By Robyn Koszta - 1st Female & 13th Overall
This was my first ever ultra-trail race, and to be honest, this was only my 4th ever trail race. In saying that I have run ultra-distances in obstacle races and for personal challenges, so I didn’t go into this blindly or ill prepared. I was very nervous though!
The morning of the race I arrived at the race precinct with plenty of time to sort out my bag drops. Although I was hoping to have my husband at some of my checkpoints, I didn’t want to risk him not being there so prepared all 3 drop bags. 15 minutes before race start Jamie and Rob arrived to cheer me on - I must say it was lovely to see some friendly faces. As we entered the start chute a lot of the women were holding back except for one - I moved up towards her and said hello. I later found out that this was Chrissy Redwood. Setting off I was conscious of not going to fast at the start, but also not wanting to be too far back. Chrissy took off out in front to secure the lead early on, while I found my groove and settled in with Nicola McMahon in front of me heading up Powerful Owl. Once we reached the top I moved in front and headed down the hill not looking back.
Not long before arriving at checkpoint 3, which was my first bag drop, Reesha Lewis who was competing in the 50km race came zooming past me with a few words of encouragement giving me a boost to keep pushing hard. I was really hoping to see my husband and kids at this checkpoint, but wasn’t overly confident that I would. As I arrived at the checkpoint, I saw Rob standing there cheering me in. I went to the bag drops where the amazing volunteers took my empty flask and refilled with water while another helped me refill my bladder. It was a quick stop - I was still feeling good and only needed a few things. I was on my way and as I was running out of the checkpoint there was my husband and kids cheering me on. I headed up the hill and they ran around the other way and up the hill so they could give me high fives. Sometimes it is the simplest things that make you so happy.
From this checkpoint there were a few other runners around, most of whom were 50km runners, so once the course split I was on my own and stayed that way for what seemed like a very long time.
I was so glad to head onto Gold Creek Rd and to see some volunteers! I refilled one of my flasks again and kept moving - this gave me a boost. Not too much further along I came across some other runners. It’s always nice to know you are going in the right direction.
Heading into checkpoint 4 I was expecting to see my husband, but he wasn’t there. It turns out he missed me by about 7 minutes. At this stage my feet were getting sore, I was developing a blister, and my ankle bone was rubbing on the other foot. I put a Band-Aid on where it was rubbing and tried to ignore the blister. Once again the volunteers were amazing - they went above and beyond what I would expect from complete strangers. I was reapplying body glide under my arms, because who has time for chaffing(!), and the lovely volunteer put some on my back where she noticed things were also rubbing a bit. At this checkpoint I had a Prepd recover drink to help my body a little bit more with the fluid absorption. I was surprised how easily it went down and it was a nice change from the Trail Brew and chews. Heading out of this checkpoint and it was straight into a creek crossing. Every other creek crossing I had been able to rock hop over without getting my feet wet, but not this one!! I don’t mind running with wet feet and have gotten quite used to it with obstacle racing, but I knew I still had a long way to go. After the creek-crossing I sent a message to my husband asking him to bring my spare shoes to the final checkpoint as my feet were hurting and now wet.
The next 13km were uneventful but just as I was approaching Lightline Road Bush Camp I could see Chrissy up ahead. Chrissy entered the aid station just before me and stopped to refuel. I took this opportunity to take the lead and push ahead. Little did I know what was ahead of me!
The next 15km were brutal - heading down Township Break was horrible, and I was unable to walk down like you would a normal hill, so I took a sideways approach and shuffled on down. This was not very fast or comfortable with a large blister on the side of one heel and the other ankle bone rubbing it made for a rather painful decent and climb back up. Before long it got dark and I was really hoping to be a little further along before it did. The headlamp went on and I kept pushing on. It was lovely to see some of the “Brisbane Trail Queens” out on course cheering everyone along.
Finally, I made it to McAfees Lookout checkpoint- my husband was there, I grabbed my drop bag and got him to help me. The volunteers here were as helpful as the others I’d encountered - they refilled my water flask and gave me advice on what was to come. Although I had asked for my change of shoes, when asked if I was changing them, I believe my response was “just give me some Nurofen - I’ve got 18km to go, I can suck it up”, and that’s what I did. Being cheered on by everyone as you leave the checkpoint gives you with a warm fuzzy feeling, but just after my cheers stopped, I heard them go again as Chrissy entered the checkpoint. This put a fire in my belly, and I wasn’t going to let this slip out of my hands with less than 20km’s to go.
I jogged as much as I possibly could and felt quite comfortable for most of the next section - I even managed to jump over a little snake at 96km, a much better option than stepping on it!
Then I hit Kokoda hill, the last climb. Being in the dark you don’t know how far you have to go, and you can’t see the top. Again, because of the feet, it made it difficult and to add to that, my nice big blister that had been growing all day popped. I think I might have let out a little cry at that time. Just as I was starting to feel a little deflated there was a light and bell at the top of the hill. I didn’t have too much further to go so I pushed on with words of encouragement from another volunteer. He made sure I crossed the road safely and then it was all downhill from there. I kept what little momentum I had left going and then as I got closer I could start to hear the music and commentator from the race precinct. If that doesn’t keep you going nothing will!
Crossing the finish line in 15:17:17 and first female was an incredible feeling. I had set myself a target time for best case scenario of how I wanted to perform, and I was stoked to be just 17 minutes off that time.