BECOME A MASTER AT IT.

I have a good friend by the name of Vlad.

He’s a runner of sorts, an elite distance runner in fact, regularly placing in the top 5 or 10 in many Australian road races including the City2Surf, Gold Coast half marathon and Sydney half marathons. He runs six, if not seven days/week, every week and often twice a day. He trains in other types of exercise also, including weights, TRX and kettle bells, but only ever in a fashion that benefits his running.

Whenever I catch up with Vlad he tells me about the latest and greatest technology he is learning, testing and trialling to improve his running performance because he just wants to be the best. He runs a marathon in around 2hrs20, a half marathon in a mere 68minutes and 10km in a lightening time of just 30minutes.

So yeah, the boy can run.

This morning we were chatting about the upcoming Melbourne marathon in which we will both participate. After discussing what each of our training plans will entail for the last remaining weeks before the race, I noted to him: “Gee Vlad, I can’t wait until Melbourne is done and dusted. I’m really looking forward to having a break from running and getting into some other types of training and exercise for a while.”
He didn’t really respond and gave me a confused look. So I continued; “Don’t you ever get a bit sick of running and want a break from it?”

‘Never!’ Vlad exclaimed. ‘After I finish a race I’m immediately thinking about my next race and whether I will recover quickly enough from this one to start training for the next one straight away.’ (Note: Vlad already knows what his next three races will be before he has even completed the one he is currently training for.)

That’s when I realised the difference between Vlad and I as runners and that’s why he is an elite runner and I am just someone having a dig. He lives and breathes for his running and I, well…I do not. Therein lies the difference between those who successfully become a Master of something and those who are still trying.

The Master wakes every single morning and the first thing he thinks about is his skill, his passion, his purpose. The last thing on his mind before he drifts off at night is the same thing; his skill, his passion, his purpose.

The Master focuses all of his energy into that one thing until he conquers it, until he owns it, until he becomes it and until it becomes him.

Mastering that skill is the most important part of the Master’s life right now and he plans every waking moment and every daily action around mastering it, until he has.

The Master just loves it. Always. Improving and practicing his skill, his passion, his purpose is never a chore, never boring and never a waste of time for him and he is excited every day to do just that: repeat it, practice it and improve it.

The Master knows that with every second he spends doing that thing or thinking about doing that thing, the sooner he will become a Master of it.

What is it that you want to become a master of?
Running? Painting? Writing? Business? Shares? Money? Relationships? Romance? Communication? Leadership?

Whatever it is you must ask:
‘Am I giving (insert skill or life area here) the time, attention, focus, discipline, energy, and practice it needs for me to become a Master of it?’

If the answer is no, then now you know why you haven’t mastered it yet and you also know what to do next.

Three Books I Really Like.

I looked at my book shelf (which btw is one of my most prized possessions) and picked out three books that really spoke to me and had a significant effect on how I now view the world.

I thought I would share them with you.

1. It’s Called Work for a Reason – Larry Wingett.
Wingett has aptly been named the ‘Pitbull of Personal Development’ as he is a no-nonsense motivational personality who calls it as it lies. This book opened my eyes to what ‘hard work’ really is, both as an employee and also as a leader. Wingett bluntly reminded me that I am 100% responsible for where I am in my life and if I want to have success, then I have to create it myself. He says: ‘Don’t expect anyone else to do it for you because if you do you’ll die waiting.’ This book provides a great kick up the ass which we all need from time to time.

2. The Psychology of Winning – Denis Waitley.
Last year I travelled to Hawaii with my Mum and Dad to attend my brother’s wedding. When my parents picked me up to head to the airport, Mum handed me this book and said “I was cleaning out your father’s office the other day and I found this book. I thought you might like it.” As you can see it’s pretty old. Not even a wrap-around title cover. So, I’m sure you can understand why I was initially a little disinterested. Nonetheless, I thanked mum and cracked it open as we settled into a 10 hour flight. To say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. Where Larry Wingett described the necessity for personal responsibility and hard work as a necessity for success, Waitley revealed to me another step towards success (and quite possibly the very first step required) as he explained the mindset, attitude and psychology that I need to adopt and nurture if I wish to have continual success. This book cemented for me the need for positive thinking and a focus on finding solutions instead of dwelling on problems. When I couple this mindset of ‘can’ with Wingett’s hard work; I’m home-free.

