Down Under 135 – 135mi 2021 Report

  • Location: Lederderg State Park, Victoria, Australia
  • Time: 53:11:38
  • Date: 14-16/05/21
  • Overall Place: 2/35
  • Full Results

Down Under 135, this ultramarathon is like no other, I’m not sure you can even call it an ultramarathon. As the website suggests it’s more like a foot race, much of the course in NOT runnable. Off trail sections has you pulling yourself up hills grabbing trees because its so steep. Then coming back down your sliding on your ass because the combination of how steep it is and how slippery it is makes it nearly impossible to stay upright. I can’t even properly describe how gnarly this course is, I can’t do it justice. Add in the wet and slippery conditions we had and a nice windy, cold and rainy night 1 and well….. it was pretty f**ked. Put it this way, 35 experienced and accomplished runners started, 2 finished, in what race is second and the potential third place runners more stressed about cut-offs and not about their placings? At the halfway mark I had serious doubts I was going to make cut-offs and I was equal second! Over the 217km (222km according to my watch) there was a little over 13,000m of total ascent! And this wasn’t just a steep trail to climb up, this was off-trail elevation where your relying completely on the pink ribbon course markers to know where your going. The race organisers and course creators Dion Milne, Tom Cullum, Anthony Beyer and Dale Chircop have created a foot race that really does earn the title as one of the toughest foot races in the Southern Hemisphere. The combination of the terrain and tight cut-offs leaves no error in even the most elite athletes game, and even then a little luck is required to get the finish.

Starting at Mackenzies Flat Picnic Ground at Lederderg State Park the course takes athletes right through Lederderg State Park and into Wombat State Forrest. The turn around point is located at Nolans Creek Picnic Ground in Wombat State Forrest, so once you’ve reached this point you get to do it all again except in reverse. You have the option to do the race solo or crewed, solo runners are not allowed pacers or crew at aid stations, only drop bags. Crewed runners are allowed to have a crew at aid stations and are allowed to have a pacer from the 70km mark onwards. I personally went solo, that’s mainly because I couldn’t ask someone to pace me for 60km+, thats a long time to pace someone, and it was one of the requirement for a crewed participants. I was regretting this decision on the second night…… having someone to talk too whilst I was hallucinating and falling asleep would’ve been nice! I did have my dad supporting me the whole way though, from 0km-217km, through all the ups and downs I was privileged to enough to have his support at every aid station, cheering me on. I also got to run with some awesome runners on course; Ross, Oliver & Jeremy, thank you! Of course I was also catered for by the amazing volunteers at each and every aid station, as well as the race organisers, other competitor crews at the aid stations, the best photographers in the world Ian & Velta from The Eventurers and the fantastic team at Endurance Medical Services (EMS). So although I was solo, I had plenty of company…. well at least at the aid stations. Anyway I went into this race knowing it was going to be tough, I knew I was going to hurt and it was going to be technical but I had no idea it was going to be this difficult or how tight the cut offs would be, it’s fair to say I underestimated the course. It didn’t help I didn’t do any training runs on the course… I was however fortunate enough I was in good shape and physically ready to take it on. Mentally I was also in the right headspace so going in I was ready mentally and physically to take on the unexpected. Alright now onto the actual race report.

4:30am Friday morning, my dad and I left the comfort of the house to drive up to the race start at Mackenzies Flat Picnic Ground at Lederberg State Park. It was only a 1 hour 30 minute drive which is short for a drive to an ultramarathon start line. Race start was at 8am, race briefing was 7:30am but I was keen to get there early so I wouldn’t have to stress, and could comfortably organise the drop bags and get all the registration stuff organised. We arrived at around 6:30am which gave us plenty of time to get organised, it was a chilly morning with the clouds totally blanketing the sky at one point and then at another the sun would come out shining through. We were some of the first to arrive at Mackenzies Flat Picnic Ground but it wasn’t long before the carpark was packed full with runners, their cars and their crews. So many familiar faces! It was great to catch up and chat with some runners with whom I’ve run with numerous times before, definitely helped tone down the nerves. Once I organised my drop bags, dropping them off at the allocated spots for each checkpoint (Lohs Lane (38km/180km), Trout Track (70km/148km), Blackwood Caravan Park (89km/129km), Nolans Creek Picnic Ground (109km)) and got my GPS tracker fitted to my pack by Dion (one of the race directors) I was ready to go! I still had 1 hour until race start though so I stood around and chatted.

