Glasshouse Mountains 100 Mile Trail Race, Sept 10-11 2005
All roads lead to the Glasshouse Mountains. Maybe that should read: “all trails” lead to the Glasshouse Mountains. This is more of a reflection of my Glasshouse experience than a report. Well, that’s how it started. Such are the memories that flood my mind since staggering across that finish line. They form no cohesive train of thought but rather a massive collage of images, conversations, and especially emotions that spread across the entire weekend. To describe my build up to the 2005 Glasshouse 100 as an obsession would be a colossal understatement. My desire to complete the race was fuelled by an injury induced DNF at Checkpoint 10 (137.5km) into Glasshouse 2004. But as the memories of this year wash over me, they wash away the disappointment of last years unfulfilled dream.
Sunday morning and I’m over 25 hours into the run. I’m in pain. Pain, that under normal circumstances would have me on crutches. Pain so bad I’m hoping for a new injury to distract my pain receptors. I’m limping as fast as I can up the gravel road to CheckPoint (CP) 1a. When I reach 1a I have little over 4 km to the finish. Over Hamburger Hill for the fourth time. But I’m not thinking about that. I can only focus on getting to 1a. Still the pain. Each footfall is a new experience in pain. Then the thought of being the first person to DNF so close to the finish hits me. Wham. It was like a brick in the face. Focus. I’m using trekking poles and they’re keeping me upright and giving me momentum. I can do this. I know I can do this. Focus hard. The checkpoint appears ahead and I ring my crew, David McKinnon to ask him to dig some local anaesthetic cream out of my kit. I’m desperate and I don’t want to stop for too long in case I can’t get going again. He can see me coming and appropriately calls me an idiot for phoning him within sight. I can’t even remember if I sat down but I remember Tim being there. Keep your shoe on, was his advice. Not much danger of me taking it off. I knew if I did I’d never get it back on. Knowing Tim had dropped at CP6 with injury reminded me of my own pain at DNFing last year. The pain in my ankle would not last as long as the pain of not finishing again. Nothing was going to stop me. Dave lathered the cream over my ankle and I grabbed some watermelon and was off.
There is a small rise off the road and the trail is as rough as any I had experienced over the last 157 km. I burst into tears. Pain. Relief. Raw emotions swollen with pain. Realisation that I will make it. Sobbing and blinded by tears, I tell myself the pain is finite. It will end soon. I will be a 100 mile finisher. I regrouped. It’s hard to describe the feeling of crossing the line after battling your way through 100 miles in under 30 hours. It’s hard not to sound pretentious but it truly is a humbling experience. Your emotions are stripped down to the bone, laid bare and the sensory experience is overwhelming. You look inside to see what’s there. You run ultras to experience this. You live for these moments.
Three days earlier, I flew into Brisbane on the Thursday morning, excited and full of anticipation. I waited for my roommates for the weekend: Phil Murphy and Tim Turner. I stood there with a little sign the way chauffeurs do: “Tim & Spud”. They weren’t going to miss me. That set the tune for the weekend. Pack your runners and a sense of humour. A weekend of merciless stirring and endless banter. I mean how will we ever forget Sean at the Beerwah Pub? Standing alone in the bar with his mum’s handbag on his arm he had a ring of blokes bending down to check out his Western States 100 belt buckle. Hmm. Good thing he’s a big bloke!
Back at the Brisbane airport the following Monday I looked down at my ankle. I didn’t recognize it. Grossly swollen my foot and ankle had lost all normal contours. My usually bony protuberances were lost in a sea of oedema. I can’t pinpoint where on the run it began but I was experiencing shin pain from the start of the eastern section (114 km). I had pretty much stopped running after leaving CP7 (85 km) with Nick Moloney, when my ITBs were starting to niggle. I pulled out the trekking poles, mutant hydropod on my back and proceeded to power walk into the night. This cured my ITB problems and allowed me to still maintain a good pace. We were right behind Kelvin at this point and were going to make it almost to CP6 in daylight. I was hours ahead of where I expected to be. I was banking time.
