What a crazy awesome insane event set in the most beautiful location. I could easily pack up and move to the township of Bright.
I've struggled for time and motivation to write this run report up, I think once you start reading it you will understand why. It is a bit long so grab a cuppa.
As always I had the help of my most amazing friend and coach Shona Stephenson, I was on such a high from Blackall 100 that I was hungry for another challenge and Buffalo Ultra Sky Running Marathon look like it. Oooooh... but then I saw Grand Slam !!! What on earth was that ? ........Now this looked more like my style, for some reason I really wanted something that would test me to my limits and I thought this would be it.
When I entered I had already decided that if I was going to do this then I was going to win it.
Trying to find any times or information on this event was a challenge in itself. On the website it said Marina had done it in 30 hours but the course was a bit different then and by the looks of it a bit harder, so I figured with the changes it would take 28 hours, then I had a bit of a guess as to how long it would take me to do each event, I thought I might be able to do it in 25 hours.
So as I always do I stuck my goal on the fridge.
Training and Lead up
For most part the training was going well, I love running Mount Sugarloaf behind where I live, but then life challenges and some pretty stressful times got me to the point that although I was doing the training I felt quiet disconnected from it.
I totally dislike training like that cause as far as I'm concerned if I'm going to train for something then I have to train in the moment I need to be 100% present and be able to listen to my body, which is why I won't and don't use an ipod or listen to music when I'm training.
A few weeks out and I ended up with a kidney infection and was pissing blood, whoa, that knocked me, I had never had one before and it is excruciatingly painful, so that put me out for a little while. Then on a wet and slippery morning which felt like my last chance to get a long run in a couple of weeks out, I was taking it easy, which is unlike me, when I very slowly fell down the mountain.
My right foot ended up underneath me and my leg locked, I was 25km through the bush from home, thinking I'd broken my ankle and not wanting to make it worse I waited for over an hour in the cold and rain to be rescued by my partner Joe.
Devastated I spoke to Shona 3 days prior to leaving thinking I was out, she was so bubbly and happy (I think she was off her chops on caffeine) she said "oh no honey its the injury you had to have to make sure you taper properly". Well okay then, if that's how it works Lol, I will just go along with that.
In the next breath she said "I reckon you've got a good chance of taking this out" ................
So I decided to pack my race kits for the 3 days of back to back running.
Heading to Bright
Left on the Wednesday evening and drove for a few hours before stopping in at a little place called 'Gunning' for the night. Highly recommend it, clean, quiet and free.
The Thursday drive into Bright we see this bloody great mountain and guessed it was Mount Buffalo, yikes what have I got myself into. Have a bit of a look around, instantly fell in love with the place.
Accommodation for the area was completely booked out months in advance, we were going to camp in the van but an amazing friend convinced me it would be okay to stay with her relatives. Found where we were staying and met the most incredibly beautiful people, I was absolutely blown away by how hospitable they are.
Settle in for the night only to be woken by a phone call at 10:30pm. The voice on the other end of the line said Lake Macquarie police officer ??? Oh this is not good but I wasn't quite convinced when he asked to speak to Joe.
I gave Joe the phone and I heard the officer say "your father has passed away" .............................................................................................................
20km Sky Run
Friday morning of the 20km I said to Joe we can turn around and go home, its just a run. Secretly I was also thinking this might be my out for competing as I hadn't let on to anyone how bad my ankle actually was. He said to me that there was nothing he could do anyway, he was only given limited information and there was no point worrying anyone else until he knew what the next step was that he needed to take.
He also said that I didn't train for all that time and we hadn't come all this way for me not to compete in this event. What a bloody amazing bloke.
I had the shittiest run ever, I was stressing out about Joe, it was hotter than I expected 31oC, I was cramping big time the elevation kicked my arse and it was at this point that I had decided to rename Mount Sugarloaf to "Mound Sugarloaf".
This was an out and back course, it was good to see Joe at the checkpoint on top of Clear Spot. On the return down Clear Spot I was feeling so crap that I stuck my ear piece in and cranked up the music in my ears to blare out any voices in my head.
