The Elephant Trail Race - Equal #3rd
ELEPHANT TRAIL RACE 50km - 5:38:52 - 3rd
Well, where do we start, what a weekend of outstanding results. At different stages of the weekend, we walked down Tower road and gazed up at the inflatable Elephant, named Ken. But after Sunday a new name is deserved and should be now named Dillon the Elephant.
It a not too long of a drive north of Newcastle and we arrived Friday night at the motel I had found on booking.com. To find out Bobby had the pleasure of staying there many years ago while on a work trip, to then tell as a lady of the night was back than a regular occupant of the motel on the lower levels. Luckily we were staying upstairs and it was back in 1990. Hopefully, she has now moved on to better establishments. Anyway, the motel was nice and clean with plenty of room for all of us across the 2 rooms.
Called Dillon on the way up for the last-minute brief before his race kicked off for the 217km @ 5:30 pm. We then checked in at the registration just before it closed so Linda had her bib :) As well as Nicole and a few of the others for their races. Getting a feed at the local Irish pub just as a local metal band kicked off their set.
Saturday morning the 100k and 50km races. Steve, Linda and I had our 50km race. A chilli morning and had updates from Brooks that Dillon was moving well and into lap 3, his first lap was timed perfectly to the plan, and he arrived at the checkpoint just before the 50k start. So was able to see him and help Brooke get him back out for lap 3. Looked pretty good, body was starting to get a bit sore, but his nutrition was ok at that point.
Linda’s plan was to keep safe and nothing crazy with pace so her ankle was ok for the technical sections of the course, using her poles for training, using it as a good training run for the CCC. She came in 2nd Female, under the goal time of 7:38. No issue with the ankle which was great but had a sore wrist from sliding on some rocks. A great training session with the poles as well.
I took off down the trail leading the pack out through the first single track until the first climb after a couple km and 2 guys took off up the first climb pulling away, Steve looked at me and was like we going with them, but no wasn’t to the plan, from the start this was a training race, and to have a good hard session for training for UTMB, Steve is doing the CCC, so we were just going to work together through and not redline it and just get a solid training run in so we weren't beat up in the legs and didn't have to recover too much after the race. Still able to get a good couple of weeks of training in the last block before we head to Europe. So we settled into our pace up the first climb and up the tower for 12k. Kept it in control, stopping at the first aid station so Steve could refill his bottles, he ran with a fuel belt and I used the new Salomon pack I had for UTMB, testing out the pack and also my shoes that I’ll be wearing as well, the S/LAB Genesis.
We reached the tower and the goat track started, leading the way and trying to move as quickly as I could without smashing up the feet too much, but the shoes were great, with so much grip and cushion, grabbing the rocks and the loose dirt, the shoes were on point. Definitely the right shoe for UTMB and this course. Technical climbing over trees and rocks, sliding down loose rocks as we navigated down to the creek bed, 2km ahead of running through the creek bed to them reach the fire trail again, the hardest part was done and now just the rolling hills and a good downhill section. Reaching halfway, 25k down, 2:41 and felt quite comfortable and my legs were good. Both Steve and I refilled, saw the team, gave Nicole a kiss and we were both back out there, back out and hitting that climb to the tower, long climb and a good test on some fatigue, we came into the aid station, refilled and had a salt tab before the tower and now back the technical section, legs and feet were getting a bit sore and tired trying to go as fast as I did the first lap but they were quite moving as well, but again through the hardest part and just before we reached the creek bed, on the downhill the hammy cramped a bit and I took the Crampfix and it was gone, so we navigated through the creek bed and reached the second aid station, refill the bottles for the final 8km, This section felt a little harder than the first lap and you kind of forget how steep the last few climbs are. But we work our way through, nobody was behind us and the two that had taken off from the start we way ahead, hats off to Aaron Smith who took the win, smashed and had a great day out there, he is heading off to UTMB as well, so good to see him in good knick. We ran together in NZ, during the Tarawera miler. And Aaron Dower who was behind us in the first lap but took off for the second lap. Well played boys thanks for the race.
Steve and I end the race together, crossing with linked arms sharing 3rd place and a great run on the trails, both achieving what we had set out to do, a good workout for the legs and the equipment testing. Steve was strong and we worked well off each other, sharing each other's energy, and using parts of the course to feed off each other. Great day, another lap of the Elephant done.
Our race was done, but the 25k, 13km was on Sunday, and yes Dillon was still going. Steve and I got to him as he was heading out for lap number 5! Last lap in sunlight. Was in great spirits, very chatty and in the zone. We headed out for a feed in Port Mac, a few drinks to celebrate and Melissa and Mark had arrived after both completing Rafferty’s 36k. Mel had a Six Foot qualifier. Woohoo. Had a chat with Dillon as he was heading out for lap 6. Was still ok but nutrition was starting to plan up a little, just had to keep drinking and getting in electrolytes as solids were not going in and was sick. This was going to be a hard lap and still no pacers until the 7th lap which was going to be around 1 am. He was out there alone, as he had been since 5:30 pm Friday, nobody in the 217k was left past the first morning, and only 3 milers were left. A dangerous time to be alone on a course like that, especially Death Valley. But he did it, the mental toughness, the repetition of the previous laps, the desire, determination to get back to the checkpoint. Back to Brooks and to meet Steve for the second last lap! Steve was amazing and pushed him through and helped guide him so he just had to move his legs and follow his voice, drinking and slowly getting in food. Still a strong lap just over 6 hours.