3. UltraMarathon Man – Dean Karnazes.
This one’s a bunch of fun. Google ‘Dean Karnazes’ and you will be bombarded with a myriad of the running events, ultra running events and ulta-ultra running events that he has completed in his adulthood. In this book, Karnazes writes of his return to running in his 30s to pull him out of a rut, again, something many of us can empathise with. His running gave him so much clarity and passion for life again that he now makes a living running these crazy distances around the globe, with one of his longest events being a 200 miler. The annual event is normally completed in teams of 12. The 200 miles is split into 12 legs, with each leg being run by a different team member. However Karnazes is different – he ran the entire 200 miles himself over about four continuous days and nights. I read this book whilst I was on a 3 week trip to Europe and I just could not put it down. It is riveting, real and taught me that the human body is capable of incredible things, as long as the mind is committed.

Enjoy!

Doing ‘it’ in the Morning.

As a personal trainer I am often asked; “Is it better to exercise in the morning or at night?”. My token answer until today has been; that the best time for you to exercise is when it is most realistic. For example; if you are a busy mum who gets woken at the crack of dawn by your kids, who then demand your time and attention for the next 3 hours as you scramble to get them and yourself ready for a day at school and work; then is it probably best for you to exercise straight after work while hubby heads home for kid-duty.

Alternatively; if you tend to get stuck working late, more often than not, whilst your gym bag and trainers are left pining underneath your desk or in the back of your car; then maybe your best training time is in the morning before your crazy work day even starts.

However, this morning I am finally going to make a decision and give you a straight answer on when I truly believe it is best to exercise. So here it is:

Make your exercise the first thing you do after waking up to start your day.

We are told from when we were toddlers that breakfast is the most important meal of the day to fuel the body so it can power through the day happily and energetically. So why then, should we not feed our brain in the same way?

The evidence is there; exercise stimulates your brain and initiates a release of amazing hormones that have you feeling calm, collected safe and happy, as well as confident, clear-minded and driven. Google dopamine and serotonin to give you a start. These powerful hormones and the advantageous states of feeling and acting that are elicited by them are best used to attack your day ahead with gusto, bravery and positivity – rather than used to hit the sack with. Wouldn’t you agree?

After you exercise:
you think more clearly,
you make communicate more effectively,
you make smarter food choices,
you act more confidently,
you are more positive.
The list goes on.

If you don’t normally do it in the morning, I challenge you to do so for one day and just try to tell me you don’t feel great for the rest if that day. Just try me.

So, my message this morning is short and sweet;

Get your butt out of bed a little earlier than you usually do and go get sweaty for 30mins. Feed your brain with exercise in the morning the way you feed your body with a healthy and hearty breakfast and I promise you will see the benefits of this in the day that follows.

Doing it in the morning is better.

Mind Your Expectations Please!

 

I know two very wise ladies named Kylie and Dominique and although the descriptor of ‘wise‘ may portray them as elderly women with long, white hair, wrinkles of experience lining their faces and spectacles teetering on the tip of their noses, they are not this at all!

One is a fiery red-head with locks as long and wild as Rapunzel and the youth and curiosity of an innocent puppy and the other is a vivacious and bouncing blonde with more balls than a children’s play-pit! Still, they are both very wise.

Together these two ladies have reminded me about the concept of ‘managing your expectations’ and how failing to do so, can often lead to a myriad of unpleasant emotions.

Now bear with me as I attempt to explain what I mean by Managing Your Expectations:

If you can imagine a graph; with the vertical axis representing your personal expectations of the world; what you feel should happen for you in any situation in your life, what you expect to happen. The horizontal axis represents what is actually happening in reality; what the world actually gives you in any situation in your life. I have taken the liberty of drawing up an image of my graph to help you understand :)

If your expectations are low and reality provides you a high, you will undergo emotions such as excitement, feeling ecstatic, overjoyed and surprised. For example; imagine you buy a scratchie every week, the same scratchie from the same newsagent on the same day of each week for 20 years and you’ve never won a thing. One day, you buy your regular scratchie and you scratch $50 000. How do you feel? Completely surprised overjoyed and ecstatic! Right?