Before I knew it 7:30am hit us and the race briefing began, it was pretty brief, just a quick go over the rules and the course. It was required we read through the race manual before the race brief so we shouldn’t really have much uncertainties at this point. As the race briefing went on there was so many nervous laughs! Everyone at that start line knew they were going to be hurting for the next 50 odd hours and as Tom went over the course during the race briefing, those nerves were definitely not alleviated. 7:55am hit and we only had 5 minutes, we all said our last goodbyes and got ready, I thanked my dad for coming and said I’d see him at the first full aid station, Hogans Track (28km). 7:59am hit and now it really was go time, we all lined up on the start line ready to go. 8am and we were sent on our way by the infamous crack of the whip, unique to Down Under 135 no start sirens, whistles or alarms here! Off we went, a pack of 35, unlike most races their was no-one speeding up to break from the pack. I found myself in 3rd spot as we ran next to Lederderg River along the Lederderg Gorge Walk trail (a beautifully flat and runnable trail!), it wasn’t long before I started chatting to a familiar face, Oliver. Oliver and I had run the Great Southern Endurance Run (GSER100) together in 2019 however didn’t really “meet” each other until the 2021 edition of Trail+’s MVP Last Man Standing event back in February. I’m always keen to find a runner to run with and run together as long as possible. So when Oliver and I started running together after about 1km I was keen to stay with Oliver for as long as possible. At around the 2km mark we made a left turn off the Lederderg Gorge Walk trail and started our first climb up a track named Link Track no.1. As we started climbing the sun came out from the clouds and it wasn’t long before I was taking my rain-jacket off. The track was pretty steep and rocky, nothing crazy though, it was a nice introduction to the course to ease us into what was to come. I didn’t bother trying to run any of it, instead playing the long game and hiking as fast as I could, as was everyone else. We were all still pretty close together at this point. The climb probably took us around 10-15 minutes, taking us to the top of the gorge. I was feeling good, my head clear and relaxed and my body fresh and pain free. Once at the top we made our way off the single trail track and onto a wider trail known as Blackwood Ranges track which was mostly runnable with some small undulating ups and downs, it wasn’t long before we made our way off Blackwood Ranges track and made our way back onto some single trail track called Link Track no.2. This trail took us back down into gorge, it was steep and technical at times, unless your a mad man you’re taking your time going down this trail. It was beautiful though as you could look out at the views of Lederderg State park as you made your way down. At that this point we were only 4km or so in, this was the type of technical trail I was expecting from Down Under 135, steep, technical single track trail, I’d soon discover this was a “luxury”. Once down we got off Link Track no. 2 and made our way back onto the Lederderg Gorge Walk for short little while. Here we could enjoy a little more running next to the Lederderg River before turning off onto a track known as the Spur Track. I should mention here it was quite slippery at certain points as it was dewy and damp from the constant rain and drizzle the area had experienced over the past couple weeks. Apparently the Lederderg River is usually empty and dry around this area, this was certainly not the case when we were running! Anyway the climb up Spur Trail was steep but again nothing crazy and I was enjoying Olivers company, we also picked up another runner who we started to run with, Jeremy. I was enjoying both Jeremy’s and Olivers company and hoped to drag it out as long as possible. The three of us were inside the top 10 at this point, not far behind the runners in front of us, the group of 35 had seemed to break off into larger groups of 3-4. I was enjoying the gorge, surrounded by lots of green trees and the path itself was littered with rocks, you could tell this area would get really dry when it lacked rain. Anyway the three of us continued climbing up Spur Track, again hiking not running. We’d run about 8km once we got to the top, the top was a dirt road called Lederderg Tunnel Access Track, the views from the top were vast and spectacular as you overlooked the gorge. We ran down Lederderg Tunnel Access Track, it was a gentle descent on a wide open dirt road, perfect for running! This took us back down to Lederderg River were there was nice dam wall, once at the dam wall we made our way down again, this time down some metal steps. Once down we took a hard right across the river which led to guess what? Another climb! 10km in and we were on our third significant climb, this climb was along track called Long Pt Track. At least it was dry, it was steep and technical track where a little scrambling was required, definitely no running here. Up, up, up we went, once up we at around the 12 mark and back onto some wider, non technical trail called the Blackwood Range Track. It was still mostly hiking here though because we were still climbing, however once we made it to the top we were greeted to the first aid station! Bears’s Head aid station, it was only a small one but it was a reminder we made progress. Oliver, Jeremy and I made a brief stop to refill our soft water bottle flasks, 13km done, only 204km left!

Leaving Bears Head checkpoint I was feeling good, and Oliver and Jeremy were both in high spirits. We ran down what is called Bear’s Head Range Track, this is when the course started to show its teeth, after a good 2-3km we were greeted to a gnarly knife-edge ridge, look down to your left, a massive drop and to your right? A massive drop. The three of us scrambled/ran across the ridge, heading downwards, I f**ken loved it this was the typeof technical s**t I came for when entering Down Under 135. Sadly it didn’t last long and after 400m or so we were down and reached what I believe to be Hogans Track. Then at around the 16km mark we got our first “off-trail experience”, this was the type of running/walking/hiking I wasn’t expecting. It was time to get off the track and run through some trees and bushes, following the pink course markers we made our way along the “course”. Honestly from here to the next checkpoint at Hogans Track (28km) it all blurs together, I remember at first we made our way up a crazy steep hill, off course obviously haha. We followed the pink markers right up and through the trees, I was using my hands to grab onto the trees in front of me too pull myself up it was that steep. Once we reached the top which was not obvious as we were just surrounded by trees we started making our way back down. Again steep, I fell on my ass a good 2-3 times, Oliver, Jeremy and I joked we should of brought our skis to ski down, it was just so slippery and steep. I remember running into one tree to the next, like literally running/shuffling about to fall then catching myself on a tree and then doing it again to the next tree, all the way down! It was hectic and not the kind of technical running I was expecting but at that point of time I found it comical and fun, the three of us joked all the way down. Once down we made our way into the gorge where we followed the river bed all the way to the next checkpoint, it was a good 10km or so. Flat as a pancake but super slow going, hopping along rocks, pushing through sharp shrubs which shredded my shins. It started to get mentally draining after 5km or so, there was one fun bit where we got to pull ourselves up a steep part of the river bed using an abseiling like mechanism that was set up for us. We continued following the pink markers for what felt like an eternity, taking us right along the gorge. Jeremy had sped up leaving Oliver and myself behind which is the way of things with ultras as everyone has there own set of skills. So there was now just two of us, following the pink markers along the gorge. Thank you Oliver for your company here, it made it much more enjoyable than it was when coming back on the return journey by myself. Like everything though eventually it came to an end and at around the 27km mark we got out of the stupid gorge and back onto some fire trail. Another km or so and we made it to Hogans Track checkpoint, we were 28km in! Our feet were soaked and we were mentally drained from the painfully slow traverse along the gorge, however because it was such slow going and flat I was fresh and feeing physically good, it was just like starting the race again. We got in some watermelon at the aid station, filled up our water bottles and I said hello to my dad before we took off by ourselves once again.

Leaving Hogans Track checkpoint we were gifted the gift of some fire trail running for a solid 6km, Oliver and I chatted away as we ran along the newly appreciated fire trail. However all good things must come to an end and after that solid 6km of running Oliver and I made our way off the fire trail and onto some technical track single trail, sadly this is also where Oliver and I separated. Our paces fell out of touch as I took off, I hated leaving Oliver behind but it is a race and 217km is a long way to wait for someone. The single trail took me back down to Lederderg River, the views going down were awesome and made it hard to solely concentrate on where my feet were stepping which was important on this technical trail. Once at the bottom I crossed the river and made my way onto a different single track trail known as Ah Know Track, again steep, rocky and technical. The climb although steep didn’t last too long though and after 10-15 minutes of my quads burning and heavy breathing it wasn’t too long before I was at the top of the single track and onto some wider trail. The wider trail was undulating at first, before eventually being mostly uphill. At around the 38km I was off Ah Know Track and back onto Blackwood Ranges Track fire-trail before a quick turn off onto an open, wide track named Lower Chadwick Track. About 500m of running and I was at the first major checkpoint, Lohs Lane! This was the first checkpoint I had access to my drop bags so first thing I did was grab the drop bag. I was thrilled to see some familiar smiley faces, shout out to Stef and Michelle! My dad was at this checkpoint too, although I was doing this race solo/unsupported I felt extremely fortunate to have the support from volunteers at the aid stations, friends like Michelle and Stef and my dad. I emptied my drop bag, refilled my pack with food which included oat bars, muffin bars, gels and peanut butter sandwiches and downed a cup of soup with my dad. After 10-15 minutes I was thanking everyone for their help and heading off.