We all arrived back at the race for the 25k start. Mark, Linda, Bobby, and Di were all pumped to get out there and they all had great races, Mark backing up with another solid run on the legs for CCC, with 3:16, Bobby not far behind as he kicked off his new block of training with a 3:38, Linda after coming off the Lakes 100 with a 4:06, 4th fastest lap for a female over the weekend. Di came in just over 5 hrs ticking off a good run and soaking the natural with lots of photos, Linda even climbed the tower for some photo’s during her race haha.
Dillon had come in with Steve from lap 7. Unsure of his state, he busted in with a look of determination still written all over his face. Eyes wired in on the last lap. Wasting no time just wanted to get back out, time was ticking to the cutoff. We refilled his pack, Steve and now Anthony who was joining up for the Party lap grabbed food and we also had extra fluid to get us through. Dillon in the rush from seeing everyone there, the 13k runners were all about to start so had quieted the audience and that only fueled him more by the looks of it. We headed off down the track for one last lap, the 4 of us now, Dillon, Steve, Anthony and myself. Jogging off down and onto the single track. Anthony was hand-feeding him salted, buttered potatoes and I was making sure he was drinking we worked the way to the first Climb.
The 13k runners were now starting to run through, getting cheers and support, Dillon is so humble and pleasant to everyone as they went past, and was continuously saying thank you to was as well, showing how nice of a person he is, with a generous soul.
Nicole had come blasting down the hill with smiles, Dillon was shocked to see her moving so fast haha. Well, Nicole had a great race, again so proud of her and amazed me at how strong and determined she is, well I know how competitive she is. We just have to look a the night before, Linda and Nicole decide to have a race to the motel and Nicole hurdles down 4 stairs, only for her shoe to collapse under her feet and down she goes on her knee. With a sore knee and a big bruise, she threw down some ibuprofen and away she went for the 13k in 1:50. Held strong with her poles for the hills. Pushed all the way to the finish. Motivated to not let anyone pass and trying to catch the guy in front. Very proud of her achievement and enjoy a wine with Linda after the race 🙂
Dillon was still moving well up the climbs, he kept setting little goals to run to each maker or crest of the trail. His mind was tired and kept seeing things ahead, thinking there were people ahead, but were only branches or markers. Wasn’t able to work out where he was on the trail and the course, after the multiple laps, it had taken its toll on him. We ended up meeting Jacob who was in the same race but had only done 4 laps due to nutrition issues. But good to see others out there. We reached the tower in 2:11 mins only 11 mins slower than his first 2 laps. Anthony and Dillon went down to Death Valley, Dillon said 45min, but he was bang on 45mins for the out and back, Steve and i waisted at the top as was too risky for all of us to go down with the loose rocks. We have 3hrs to get to the finish, and 13k to go!!
Down the goat track and on the creek bed, was slow and steady going but he was still moving ok, we hit the downhill and the quads were busted, Reached the final aid station, the girls were buzzing and we kept him going while grabbing supplies Thanks to another friend on the trail who was pacing a mate but he had pulled out so he continued with us for a section. He had volunteered all weekend, a really nice bloke.
8k to go. I just kept him focused on each section, focus on the downhill, focus on just moving forward, cresting each climb. I just had to keep him breaking it down and not worrying about how many km away from the finish, He knew he had time now to complete it. We reached 5k to go. Said Dillon 5k togo. Just have to get through the rollers. Anthony and Steve were ahead and calling out each time they reached a turn in the trail, giving DIll confidence he had reached the end of another section.
3k - 2k togo, was all getting exciting, we had an hour up the sleeve. Dillon started to discuss how he wanted to finish and wanted to call Brooke a km out to meet her at the finish to cross together. But he wanted to sprint to the finish, of course, he did. Bobby and Linda came down the trail and we were all running in a line. Just before we saw the Elephant, Dillon started to wind it up, I was like ok yep we are getting faster, 4min, 3:45, 3:30, 3:15 min pace, he just keeps getting faster, 3 min pace, dropping in the last few meters, didn't realise he was doing to drop that, amazing. Grabbed Brooke and they crossed the line together, a team effort!! With the crowd in awe of his achievement. The first and only person to get through 8 laps in the 44:30 hour cutoff. 43:52:26, over 30mins in the bank.
There are so many factors as to why this is such an incredible achievement, the course is brutal, the difficult terrain and having to face two nights alone. Each lap you are continuously forced to work, there is no let up for the body. He can hold his head up high as he proved a lot of doubters wrong.
I knew he could do it. Seeing others that had tried it before, he was strong physically and of course mentally. Barring anything physically happening on the day, with that course there are high changes. A dry course helped as well but having such a tight cutoff!!
He just had to be solid and consistent with his lap times, wasting no time and being efficient throughout. Each lap was spot on to the times we had worked out on his race plan, only 5mins out in lap 3 but made it up in lap 4. Another amazing factor to the massive achievement.
Was a race and what a journey from the 50k in 50 days in January - March. Coming aboard to the SNL team in April. We quicking built a friendship and the training structured and planned the course for the next event, being the Elephant 160km haha but about 6 weeks out from the races he changed to the 217km. Why not hey, going long may as well go for it :) Jumping in the strength workout, the speed and trail session, along with the team's Sunday Long Runs. As I'm training for similar races, he was able to jump in my Friday session as well where I try and get my training in. I could then see what he could do and how his body was handling the training.
This is why I started coaching and when I restarted The Stroke No Limits Coaching team up again. My 3 D’s - #desire #determination #discipline No Limits to what you can achieve. Just have those and there are no limits. The culture, that has grown within the team, it's the people that have made it. I aim to help guide those to achieve their goals while having fun and a healthy balance of working hard and enjoying the process sharing it with friends and building strong friendships along the way. You can see what at each session, the chats on messenger, the banter thrown around and the weekends away sharing the trail and the stories of the adventures.
Well done everyone. For those heading to Europe, only 6 more weeks till race day :)