Conversely; if your expectations are high and reality serves you low, you may experience negative emotions such as utter disappointment, maybe anger, depression, sadness or hurt, depending on the situation. An example in this case: imagine you were in the running for a promotion at work and it was between you and only one other person whom you have never met. You get yourself extremely worked up and excited about how much you believe you deserve this promotion more than the other person because of how hard you work and and how valuable you feel you are to the company. There’s no way they would give it to anyone else!
Your boss gives the promotion to the other person. How do you feel? Hurt, disappointed, maybe even angry or depressed. Right?

Not nice feelings to deal with. We’ve all been there before and probably would like never to have to feel that way again.

Now, what my two wise ladies have reminded me of; is that it can significantly help to slightly adjust your expectations so that you don’t create such a big gap between what you expect and what is reality. Therefore protecting you from this reel of nasty feelings when reality does hit home.

As the fiery red-head puts it; make friends with reality. If we can train ourselves to make friends with reality or go in with no expectations instead of really high ones, then we may come out the other end of some sticky situations in life with our ego and psyche relatively unscathed and still in a healthy, functioning form.

So, if you are a bit sick of feeling disappointed, hurt, angry, sad, depressed or the likes, then just go in with no expectations. If reality presents you with some gold, then you will be pleasantly surprised. If reality gives you a little less than gold, then you know what it is?
It is what it is and you will be ok.

If you liked this idea of minding your expectations, check out more of Kylie’s stuff at mymindcoach.com.au

Show Up

More than once or twice over the last few days I have noticed the phrase: Show Up appear in various tweets, blogs, status updates and the likes. Interesting concept: To Show Up. Where did it come from? What does it mean? How do I interpret it? How do you interpret it?

If you google the phrase show up it brings a bland and practical definition:
to appear or arrive at a destination in person.

Not really the definition I assimilate this phrase to.

For me; to show up closely relates to another well-known phrase: stand-up guy. This one is used as a positive descriptor of a somebody’s character. Google stand up guy and The Urban Dictionary will provide the following description:
Mafia term: A good solid man. Not one to bullshit, can be trusted. Will do anything needed for his family. Loyal, virtuous, strong, noble, trustworthy.

Ahhh, much better. That’s the one I was hoping to find.

I google the word virtuous: Having moral excellence. Upright, righteous, pure. Exhibiting manly courage and strength. Valorous, valiant, brave.

I google the word valorous: Marked by or possessing great personal bravery.

I google the word bravery: Courageous behavior or character.

I google the word courageous: Not deterred by danger or pain.

I could go on and on here but I’m quite sure that I am satisfied in my own understanding of both phrases.

To show up or be a stand up person to me, quite simply means;
be honest, be reliable, ensure the important people in your life can count on you and can trust you, follow through on your promises even if it may be uncomfortable or inconvenient for you to do so. Showing up means to do what you know is right and not just what is easy. It means to live in accordance with your personal values no matter how much trouble it may get you in and above all, to me, it means to act in a way that you would want your daughter or son to act.

Show Up.

 

 

The North Face 100 – Chapter 4: ‘It’s not fitness, it’s an attitude.’

It’s been a fortnight now since North Face. It feels like eons ago and my body feels surprisingly fantastic and recovered. Although, I went for my first run today since finishing and, oh yes, I was reminded quickly by my sluggish legs, tight hammies and shortened stride that I have recently run 100 kilometres.

As you may have noticed with the quick release of my last 3 blog posts: TNF Chapters 1, 2 and 3, my main priority after completing the momentous event was to immediately document my experience whilst it was still crystal clear in my mind. I’m so happy that I did that, as even now, just 2 weeks later, some of the details have already started to become hazy in my mind. When I am asked about certain aspects of the race or the lead up preparation, ‘How did you feel when… what was the weather like at… how did other runners look/sound at this stage….?’ Where once, in the days straight afterwards, I was able to remember these moments vividly, I now have to stop and have a good hard think about my answer as I am starting to forget the details.

