- Location: Falls Creek, Victoria, Australia
- Time: 26:53:01
- Date: 17-18/04/21
- Overall Place: Equal 8/38
- Full Results
Considered one of Australia’s hardest 100 milers and a qualifier for the infamous Hardrock 100, The Alpine Challenge created by Running Wild’s race director Paul Ashton has runners accumulating over 7000m/22,965ft of elevation over the 100 miles. The course takes runners up and down some of Victoria’s highest mountains, such as; Mount Bogong, Mont Feathertop and Mount Loch to name a few. From some easy running along fire trails to some painfully slow shuffling/walking up some technical single track, the course keeps runners on their toes.
I went in with the main goal of finishing, the secondary goal to sub 30 hours and the super optimistic goal of subbing 24 hours. I’d been struggling with some glute/hamstring/knee niggles for over 2 months, which I had been managing by toning down my weekly mileage, only running the ultramarathon races I had every 2-3 weeks. I was keeping fit with a mix of cardio boxing, rowing, cycling, using the stair-master and lifting weights, so the lead up wasn’t optimal. However with that being said I was still in pretty good shape, and had still been running an ultramarathon every 2-3 weeks. I was excited to get out to the mountains and take on this epic journey, to help me process these long races I can’t view them as races. To keep the all consuming anxiety at bay I have to view it as an experience and a journey, at least until the last 10-20km. The week prior I had attempted the Buffalo Stampede Grand Slam, a 3 day multi-day event with a 10km SkySprint, 75km Ultra SkyMarathon and a 42km SkyMarathon. All races were ran up and around the mountains near Bright and Mount Buffalo. I completed the 10km and the 75km feeling good, however I messed up my toe, and after seeing the medics they pulled me from the event, worried about serious damage to the nail bed and a potential risk of a bone infection. This was pretty devastating and they recommended I not take on the Alpine Challenge, however although it still hurt, over the next 5 days before the Alpine Challenge we were able to kill the infection and get the toe ready for the Alpine Challenge. So with that being said after being pulled from The Grand Slam I had something to prove to myself and I was hungry, I had to finish the Alpine Challenge. The toe would have to be monitored over the race though. In conclusion going into the Alpine Challenge I was anxious about my toe and my niggles, hungry for the finish, and excited to get out in the mountains, a mix of emotions.
An early start, all the 100 mile and 100km runners where at the start line at 4:15am for a 4:30am start. The start/finish line was located at Slalom Plaza, Falls Creek (a ski resort town located in mountainous Northeastern part of Victoria). The temperature was pretty cold, I had my beanie, gloves and thermal top on and was still cold, would’ve been anywhere between 0 to 6 degrees celsius. The sky was clear and the air was fresh, looking around at the start line everyone had a nervous excitement about them, myself included, the journey ahead was gonna hurt and we all knew it. Some great runners where amongst us; Australian Ultramarathon legend Brendan Davies, past winner Nikolay Nikolaev and current ultramarathon killer Matt Crehan, just to name a few. At around 4:20am race director Paul Ashton gave a quick race brief (we had our main race briefing the night prior with our gear checks) and after a quick thank you and goodbye to my dad it hit 4:30am and we were off! In the dark with our head torches on, our jackets, our beanies and our gloves we left the ski town of Falls Creek and wouldn’t be back for at least another 20 hours. From the start I was at the front of the pack breaking into a quick chat with my friend Chris and another runner who I never got his name, I don’t know what he looked like either because I couldn’t see his face in the dark. The first 10km or so was down a winding single track trail, it was nice, easy running. Eventually we left the trail, crossed a road and made our way onto some wider trail. Continuing to run downward along this wider trail it wasn’t long before we hit the bottom, once at the bottom we had the choice to either turn left or right. Majority of the course was unmarked, so we had to know whether we should be turning left or right, in true form I turned left which was of course the wrong way, however luckily my sixth spidey sense made me feel like I was off track and when I got my phone out with the map and GPS I quickly realised that yes, I turned left when I should have turned right. “Great” I thought, were not even 20km in and I’ve already ran the wrong way, and I already had to stop to go to the toilet in the bushes, great start…… Once back on track I ran for a good 500m, crossed a creek known as Rocky Valley Creek by hopping on some rocks, and before I knew it started climbing up Spion Kopje Fire Track. At first I shuffled up the hills however after 5-10 minutes I decided the race hasn’t really even started yet, and I should probably be hiking to save my legs for later (thank god I did). Up I went, going back and fourth with some other runners, a few quick chats and before I knew it I was above the tree-line and running along Spion Kopje (a 1,834 m mountain peak). The views were stunning as the sun was rising, the air was freezing and the water vapour on my thermal was frozen, it was a beautifully, fresh, clear and cold morning. I stopped and took a few photos. Eventually as I followed Spion Kopje Fire Track I reached Warby Corner (the first checkpoint approx. 20km in). I was feeling great, in high spirits and feeling grateful for were I was, such a beautiful environment. To make things even better I was greeted to some familiar friendly faces at the aid station. I couldn’t use my fingers properly because of the cold so was lucky the volunteers were there to help me refill my soft bottle water flasks. Once they were refilled I grabbed some lollies, a Kit-Kat and a Picnic Bar from the aid station and made my way to what I like to call the Bogong part of the course. The next 40km or so was a loop that took us runners up and along Mount Bogong and back.