Lohs Lane checkpoint was pretty much at the foot of Mount Blackwoods summit, Mount Blackwood being significant because we had to run up to the summit, sign a book with the time of arrival and our signature and head back down. The trail here (Lower Chadwick Track) was like open farmland with beautiful views of Lederderg State Park. After a little less than a km we made a left turn and began climbing up to Mount Blackwoods summit via Lederderg Track. It was here I was greeted to Ian and Velta from the Evenutures! The amazing photographers, it feels as if these two are at every ultra/trail run on the Victorian calendar, I love bumping into them, super positive and kind. Anyway after brief hello I continued my way up, it was about 500m up to the summit and 500m down. I got to the summit at around 3:50pm in the afternoon, looking at the other signatures it looked as if I was in 6-8th spot which I was absolutely stoked with! I could also see a good amount of runners weren’t too far in front because I saw them running down from the summit as I made my way up. Anyway so I signed the book, took a few photos and made my way back down. Coming down I passed Oliver! Wishing Oliver the best I hoped he’d catch up and we could start running together again, sadly though this was the last time I saw Oliver for the whole race. Coming down I decided I put the accelerator on a little bit, I’d run 40km at this point and it’d been slow going, I still felt confident I wouldn’t have to be pressured by the cut-offs at this stage but I thought it’d be nice to put as much cushioning on the cut-off as possible. And also I was becoming very grateful for all the runnable parts of the course so was keen to take advantage of them when I could. So I put on the accelerator as I ran down from Mount Blackwood, running straight past the turn off that took us from Lower Chadwick Track to the summit of Mount Blackwood via Lederderg Track, instead of turning right, back the way we came we were to run straight ahead along Lower Chadwick Track. I ended up passing 2-3 runners here if I’m remembering correctly. I continued descending along a nice fire-trail until there was no more fire-trail. Because running along an actual trail is overrated it was time for some more off trail running, for a good 5km. These off trail parts really just blend together, I remember it was here I met up with Jeremy and we started running together again which was good, I also remember I passed Jules and another runner but mostly I remember some more stupid climbs and descents, following the pink course markers. The terrain was just so rugged and slippery, shins were getting shredded by the shrubs, again I was pulling myself up using trees during the ascents and then using the trees to help get me down the descents. Stepping under and over falling trees and other obstacles it was just a crazy mess and extremely slow going. It started getting dark here too so the headlamp went on. Crazily enough though the headlamps actually made it easier to follow the off trail parts of the course because the pink course markers shined in the dark with our headlamps. You could see ribbons far in the distance which was helpful to stay on course however in a way it also added a little difficulty, because the idea with the course markers was you were supposed to run from marker to marker. If you skipped one marker to get to one that was far in the distance there was a good chance you’d be running into something that you couldn’t run through, for example a blackberry bush, a complete mess of bushes and trees or even a creek crossing that wasn’t crossable. The course markers pretty much marked the “path” through the bush that was actually safe to run through, skipping one marker to get to the one in far distance (which was easy to do at night by accident) often led to some unwanted obstacles. Anyway Jeremy and I eventually pushed our way through and got back onto some actual trail, a nice fire trail along the Lederderg Track, we were now around 46km in. This is where I started to get a little concerned about the cut-off time, I’d have to pretty much maintain the pace I’d run this first 46km in all the way to the end to make the cut-off, thats not what you want! Jeremy also started to feel queasy as we ran/hiked up and along the Lederderg Track and had to slow down so once again I found myself alone. For about 3km I continued chipping away at the fire trail, trying to make up as much time as possible. I past another runner here who was also in awe of how gnarly the course had been thus far. At around the 49km mark I took a left turn and left the Lederderg fire-trail and started the run along some single trail, on a trail called the Spanish Onion Track. This single track was nice, it was pretty much pitch black at this point but the Spanish Onion Track was runnable. For a solid 2-3km I was able to turn off the brain a little and just enjoy the trail. I’d missed a call from a good mate of mine so actually used the time to give him a call back, it was really nice to take the mind out of the race for a little bit. This was short lived though, I found myself off track for 20-30m or so which was annoying but not disastrous, I was lucky enough to see Jeremy and the other runner running down the trail together so I followed them back onto the trail and tagged along for the next part of the run. The “nice” running ended as we got to the bottom and were granted another opportunity to once again get our feet wet as we crossed the Lederderg River for what felt like the 1000th time, I think the longest I went without wet feet for this whole run would’ve been 10-15km, thats not much when your running 217km. What goes down has to go back up, so from the Lederderg River crossing it was straight up, literally…. This was a steep climb, at least to start with, grabbing onto rocks to pull myself up, the three of us made out way up. It didn’t take too long for the *two of us to get back to some fire-trail (Jeremy and I) the other runner who’s name I forgot (sorry) was now behind us, I never saw him again. The fire-trail we were now on was called the Razorback Track I believe. This took us all the way up to the next aid station (Square Bottle). Square Bottle wasn’t a full aid station it was more of a water drop however it was nice to see some fresh faces, to stand around a fire for a little bit and refill our water bottles. I was particularly stoked to see Jared from the EMS crew, seeing some friendly faces brings a brief moment of joy away from the pain and darkness. We were now 54km in, I was still feeling physically good but was getting increasingly stressed about the cut-offs so when Jeremy decided to stay longer at Square Bottle aid station I didn’t wait, I thought it best to take off and use the fire trail to try and get some more cushioning from the cut-off.