Normally my descend is my strongest but my ankle wasn't having any of that so I skipped down the mountain, I love skipping, it makes me happy and so I started singing to the very strange looks I got from people struggling up the mountain as I was heading down.
Still cramping I managed to hold on to cross the finish line as First Female Grand Slammer.
Ultra SkyMarathon 77km Saturday 25th March
Oh this is more my style, I loved this event. I felt heaps better than the day before, the weather was cool and raining. I love running in the rain, its so good for your soul.
I was feeling a bit better about Joe and actually thought that this weekend may end up as a good distraction for him anyway.
I knew about Mystic mountain and Clear Spot and what to expect. Elevation wise Keating Ridge felt like Mound Sugarloaf so I felt really comfortable on this section. I had been running down for about a km or so and hadn't seen any markers, surely I hadn't missed a turn off so I doubled back for a km and saw runners heading towards me so figured I must still be on the right track.
At this stage I was sitting in 2nd place for the Grand Slam, Rossie was in first place, such a top chick, she looked so strong. She told me she had DNF'd last year due to injury, so I knew she had a score to settle and was going to be a tough contender. She also told me that only 4 people finished last year and only one of them was a female who had only just made it in before cut off, great, now that made me a bit worried.
Through the next checkpoint, checked on Joe to see how he was holding up and then ready for the climb up to the Chalet. The scenery was stunning but geez those hard granite rocks are ankle breakers, I had no idea how anyone could run though that section with any speed.
Get to the Chalet checkpoint with Joe waiting there for me, he said that the next loop was fairly flat so that was going to be nice after the climb. This section is where rock climbing and abseiling would be of benefit but it was so awesome !! What an amazing experience.
Back to the Chalet, whoever told Joe that section was flat I wanted to yell at them, then I realised that's how others must feel when they ask me about a section of trail, my definition of flat and hills tends to be different to most. Rossie was about 15min ahead of me by this stage.
Off down the mountain, I remember being so excited to see a 30km sign, get to the next checkpoint in Eurobin, still couldn't descend so I ended up with this very efficient skip down the mountain. Could not believe it when I saw my good friend (after this effort better make her my best friend) Suze, she had driven all this way to surprise me, this was such a great boost.
Back to Clearspot where Joe said that Rossie in first place was only about 5 min ahead of me, I knew the way my ankle was I couldn't bomb down but I am really good at picking lines so managed to catch and pass Rossie on the descend.
Lost my AyUp head lamp that was attached to my waist belt so it was lucky I crossed the finish line with just enough daylight and as First Female Grand Slammer again.
SkyMarathon 42.2km Sunday 26 March 2017
A dark and windy drive to the top of Mount Buffalo we get to the start line at the Chalet. Physically I was a little bit sore but pretty good, but mentally I was tired. When we pulled up I couldn't even talk to Joe and Suze so crawled in the back of the van and laid there til the start.
I decided to join in the first wave, the start was up hill and everyone seemed to be off to a flying start, I decided it was too quick for me and settled into the back of the pack. Having done this section the day before I knew full well that by the time I got to climbing through the boulders there would be a bottle neck and I would catch up to everyone again.
Along the slippery, granite ridge and back down to the Eurobin checkpoint, although my ankle was still giving me trouble the rest of me felt fantastic. I had just finished mentioning to Joe and Suze that I hadn't seen any of the other Grand Slammers when Rossie turned up ! Would love to have seen the look on my face when I saw her Lol.
We chatted for a little while, I asked her what wave she started in, she said the second wave, bugger, that means she started 10 minutes behind me and has now caught me. I was sure she finished the Ultra about 10 minutes behind me yesterday, that means time wise she must be in front of me at this point.
As we hit the flat section beside the chestnut farm Rossie cheekily said as she ran past that she would run the tar section and hike the rest. I had decided to save my energy for the climb back up to Clear Spot so my tactic was the opposite to Rossie.