At this stage I knew I was top 10 but not sure exactly where within top 10, definitely not top 5 thats all I knew. Turns out I was somewhere between 6-9 and would stay in that ballpark for the whole 100 miles. The trail (Big River Firetrail) around Warby Corner was vast and open, not a tree insight but the views were spectacular, it was almost like an alpine desert. Not a cloud insight I continued to run along the wide trail making my way towards a junction, a clear sign telling 100 mile runners to turn right, I turned right and eventually the wide open trail turned into a single track trail amongst the trees. Before I knew it I was running past a campsite and making my way down a trail known as T Spur. It was here I ran back into Chris and met John, John and I would cross paths for the rest of run and I’d actually end up running the last 50-60km with him all the way to the finish! Chris and I would cross paths throughout the whole run too which was bloody awesome. Making our way down T Spur I chatted with Chris all the way to the bottom as we reached Big River creek crossing. Crossing together Chris, John and I would start the climb back up T Spur. Surrounded by trees, the trail up was quite a long climb however we were rewarded by some beautiful views. I downed one of my almond butter sandwiches and a gel as I made my way up, hiking as fast as I could. Eventually Chris, John and I separated as we had different paces, I took the lead. Now by myself I was enjoying every part of the race, it was so beautiful and I was lucky enough to be living in the moment, not thinking I still had over 120km’s left! Eventually I made it to some flats and continued running, only stopping once or twice to stop at a little stream to refill my soft flasks and to check my Avenza maps app on my phone to make sure I was going the right way. Before I knew it I was at another checkpoint! Cleve Cole Hut! Greeted by some awesome volunteers, I grabbed another couple chocolate bars, had a quick little chat with the volunteers and refilled my soft water flasks from the water tank at the hut. The sun was blazing down and although the air was fresh I started to sweat, getting my thermal wet. I’d be running in this thermal at night there it’d be getting to below freezing temperatures so I didn’t want get my thermal wet, so after a leaving Cleve Cole Hut and running another 2-3km I took off my thermal and ran without a top. Running without a top is freeing and made me enjoy myself even more. The views along the trail from Cleve Cole Hut to Mount Bogong were spectacular, every second was photo worthy. I stopped on numerous occasions just to take in the views and take some photos! Vast openness with the Victorian mountain peaks dominating the view! I had a moment I just wanted to cry from happiness and gratefulness, I’d had a pretty s**ty couple weeks and was do grateful to be out amongst the mountains in perfect weather, in my element, all my problems and issues seemed to vanish. It wasn’t long before I reached the top of Mount Bogong (Victorias highest peak) marked with a pile of rocks. I stopped looked around, took a quick selfie and head off.