I was instantly hit by the cold as I left the aid station, leaving the comfort of the fire at the Square Bottle checkpoint. A storm front was coming in, and it was bloody cold, strong winds and icy rain, not the best conditions, especially at around 7-8pm at night! I ran along the fire trail known as Square Bottle Track by myself, I was hoping a fair amount of the next part of the course would be fairly runnable, I was becoming increasingly concerned about the cut-off. I don’t remember a whole heap here other than it was windy, cold and raining and I did get a good 4km or so of decent running as the Square Bottle Track connected to the Lederderg Track which connected to the Vodka Track which connected to Kenworthy Track which eventually led to some off trail “running”. As usual the off trail running was steep and slippery, I was surrounded by tall, skinny trees which at times made it hard to see the pink markers due to being so overcrowded. Somehow managing to stay on course it wasn’t too long before I eventually crossed the Lerderderg River again… which led to an actual trail. This trail was known as the E Walk and connected to another track called Cowan Track. Again I don’t really remember much here, I know cut-offs were my primary concerns and weighed heavily on my mind. At some point I made my way onto a trail that had me running alongside the Lederderg River for what felt like an eternity. The trail was runnable at times and other times not, some point it had you running literally next to the river, other times it had you running above it, as if you were running along a ridge. I remember there was a few times I misstepped and nearly found myself falling a couple metres into the river, which really would’ve been a hyperthermic disaster. Between the weather, the cut offs, moving pretty slowly and being in the dark my anxiety levels were pretty high at this point and I wasn’t have a great time. I knew I was getting close to the next aid station at Trout Track though. Putting one step in front of the other I eventually found myself at O’briens Crossing (a popular picnic area at Lederderg State Park), which signalled the end to running alongside the river and meant I was only a 1km or so from the Trout Track aid station. The track opened up to O’briens Road, a dirt road we didn’t run on to start off with, instead of running on the road the course took us along a track named Shortcut Track. This track was pretty much like a fire-trail, all uphill the track was short-lived and took us back onto Obrien’s Road which I followed for a couple hundred metres before getting to the Trout Track checkpoint. I was greeted to a friendly face from EMS as I walked into the aid station, Manna! Instantly my mood lifted, the two helpers at this aid station were amazing too! Offering plenty of food and asking to help anyway they could, I felt guilty for all their kindness, it was greatly appreciated and I wish I knew their names to give them a shout out! Anyway I sat down undercover next to the fire, ate some noodles and a potato, it was great to get out of the rain and wind for a bit. I changed my shoes for the first time here too, they were soaked and I’ve had some bad experiences with running with wet shoes and socks for too long. Once that was done I refilled my pack with food from my drop bag and decided I should be on my way and get going. As I was leaving a couple other runners made there way into the aid station, they looked defeated and exhausted, honestly I had my doubts these guys were going to finish when I saw them. I was feeling good and was in front of these guys but was still pushing to make the cut offs when they become applicable. These guys were behind me and seemed defeated, sadly their chances seem minimal at this stage in my opinion. Anyway after thanking Manna and the amazing aid station volunteers I was directed back to the course and sent on my way.

The next 3km or so was run along a “flooded” fire trail, deep puddles blocked most of track but luckily there was room to run alongside them rather than through them. I’d just put on some dry shoes and socks, I would’ve been really pi**ed me off if they got wet straight away. The next 20km or so was a combination of fire-trail, single track and off track running. I don’t remember any specific parts of this part of the course, other than motorbikes on the return trip. I do know at this stage the weather was miserable, it was dark, I was anxious and I started getting a little cold. I also know my feet got wet after 10km or so, I think this may have been when I was at my most miserable. Thats probably why I don’t remember much, when things start to suck I turn the brain on autopilot and all my concern is moving forward and getting closer to the next opportunity of comfort. I was by myself in the dark, in the wet and windy conditions running along the rugged terrain of Lederderg State Park. Good thing was my legs still felt pretty fresh considering I’d moved 70km+ and my energy levels were good. I don’t remember seeing anyone until the next checkpoint at Blackwood Caravan Park (89km). I do know it took me a good 4-5 hours to get to the Blackwood Caravan Park checkpoint and the cut-offs were on the brain, I had to get faster. My memory seems to come back right after coming off some off-trail running, right before I made my way onto the Lederderg Track. Where from there it was only a couple km or even less until I made my way into the comforts of the Blackwood Caravan Park checkpoint. I was now 90km or so in and it had already been 20 hours!! Talk about slow going!! Dad was at the checkpoint and was quick to give me a hand, a couple other runners were there too, hovering around the fire, if you weren’t running it was freezing so that fire was definitely required. I quickly downed some pasta and refilled my pack with food, then the other runners were about to take off. Turned out one of them was a friend of mine, Ross. Ross and I had met at the MVP Last Man Standing event at the start of the year, Ross was tough as nails and had finished Down Under 135 two times along with other tough ultras such as the Great Southern Endurance Run (GSER). The other runner, Guy had also finished Down Under 135. Ross asked if I wanted to leave the checkpoint with them, hell yeah! Running company at this stage was greatly appreciated and especially with two tough guys like theses two!!

Frantic to get going I left without refilling my water and replacing my head torch batteries, rookie mistake. Luckily Ross and Guy were kind enough to be patient with me as I changed my head torch batteries on the go after we left the aid station. The three of us head off together running along the only road part of the course, for a total of 1-2km we actually ran on asphalt road! What was this witchcraft! The race curators obviously decided this was unacceptable though because after that 1-2km we were led off the road and down onto some off trail running that was completely unnecessary, this is why I Ioved this race, some parts just felt ridiculous. There definitely would’ve been an easier way to get the single track trail we were running towards, probably along the road however they decided they’d take us off the road for 500m or so and get us running amongst some bushes and get us crossing a stream to get our feet wet. Guy had literally just changed his shoes, poor bloke. The three of us stayed together for a solid 3-5km working our way onto some actual trails, first single track but eventually some fire trail. It was when we hit the fire trail Ross and I separated from Guy due to different speeds. We’d finally reached some more runnable sections of track, the next 16-20km was mostly fire trail with only a couple km’s of off trail running, and very minimal single trail running. We’d made our way from Lederderg State Park and into Wombat State Forrest, it was early morning at this point (sometime around 4-5am) but there was no sign of the sun, it was still raining, it was cold and it was dark. Luckily I was running with Ross, we held a good conversation pretty much right through the morning as we shuffled up and down the fire trails. I really appreciated Ross’ presence and enjoyed his company, listening to someone with his wisdom and life experience is an opportunity I always appreciate, not to mention he’s a bloody good bloke in general, lots of advice and suggestions I appreciated. In my head I’d kind of decided I’d finish the race with Ross, there was no chance someone like Ross would miss the cut-offs and as I said I was really enjoying is company. We’d discussed that eventually we would separate but deep down I hoped this wouldn’t be the case. Anyway we gradually edged closer and closer to Nolans Creek Picnic Ground as we made our way along the undulating fire-trails. I say it was mostly fire-trail which is true however there was a few ridiculous off trail segments that had us crossing Lederderg River through ferns and fallen down trees, ducking and weaving as we moved forward. From Pottery Track to Povey Track to Easter Monday Track to New Sultan Milne Road to Ottie Track to Lederderg Track to Baker Bills Track to Mount Wilson Track, we kept pushing forward. Running from track to track and hiking through the off trail segments. Eventually we got to the last climb up Mount Wilson, which had us running off trail and into the bushes. It was pretty steep and out of all the climbs was probably one of the longest, not necessarily the hardest but I remember it being quite gradual and lasting a while. I also remember seeing the current leader Nigel with his pacer here, they both looked strong and were on their way back from the turn around point. A little while later Ross and I reached the top of Mount Wilson, it was only a solid 500m or so of running down amongst the bushes to Nolans Creek Picnic Ground (the last checkpoint and turn around point) from the top. Weaving amongst the bushes and trees whilst following the pink course markers Ross and I made our way down and where greeted to the comfort of the halfway aid station after quick creek crossing. We’d made it…..halfway, it was around 8am from memory, so we’d been going for 24 hours now. I was feeling physically fresh thank goodness, because I didn’t have much time to play with, Ross and I had only made cut-off by a couple hours we didn’t have much cushioning considering we were only halfway. I was keen to get out of the aid station as quick as possible. Thankfully I had my amazing dad and legendary aid station volunteers to help me out, grabbing some food along with getting all my gear ready to head back out there. This is were a real switch turned on in my head, I wasn’t guaranteed to finish by just moving forward, I had to push. Finishing was possible at this stage but the odds were against me, dad even said he didn’t reckon I’d finish due to the cut-offs and that p**sed me off. Given how long it’d taken me to get halfway his prediction made sense considering the back half should be significantly slower because I’d been going for 24 hours now. However he didn’t know how fresh I felt and how badly I wanted this finish, especially now. It was looking like they’d only be 4-5 of us who would make the halfway cut-off plus if I finished I’d be the youngest person to do so, combine this with finishing this race is an achievement in itself and I had all the motivation I needed. I was revved up, knew I was capable of finishing and decided then and there that I was either finishing or was going to get pulled from the race by missing a cut off whilst giving it my all.