Somewhere on this section between 6 and 7 in the twilight gloom some crazy fury creature came bolting down the path towards us. It was totally surreal and was over in seconds but at the time I had no idea what was happening. This small fur-ball was sprinting straight for me. I stopped dead, bewildered. It just kept coming, right at me. I jumped as high as my leaden legs would take me and as it scooted past my ankles I realised it was just a rabbit! What the hell? I pictured the headlines: DNF’d after 100km, KO’d by Rabbit. Try and live that one down. I wasn’t having a good trot with the local animals. Walking past a ute outside the Beerwah pub on Thursday night I had inadvertently aroused a sleeping dog chained on the tray. Well, you know what they say about sleeping dogs? Now I know why!
Back to the business: I had started the race fairly conservatively, deliberately dropping off the huge pack at the start to avoid being dragged along too fast. I soon found myself running with Tim well back in the field. After running together at the recent 12 Foot Track Fatass Run, Dave had offered to crew for the pair of us, figuring we were evenly matched. We both had the primary goal of simply finishing. After completing the easy first loop of 8 km we passed back through Base (CP2) then climbed Mt Beerburrum. I pulled away from Tim and managed to pass a few people on the long steep downhill. It was great to see the leaders coming down as we climbed. Nic Moloney was way out in front but David Waugh’s big relaxed smile foreshadowed his amazing run and the end result.
On the trail to CP3 I couldn’t believe how many people were out there. I was now running alone but had a stream of runners from the 100 mile, 100 km, and 50 km races in view. Easy, open fire trail made the travelling comfortable and the kms clicked by. I caught up with Sean, Phil and Rodney and soon after CP3 Tim joined us again. I was conscious of the day warming up and was drinking often and finished off 3 of my donuts by CP5. CPs 3 and 4 were only minor aid stations, so I was relying on what I carried and just getting water, and adding my own Staminade. I felt strong on the technical stuff between 4 and 5 so went with it. I remember reaching CP5, the first with real food and I was hungry. There was a bountiful spread so I stuffed myself silly while Dave refilled my bottles.
We were all still closely grouped and I ran from 5 to 6 with Tim and Rodney, pulling away on the goat track where I caught and passed Sean, Phil, Kelvin and then Roger Guard. Hmm, I thought. Might just back off a little. I felt good and was flying over the technical stuff but there was a long way to go. There wasn’t any food to my liking at 6 so I didn’t linger. I was carrying two hand-held bottles and Dave was filling them with Staminade and some Maxim. With full bottles it was out onto the infamous powerlines section. Our group was back to two and Tim and I worked steadily through the pressure cooker that was developing in the valley. We pitied those to follow as the day heated up. Up and down, we worked steadily. We were through well before the heat of the day. I celebrated the relief when we turned off towards the road to CP8 with a pit stop in the bushes. Tim ran on and I came into 8 just behind him.
How good was CP8? It was like a little mobile village on the edge of the Glasshouse universe. It was all happening out there. I saw many 100 milers here over the various visits. Don’t ask me who at what time but I remember seeing Paul Hewitson looking very ill. I saw Paul Every coax someone to follow him down the road so he could take a plate of food with him and have someone to bring the plate back. I think I saw Ian Wright but that might have been at CP7. I do know he looked like he’d had a mud bath. He had mud up to his armpits. Well, close to it. Either it was to save on sunscreen or he had fallen into a deep mud puddle (apparently on the powerlines section). Either way it was an interesting look. People pay good money for that sort of thing. I was just hoping someone had a camera.
Weight check: 2 kg down. That surprised me. I had planned a foot bath here (despite much bagging from Tim), so it was shoes off and plunged my cooking feet into a bucket of ice water. Bliss. Sheer bliss. I didn’t want to take them out and put them back into their little prisons. But I had a long way to go. Much fuss was made of my fancy toe-socks. Dave offered me his famous white headband to counter the sweat that was stinging my eyes, actually blinding me on some of the steeper downhill sections. He had everything covered. This brought on more derogatory comments about my fashion sense. I relubed my feet with the magical Bodyglide, and put on fresh socks. No blisters yet. I took off downhill on 8a passing David Waugh coming back up the hill, finishing what was probably his 8b loop but I hoped it was his 8a loop. Turn right at the mango trees, was the parting remark as I left CP8 and I thought I’d never get to them. Or had I missed them? No, I plummeted on down the hill and eventually there they were. I was feeling so good I chased hard after Tim. The track was wide and flat so the running was easy. It was getting hot so I forced a couple of walk breaks to avoid overheating. I had the odd chuckle as I recalled stories of runners hiding as they came up behind others to avoid being seen. If it were dark I’d have to turn off my light as well. I caught Tim and we ran the last half together, walking the long hill out.