Following the trail it wasn’t long before I started to descent below the tree-line, Quartz Ridge I believe the trails called and boy was it technical. A fall coming down here and you you’d be saying see ya later, there’s a beauty in the technical and dangerous trails though. Once below the tree-line I continued to descend until I reached a junction. We were supposed to turn left here, down onto Big River Fire Track however obviously I had to turn right. I ran a good 500m or so before my spidey sense activated again and I sensed something wasn’t right. So once again I stopped, grabbed my phone out and loaded the Avenza Maps app and yes indeed I did go the wrong way. I tuned around made my way back to the junction and took the left turn, back on track! Following the trail down a couple switchbacks after only a couple km’s I was at another Big River creek crossing. The sun was blazing down and although it wasn’t crazy hot I made sure to completely refill my soft bottle water flasks here because I wouldn’t have access to water again for another 12km at Warby Corner, and it was a slow and gradual climb back up. From the creek I followed the fire trail known as Timms Spur. As I said above it was a long, gradual climb up Timms Spur, switchback after switchback, I’d force myself to run 20-30m every couple minutes as it wasn’t too steep. It was here where I ran into a fellow runner! Well he ran into me, it’d been a couple hours since I spoke to someone else so it was nice. It was Daniel, he was running the 100km, I’d actually ran with Daniel for a little bit earlier in the morning, he was looking strong, running up the hill as I was walking. However he stopped and walked with me for a little bit and chatted. After a couple minutes of chatting he took off never to be seen again, I was happy to find out after the race he’d end up winning the 100km, so well done Daniel! Anyway, alternating between running and hiking I finally made my way up Timms Spur fire trail and it wasn’t long before I found myself amongst the vast alpine openness I’d spoken about earlier. A couple km’s of mostly flat running and I found myself at Warby Corner aid station for the second time!! This marked around 64.5km of running thus far, only 100km left……. The second stop at Warby Corner was great though because I got to see my parents/crew, with them a fresh pair of shoes and socks, a new toe dressing for my damaged toe (I’d damaged my toe the week prior to the point were it was recommended I didn’t run the Alpine Challenge, however with the care of my mum we were able to keep it under control), and of course some food; banana bread, oak lollies, gels, almond butter sandwiches and some bars. I’d never really used crew before, most of the time I’d do things by myself but it was so helpful having a team there to help refill my water and fix up my feet, takes away a lot of stress! My parents did an awesome job, and more than that it as just great to see and talk to them. The volunteers at Warby Corner were great too, one bloke even let me sit in his chair, thank you to all you volunteers at the aid station!
Leaving the aid station I was feeling pretty good, the sun was out, I still had no top on and there wasn’t a cloud in site. My energy levels were good and I’d been drinking plenty, it didn’t feel as if I’d run 65km. The next 3-4km was all run above the tree-line in the vast openness along a wide fire trail, running past Mount Nelse. However it wasn’t long before I turned off the the open, wide trail and made my way onto some single track. Following the single track I made the descent towards the next aid station at Langfords Gap. After 30 minutes or so and after crossing a little bridge to get off the single track I found myself back on some wide fire trail, running towards the aid station at Langfords Gap. There was only a 6-7km distance between Warby Corner aid station and Langfords Gap aid station so I didn’t need much. I just refilled my water and grabbed a chocolate bar and a small bag of chips. I ate both as I walked away from the aid station, along with another almond butter sandwich. The next 10km or so was probably the most runnable of the whole course, running from Langfords Gap along the aqueduct to Cope Hut. Wide, gravel trail it got pretty boring and tedious though, and I had to continue to find the willpower to keep shuffling and not and walk as I was tired. However after a another quick “detour”, I mean wrong turn and a little bit more shuffling I found myself running past Cope Hut. Once past Cope Hut I crossed a sealed road whilst being cheered on by some hikers chilling in the carpark and made my way onto the High Plans. Back on some trail and amongst the vast openness I ran past Mount Cope itself and continued to follow the trail. I was still feeling pretty good here, I was definitely getting tired but I was still in pretty