After a 10-15 minute stop at the aid station Ross and I took off together, it was daylight now and the two of us made our way back up Mount Wilson the way we came. It was steep but with the new found motivation I didn’t give a f**k, no hill as going to stop me from missing any cut-offs. As I mentioned earlier I wanted to stay with Ross however he didn’t seem to have the same urgency I did, I thought maybe he was pacing himself but from my perspective we had no time to pace ourselves now, we were racing the clock. Following the course back the way we came we ran into Guy about 30 minute after leaving the checkpoint, he said he was pulling himself from the race, he didn’t believe he’d make the cut-offs. 20 minutes or so later we ran into Jules who was in high spirits and giving up was not an option in his mind which was great to see, he had a huge task in front of him though. In my mind honestly the only people that had a chance of finishing at this stage was Nigel who was in front of Ross and myself, and then Ross and myself. In what race is 2nd and 3rd more concerned about cut-offs than their placings? It was looking like they’d only be 3 finishers max! Everyone else was too slow!! I just couldn’t believe it, I joked about it with Ross. Sadly after passing Jules, Ross and I separated, I was pushing along the downs and the fire-trail, trying to get some cushioning on the cut-offs but Ross just didn’t have the same urgency. At first I kind of slowed down to wait for him but whilst we were running along the fire-trail together Ross factually and truthfully said that it was good running together the previous night but we should be going our own paces now, as we wouldn’t be running the same pace for the rest of the race. It was disappointing to hear Ross say this but I’m so grateful he did because it allowed me to push on at my own pace without feeling disloyal and guilty, I probably would’ve have finished if he didn’t say this. I believe it was the segment running from Nolans Creek Picnic Ground back to Blackwood Caravan Park that saved me from missing cut-offs, and I would have missed out on that if I stayed with Ross. I was averaging 8-10 min kilometres which was fast at this stage of the race for this race, the faster I went the more motivated I became as I noticed the cushioning from the cut-offs get larger and larger. The sun was out, I was feeling strong and was gaining some much needed time. I did start to develop some painful shin splints and foot pain on my right foot though, which got worse the faster I ran, stress fractures came to mind but I didn’t care, I grit my teeth and thought “come on then, let’s f**ken go” and started putting additional stress on my right leg to show I was in control of the pain. Looking back that seems kind of crazy and stupid but it worked at the time and I’d become obsessed with finishing this race, I wasn’t going to let a sore shin and foot stop me. I made it back to the Blackwood Caravan Park checkpoint a good 3-4 hours ahead of cut-off, my efforts were rewarded, I’d gained some cushioning. I relaxed a little but still knew I was about to face some gnarly off trail segments that would slow me right down. The parts that were runnable were reduced in comparison to the last 40km I’d just run. It was late morning at Blackwood Caravan Park, very different to the last time I was there. Last time it was 3-4am, raining and freezing and with only a handful of people. This time it was sunny and there was tons of familiar, friendly faces I wanted to chat but knew I didn’t have the time. I was on a mission, I had to change my shoes, get in some food, get my gear ready and head off. I had no time to waste, thankfully once again my dad and the awesome aid station volunteers were there to help me out. I quickly downed some noodles and went on my way.

Still pushing with 91km to go I left Blackwood Caravan Park running, crossing paths with the Great Southern Endurance Run (GSER) and Duncans Run race directors Matt and Megan. These two are absolute treasures to the Victorian ultra and trail running community, super positive and kind. They’ve nearly been at every race I’ve entered, either volunteering or supporting, amazing community spirit. They also reminded me of another reason to finish Down Under 135, one of my 2021 goals was to finish all 3 of what I believe to be the hardest 100 milers in Victoria in one year; The Alpine Challenge, GSER100 and Down Under 135. I’d finished the Alpine Challenge and was currently attempting to finish Down Under 135. Anyway I said a quick “hello and how you going” as I kept running, a couple km later I ran into Ian from The Eventurers (the best photographers going round!). Again I said a “hello, good to see you and how you going” before continuing to run forward. Last time I was running along this part of the course it was dark and I was anxious and feeling pretty miserable. This time I was in high spirits, it was sunny and I was determined. Making my off the single track trail I made my way onto some off trails segment which ended quicker than I anticipated, it was if each part of the course had shrunk and didn’t seem to take as long to complete. I remembered certain segments in my head, dreaded some of them but they were never as long or as bad as. Before I knew it I was back onto some actual trail! Retracing my steps from the previous night the km’s felt like they were flying by (which they weren’t), I was still making up time but I wasn’t moving as fast as I thought. I was just fortunate enough I’d entered that desired flow state where time moves quickly. This back half of the race I remember with much less detail than the first, instead of remembering what I saw I remember more about what I felt. I remember every time I ran on the fire trail or runnable single trail sections I was pushing myself to run as fast as I could, and when I got to the off trail hiking segments I reminded myself to endure and to keep moving forward. Running along a combination of undulated terrain with some steep climbs and river crossings the course from Blackwood Caravan Park to Trout Track wasn’t too bad, there was some parts were I came across some motorbike riders which was nice. I felt pretty isolated and lonely as I ran along the course after leaving Ross because there was hardly anyone left running, so it was nice to come across anyone even if only for a couple seconds. After a couple hours of solo running I found myself at the Trout Track checkpoint, I’d made a little more cushioning from the cut-off which I was stoked about. I also ran into Ian again before getting into the checkpoint which made me happy. Again though there was no time time to stuff around at the Trout Track checkpoint, it was around 4-5pm in the afternoon, I’d run around 150km and only had 4-5 hours on the cut off which was a huge improvement from the halfway mark but still…. Night was upon me and I was about to hit some s**ty off trail segments, my anxiety levels were at an all time high too. Anxiety of running through the night by myself was hitting me, I would’ve done anything to have a pacer at this point but I didn’t so I had no option to keep moving forward by myself. Seeing my dad at the aid station helped settle those nerves and for a brief moment I felt somewhat comfortable. Also having the amazing aid station volunteers and their cheery smiles there was greatly appreciated and gave me strength. As usual I restocked my food and ate some food before leaving the comfort of the Trout Track aid station. This is were the biggest struggle for me emotionally and mentally began, this second night was draining…