One thing I will never forget however; is what I learned form the event.

I knew coming out of it that I really wanted to list how I have personally grown, changed and developed from conquering an event that breaks so many others. My aim was to have these learnings published into a blog immediately after finishing. However I found it a little challenging to know where to start. I learned so much, I had so many moving experiences and growth-encouraging teachings that I can and will take into my later life; that I became a little stuck on how to document them all in a way that makes sense. As such I have not blogged in over a week.

Today, I figured it out and luckily, it came in the shape of one, major but simple, learning. In my team meeting today I conducted a little activity where each team member wrote their name in the middle of a piece of paper and handed the paper around for all of the other members of our team to anonymously write something they admire about that person and also something they would like to learn from them.

I received my paper back and written on it more than once was; ‘I admire how fit and inspiring you are and I would like to learn how to be as fit as you.‘ Now, keep in mind, I work with a team of Personal Trainers – people who are inherently fit and healthy and have top of the line knowledge in how to stay that way. It was interesting to me that these people who are highly educated and capable in the are of health and fitness would describe their desire to ‘learn how to be as fit as me’. They already know how to do that.

I realised quickly, that learning how to be fit was not what they were asking for. They already know how how to train, what to train and when to train to achieve a high level of fitness.

What they were asking for was to learn how to have the attitude I have.

An attitude of ambition.
An attitude of positivity.
An attitude of resilience.
An attitude of discipline.

This is the only thing that separates me from them and it even separates me from myself at times. I can be negative sometimes. I can blame others sometimes. I can make excuses and get lazy sometimes. It is at these times I lose, I fail, I am unsuccessful, I am not inspiring.

It’s when I am ambitions; when I take risks and set lofty goals, that I become fit and inspiring.
It’s when I am positive; when I take control of my life and my success and look for what I CAN do rather than what I can’t do, that I become fit and inspiring.
It’s when I am resilient; when I get back up after falling or failing and when I don’t let other people’s criticism or negativity break my determination, that I become fit and inspiring.
It’s when I am disciplined; when I am consistent with my food and my training, every single day, every single week, every single month until my goal is achieved, that I become fit and inspiring.

This is my learning from North Face.

Yes, of course I needed to be fit to do it. But it wasn’t fitness that got me across the finish line. It was an attitude. An attitude of ambition, positivity, resilience and discipline.

It’s this attitude that will get you anywhere in life.

The North Face 100 – Chapter 3: Check Point 3 to Finish

Leg 4: 54 to 65km

This was a short leg, only 11km which took me 96min, but it was the hardest of the day. After leaving my crew at check point 3 I felt amazing… for about 3kms. Then for some reason I started to feel fatigued. Not sure why, maybe I hadn’t been eating enough, maybe I went out too hard from check 3 after feeling so good. Whatever it was, it shouldn’t really have been occurring here. Between about 54 and 62km the track was relatively flat and wide. There weren’t many severe inclines and I really should have been able to jog this entire section, but I was feeling a little drained.

The mind games started to kick in: ‘Here it is then. Here’s my wall. I knew this would come. You shouldn’t have gone out so hard in the first half Betsy you moron. You knew the golden rule!’

A quote from one of the most famous ultra marathon runners in the world, Dean Karnazes; “In an ultra, if you think you’ve gone out too hard, you’ve definitely gone out too hard. If you think you’ve gone out just right, you’ve gone out too hard and if you think you’ve gone out too slow, you’ve probably still gone out too hard.

Right about now I was thinking I’d gone out just right which meant I’d gone out too hard and I guess was starting to feel the effects of this 60km in. I reminded myself of my own Golden Rule for today; Don’t let negative thoughts affect your performance. Think positivity and I remember the story I once heard from Commonwealth Games Marathon gold medalist Heather Turland, about how her thoughts became negative during the stinking hot KL marathon and she started to slip back in position during the race. She had to give herself a strict talking-to and consciously created positivity in her mind. As soon as she did this, she found herself picking up pace again and not only catching up with the second and first place runners, but overtaking them to win gold.