high spirits. I was looking forward to getting back onto some more technical trail with some steep ascents and descents so I could walk. “The grass is always greener on the other side” I’d been wishing I was on some more wide runnable trail after a an hour or so back on the single track technical trail. Continuing to run along the trail it wasn’t long before I found myself at the SEC Hut. It was here I made another wrong turn, instead of practically running straight after coming off some single track I made a left turn and started running along some gravel road. I ran along this gravel road for a good km before I started to feel like I was running the wrong way, I got my phone out, looked at Avenza maps and yes I’d run the wrong way. Backtracking I got back to where I’d made the wrong left turn and looked at the ground, someone had marked out an arrow telling us which way to go. As I said above it was pretty much straight ahead and onto some more single track. After following the single track and passing a few hikers it wasn’t long before I’d made it to the next checkpoint, Pole 333. I could see ahead there was another runner making his way to Pole 333 too, it was John. He must’ve passed me after I went the wrong way, I met up with John at the Pole 333. He seemed in good spirits and doing well, he didn’t stay at the aid station long though and left after a couple minutes. I on the other hand stayed a little longer to get some more food, some lollies and cashew nuts. Pole 333 marked the 87.5km mark of the course, thats past halfway! I’d been running for over 12 hours and 15 minutes and was still feeling alright, one foot in front of the other. The next 13km to Loch Carpark kind of sucked though…. after a couple km’s of running along Alpine Walking Track in the vast openness it wasn’t long before it was time to start descending down some single track again. As I made my way down it was starting to get dark, it was around 5:30pm. Once down I continued to run along the single track, passing Dibbins Hut and some happy campers who were kind enough to cheer me on. They also let me know another runner wasn’t far ahead, they weren’t wrong as I past Dibbins Hut and took a right turn I could see John ahead. Being close to fellow runners as it gets dark is comforting, so it was nice to know John was close. After another 500m or so of running on flat single track it was time to start climbing again, this time via a trail known as Swindlers Spur. This is when things started to suck, it started to get dark and John vanished. I stopped to put my thermal and head torch on and continued climbing, it was steep and I was exhausted. The next checkpoint (Loch Carpark) seemed to be ages away and I felt bad because my parents would be waiting there for me as I was behind schedule. When it’s dark, you’re by yourself, you’re behind schedule and you feel bad because you have people waiting it doesn’t take long for you start feeling like s**t. Combine this with the fact I was climbing some steep trail that didn’t seem to end, my spirit was starting to spiral downwards. One foot in front of the other though, I knew I just had to keep moving forward, this was all part of the process. If I finished a miler without feeling like s**t at some point then what’s the point at all? I was here to challenge myself and I got it. I pushed up Swindlers Spur, got to the top and started shuffling again, passing a few cheery campers on my way. I checked my Avenza Maps app to make sure I was heading the right way and was shocked to discover I actually was this time, I kept shuffling forward. It started to get misty and became quite hard to see, the mist was blocking the light coming from my head torch. There was nothing I could do though so I squinted my eyes and continued on forwards. It wasn’t long now before I was at Loch Carpark checkpoint and I knew I was close because I could start to hear some cars and the trail was now being marked with some light up posts. After a couple km’s of windy turns I found myself at the Loch Carpark checkpoint! 102km in!! It was nice to be greeted by the friendly faces of the aid station staff and of course my parents/crew. I felt a little dazed, not sure what I needed. Apparently it was cold out and everyone around me was wrapped in coats but I was warm in just my shorts and thermal. I was sat down in a little heated refuge where my parents had set up all my food and gear. I’d established with my mum I didn’t need to change my shoes as I’d kept my shoes dry and my feet were feeling good, so it was mainly just food and water I was after. Dad handed me a coke which I drank about 200ml of, I had a couple handfuls of oak milk bottle lollies and after a couple minutes of debriefing and talking with my parents and the awesome volunteers I grabbed two large slices of banana bread and head off. Walking off into the darkness.