More food. I was telling Tim that we could do 8b on one bottle but Dave said to take two. I was glad I did, draining them both. Then the climb to start 8b and George Thomas from the 100 km decided to join us. When we topped the climb, I left them on the long downhill and ran back to 8 alone. The shady stretches around the basin made running comfortable. More food and stretching at 8. Rodney was here and was using his special massage tool on his gluteals and I was offered a massage stick to rub my ITBs. Wow, it was great. How good are these checkpoints?
When Tim finally arrived I was itching to go and left him eating. Rodney and I shuffled out of 8 but it was soon clear he was in trouble. I had run the whole 80 km with him in the May race, so knew how tough he was. I was reluctant to leave him, but he urged me on. I was feeling fantastic. Dave kept warning me to hold back, fearing I would blow up. But I was banking time. That was my mantra for the first half of the course. Get far enough through the course with enough time in reserve that I could walk the back half within the cut-off. So I ran hard to CP7 (74 km). It was flat open trails, easy running. I caught Sean and tried to get him to run with me, but he was struggling. He told me I was still just on the limit of a potential sub 24 hour run. I responded that I was not interested in sub 24. I was only interested in finishing. A good time would merely be a bonus. I was banking time.
CP7: I taped a blister on the ball of my foot, had some food and pushed on for the loop back to 7. I grabbed my tiny back-up light just in case but was confident of getting well back before dark. I was talking to myself regularly here. I was running strongly and feeling fantastic. Does it get any better than this? I had run this section twice before, but both times in the dark. My spirits were high, being here in daylight. I saw a runner ahead. He didn’t look good. I couldn’t tell who it was until I got close. It was Adam. I urged him to hang in there as I went past, but he was walking with little conviction. Around the back of the loop, after the lagoon, I caught and passed Kelvin again and was surprised to see Nic Moloney, who had led the field early in the day. Another runner kept me at bay but I eventually found out this was a 100 ker.
Back at CP7 I raised the alarm about Adam’s poor state. Someone drove out to check on him. There is such great support on these runs (Adam went on to DNF at CP6). Around 11:30 hours into the run and I was past the halfway mark. I suppressed thoughts of finishing times. I had not been looking at my times until now. I just wanted to finish. My ITBs on both knees were starting to worry me. Time for the trekking poles. Dave grabbed them and my headlamp (Myo5) from the Pandora’s box he called his car boot. I had a stubby of ginger beer and some roasted vegies and headed out refreshed towards CP6 with Nic. Kelvin was just in front of us. Nic and I had travelled together all the way from the power-lines back to base last year. There was some good karma in us joining forces again to avenge our DNFs. We set a cracking pace even without running, and were into 6 in no time. It was dark now.
Out on the Beerwah loop we caught up to Kelvin and the 100 ker, Lindsay. Lindsay’s borrowed hand held torch was fading fast. They were moving slowly, Kelvin guiding Lindsay. They caught us again at CP5 and Kelvin did his usual breeze through and was gone. I looked up to see Tim at 5. Wow, and he looked so fresh. But how did he get in front of us? Damn, he’d dropped at CP6 with injury. He sounded philosophical but I knew how much it hurt. I assumed Lindsay would be dropping at CP5 but he ran up behind us as we left and followed us all the way back to base. He had to run occasionally to match our power walking and how he could navigate sans light defies logic. Adding to the difficulty factor, he had his toe-boxes cut away, ultra-track style. I tried to share my light but on the technical stuff he routinely tripped, stumbled or stubbed his unprotected toes. I remember telling him he wins the lunacy award.