Like Heather, I gave myself a talking-to at the 60km mark and pushed some positivity into my mind. It felt corny and cliche but I truly believe it worked and I truly believe, had I not forced these positive thoughts, I would not have finished with my excellent result. I forced myself to think; How lucky I am to be able to run out here in full health and fitness. Thank you God for making this day so beautiful and this countryside so picturesque. Thank you God for making sure I haven’t yet tripped and fallen on my face. Like I said; corny, but no sooner had I started to think these things, that the terrain changed completely and I was distracted from my thoughts all together. The mild, flat road quickly turned to steep, narrow up hill and then steeper, narrower stairs.

Nellie’s Glen stairs were the most intense and fatiguing section of the entire 100km by far. I managed to power walk the dirt hill section at the start of them and overtake a few people, but once the steps started, there was no overtaking. Every runner slowed to the same snails pace as we just could not lift our knees any higher or any faster. There was a lot of deep breathing and leaning on knees to push up onto the next step. We must have been traveling at about 20min kms – very slow. At one or two points, I event stopped in my own tracks, hands on hips, to try and settle my intense, heaving breaths. I would glance behind me in fear that stopping would mean I’d be overtaken, but the next runner back was doing the same thing anyway, looking back up at me with helplessness. Every now and then I would glance up desperately trying to catch sight of some kind of top, some indication that the stairs finished soon, but this didn’t come for some time.

We climbed these bastards for about 30-40minutes and when we finally did reach the top of them, I was surprised at how quickly my breathing recovered and I was able to continue moving without taking a break. This was one of my favorite fitness adaptations coming from North Face training; my recovery after an intense cardio workout was the fastest it has ever been.

Pretty soon after we emerged from Nellie’s Glen we found ourselves in residential Katoomba and it was only a couple of kms before we hit the 65km mark; check point 4 at Katoomba Sports and Aquatic Centre. As I trudged up the hill onto the basketball courts where the support crews were setup, Dom was standing right at the entry to greet me with a big smile and a joke. I was really happy that I was still in pretty good shape and great spirits to be able to banter back and forth with her. So many of the stories I’d heard about runners in previous years described how they were starting to lose it at the 65km mark. Other than being a little wiped of energy after the ridiculous stair climb, I felt quite good. No muscle soreness, no cramping and still completely sane, I think.

I sat in the camping chair at check point 4 whilst the guys refreshed my bladder and food/gel portions and I started to get myself ready for night. It was approximately 4:47pm and I had been running for nearly 10 hours. The daylight didn’t have a lot left to offer and it was starting to get cold so I pulled off my salty visor and shoved on my buff (a really thick, warm headband). I put my head torch on, changed my sox again and pulled out my high-vis vest which was compulsory to wear from check point 4.

I was lucky enough to have an experienced ultra-marathoner and marathon nutritionist Matt Cheesman with me at this point. He asked me how I was feeling and I described to him how I was not sore anywhere, but just tired. He said I need to get more energy in and I needed to start eating a gel every 30mins and a salt tablet every 40mins. Then he pushed a jam sand which into my hand and said: Eat! It was the last thing I felt like eating at that stage, it felt like choking down a tea-towel, but I knew it would do me good, so I got it down (well, most of it). Matt grabbed me firmly by the shoulders, looked me square in the eye and said again; “It’s extremely important that you listen to me. You need to eat a gel every 30mins and a salt tablet every 40min.”

The team pulled me out of the chair, wrapped my pack and vest over my shoulders, turned my head lamp on and pushed me out the door after just 10 mins at check point 4.

Leg 5: 65 to 89km

Leaving check 4 I had 2 things rotating in my head;
1- Gel every 30 and salt every 40
2- I just need to get through this leg and then I’m home free with only 11km to go.