Leaving Trout Track aid staton the sun was starting to set which as mentioned above made me anxious, I was also about to start running along the Lederderg river again which made me even more anxious. This was one of the parts of the course I remembered not enjoying from the previous night. I knew though I just had to get started, keep moving forward and like everything it’d end, I’d get passed this part of the course. So thats what I did, I dug deep and pushed forward, before I knew it I was stopping to put the headlamp on as I ran alongside the river. Remembering certain parts of the course from the previous night, “oh yeah thats the part were I nearly fell into the river, and oh s**t I have to scramble along that again?”. The one positive was the focus I had was keeping me awake, allowing me to forget I hadn’t slept for over 30 hours, I was too focussed to feel tired. Thankfully running along the Lederderg River didn’t last as long as I remembered, well didn’t feel as long. It took me around 4 hours to get from the Trout Track checkpoint to the Square Bottle water drop checkpoint. I’d lost a lot time and I was feeling mentally drained by the time I rocked up to the Square Bottle water drop checkpoint. Once again dad reminded me I wouldn’t make cut-off, and at this point I began to believe him. I was still anxious and the fact I’d lost precious hours weighed on my mind heavily. However seeing my dad at the water drop aid station was a huge mood booster and gave me a sense of appreciation and love for my family which helped give me strength as I continued forward. To stop myself spiralling downwards with negativity I decided to forget about everything except the cut-off for the next aid station, I would work as hard as I could to make that cut-off, then I’d do the same to the next checkpoint and then the next. If I was going out I’d go out fighting to stay in the game. I didn’t stay long at the Square Bottle water drop aid station, I just quickly refilled me water, spoke briefly with my dad and set off.

I remembered the next part of the course quite well, I remembered the fire trail parts, the single trail along the Spanish Onion Track, and even the off trail parts. I knew which parts I could push and the other parts I had to endure, visualising the course helped me tackle it. However it also meant I didn’t have to focus as much which was bad, because I started to fall asleep whilst running, I tried blasting music from my phone but it wasn’t doing anything to keep my eyes open, I tried slapping myself to inflict pain to keep me awake which only worked briefly, and I could only drink and eat so much to help keep me awake. Eventually I gave in and accepted struggling to stay awake would be part of the second night and would go away as the sun rose (it didn’t). My shin and foot pain was increasing though, which did somewhat help in a sadistic way. Anxious and sleep deprived I pushed and pushed with laser like focus (I say that whilst being half asleep). The weather was much nicer the second night compared to the first so for that I was grateful. I was making my way forward at a decent pace (a pace that would get me to the the next checkpoint before cut-off) however I got lost for a solid 30 minutes at one of the off trail parts of the course. From memory it was at around the 175-177km mark as I came off the Lederderg Track and crossed the Lederderg River. I couldn’t see the reflective pink course markers and since it was off trail there was no path to follow. I called my dad to see if the GPS tracking had me on course, apparently it was saying I was right next to the course however I couldn’t see any course makers. I checked my app which said the same thing, I was supposedly right next to the course but again I couldn’t see any markers. It was dark and I was surrounded by trees and bushes, I circled and backed tracked struggling to find any course markers. 10 minutes past then 20 minutes before I finally re-found one of the course markers which led me to the next one, then the next, then the next and then an arrow, I was back on track. I really felt the pressure now “let’s f**ken go, push, c’mon we’ve f**ken got this” I repeated these sayings in my head as I hiked and ran to the next checkpoint, disappointed I’d just waited 30 minutes.

Hours later after getting lost and getting past the off trail segments that had me sliding on my ass down stupidly steep descents I found myself back onto some fire-trail which would take me to the Mount Blackwood summit, and then the next aid station at Loh’s Lane. I looked at my watch I was going to make the cut-off to Loh’s Lane by about an hour and a half however that wasn’t the concern, it was the cut-off after Loh’s Lane that concerned me. Hiking and running as fast as I could I made my way up to the summit of Mount Blackwood in the dark with the freezing wind blowing down on me. I got to the summit and wrote my name in the summit book for the second time at around 2:30am in the morning before running back down and making my into Loh’s Lane checkpoint. My dad, Dale (one of the race directors), the amazing volunteer aid station crew and legends from EMS where at the aid station, many congratulating me for making it this far however I didn’t care I’d made it this far. I had just over 2 hours to get to the next aid station 10km away, normally this would be plenty of time however it had taken me around 4 hours to run 15km from the last checkpoint. I knew it was possible though, ahead of me I had a solid 5km stretch of runnable fire-trail, I just had to be quick with the upcoming 2-3km of technical descending and climbing. At the aid station dad asked if I was going to bother to continue, he was almost certain I wasn’t going to make it, I knew I could though as long as did everything right and pushed really, really hard. I got in some food, downed my pre-workout caffeine mix and restocked my food supply and then made my out of the aid station in a hurry.

