Wild Earth Ultra Trail Gold Coast 500km

Wild Earth Ultra Trail Gold Coast 500km

24 September 2019


Located in Nerang, Queensland. This was the inaugural 500km event and consists of 20 laps of a 25km technical fire trail loop, each 25km loop has 895 metres of elevation gain.

Why 500km

For the challenge of course.

I have another 500+km in the pipeline and I really wanted to find out how my mind and body would cope, so this being a looped event I thought would be logistically easy for crew and a great opportunity to see if I had what it takes.

My goal for this one was to be on the podium, 2nd goal was to be 1st Female, time goal was 4 and a half days as in the half-day must be finished before sunset as I didn’t want to finish in the dark. I don’t know why but with all events for me not finishing in the dark is a big one, I have to finish in daylight.

Lead up

Could have been better, I had a hundred and one excuses to not turn up on the start line for this one, some of which included: 

  • I discovered that hosting events such as Riverwood Trail Run and Backyard Blister, mentally and physically take a toll on me as if I had run an ultra and take time to recover from.
  • My training was pretty well non-existent due to a virus that held on for close to 3 months that I just couldn’t shake. 
  • My diet was crap due to self-sabotage and feeling sad and sorry for myself, which resulted in a gain of 7kg, which I really didn’t need to haul around for 500km.
  • The shoes I would normally wear I couldn’t find anywhere in the country so I ended up trying a completely different brand and style, not ideal before a race of any distance, let alone this one.
  • Then a few weeks out while out on a walk with the Kelpie girls, Pace got spooked by a motorbike and took my legs out from underneath me which resulted in a massive bruise on my glute and a damaged hamstring and a cranky left Achilles.

Thanks to Pip from Breaking Boundaries and using me as a pin cushion I got enough movement in my leg that I could shuffle. 

The Thursday before the event I received a flurry of emails to say it was canceled, which on the one hand was a bit of a relief actually, but on the other was sad due to the circumstances, local Nerang running legend and event director Ian Cornelius had suddenly passed away.

In the end, Ian’s son Stephen was happy for us all to turn up and run old-style, minimum fuss no bells and whistles.

So I figured what the hell, just turn up, it’s going to hurt anyway so I may as well be hurting from the start.

Packed the van with everything I had to help get the event underway (clock, generator, floodlights etc), met my best friend, crew and pacer extraordinaire Mel Hanlon along with her talented girls at Bulahdelah, loaded their gear and bikes as Nerang was the MTB park for the Olympics so it was a good opportunity for them to get some riding in while I was running.

At the event

Set our tent/station up in the middle of the velodrome which was the hub for the week of the event, then Mel and I busted our arse on a stinking hot day setting up the other 30 gazebos, had a bit of a whinge only to find out that Stephen wasn’t doing much of the manual work due to an inoperable brain tumor, well fuck doesn’t that put life into perspective. 

One of the reasons I chose to do this event was not just for the challenge but logistically it would be easier on Mel/ crew as you keep looping back to the main hub so the crew didn’t have to drive anywhere, set up each time and there was no fear of them missing checkpoints.

The other reason I was interested in this event was for one it was 500km, how would I cope mentally and physically. Mentally I loved the concept of this as the 25km loops were going to be a real headfuck, but I soon realized I’d got more than I bargained for. 

An out and back section was added to make up the km’s not too far from the finish of the loop, then making the decision to continually leave the hub after each loop which I didn’t take into consideration, I found both really interesting and ended up loving as it added to the challenge. 

But what topped it off for me was fires had gone through a few weeks beforehand, so it was an accumulation of a blackened landscape, the smell of dead animals, the roughest rockiest technical fire trail topped with the most uninspiring fucking landscape they could have ever found. 

The race

The first lap was a bit of a meet and greet and catch up with Natalie who I hadn’t seen since DU135 miler. Found out most of the participants had competed in the 100 and 200miler events last year. Seriously could not understand why they would even consider coming back to run 500km, glad I was a bit naive when it came to this event and course.

I knew the 895m elevation gain each loop was a bit of a challenge and my dislike of fire trail was going to be an even greater challenge but didn’t realize how damn hard this course was going to be underfoot.

Fell really hard three times on the following two loops, 75km in and stopping myself from falling a fourth time I hyperextended my right knee and felt the tendons in the back of my knee pull. My leg and knee started to swell and made the decision to back it off if I was going to get to the end of this race in one piece. I whinged about it a few times over the course of the event but opted not to strap it in the case it gave me a false sense and I would push too hard and jeopardize finishing.

Out came the poles, not a fan of them but there were two sections where I just couldn't get a grip and skated down each time.

It was pretty obvious early on that there was a battle between Todd Hazelgrove and Sam Weir for first place, I was just going to try and hold on in the hope they didn’t get too far ahead of me. 

Was in complete awe of the pair of them though, to watch them push their bodies so hard over the 500km was something else and at the time I wished I was brave enough to do the same but instead decided as this was new territory for me I would use this to learn and take into my next challenge. 

These two have totally inspired me to push myself even harder and further and I can’t wait to try it out.

So came the battle between Paul Shard and me. I think Paul was a bit shocked when I warned him that when he set up next to my tent that it came with a language warning but after half a dozen loops he was soon swearing and cursing me Lol. The banter between Paul and I made the event for me, made it enjoyable and I’m so glad I got to meet such a top bloke.

I fucked up and opted for an hour's sleep after coming back from getting lost on course. I had gone to the toilet and for two days or so the water table I had past was on the right-hand side, on the third night someone had swapped the table to the opposite side of the track, to the left. Me being on autopilot kept the table on my right as I passed it but it turned out I was heading in the wrong direction. My headlight kept on dropping out, I realized what had happened when I saw the post with 13 on it and need post 7, no idea what the post numbers are for but knew 13 was not where I needed to be. That was a bit of a blow to my confidence and sent me to a low point.  