Leg 5 is the longest at 24km. It gave us a long steep downhill; 800m decline over 15km, followed by a long steep uphill; 700m elevation over 9km.
After the Sports Centre we weaved through Katoomba and soon found ourselves at another major attraction that conjured up some more fond childhood memories for me; Echo Point lookout. There were a lot of tourists around and we had to often shout out for them to move out of the way of us runners. I suppose the blinding head torches, trekking packs and fluoro yellow reflective vests weren’t signal enough. Next we were moving down a steep metal staircase that spiraled down right beside the Three Sisters. I’m a wimp going down stairs, especially when it’s a little damp, so I slowed down to a walk. I even hopped down them with my arms propped on the hand rails on either side to take my body weight so that my poor quads didn’t have to bear the eccentric load.

I had hoped earlier in the day that I would have made it to this point with enough light left to appreciate the magnitude of these stone monuments, however I was just about out of luck. I snapped this shot of one of the Sisters at what must have been almost 6pm.

At the bottom of the metal stairs we were back in bush track and actually passing through a point we passed in leg 1; Federal Pass. I recognised it, but this time we were heading in the opposite direction. For a long while I trailed behind a string of four runners who all kept about the same pace. I realised that this pace was actually a little slow for me and one by one I politely asked if I could squeeze by them to overtake. When I found myself in the lead of the string I had a fleeting thought that maybe overtaking them was not a great idea as we were in near-complete darkness and the tiny reflective strips marking the course every 40-50metres were getting awfully hard to notice….Oh well, getting lost is what iPhones are for.

The trail turned to wide 4WD track and went down, down, down and down some more. It was dark, we we’re about 75km in and I think I was on a bit of a sugar high because I was freely thinking out loud and chatting to every single runner as I passed them. Being small was a massive advantage for me here. I didn’t have to produce a lot of braking force going downhills as I don’t weigh a lot, so I was able to pass a heap of people on the downs, even really fit looking young men.

The 30min gel and 40min salt rule was helping the time to pass extremely quickly because I was just working in 30min lots and the salt worked a treat. I have done 8 marathons before and in every one of them I cramped up badly in the quads and calves after 35km. But no sign of cramps today. Salt; I could just kiss you! With the time passing quickly and me overtaking many runners my attention was brought back to my finish time. I had reached each of the previous check points about 40min ahead of my predicted time. There was still the lingering thought that I was going to hit a wall, but if there was a wall coming, it was running out of time! At this point, I only had about 20km to go and I still seemed to be holding it together.

The downhill felt like it went forever but it was probably more like 90min. Just when you hit what you think is the bottom and start trudging up the hill on the other side, the hill disappears and you find yourself rolling downhill again. I asked a couple of the nearby runners whether we were far from the bottom and one mentioned that he remembers 3 bottoms from last year. Finally we got to the third bottom, the real bottom and I heard some advice ring again from Matt back at check point 4; “At the bottom of the hill, you have a 9km climb straight up, so you’ll need some energy.” I squeezed a gel into my mouth, a mini mars bar and a hand full of jelly beans. Good to go.

I turned on the uphill engines and started my trek up Mount Solitary. At 80km in, most runners were starting to falter at this point. Many had resorted to what looked like a drunken swagger and weren’t in the mood for chatting. I still had a bit of juice to get me up the hill so I decided to keep to myself as I passed them. I had a decent chat to one guy; Morris, a chef from Sydney with one daughter and who had done this event twice and eight-9ths before. We talked for a little while before I left him in my wake also, but I would find Morris again in leg 6.

I approached a random gear check table which was a nice way to break up the hill. As I pulled out my wet weather jacket and compass to prove to them that I was following the rules I asked where we were and how far till the next check point. “This is 84km. You have 3km of hill left then 2km of flat before you hit check 5.” Brilliant. I powered up the last 3km and broke into a slow trot as the road flattened out into the 89km mark. Bright lights and fire barrels lit up check point 5 and my eyes frantically darted from side to side as I looked for Dom. “Maxwell!” There she was. Again, she wrapped her arm around my shoulder and led me to the loot.

