Ultra Running Melbourne 30/50 Challenge 2012


I jumped at the chance to race for No Roads Expeditions Trail Running Team. I was even more excited when my training partner Beth Cardelli said she’d travel down to the Mornington Peninsular to race the 30/50 Challenge too. Beth and I had unfinished business. Beth sadly had to pull out of our No Roads Expeditions Oxfam Trailwalker Sydney team with an injury. We both trained hard together and we were busting to race together rather than race against each other. We were both keen to run together and give each other a real push. I’m a great starter she is a great finisher. Together we will make a great team.
There was only problem. 6 days before the event I was diagnosed with haemophilus influenza. 9 days before 30/50 or 6 days after my GNW DNF I was still having problems with my breathing. I was getting worse. My strengthened asthma drugs were not working at all. I felt like I was only breathing out of one lung. I could feel something blocking my bronchioles on my right side. I was worried. It felt like I had a growth of some sort. I actually thought the worst, I was thinking cancer I felt so sick. I decided that I would go back to the doctor and get a referral for a specialist.

Friday afternoon I went to the doctor, a new doctor. I’d been to two others previously, who both said that it was uncontrollable asthma. This new doctor decided that I was extremely sick. Very, very sick. I was grey in colour, wheezing , coughing, and having problems breathing and talking. My mucous had turned from white to green and I clearly had an infection of some kind. He decided that it was not asthma. The asthma drugs were not working. I’d gotten worse. It must have been something else. He took some blood, and sent me away for a CT scan to see what was blocking my lungs. He also made me perform a spit test.

30/50 Challange Shona Stephenson and Beth Cardelli Ultra Running Melbourne 30/50 Challenge 2012
30/50 Challange Shona Stephenson and Beth Cardelli

All I could think of was that I had cancer. The growth that was blocking my trachea and bronchioles was really worrying me. I felt like I was deteriorating for about 6 weeks. Maybe my asthma for the entire year had been because I was developing lung cancer. I walked home crying, thinking that I was dying, and that I was going to need chemotherapy. Very dramatic I know, but I could feel something blocking my lungs. Why else would he send me for a CT scan. The doctor prescribed me with some antibiotics to get me started on some sort of recovery.
5 days before the race on the Monday the doctor’s office called me in to see the doctor again. The doctor informed that I had haemophilus influenza. I had a heavy growth and I’d been fighting it off for sometime, about 6 weeks he thought, dating back before GOW. He prescribed me with a different type of antibiotic to take with my other type I was taking. He again stress that I was really sick asked me to rest and take a break and then asked me when I was next racing. “On Saturday”.I sheepishly informed him.
The doctor cautioned me to be careful and to look after myself. I could get much sicker. Haemophilus influenza can lead into meningitis or pneumonia he warned. I was worried I would not be well enough to race. I rang Beth and informed her of what I was diagnosed with and we decided that we’d look after each other while racing and try not to push too hard. (Fat Chance! If you get Beth and I together, it’s always going to be a competitive race even if we are on the same team).
Cool I was not dying of cancer. I was still to get a CT scan just in case. I had the CT scan on Tuesday and the radiologist could not find anything for me to worry about. On Tuesday night I coughed up huge chunks of green, white and yellow gunk the size of my finger nail out of my lungs and I was starting to feel like I was able to breathe through both sides of my lungs again. By Friday I was starting to feel racy and ready to run with Beth.

Finish line Shona & Beth Ultra Running Melbourne 30/50 Challenge 2012
Finish line Shona & Beth