In no time we were back at base again. It’s amazing how innocuous Hamburger Hill appears on the first few crossings. And we didn’t stop at 1a except to grab some of their fantastic cake. I was still feeling good. My quads were a little sore and I had that sore right shin happening but my spirits were high and I felt great. Dave was ministering to a very sick looking Paul Every, semi-conscious on a mattress. I figured he was out. Nic had sheppard’s pie. I had soup. Tim’s master plan of organising pizza at base hadn’t worked and apparently he and Dave were in trouble for trying to steal business from the aid-station ladies. Lucky for them, the pizza man was late. Rodney came in, looking fairly ordinary. Brendan strolled in as casual as you like. Wow, what a pace machine. Rodney was off his food so slipped out and when I realised he had gone I knew he still had one eye on that clock. Brendan and Kelvin took off and I was keen to get moving again. Headband off, beanie on and we marched into the night, on a mission.
People were coming towards us regularly over Hamburger Hill. It was good to see runners still going at it after 100 odd kms. Someone (was that Sean?) told us Rodney was just ahead in a bad state and as we caught up you could see his light wandering aimlessly across the path. His speech was slurred, his race was run. A less tough competitor wouldn’t have come this far but it would be a bitter pill for him to swallow. I felt his disappointment. We made sure he got into CP1a and waited to make sure he was OK. Nic was getting a blister so I taped his foot for him. Dave wasn’t there but Tim had taken over crew duties. Dave was escorting a resurrected Paul Every over Hamburger Hill behind us. Big effort on both parts. I found it slightly incredulous. Tim now had the promised pizza and I grabbed a couple of slices, folded them over and hit the road. No cheesecake? Not far and David Waugh came trotting out of the dark on his way to a huge win. Amazing run.
I still find the section from 1a to 9 to be the longest on the course. The Glasshouse Mountains tourist drive section goes for miles, then you hit the plantations and the freeway seems to take forever to reach. You can hear the cars for an eternity before you hit the road that takes you under the freeway. We picked our way around Jave’s pool and Nick spoilt my image of three of them peeing in here on a training run by telling me he hadn’t joined in. Oh well, the legend lives on. CP9 was welcome and we grabbed our token to take to the top of Wild Horse Mountain and up we went. I had to come down backwards as the braking effect on my quads was killing my ITBs. I’ve lost track of when and where I saw people out here but I do remember some derogatory comments about my descent technique. That might have been Phil. My brain was getting a little fried. It might have been tiredness initially but eventually it was definitely the pain. I know Dave was talking to Martin Pluis on the phone to give an update for the Coolrunning web site. It was surreal to know that people could follow our progress over the net. I know one by one I saw all the runners coming or going. I remember being surprised and stoked for Phil when he came through in third. I remember thinking Sean must be next several times only to see him very late with a trail of pacers in his wake. I thought it was a posse or search party there were so many lights with him. I remember seeing Richard and thinking he was right behind us. I was surprised to see how close Louis was given how poorly he had looked early in the day. I was worried about Joe and then John when I eventually saw them by I had my timing out by an hour. And then there was that pain. It had started in my shin and settled in the flexor tendons of my ankle. This meant that every time I tried to lift my foot the pain stabbed into my ankle.
CP10. The other end of the world. Cold, dark, mosquito ridden and full of bad memories from last year. What a pleasure to see Jane Thompson and her well-stocked aid station. Dave was there, still going after many hours without sleep. I sat and had some soup. Then something weird happened. I was dizzy and nauseous all at once. I staggered away from the van thinking I was going to be sick. Then I realised I had to go to the toilet. I grabbed some paper and climbed into the thick scrub. Relieved, I came back and washed up. Dave explained I had had a vasovagal. I reassured Jane it wasn’t her soup. I was back to normal and ready to go. Nic was asleep. I prodded him and told him it was time to go. No way. He wasn’t moving. He wanted to drop and he was serious. I reminded him of the texta on his arm that read: 365. That’s how many days since he DNF’d and how many he’d have to wait to try again. Dave got onto his case, rubbed some therapeutic suntan lotion onto his sore knee and then I just read him the riot act. I had left him at base 12 months ago and vowed I wasn’t leaving him here. Reluctantly he got up. We thanked Jane and apparently 40 minutes after entering the Bermuda Triangle they call CP10, we were off.