I pushed and pushed, “I can do this, I got this, run these legs into the f**ken ground, no holding back no point holding anything back if I’m not running any further, if I’m gong to go out I’m going out knowing I put in 100%” these were my thoughts as I pushed and pushed. The pain in my shin and foot become excruciating as I descended the first couple km from the checkpoint down the fire-trail. They hated me running but I had no choice, I had to push if I wanted to make the cut-off. After the fire-trail descent I hiked up and down the technical part of the course before reaching the 5km stretch of undulating fire-trail. It became clear to me here that if I continued to push I would make the cut-off, this motivated me and I pushed even harder, managing to run some 8 minute km which in my opinion was extremely fast considering the circumstances. “I’ve got this, f**k you foot, f**k you shin, no-one thought I’d make this cut-off but here I am, I’ve f**ken got this”, up and down, up and down the fire trail really was undulating but I ran, one foot in front of the other before I crossed paths with a couple guys from the Hogans Track checkpoint, I believe Joe to be one of their names. Now I knew I definitely made it, I was so f**ken happy, in the dark they led me into the checkpoint. I beat the cut-off by 30 minutes, I relaxed a little, this cut-off was the one everyone was concerned about and I’d made it. Although still a little concerned about the next cut-off I was now pretty confident I’d make it (how wrong I was, the struggle only just began). At the checkpoint I was greeted by my dad, and one of the guys who ran with me into the checkpoint gave me a cinnamon donut which tasted amazing. It was now 4:30am, the sun was about to come up and I’d just made arguably the hardest cut-off of the race, I was feeling good. Dad helped me change my shoes and re-fill my water soft bottle flasks, everything was looking good until I got hit with exhaustion and tiredness. All of sudden I felt like s**t and stated getting the chills, when I sat up I struggled to walk, f**k I need to move. I thanked dad for his help and the aid station volunteers and started on my way, I had to put a brave face on, I had to look as if I was feeling good, I didn’t want my dad or the medical crew to know how s**t I felt because if they did I knew they’d be concerned, because I was.

I shuffled out of the aid station before stopping after only 200m to put on my fleece and beanie, the chills felt deep, last thing my body needed was hyperthermia. I had 5 and a half hours to cover 15km, easy right? Apparently not, the next 15km was the slowest going part of the course, most of it off trail along the Lederderg River. Pushing through shrubs that scratched the s**t out of my shins and hopping across rocks. The first 3km was ridiculously slow as I started shivering and hallucinating in the last hours of the darkness, I started seeing couples hike along the river and hearing them talk about the runner that was me as I ran past, only to discover as I got closer that they weren’t real. I felt absolutely drained, I had nothing left. My appetite diminished too, I took a deep breath and reminded myself to put one foot in front of the other and to eat, I’d obviously depleted my energy stores as I pushed super hard to make it to the Hogans Track checkpoint before cut-off. I let the body play catch-up, I ate and walked. I slowly pushed through the stinging shrubs, hopped across the rocks and continued along the Lederderg River whilst eating my muffin bars and peanut butter sandwiches. Eventually the sun rose and I started to feel better however I’d also realised I lost a lot of time and had to pick up the pace, I was lucky to be covering 2-3 km every hour. “Here we go again, I’ve got to really push again”, I started taking bigger risks, jumping on slippery rocks, pushing though the water, pushing through sharp shrubs. I made my way from pink course marker to pink course marker like my life depended on it. An overwhelming feeling of disappointment hit me as I began to weigh up the distance and time I had left, I wasn’t going to make it. I started getting emotional, “I didn’t push that hard to make the Hogans Track cut-off to fail now, I couldn’t let it slip though my fingers”. My hallucinations seemed to disappear as my intensity and focus came back to me, once again I was a man on a mission. Eventually I made it out of the river and started making my way up a ridiculously steep segment of off trail hiking, like ridiculous….. I was grabbing trees pulling myself up, breathing hard but I was so bloody focussed on making that cut-off. I didn’t think I had a chance at the stage, I only had a little over an hour left and I didn’t recognise where I was, it felt I had at least 2-3 hours until the next checkpoint. Even when I got to the top of this gnarly off trail climb I felt I wouldn’t make it, nonetheless I moved as fast as I could back down the other side. A super steep descent I decided I didn’t have time to be careful coming down like usual, there was trees everywhere and it was slippery, I had to slide down. So I created a new technique to get down, facing towards the hill I made my way down sliding on the sides of my feet and whenever I was about to fall I’d lean into the hill and fall into the hill so I wouldn’t fall down and find myself tumbling down to a broken back. It was bloody epic, I slid down for a good 10 minutes, it felt risky but necessary I believe I saved at least 20 minutes descending like this. I made it down with about 50 minutes left to make cut-off, I now knew where I was. I had an epically gnarly and technical climb before a more gradual single trail climb before arriving at the checkpoint, it would’ve been around 3km all up. I started the climb… the technical part was first and guess who I came across? Two legends who told me I was going to make the cut-off (Update: The two legends was Nate Fyfe & Peter Balding, thanks legends)! I was shocked to see anyone but so grateful! I was skeptical that I was guaranteed to make cut-off but I’m not going to lie it eased a lot of anxiety, I felt I was back in the game. I pushed up and up, edging closer and closer to the Bear Head aid station and cut off, 40 minutes left, 35 minutes left. Once I got passed the knife edge technical section of the trail I started running up the single trail towards the Bear’s Head aid station, it felt like the last hoorah, I was using the last of my running legs. Surrounded by trees I worked my way up the gradual climb, I knew I was now going to make the next cut-off, I was running and was only 1-2km from the aid station. Even though I was focussed I started to hallucinate again, seeing more people, seeing fences that weren’t there, clearings that weren’t there, they were like mirages because they indicated I was near refuge that was the aid station. Then I saw it, the trail head with a car, this was not a hallucination, I’d made it to the last aid station with 20-30 minutes to spare. No one had DNF’d after the Bears Head checkpoint in Down Under 135 history and I didn’t want to be the first, especially after everything I’d been through. I was now 80% sure I was going to finish, I’d run around 205km at this point which meant I only had 12km to go. However I was hallucinating and could hardly run, I’d used up the last of my running legs to get were I was. I was greeted by two of the race directors, Tom and Dione at the aid station along with some of the EMS crew, Tom got me a coke. It was so good to see everyone, Dione had been super supportive the whole run so seeing his face encouraged me and Toms kindness was welcomed dearly. And of course the care from the EMS crew is always uplifting, they recommended I get a quick nap due to the hallucinations but that wasn’t an option, I needed every minute to finish this race I wasn’t going to be timed out because I had a nap (in hindsight thank god I didn’t have that nap).