The http://srtt.com.au/the-3050-challenge/ is a fundraiser for http://www.zaidee.org an organ donation awareness program for children. I think it is important to race not just for yourself but to raise money for worthy charities. I compete in Coastrek http://www.coastrek.com.au ,http://trailwalker.oxfam.org.au yearly so I was happy to find out that the 30/50 Challenge was a fundraiser for Zaidee and organ donor awareness for kids.
Beth and I were racing for No Roads Expeditions and being looked after by No Roads Expeditions guides Pete and Irina for the weekend.
We were picked up and dropped off at the start of the race at Rosebud on the lovely Mornington Peninsular by the friendly Pete and his wife Irina from No Roads Expeditions an awesome adventure travel company who kindly sponsors trail runners to race in their name. After meeting race director Sam at registration and spotting one of the famous “Oar-some Four-some” who was going to race the 50km of trails, I warmed up, coughed up a bit of phlegm and at 7am we were off and running.
The race was so well organized that Sam the race director had a “runner” to direct us through the tricky turns of the course for the first few kilometers. The only problem was that the start of the 50km event climbed straight up a fire trail to the top of the ridge then it dropped off like a roller coaster. I really felt for the runner. Just as he was telling everyone to be careful and to take it easy on the steep descent, when I decided to take off and use gravity, split leap and fly down the rocky firetrail. He was then forced to chase me to show me the way. I’m sure Beth wished that I slow down too. I love my descents. I have to make the most of them so off I went. At the bottom of the hill, I had to stop and wait for Beth and the “Runner” to catch up.
We then continued on in a threesome averaging under 4 minute ks, before I decided to slow down a bit and let Beth and the “Runner” recover. I’m a fast starter, Beth is a strong finisher. Beth’s strength is her consistency, and her climbing, this pace was too quick for Beth so soon in the race so I decided to chill a bit and conserve my own energy. She will be strong she lead me to the finish line later in the race.
We were soon joined by a single male local runner. He had run the “Two Bays Trail Run” and knew the area well. We ran with him for a few kilometers before we decided to let him run off on his own. 50km is still a along way and there was no point blowing up in the first 10km trying to stay with this guy.
Beth and I kicked it on and enjoyed the race. I was still a bit sick. I felt like I just had one more small bit of bacteria clogging my lung and I tried my best to try and cough and spit it out. Every minute of so I was coughing and spitting with little success. My body felt good. And even though I was sick, I still was way better than when I attempted GNW.
It was only about 15 degrees when we started. Beth and I thought that we had gotten away with running in the 34 degrees of heat. We ran along together along the beautiful single man track chatting and communicating about when to eat and when to drink. The trail was really technical, with some lovely rolling hills and some amazing view of the Mornington Peninsular Coastline. I was having a ball, enjoying the ride, enjoying stretching my legs.
After about 10km we were picked up by another team, two male runners. Again they were locals. They’d both competed in Iron Man, so I knew they’d be tough to beat. We ran together as a group and we chatted about what races we’d just run. Just before the 1st check point at the 22km mark they passed us. At the check point they were split up, and one needed to stop to wait for his team mate.
Beth and I kicked on together through the next section. I was having a ball, hooning down the descents, calling out to the 30km runners who had just started at the last check point. We were catching them fast, and passing groups of them every few minutes. I enjoyed chasing them down. Beth and I were making great time. We were ahead on our splits and we were shaded from the sun.
This soon changed. We were spat out onto a soft sandy beach and encouraged to run along the grassy dunes by the volunteers. After about 30m of running on the soft sand and noticing that I was just wreaking the dunes, I decided that it was best that Beth and I try and run in the wet sand at the tide line. The soft sand was a killer. We were busting our butts just to manage sub 8 minute ks for the next 3km of beach.
We ran into the 2nd check point at Cape Schank 27km feeling the soft sand sap energy from our legs and we were greeted by Pete and Irina from No Roads Expeditions.
Beth and I ran straight to our bags, I picked up a Hammer Gel Flask of expresso and Vanilla and some Perpetuem Solids and switched our hydration bottles over. I was using Hammer Fizz for the day. I’d only drunk 750ml for the 27km. At the time it did not bother me. I was really hydrated before the race and to me the heat had to set in yet. Or so I’d thought.
The next 13km were basically running on soft sand. If were were not running on soft wet sand we were forced up and around a headland via a 20m high soft sand dune. The soft sand just saps the energy from your legs. I was concentrating so much on my technique, trying to lift my legs rather than pushing into the sand and keeping my cadence high that I forgot to drink water. The temperature was starting to climb and we were out in the full sun with the reflection of the sun on the sand playing havoc with our core temperature.