I found so much inspiration in watching the other participants in this event, Amy Strong stands out as one amazing chick ”strong by name, strong by nature”. Nick, a mountain of a man, so focused just a machine. Todd phenomenal to watch, Sam is a complete nutter and loves the pain. I loved watching Nat who seemed to be getting stronger with each loop. Anne, bloody hell to hang in there and finish when everyone else DNF’d and there was no one else on course, just amazing. Thomas Billett, what a remarkable young man and I look forward to seeing his future achievements. To watch Kierun keep fighting when he was clearly in pain.

A few things I did right in this event, having Mel as crew and pacer always the right decision, she is one hell of a tough chick. On one of the loops she was pacing me I noticed a bruise on the back of her leg and realized she had torn her calf, I mentioned it and in true form, she brushed it off and showed no pain. I know for a fact she wouldn’t do or show anything that would impact the race for me, incredibly selfless.

The second having Narelle Cabassi turn up and help with the crewing, thankfully Narelle loves cooking, oh man was I well looked after between Mel and Narelle I had the best feed and was able to keep on top of the calories required. 

Managing the heat with my TailRunner Ice Cap and that little Japanese outdoor bath I bought worked awesome in keeping the swelling to a manageable level in my leg, bending my knee was a bit difficult but it sure did help.

I learned that  

  • 11min Naps help to even out the extremes in highs and lows
  • Focus on the breath, helps to get through the pain
  • I can disconnect
  • Again that I am far stronger than I realized or give myself credit for
  • The human mind and body is absolutely fucking amazing
  • Your stomach bloats at these distances
  • I have strong legs and feet

Wrap up

The best thing I loved is the comradery and friendship I gained from this event.

Be interesting to see if the event goes ahead next year, completely grateful that Stephen went ahead with the event this year but as he is not a runner I’m not sure he completely gets the world of Ultra races or even trail races.
A nice bloke and all, he will definitely need help if it does go ahead, but when you go giving medals to people who DNF and call it a “participation medal” and you go giving people who finished that same medal and call it a “Finishers Medal” well that just done me. 

The world is fucking soft enough without doing that shit and completely diminishes the work of those that fought and finished.

Did I find my limit? Not even close

Could I have done better? Absolutely, I have no doubt in my mind that I can go harder and faster.

Would I do this event again? Hell No, I learned what I needed to, grateful what it taught me but my next 500+km will be on a course/trail that I find enjoyable. 

Did the event deliver the challenge that I wanted? Hell yes, 100%

Did I achieve my goal? Well, two out of three aren’t too bad. I didn’t make the overall podium but I did finish as 1st Female 33hrs ahead of second-place female, I did achieve my time goal of 4 and a half days and finishing before sunset in a time of 107 hours.

 I will definitely be back to visit Nerang as I really want to check out those beautiful single flowing trails on either side of that uninspiring fire trail on foot and by MTB. Everyone I met was really friendly and another thing that I noticed was the pride taken in the area, not one bit of rubbish dumped in the bush.

A couple of Thank You to those who helped get me to the start and finish line

  • Mel Hanlon - couldn’t ask for a better sister
  • Narelle - so glad you got to see the strength and determination required and hope you realize you have it too
  • Joe - for putting up with through the highs and lows and for never doubting me, steering my head back into the right space, not stopping me even though you don't understand why I do this to myself. To be honest I'm not even sure I do half the time Lol and for just being there.
  • Sally and Max from Barefoot Inc, thank you for your continued support
  • Gavin Markey - Tailwind Nutrition Australia, thanks for the tips on sleep and nutrition and sharing your knowledge
  • Pip Cave - Breaking Boundaries, you always get me to the start line love your positivity and no-bullshit way of telling me straight.
  • Richard Peden - ASN Charlestown, the best thing you put me onto is the ATP Science ZMST, I have not cramped since you recommended this.
  • Lululemon - every race I can rely on the shorts and crop to last and sit comfortably without causing chaffing
  • GOAT sunnies - thanks for the support and for making me look great Lol
  • Altra- although I killed these shoes and went through three pair in this event my feet held together
  • Inov8 - still love the gear, packs, and jacket always reliable
  • UltrAspire - great gear that holds up to the challenge of this course  
  • Hammer Nutrition - been using a number of these products and seriously impressed
  • Injinji - as always reliable for looking after my feets
  • Outdoor Research T-Shirts that I have won from previous events, love how light these are
  • Fisiocrem - and the massage dude, boy did that feel great afterward and such an awesome product. Thanks, heaps for supporting
  • Of course my Tail Runner singlets and caps
  • And lastly my training partners, my Kelpie girls, "Cadence and Pace"




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1 comment

Hi Karen.
An excellent wrap up of the event. I’m sorry that you didn’t get your overall podium finish (No I’m not). I absolutely loved a our rivalry over the course of the event. I think everyone learnt a bit about themselves and about what the mind and body are capable of doing. My goal was 1st to finish and then finish in the top 5. I do like the comfort of a looped course even know this one was the most brutal course. You’ve inspired me to maybe try something different and enter another ultra somewhere different and get out of my comfort zone. I think you are right in saying many things could be improved on to make it better. I’m so glad it went ahead. I will have lasting memories of us battling it out. Something I will never forget.
You are a true champion and one hell of a tough amazing human being. I’m glad to be able to call you my friend. I hope we catch up again in the future.
Cheers from Paul

Paul Shard

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