Due to the mist and some runners getting lost earlier there had been a slight course change which had me running along The Great Alpine Road (an asphalt road) for a while. I set off walking as I ate the banana bread, I was now feeling cold so stopped and put on my beanie. I now understood why everyone was rugged up in coats, it encouraged me to eat faster so I could start running again and warm up. After a couple minutes I finished the banana bread and started running. It was a gradual descent running down the road, next to me some flashing poles that were used to keep cars from driving off the edge and down the cliff. After a couple km’s I was directed off the road by a legend that is Matt Veenstra (One of the new race director’s of the Great Southern Endurance Run (GSER) arguably Australia’s hardest ultramarathon) who gave me some directions which took me off the road and onto some single track trail known as the Razorback trail. The Razorback Trail is pretty hard to follow at night, especially with my dying head-torch, I needed to change the batteries but wanted to wait until the next aid station in the town of Harrietville. Looking back this was a mistake as I ended up running off course again, this time running down some steep downhill which I had to get back up! This really sucked, luckily as I got back up I saw John and his pacer (pacers could join runners at or after Mount Loch carpark). It was around 8pm at this point and I still had the whole night ahead of me, f**k it I thought, I’m gonna see if I can run with these guys for the night. Coming off the Razorback trail I started the descent down the trail called Bon Accord Spur which would take me all the way to the aid station in Harrieville at Snowline Pub. John and his pacer were about 100m in front and I had to put the foot on the pedal to catch them, I so badly wanted to catch up and run with them, the thought of getting lost again…… So fumbling my way down in the dark I finally managed to catch up after about 30 minutes, once behind I allowed myself to relax a little bit and followed. After a couple minutes we started chatting and I was introduced to Johns pacer, Nick. After 10 minutes it was clear Nick was a good bloke, I’d soon discover he wasn’t just a good bloke but an absolute legend, John too! The three of us ran down Bon Accord Spur taking turns of either stumbling or falling over, luckily for me I think I only fell once and it wasn’t serious, however stumbling many, many times. John on the other hand had a few bad falls, but to his credit got up each time as if nothing happened, he was one strong, determined guy! Nick was constantly in high spirits or at least acted like it, telling some pretty bad jokes. Something I learnt about Nick was he recently just came 3rd in the male division of the prestigious Coast to Kosci! Being super humble about it, I only found out by John he came 3rd, Nick was happy to just tell some stories from the event. It took us a 2-3 hours to come down from Mount Loch carpark via the Razorback and Bon Accord Spur, it was nice to run with Nick and John practically the whole time! We arrived at the checkpoint in the town of Harrietville at a pub called Snowline Hotel at sometime between 10-11pm. Running in I was greeted by my parents who had a burger and chips waiting for me, an absolute blessing. I sat down on the outside bench and started eating away. I wanted to leave the aid station with John and Nick so kept an eye out to make sure they weren’t heading off without me, other than that I sat there relaxed, talking to my crew and volunteers. Mum was the best and changed over my socks and dad refilled me water, such an awesome crew. And the volunteers were just as awesome offering tips and happy to chat. Harrietville marked the 117km mark and kind of represented the home stretch, as from now on we’d be running towards the finish line, even though it was still pretty much a whole marathon away, up two pretty high mountains and along some technical trails, it was going to be a slow marathon….. After 10-20 minutes I’d eaten the burger and the chips and Nick and John were heading off, I thanked my crew and the volunteers and followed. Off we went leaving the comforts of the aid station, heading into the darkness, the next time we’d stop would be at the finish. This last 40 odd km was by far the hardest stretch of the race for me mentally. Anxious to keep up with John and Nick, and I was tired and sore, not to mention we had to climb to the top of Mount Feathertop, stumble along and down Diamantina Spur and then make our way back up to Pole 333.
Leaving the Snowline Hotel checkpoint following the road I started to get cold, you really notice the cold once you stop running. It would’ve been 1-2 degrees celsius down at Harrietville and once up Mount Feathertop it would’ve been sub zero temperatures. I put my beanie on as we turned onto Feathertop Track road, following the road for a couple minutes it wasn’t long before we found ourselves at the trailhead of Bungalow Spur (the trail that would take us up to Mount Feathertop). And the climb began, a gradual climb with some switchbacks here and there. I was just following John and Nick trying to keep pace, if I was by myself I’d definitely be going slower. They were pushing me, part of me hated them for it, the other part of me was grateful. My mood was starting to drop though so I kept quiet and put on a fake smile and a cheery attitude when talked too. Another thing that was bringing my mood down was I had to go to the toilet but didn’t want to stop because if I did I’d lose Nick and John, I couldn’t ask them to wait for me. After 20-30 minutes of holding on I eventually gave in and told Nick and John I had to go and told them to keep gong ahead, not to wait. As I asked they didn’t wait, so after my quick 5 minute stop off the trail I was by myself in the dark, exhausted and in a sh**ty mood. There was only one way to go though, that was forward and up so following the trail up and forward I went. I pushed myself even harder to catch back up, knowing there’d be a good chance I’d pay for it later. I even ran some parts, feeling like I was going to throw up, my head spinning but I was determined to catch up. 