By the time I’d run 40km I was starting to feel like I’d drunk either too much water or not enough. I could feel pressure on my kidneys. I had a pee and noticed it was dark in colour. Not a good sign. I then started to cramp in my rib cage. Every time I tried too a breath in I felt a sharp stabbing pain in my side and back. I started to drink some more, taking mouthfuls whenever I could. The damage had been done. I was dehydrated. I guess with me being sick over the last week I was probably more likely to be dehydrate than normal. I was having to cough and spit the entire way. I guess I was losing fluids by spitting as well as sweating.
The track left the beach for a few kilometers and I really started to suffer. My legs were tightening up, and the pain in my rids was becoming unbearable. I was really having problems breathing now. I took some ventolin, not sure if it was asthma or just rib cage cramping. I felt some relief for a few minutes but the pain returned. I was even having problems running down hills it hurt so much. My chest was cramping up so much I was thinking that I may actually have to pull out of the event and call an ambulance. I was worried I was going to have to stop. I was having problems breathing I was really suffering. At 46km I then started to cry and sob as I did my best to run and walk my way along the trail.
I then worked on my breathing. Taking two breaths in and then really blowing one breath out, trying to use my diaphragm to expel the air form my lungs. This seemed to help. Beth was great, she took control and made me give her my ultra lite UltrAspire Spry pack that only weighs 178 grams plus some small amount of gear to her to carry. Just having the pack off my back made me feel so much better. We then started to tip fresh water all over me to bring my body temperature down, and I switch to drinking fresh water only. All this seemed to help. I’d so much rather cramp in a leg than a chest. It is just so painful cramping in your rib cage makes every breath just hurt. The cramping almost made it impossible to breathe.
After 2km of sobbing and gasping my way through the trail I decided it was time to try and put some Hammer energy back in. I was starting to feel a little bit better at 48km. I was soon deflated when the male team who caught us around the 22km mark caught us back up and it was my fault. I should have looked after my hydration better. Bugger. I’d cost our team 2nd place over all and 1st team over all. I guess we’d have to settle for first female’s and first female team.
Beth was great. She looked after me. I she knew I could not give anymore and that what I was giving my all. I don’t know if I was on two different types of antibiotics at once changed the way my kidneys functioned, or wether it was a combination of being sick, spitting and the heat that made me so dehydrated. We’d had relative mild conditions in Sydney over the past few months so this hot 30 plus degree 52km event in open and exposed conditions was going to push the body’s limits.
From 48km to 50km we were again pushed back put onto the sand dunes and soft sand. If I was not in so much pain I would have enjoyed the view. The hidden beaches were divine, they looked like they were straight out of a James Bond film. They were small, private and at each headland the surf had eroded arches into the rocks. The water was crystal clear, aqua blue, light green, and then turned to brown as the high tide covered the sand stone rocks.
I was tough on myself, I was bummed that we’d lost a position but I guess we were not doing to badly. Beth and I were still catching and passing the 30km racers the entire way even though we’d run an extra 20km then them. On the final beach Beth and I caught and passed a pair of females that we had being yo-yoing for about 20km.
We climbed to the top of a set of stairs and I groaned and complained about the soft sand running and some surfy guys asked me.“Why do you do it?”
“Because it keeps me thin”, I said sarcastically. It was all I could think of to say. Too funny. Only someone who did not run would ask that. I do it because I love to race, I enjoy the challenge and I am now traveling the around Australia seeing the best trails my country has to offer. Those are the real reasons why I do it. I could just starve myself if I wanted to stay thin (not likely for me!). In my delirious state that was what I came out.
“Your already thin”. The surfy replied back. If only he knew what I have to do to stay looking like this. I really believe I am meant to be an ultra runner and a personal trainer. It is the only way I manage to keep the weight off my body. Beth and I giggled. We thought this was hilarious we were both in stitches.
“The guys are just ahead of you and they are cramping”. As spectator encouraged.
“My ribs are cramping and I’m on two different types of antibiotics at once, I probably should not be out here”. I replied. I was giving it my all, and I really could not go any faster.
We power walked to the top of the final climb and I tried my best to stay with Beth on the road. We only had a few more ks to go and I just tried to roll my legs over.
Finally my legs seems to kick back in, funny how they managed to turn it all on 500m from the finish line. I guess I was starting to cool down, re-hydrate and recover. Beth and I crossed the road, rolled down the hill across the crossing and crossed the finish line holding hands completing the 52km in 5 hours 24 minutes. We were immediately greeted by the guys who managed to steal 2nd position in a time of 5 hours 18 minutes and the guy who won was only just ahead of him with a time of 5 hours 14 minutes.
As soon as I crossed the finish line I started to cramp almost everywhere, feet, abbs, hamstrings, and calves were all cramping up. It was 30 degrees and I was badly dehydrated. We were handed some electrolytes and I scored myself a massage from the physio’s that were on hand. After a cold shower Beth and I were shouted to a nice pub lunch by Pete from No Roads Expeditions. It is amazing how fast you can recover.