Runners were coming towards us periodically. We played the guessing game back to CP9. The splits will show who was where but all I could think of was the pain in my ankle. Coming into 9 my phone rang, a rarity at the best of times. It was Brendan. He was lost. Could I check my map? It was buried somewhere so I asked Nic and he suggested backtracking. I told Dave and he put Paul the mobile aid guy onto it. Amazingly he went out and found the wrong guy-putting Rob Ware back on track instead. When I got to the top of Wild Horse Mountain Nic was leaning over the dais. I thought he was in trouble but he was checking the map for Brendan. Down backwards even slower this time. Paul Every and Kelvin were going up. Surprisingly, Kelvin had been lost and was behind me yet again. It was cold and I was glad I had a vest on over my two layers. Having Dave follow me around with all my gear made a huge difference.
By the time we reached Jave’s pool again, Nic had pulled away. That was the last time I would see him. It was getting light and we had ditched our headlamps at 9. I was focused on moving forward. I had plenty of reserves but my stride was shortening as the pain consumed me. Paul Every came alongside and offered me some Nurofen. I normally won’t take painkillers on a run but I was desperate now and knew I was close to finishing, reducing the chance of any ill effects. He went through his bag. None there. I thanked him and he was off. Unbelievable when you consider his condition earlier. Kelvin caught me before we got back to Glasshouse Mountains Tourist Drive. And then I was alone. I talked to myself again, but the tone was different, now. I just had to keep moving.
I had my calculations out by an hour. As I crossed Hamburger Hill for the last time I thought I would still break 28 hours. I could see the school. I wasn’t going to finish by limping in. I picked up my poles and broke into an ugly jog. My ankle screamed at me but this was my moment. Someone yelled my name to cheer me on. I heard the shouts of “100 miler coming in”. That was me. I was now a 100 miler! I ran the lap of the oval, almost oblivious to everything around me. Emotions drowned out all external stimuli. I had done it! I crossed the line and near collapsed.
Ian Javes announced my time: 26:39. I said no, that should be 27:39. He showed me the clock. Who was I to argue? Does it get any better? I shook Ian’s hand and thanked him. Tim and Dave helped me off the oval. Dave took me back to our room where I showered and changed before heading back for the presentations. Adam gave me a beer and I plunged my foot into the ice of the esky. What’s a little more pain? Besides, the beer made it feel much better. There was a real community feel. This race has such a great aura around it. I was so proud to join the finishers on the “podium” for the finisher’s photo. There had been some inspiring runs: from David Waugh’s amazing win, Ian Wright’s huge PB, Phil’s debut blinder, Brendan and Rob’s great pacing, but I don’t think anyone was more pleased or received more applause than John Lindsay whom many had thought wouldn’t make the cut.
What’s a great weekend without an entertaining finish? We went to checkout the next morning and decided we’d have some eggs for breakfast at the motel reception. While taking our order the bloke proceeded to sneeze heavily, not once, but twice into his hand. We sat down as he disappeared into the kitchen. Phil and I looked at each other. He’s not washing his hands. I won’t be able to eat it. Neither will I. Tim came in and we told him. “Thanks, now I won’t be able to eat mine, either.” That’s it, I went over and called him out and asked if we could cancel (and pay for whatever he had opened) and Phil, thinking on his feet, chimed in that we just realised what the time was and we might miss our flight. We scuttled out of there like three little schoolboys, giggling with relief at our close escape. We had eggs in Glasshouse Mountains Village then drove up to the lookout near CP 5 for a last reflection on the weekend’s journey. That’s what it was, a journey. A twelve-month journey of training, planning and patience (mostly from my wife) culminating in this race. This race made possible by all the organisers and aid station volunteers, and made special by sharing it with some great friends. I’ll be back: how could you not when all roads lead to Glasshouse.
Race Reports >