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes, they were still no where in site, I was sure I’d lost them. Now around 3 quarters up Bungalow Spur I began to accept I’d be running the rest of the race by myself, however just as I began to accept this I saw Nick coming up from another trail off to the right side of me. “Thats weird, they must’ve took a wrong turn” I thought to myself, I asked if he was alright and were John was, turns out Nick was just grabbing some water and John was up ahead. I needed water too, I looked to my right at the trail Nick just came up. I could either go down and grab some water and lose them again or I could push on, risking dehydration but happy to be running with Nick and John. I didn’t have to think long, I pushed forward following Nick. I was feeling horrendous at this point but after 10 minutes or so Nick and I had caught back up to John and John had really slowed down, he must’ve been feeling it too. Once I caught up I was more than happy to slow down with him. I noticed I started to stumble and my head was pounding, I knew I wasn’t dehydrated so assumed my blood glucose must’ve been really low. Alright I need to get some glucose in me, I downed two gels and nearly instantly felt better, that’s all I had to do? Slow down a little and get some sugar in me! After 10 minutes or so the three of us had made it to the top of the Bungalow Spur trail, the top marked by Federation Hut. There was a few people camping, snoring away as we stumbled next to the hut and sat down for a little bit. Mount Feathertop was just ahead, a short but steep and technical climb. We sat for 5 minutes, eating and refuelling, I started to get cold but hoped I’d just warm up as we started again. After the 5 minute break past we started the climb up Mount Feathertop, however 10-15 minutes later it was clear none of us were going to warm up, it was just too cold up here, definitely sub zero temperatures so we stopped again to put on our jackets. Starting again we pushed up Mount Feathertop and were greeted by another runner and his pacer as they were coming down. We must’ve caught up a little bit, that was nice to know. The climb up Mount Feathertop never seemed to end, false peak after false peak. It was steep and technical and I wasn’t looking forward to coming down, after 20 minutes or so we eventually reached the top, took a quick photo in the dark and made our way down.
Looking down we saw some headlights making their way up, at this point we started getting a little competitive so started to try and push the pace a little (relative, we were still going slow coming down Mount Feathertop)so they wouldn’t catch us. We passed the first headlamp as we came down, it was Chris! “Hey, Chris! How are ya!” I don’t quite remember his response but I do remember it took him a while to realise who I was. It was great to see Chris doing well, I kind of hoped he’d catch up and finish with us. We continued our way down and past another runner, wishing them well. Going down felt slower than going up at times, technical and steep my legs hurt with each step coming down. Eyes wide open I was squinting my eyes, carefully placing each foot, a fall here could be disastrous. Eventually we made it down and made a left turn which marked the start of our descent down Diamantina Spur. Diamantina Spur sucked, overgrown and technical, we tried running were we could but it was very tedious. It had a few small rises and descents before it really started to take us back down the mountain. Holy s**t did this descent suck!! Ridiculously steep it killed my already tender feet and toes, we made our way down via a cautious jog that never seemed to end. The only positive was Chris had caught up and we had a little chat as we descended down the stupid trail that is Diamantina Spur. As we neared the bottom it got to the point where hands were required, sitting on our asses we grabbed nearby branches as we navigated some stupidly steep, rocky trail. It didn’t help we were doing it in the dark and my new head-torch batteries were beginning to fade. It felt like an eternity coming down Diamantina Spur, it was if it would never end however as we got near the bottom you could start to hear a creek, running water, we had to be near the bottom. Another 5 minutes or so and we down and off Diamantina Spur. “Well that sucked!” I said jokingly to Nick and John to no response…… Once down Nick and John instantly made their way along the now fire trail, I followed, disappointed to leave Chris behind as he changed his head-torch batteries (it was a race after all). We could taste the finish now, one more big climb to Pole 333, and from there it was all along wide, open fire trail and a road that was runnable, with only one little climb that was Mount Mckay. The climb back up to Pole 333 would have us passing Blairs Hut and then Westons Hut. This climb was the hardest one for me, still trying to keep up with John and Nick I was getting dizzy and felt I was near my limits, an overwhelming feeling of fatigue. All I wanted to do was stop and lie down on the side of the trail, if I slowed down I noticed I started to stumble a little, as if I was drunk, I was wrecked. I had to turn the brain off and just move forward, there was no other option, chasing John and Nick. Throughout the whole climb Nick would make