Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney 2012 start of the race Shona Stephenson

Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney 2012 Start to CP2

by Shona Stephenson on August 28, 2012

Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney 2012 Start to CP2 Berowra 28.5km

With a cheer we were off and running in the Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney 2012. I could not help myself I had to be at the front. I like to get rid of nervous energy. I’m like a horse at the gates, I just love to race. I ran out quick but well under my anaerobic threshold and I just was happy to stretch my legs along the road and have a clean run to up the first fire trail.

In 2012 there were some really strong teams competing in Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney 2012. Our main rival for the mixed category was to be the Gu Nathan team featuring the Wellington Marathon 2012 Winner Sarah Burgess. Sarah Burgess is in great form and she had a star studded team around her featuring all sub 3 hour marathon runners. I have personally never competed in a road marathon but I know you have to be an amazing runner to achieve a sub-3 hour marathon. The Orange Whips were also looking strong on paper too. Oasis Property had some talented trail runners also, they initially asked me to be on their team but I later turned them down wanting to have the chance to run and train with my good friend Beth Cardelli in the No Roads Expeditions Team.

As a strong team of 4 we hit the first fire trail of the day and the first of many steep fire trails to climb. Instantly I was having problems with my breathing. There was a strong cold southerly blowing, which set my asthma off. What made my asthma worse was that it looked liked the bush had been recently back burned. Smoke fumes and burnt particles were still lingering in the air and straight away I was wheezing.

I cursed myself for leaving my bluff in the car with Garry. I had nothing to cover my mouth to protect my airway as I breathed deeply while I ran and walked my way up the calf killing climb. I was wheezing bad enough for Andy  (Andrew Lee) to ask me if I was okay.

“Yeah, I’m fine. I have nothing to cover my mouth, the smoke fumes, I just need to get out of it and the southerly and let my airways warm up”. I struggled.

We pushed up the climb together as a group. Jono (Jonathan Worswick) warned us that he was not running up this section of the Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney 2012. Andy dropped back with Jono and chatted. Paul  (Paul Robertson) and I pushed on. I could not talk. My nose was blocked with allergies, I had to used a nasal spray and Telfast before the event to help clear my nasal passage ways but it did not seem to work. I was wheezing too. I had some ventolin to help relieve the tightness I felt in my chest. I’ve been diagnosed for exercise induced asthma. My trachea can narrow by almost one centimeter in diameter when I am exercising. I just had to wait now for the ventolin to start working in about 10 minutes.

We moved on and upwards and Paul and I moved together wanting to get the climb over and done with while Andy and Jono relaxed and conserved their energy. We were about 10 meters in front of the Gu Nathan and Orange Whips Teams and the gap started to grow. We turned the corner and got out of the wind and the track flattened and I could talk again. After some chit chat I relaxed but soon had to I stop and adjust my shoe laces, they were too loose. I took a few steps and adjusted them again, as I did them up too tight. I fixed my shoes and started to run again. I caught up with the boys and I described the climb to Andy and Paul who had never trained on this section of the Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney 2012 course. After we turned the corner and ran and walked up the next section of the climb we were out of sight of the Gu Nathan and Orange Whips for the time being and as a team we enjoyed having the fire trail to ourselves.

I felt light and strong. In the last 3 weeks I did my best to get down to race weight. I made it to 51.5 kilos. Even though I was having problems breathing my body was not feeling the climb in my legs. This climb felt easy, having the extra few kilos off my body was paying off with my performance. We glided along theOxfam Trailwalker Sydney 2012  trail and before long we entered the single man track and I took off.

My race strategy in my team was to roll down all the descents fast without breaking trying to get enough distance between me and the boys, knowing that when we hit the climb they would catch me up on the ascent. Andy, Jono and Paul are all strong climbers. I’m not known for my amazing climbing ability. I was not strong enough to get dropped off the back on the climbs. I would never be able to catch up. I had to lead and work to my strengths and run down every descent fast to limit the time loss on the climbs. I knew the track well. It was the 3rd Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney I’ve competed in 3 years. This section of it consisted of tough, ruggered, rocky single man track with heaps of bush stairs for climbs.

This Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney 2012 course is brutal for the first 60kms and then it flattens out a bit. for the last 41.5kms. In the first 60km there are 11 climbs. They are not big, only 200m in height but they are steep and mainly consisting of walking up bush stairs and for the first 60kms there is little open fire trail. The track consists of mainly single man track. You have to be an amazing technical trail runner to get through this course in one piece.

I love this section of the Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney 2012 in the Kuringai National Park. I grew up in Turramurra, my childhood picnics were located at Bobbin Head. I ran and walked many of the trails around North Turramurra as a kid at birthday parties on the weekend. I use to have a boat before my Ultra Endurance Running took over my weekends and we’d launch it in the Apple Tree bay Boat Ramp. Whenever I run through the Kuringai National Park I feel like I’m coming home.

We ran through the most beautiful scenery and we were treated with a glimpse of the beautiful Jerusalem Bay where 3.5 years ago I was stung by a sting ray whilst walking back to my boat. I stopped in a sunny clearing and waited for the boys to catch up and enjoyed the view. The conditions were amazing only 20 degrees, sunny and with a nice cool breeze blowing. The day before was 29 degrees, with horrific gale forced winds. All the competitors were extremly lucky that the Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney 2012 was on the Friday and not the Thursday, otherwise I think it would have had to be cancelled.

My airways had opened and whilst I was protected by the bush I breathing was normally. We kicked on together up to Cowan and before long we were running towards the Train Station with the Gu Nathan team only 10m behind. I waved to Gordi and Tom from the Footpoint store in Mosman and ran across the train line through the maze of gates and thanked the Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney 2012 volunteers for their help.

We scooted across the highway and rolled down the hill before we were to climb back up to the Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney 2012 Check Point 1 at Cowan. We quickly checked in and out and refilled our water bottles, and were off and running back out of the check point and gained about 50m on the Gu Nathan Team. Cool we extended our lead by a few meters in that last section. We ran towards the Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney 2012 Berowra Community Center Check Point 2, along a fire trail and turned left onto a single man track. I let Andy lead for a while happy with the pace he was setting. The minute the track turned from flat to a descent I jumped ahead of Andy and rolled down the bush stairs to gain some precious time before we were to climb out of the second tallest gorge of the day. Paul soon past me on the climb, then Andy and we all waited for Jono to catch up before we moved on together. The trail soon descended again and jumped into the lead and hopped along the track with Paul following close behind me down the Berowra Waters. Paul and I slowed down to a trot and made sure we had Andy and Jono before we pushed on again. We past the boat ramp, and Andy and Jono filled up at the tap and we continued up the steep climb. I dropped to the back and let the boys past and I soon found my legs at the top. I chased Paul along the trail and I assured the boys that we were almost on the fire trail near the check point at Berowra.

We ran out onto the wide fire trail chatting to each other and checking on how everyone was feeling, making sure we were not running to fast for any team member. The track changed from a climb to a descent and I let my legs go, releasing the breaks, flying down the descent up over the rolling hills reaching Sam’s Creek and started the climb up to the Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney 2012 Berowra Check Point. We worked together up the stairs, allowing the fastest team member to run to the front and we chatted about past experiences on the track. Andy was feeling fresh, Paul seemed composed, Jono warned us that he was a slow starter but he was doing well and I was enjoying being able to run in a team at my own pace for the first time. I was starting the wheeze again. My ventolin was not cutting it for me. The cold southerly that was hitting my lungs on every climb was making it difficult to breathe. I was going to have to manage my asthma better.

We crossed the street, ran down the stairs checked in and out of the Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney 2012 Berowra Check Point and ran over to our support crew where Garry and Beth Cardelli were waiting for us.