“What do you need?” Batteries for my headlamp, 4 big blister pads and 2 small ones. I replied. The skin on my feet had been screaming at me the entire way down the hill after I’d left check 4 and the brightness of my head lamp was embarrassing compared to the other runners around me. I could barely make out what was on the ground in front and it wasn’t until about 80km that I noticed the glorious beacons of light streaming from the lamps of other runners I figured mine might need a battery change. I did have spare batteries in my pack but in the dark I decided that would have been too hard to fumble so I just pulled out my spare hand torch and used it for the last 15km of leg 5. As I was being prepped by my crew, handed bottles to skull from and pills to shove down my throat, a spectator came to me and said; “I have just been on the phone to a friend of mine who has just finished. He says it’s freezing across the ridge as you leave the last check point and as you get back down into the valley it’s very wet and slippery so be careful.
Tom Landon-Smith was right at his race briefing; ultra runners are so considerate and supportive and have no ego. I thanked the guy for sharing this advice with me; a complete stranger.

After a pee stop, a battery change, a blister popping session, a hand full of magnesium tablets and shot-gunning a can of full-sugar V, I was back on the road in just 12mins. Only 11 km to go.

Leg 6: 89 to finish

As I walked out of check 5 my feet were stinging. When I had peeled off the last blister pad at 89km the entire piece of skin that formed the blister had peeled off with it. So I had a section of skin, about 3cm by 3cm on the sole of my left foot that was completely red, weeping and raw. I’d covered it with a new pad but it still stung like gangbusters which made it extremely painful to run. So I walked the first 2km out of check point 5. It’s crazy that the thing that stopped me wasn’t a muscle or bone injury, no, I would have run through that pain, it was a stupid little blister. I wondered briefly if this was it for me; Would my blister resort me to walking the last 11km? But after about 20min, I think my feet either went numb or my body turned on it’s protective mechanism and blocked out the blister pain, because I was able to break into a jog again.

The first part of leg 6 was relatively flat and open, then we crept down into the thick bush of Wentworth Falls. The ground became very wet and muddy and there was a lot of run-a-bit, walk-a-bit, maybe because of the unstable terrain, maybe because everybody was just spent. I started chatting to the other runners again every k or so to gauge if my estimation of distances was correct. My Garmin had died way back at about 70km so I was relying on the North Face veterans around me to indicate how far we had left. I asked one guy in front about the distance left and he had a very clear description of what we could expect coming up. It sounded as though he must have done a few of these before and when I asked he said he has done two and eight 9ths before. I was running with Morris again. This time I asked him what time he was hoping for today and he said 15hours 45.

15 hours 45?! This time I let myself get excited. Here I was, about 5km from the finish and I was running alongside an experienced 15:45 runner. I don’t think the wall was coming and if it did, I was too strong for it. We had probably less than an hour left and I was on track for a sub 16 hour North Face. I was ecstatic. I wasn’t finished yet though, so I contained my excitement and just focused on the last 5km. I passed Morris. Sorry Morris.

To the next lady I approached I said: Nearly there! She responded “Yep. We have another down hill and then anther uphill and then we’re pretty much done.” It helped a lot to break the leftover into distinct stages like that and she was exactly right. We did have one more down hill left and boy, was it a bitch of a downhill. It probably wasn’t any steeper than previous downs we had mastered today but I think just the fact that my legs were 97km in and I could hear the cheering at the finish line made it harder to bear. The predominant thought filling my head in these last few kms of the race was: Are these race directors kidding! What were they thinking giving us a down hill like this 97km in! But of course, the ancient Roman proverb reigned true: This too shall pass.

The bushes started to open up and we could see flickers of light from the Fairmont hotel rooms. We ran onto a newly mown grass clearing, up some stone steps right at the back of the hotel and onto the grass finishing chute. There was a decent crowd cheering us in for 10:33pm at night. Somehow, I was able to muster a bit more of a sprint to cross the line. At least I felt like I was sprinting. I leapt under the finish banner and swung around to look up at the digital clock over the line to confirm whether my dreams in the last 10km were true. I knew long ago I would go under 16 hours, but how far under?

As I glanced up at the clock, it was blank. Dead. Not on. A marshal was on the microphone reading out runner names as they crossed the line and she must have seen the look of despair on my face as I looked at the blank clock. “Yeah sorry the clocks out. Were fixing it now. Betsy Maxwell you finished in 15 hours and 33 minutes.”

Oh My God.