I left the Bears Head checkpoint with 12km left of fairly runnable fire-trail, a lot of it downhill and I had 4 and a half hours to finish. In theory I should of had no trouble but I was hurting and the lack of sleep was really getting to me. Running felt almost impossible at this point as my foot and shin had completed seized up, every step hurt and running just increased the pain ten fold. Add in how tired I was… even with all that pain I was really struggling to keep my eyes open. My hallucinations were becoming more frequent and vivid too! I was seeing groups of ducklings at imaginary puddles with large crows standing behind them, other times I saw an elderly couple sitting a bench on the side of the trail, I’d also think I heard voices in the bushes, the craziest part was even though I knew they were hallucinations they wouldn’t go away until I reached the hallucination. Leaving the aid station I knew though as long as I kept forward momentum I’d finish, annoyingly though as soon as I left the aid station I had to go to the toilet for the first time for the whole race. Not wanting to s**t myself I quickly made my way off the trail and got down to business (this is why you should always carry toilet paper with you!). Back on track I continued the forward momentum down the fire-trail, before I knew I was off the fire trail and back on some technical single trail. Memories of running with Oliver and Jeremy only a day or so a go came to me as I ran past certain rock features that I remembered. It was a cool experience to run back the way I came, remembering how fresh I was last time I was on the trail and how I wasn’t alone. I past a couple of hikers as I made my down this technical part of single trail before crossing the Lederderg River and making my way to the dam wall! The dam wall was a significant landmark and reminded me how close I was to the finish line, it meant I would’ve only had around 8km or so left! I was making time and although I knew I had to keep pushing to make cut-off it was no longer an overwhelming burden. After the dam wall it was a long hike up a gentle slope that took place on a dirt road, just hiking at a good pace was giving me some cushioning over the cut-off time. The hallucinations really hit me as I hiked up this slope though, for a good 20 minutes or so I was hiking up the road, struggling to keep my eyes open as I saw hallucinations of old couples, benches and ducks. Everything was hurting but I was overwhelmed with fatigue and tiredness which made the pain not all that bad. After a solid 20 minutes or so of hiking I made it to the top of the road, what goes up must come down so once at the top I followed the course markers back onto some technical single trail that took me all the way back down to Lederderg River! This was extremely significant though, because now I only had one more climb and one more descent before I had the comfortable last couple km’s of flat running to the finish line. I knew at this point I was going to make it but I couldn’t take the foot off the accelerator I just couldn’t risk losing time for comfort, so again like a slave I pushed my tired, fatigued and sore body forward. Running along the river was pretty stunning, last time I was here the clouds covered the blue sky and the sun, this time the sun was out and it was beautiful. There was also some other people in the area out for a nice walk, this gave me a boost in energy seeing other people. After another 10-20km of easy flat shuffling alongside the river it was time to get climbing again. Up, up, up it was steep and quite technical as I got to the top, it helped to know what I was up against though and before I knew it I was at the top, taking in some pretty spectacular views!! Once at the top I had a couple hundred metres of undulating terrain to move along before starting the last descent. It was slow, really slow….my knees and hips were so sore, I cold hardly lift my foot to get over the small rocks on the ground. I was probably making my way down the rocky descent slower than the walkers walking up! Going down something so steep at this point was agony. I did it though, I got down in one piece, I was hurting but I was down and only had 2-3km left, all along flat well established trail. This trail was perfect for running, I tried running but my legs just could’t, I tried shuffling but again my legs just couldn’t, well I guess I’m walking. So there I was, half asleep, in complete agony, and pretty out of it, walking along this well established track with walkers looking at me like “the f**k is wrong with him” I smiled and asked how they ere doing. One step, two step these last couple kms felt like an eternity, I knew I was going to finish so I tried appreciating the journey I’d just been on and how deep I had to dig. I wanted to live in this moment and appreciate the accomplishment I was about to achieve, however I was just too tired to feel anything. I’d been going for about 53 hours now, no sleep and my foot and shin felt f**ked. Dazed I walked and walked alongside the Lederderg River for the last time, appreciating the flat established trail. With about 500m left I was greeted by two people who called out my name, I had no idea who they were so at first thought I imagined them calling my name and ignored them. However they talked to me again and asked me if I was Tom Dade to which I said yes. The two legends were there to see me to the finish line, shout out to Penni and Sherrie, I don’t remember too much about what we spoke about but I remember something about a lucky number?….. Anyway they guided me to the finish line were at first I saw my dad and then The Eventurers! Such a relief to see the faces of those I cared about and then I saw the finish line, well sort of…. It’s not a finish line but rather a totem pole marked with the writing Down Under 135, you touch the totem once you’ve finished instead of crossing a finish line. And there it was and with it a group of legends cheering me on to the finish. The volunteers, the supporters, the race directors, other runners and their pacers, the EMS crew, The Eventurers, and of course my dad and even my mum, so many people were there. I felt so grateful as they cheered me to the finish, completely exhausted and sore I walked the last 10 meters to touch that finishing totem pole, I f**ken did it….

Post race Dion did an amazing speech as part of the presentations that was pretty special and will be a moment I’ll never forget. That along with the moment Guy (a previous two time finisher) handed both Nigel and myself our bronze finisher gold inspecting inspired pans was pretty special. The feeling of gratitude and contempt was like nothing I’d never experienced, I was so happy to be surrounded by this amazing trail running community along with my parents. From The Eventurers and their amazing photography and warm and bubbly personalities to Deb, Jared, Manna and the rest of crew at EMS who have had to stitch me up too often! To the new faces whether it be the race directors Dale, Andrew, Dion and Tom, or the volunteers, other runners and supporters, I was so grateful to be surrounded by everyone! I’m asked often why I do these ultramarathons, do I really need to answer this questions? I sat there sipping my post race strawberry Big M in one of those fold up chairs with my legs up underneath a sleeping bag, completely exhausted and in pain, but contempt and grateful.

Thank you to everyone involved! Again the race directors; Dion, Tom, Andrew and Dale you guys did an amazing job at running one of the most unique and hardest “foot races” in the southern hemisphere. The course pushed me both mentally and physically to places I’d never had to go before. It was extremely well organised and the atmosphere was something special. Thank you to you amazing volunteers, the heart and sole of these races, giving up your whole weekend to man aid stations or mark the course, amazing effort. Special shout out to Warren Maynard who selflessness was rightfully acknowledged for his volunteer work, giving up weeks of his time to volunteer for the race. Thank you to the EMS crew for taking care of us runners, you know you’re in safe hands with these guys whilst at the same time they’ll do everything to keep you running. Thank you to Ian and Velta from the Eventurers, the best photographers with the best personalities on earth, love seeing you guys out there! Lastly a humungous thank you to my dad, who gave up his weekend along with sleep to be there for me every step of the way. Dad was there at every aid station, offering support, just his presence gave me strength throughout the race.

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