motivating comments to keep John and I going, Nick was pushing both of us. He climbed at a fast pace and we did all we could to keep up, a combination of gratitude whilst wanting to rip his head off overwhelmed me. Nick was being the perfect pacer, pushing us but not killing us and he was an absolute pleasure to be around, so was John. I was constantly being reminded how lucky I was to be running the last stretch of this 100 miler with these two, so grateful my body allowed me to keep up. We climbed and climbed and climbed I felt like shit the whole time, however eventually we were back above the tree-line and then not much longer we were out of the bushes completely, back amongst vast openness, this must mean were near Pole 333. We could see the light of another runner up ahead, we must’ve caught up to the runner we saw descending Mount Feathertop as we went up, 5 minutes later we got a glimpse of the Pole 333 checkpoint. I’d hardly drunken anything since Harrietville and was looking forward to stopping and refilling my water bottles, however Nick and John had other plans. They were keen to pass this runner and stay ahead, this meant no stopping at the checkpoint. The only thing that got me to go along with this plan was we only had 15km left, and it was all non-technical runnable fire-trail and road. So thats what we did, as the other runner stopped and refuelled at Pole 333 we kept going. We left Pole 333 at around 5:30am, the sun was starting to rise and with it our spirits, we were close. Nick pushed us to run (more of a shuffle at this stage) and as we run amongst the vast openness with the sunrising in the background we were treated to the beauty of the mountains. 5km’s later and we descended down to the last checkpoint at Pretty Valley Pondage. Instantly my hands froze, it dropped a good 3-5 degrees, my guess it would’ve been around -5 degrees celsius. Once again we didn’t stop at the aid station and continued straight on following the now dirt road. We now had less than 10km left, Nick pushed John and myself like cattle, making sure we ran. Nick was really revving us on at this point and lucky he did because it wasn’t long before we reached the foot of Mount Mckay, the last little climb, an easy climb. Straight up a dirt road, it was perfectly timed too. The sunrise gave everything an orange hue and you could literally see the sun rise behind the mountains in the background, it was perfect. My dad was also their which lifted my spirits even more, such as beautiful moment. We climbed to the top of Mount Mckay in a matter of minutes and then ran back down, Nick spurring us on the whole time. Once down we followed the only marked part of the course, some pink flags taking us off the dirt road and onto some single track trail. It didn’t last long though, before we knew it we were back on the road, it was the last 2-4km now and I could taste the finish line. John and Nick where determined to sub 27 hours and we had 15 minutes to do so, so we really pushed it as we ran along the dirt road for the last time. Following the winding road for a couple km before we reached another pink flag which took us off the road and down a ski slope which would take us back to Falls Creek Slalom Plaza, the start/finish line which I hadn’t seen for nearly 27 hours! Exhausted and tired we ran down the ski slope, watching our steps to make sure we didn’t trip and fall now. As the ground started to level out I could see the village apartments ahead, then the Running Wild flags, we’d f**ken done it. We looked at each other, congratulating each other. Feeling like s**t, tired, fatigued, and sore the three of us crossed the finish line together, holding hands with arms in the air. Greeted by our crews and of course Ian, one half of the legendary photographers, The Eventurers. Alpine Challenge 100 miler 2021, done!
A huge thank you to my crew AKA my parents, I’m a lonely sole but I’ve been fortunate enough to always have my parents support. Whether it be as I struggled with anorexia and depression, to taking me to swimming, boxing and football training as a kid, to supporting me when I do things that seem plain stupid like running 100 miles or climbing a mountain, my parents although concerned and worried have always supported me. This was epitomised throughout this race as they gave up their weekend to help me get through the race. From helping me keep my toe clean, to hiking 6km to get to an aid station, to being at every aid station they were allowed to be at with food and water. Thank you. Thank you Chris for your pre-race advice which turned out to be spot on and helpful, and also thank you for the conversations we were fortunate to have throughout the race, my only regret we couldn’t of had more!! Another huge thank you to Paul Ashton and Running Wild for running an awesome one of a kind event that ran smoothly. The course took us runners through some of the absolute highlights of the Victorian Alps, it was beautifully difficult. And lastly a humongous thank you to all the volunteers who donated your weekend to put up with us runners, always helpful and doing whatever you can to help, these events can’t run without you guys, the real heroes of ultramarathons! PS. Thank you to the photographers AKA The Eventurers, not only do you do an amazing job at capturing the special moments on and off course but your positive attitudes always puts a smile on my face. OMG how could I forget? Thank you so, so, so much Nick and John, Nick for being the best pacer around, constantly positive and caring! And John for being the best running partner I didn’t know I needed, determined, tough and great to be around. I couldn’t of asked for a better couple blokes to run with throughout the night.
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