long legs though and I just couldn’t keep up with their pace so I let them go, but I kept them in sight for most of the day. It was nice to know they were just up ahead.
I hadn’t listened to music for the entire race – I had saved it for this day. As Tom and Duncan left me behind for dingo breakfast, I put on some Meshuggah. A few F***ks were given but these were of the “F***k Yeah!” variety.
One of my favourite memories of the BRR was just after passing check point 6, running across the Giber plains feeling strong and screaming along to Metallica’s “Sad But True.”
After hitting checkpoint 7 (the final checkpoint), I had 13km to the finish. For some reason, I gave myself permission to give up a little here. I had run strong up until this point, but from here on I shuffled and then I walked. I knew once I hit the road I had 4km to camp but it was a slight incline and the surface was uneven. I just couldn’t get my stride right. After I had walked for the better part of 5km I felt like I just couldn’t get back into running. The sun had set and I was over it. Running in the dark – looking for the green light. Where the hell was the finish line???
Then I heard a little voice “hello…hello?”
And there was little Nathan. I can’t remember exactly how old Nathan is – 10 or 11 I think. Anyway Nathan grabbed my hand and said “We’re going to run now okay?”
Who was I to argue? In fact, I started to cry. Other than that first leg over 12 hours ago, I had run the entire day on my own. Now, here was this little boy – offering me kind words and pushing me on toward the finish.
We ran hand in hand to the finish line. He said to me “Your hand is really hot and sweaty.”
I said “I’m sorry.”
He said “That’s okay.”
I finished in 13hours and 15 minutes – 45 minutes ahead of my goal time.
Tom and Duncs of course were at the finish line – we hugged and congratulated one another.
That night we left the tent open and for the first time as I lay in my sleeping bag, I could appreciate the beauty of the night sky out in the desert.
At 1:30am, I was in so much pain with my blisters that I had to go to the first aid tent which was right near the finish. Despite having been on the job since some ungodly hour, Chris took care of me (thank you Chris!).
As I sat with my feet in ice at the finish line, I got to witness Elisha cross the finish line (we had come up in the bus together from Melbourne) and the water works started again. Seeing Elisha cross that finish line meant as much to me as getting my own ghetto booty across that finish line.
Day 6 was the final 8km to the Birdsville Hotel. We ran this as a team – no one was racing. The wind was in our faces and 8km has never felt so challenging. That was until I looked up to see wild horses running across the desert.
When we finally got to the finish line someone handed me a bottle of champagne – I think it was Tony. He said “it’s so bad, but it’s good.” So true.
There were hugs and tears and the best tasting beer I have ever and will ever taste.
I finished the BRR 3rd in my category (female 18-39) and 15th overall in a total time of 38 hours and 43 minutes.
I want to say a special thank you to Tom Eckersley at Ki Health and Fitness Studio and director and inventor of Acumat for believing in me, treating me and introducing me to the wonders of the Acumat.
I also want to say a special thank you to Bioflex Nutrition who have not only created an outstanding vegan protein that helped me recover day in and day out but who have also been generous enough to make a substantial donation to JDRF and who have supplied me with enough protein to do it all again 10 x over.
I also want to thank each and every one of you who has made a donation to JDRF whether that be a financial donation or simply by donating your time and energy to the cause.