Rossie was getting further and further in front and for a fleeting moment I convinced myself that I'd be happy to share the podium in second place; but as soon as that thought came into my head my brain switch gear and said fck that.............. I didn't have Joe standing out here three days in a row for me to come second........... Joe is not going through and deal with all this shit for me to come second............... Suze didn't drive all this way for me to come second............. I didn't enter this event for me to come second.
By this stage Rossie was about 2km in front of me, I couldn't believe the amount of people laying on the roadside in all sorts of pain. So many of them had run out of water, totally unprepared. This is the main reason why I have a look at past results and split times, I knew that although the check points were only 10km apart that the average time to get the check point was about 2 hours, this gives you an indication on how tough the course is.
On the climb back up to Clear Point there were people throwing up on the side of the track, it was absolute carnage. It was around this stage that I spotted another female Grand Slammer Cathy Duffy. I remember thinking that she must have given off some sort of caring or motherly vibe as almost every person she went to pass seeked her help in some way. I saw her giving away her salt tablets and sharing her water with those struggling up the mountain, such an awesome chick.
Get to the top of Clear Spot where Joe and Suze were waiting for me, the first thing I said was "fk this fking Alpine weather, I thought it was going to be nice and cool not bloody 30 odd degrees". Then I apologised for keeping them waiting because I remember thinking it was taking me longer than I had expected to get there.
Off I go again with one more climb ahead of me, Mystic Mountain. Joe had said that Rossie was the same distance ahead of me today as she was yesterday so only about 5min in front, I caught her yesterday so I could catch her again today.
I did catch and pass her in about the same spot, I think she was really surprised and hadn't expected me pass her. I tried as hard as I could to put some distance between us as we climbed up Mystic, I almost sprinted across the helicopter pad on the top of the mountain and down into the pine forest.
3km to go I tried so hard to increase the distance between me and Rossie and even managed to sprint across the finish line.
First Female Grand Slammer 20km SkyRun, First Female Grand Slammer Ultra SkyMarathon, First Female Grand Slammer SkyMarathon, First Female Grand Slammer overall and on this course a course record (the course has had a couple of changes over the years) Finishing time 24:33
Final Word and Thank You
A massive big thank you to Joe, I seriously could not have done so well with out your help and patients, you are amazing.
Suze for turning up and helping Joe and for just being generally awesome.
Sharon for looking after my training partners Cadence and Pace.
Shona, you are the most amazing positive person I have ever met, you are bloody awesome friend and the best coach a person could have.
Thank you to everyone that sent me positive messages and to those who believed I could do it.
Cath & Rob, the two nicest people I have ever met, for you to open your home and hearts to two people you had never even met before just blows me away, truly humbled.
Sally Lynch, inov8 Australia, Barefoot Inc, really appreciate your support and thanks for incredible quality gear.
Rossie Catton for being an amazing chick, you are so strong, loved our chats.
I was so disappointed that I didn't get a photo with Rossie and even more disappointed she didn't get a trophy for coming in second. I think the age category trophies for each race should be dropped and the trophies given to the Grand Slam placers. These guys are out there slogging it out for the whole 3 days so deserve it more than the age groups, that's what I think anyway.
Thanks for an amazing experience La Sportiva, Hammer, Hund, Tempus Timing and MountainSports Buffalo Stampede
At first disappointed I couldn't find a lot of information on this event and that the times don't show or reflect the number of DNF's on this course, but now I think its a good thing, adds a bit of mystery to the event.
I loved this event, would I do it again ...... in a heartbeat......... Do I feel I NEED to do it again? ....... No, as I'm not sure how I could have run it any better, yes I could definitely do it quicker now that I know the course but I think I will leave it at that and look for my next challenge.
Quote of the day: "There is nothing but misery on that course"
Inov8 Race Ultra Vest
Inov8 X-Talon 200
Inov8 X-Talon 225
Inov8 Trail Talon 250 (for most of my training, brilliant all-rounder shoe)
Hammer Endurolytes Extreme
Tail Runner Race Singlet
Tal Runner Visor
Tail Runner Buff