Last weekend saw the launching of 200 Miles For Travis on social media with a 100km run around Adelaide. It commemorated what would have been the original finish weekend for the Irrational South 200 Mile event. This has now been postponed until early October so I figured what better way to get things moving than to get moving!
The plan was to use the run as training for myself and for Andrew – from our major sponsor City Shelving – to experience being my crew for the day. For those not familiar with ultramarathon running it is common for runners to have one or two people act as there crew, meeting them at checkpoints and providing whatever assistance is needed. In this case his role was vital as I would not have the usual perks of running a race such as other runners, aid stations with food and drink etc. and first aid. To make things a little more interesting I also decided to start running at midnight! That way both Andrew and I could experience what it’s going to be like to run and work together with little or no sleep. Two of my running buddies, Randell and Neil, were also going to join me for portions of the run. Much like I hope they can at the “big one” in October.
11:00pm Friday June 5th
Andrew, Randell and I set off from my house with Andrew behind the wheel to get to the city in time for the midnight start. It was (literally) freezing cold but the clear skies and still conditions were excellent for running. I’d spent much of the day preparing my running gear and organising all the food, water, spare clothes and medical supplies as well as detailed information for Andrew of where and when I’d need him to be. It made the whole thing much more manageable knowing I’d see him every 10km to 20km and restock my food and water supplies. We arrived at Elder Park with time to spare and it was a good chance to have a chat and a laugh before Randell and I got running.
12:00am Saturday June 6th
After a couple of quick photos and selfies for social media we started running right on midnight. The start/finish point I chose was the Elder Park Rotunda, right in the heart of the city and not the usual location for trail runners to be. It was eerie running along the River Torrens Linear Park towards the beach as we hardly saw anyone else around. Mainly due to all the bars, clubs and entertainment venues still being closed due to Covid-19 restrictions. I’d wanted someone running with me from the start as a safety precaution but it turned out Randell and Andrew were the only other people I saw for about 4 hours! The route took us alongside the River Torrens all the way to Henley Beach where we checked in with Andrew for the first time. No need to restock anything, just a safety check at this stage. Once we got to the foreshore we headed south past Glenelg and Brighton until we met up with Andrew again at Seacliff and for the first time restocked our supplies. 25km done.
2:15:am – Saturday June 6th
It was too cold to stop for long so Randell and I left the concrete and bitumen behind and began the first climbs of the course. The next 30km or so would mostly follow the old Sea to Summit route, with a few slight deviations where old trails have been removed and new ones laid. Randell’s ankle had not liked the section of road running so around 3:00am he left me and went back to his car. It was beautiful to reach to top of O’Halloran Hill and turn to see all of Adelaide’s lights shining on such a clear night. Luckily I had a chance to check in with Andrew a few kilometres later before taking on the large section through Sturt Gorge. There are a few of my favourite trails there, in particular the section along Magpie Creek. Though some of the local wildlife wasn’t amused with some growls coming from resident koalas and possums. If you’ve not heard them before they sound more like carnivores than gentle marsupials! Up until now I’d been exactly on the schedule I’d supplied Andrew but at I continued to climb up through Blackwood and Glenalta I slowed a little and even turned down the wrong street just before I got to the Belair National Park check-point. Guess I needed an extra little climb before I picked up my next buddy runner. 46km done.
5:30am – Saturday June 6th
Neil was ready and waiting with Andrew when I arrived at the main entrance to Belair National Park. He was in for the long haul as he offered to accompany right through until the finish of my run. I was still feeling great at this stage but my feet were beginning to swell a little so a slight adjustment of the shoes was needed before we got moving. Neil was fresh so it took him a while to adjust to my slower pace but we got into a rhythm pretty easily and continued to climb up higher and higher. This next section would take us to the top of Mount Lofty, the highest point in the Adelaide Hills. I’d hoped to be at the Mount Lofty lookout but sunrise which was scheduled for 7:18am but not long into this section I encountered one of the few issues I encountered through the run. I needed the toilet. Bad! All the facilities in the park are locked overnight and I didn’t even know if the ones at Mount Lofty were going to be open. (We later found out they don’t open until 8:30am!) I even considered digging a hole one sacrificing one of my “buffs”. (“Buff” is a brand that has become synonymous with a tube of material that can be worn many ways and to keep warm and protected while running or hiking.) However, I remembered that there is a petrol station at Crafers so we (slowly) persevered until there so I could sort things out. I know it’s a bit gross to mention this but it’s another aspect that needs to be managed when doing 200 miles in October. After a few weird turns towards the summit where I’d set a different route to what’s I had in my head when I planned it we got to Lofty about 7:45am. We missed sunrise but it was still a beautiful start to the day. 61km done.
8:00am Saturday June 6th
I was really looking forward to this next section as it pretty much followed the Yurrebilla Trail right through to the next checkpoint. The Yurrebilla Trail 56km Ultramarathon was my first ultra in 2014 so it holds a special place in my running history. As always the running through Wine Shanty track was beautiful and I was surprised at how well my legs were holding up. I had plenty of energy and the increasing daylight meant I hardly noticed that I’d had virtually no sleep for 24 hours. After transferring out of Cleland National Park we went over the highest point on the Yurrebilla Trail and saw the beautiful vista of Adelaide city with the ocean expanding out to the horizon beyond. A good time to pause and take everything in. Tough, technical trail (technical trail means that it’s not smooth but instead full of rocks and roots that make forward more difficult and at times dangerous) awaited us for the descent into Horsnell Gully. However for me it was great to finally be going downhill after the long 30km climb from the coast to Mount Lofty. Of course, with trail running if you run down you generally will be going uphill again soon. And the climb up out of Horsenells is long and steep. Neil and I got into a steady hiking rhythm but the climb tricks the mind and we thought we’d made it to the top 3 or 4 times before we eventually did crest the summit. A quick diversion and a little road section and we were at the next check-point, Norton Summit. 75km done.
10:20am Saturday June 6th
At Norton Summit the sun came out and we had a visit from some friends which gave us a good boost of motivation to get through the last trail section. It was only about 12km until the next checkpoint but we needed to traverse a very steep descent down Chapmans Track and the hardest climb of the day up Orchard Track. The hike up was long and slow, with the trick of thinking we were at the top but having more to do happening again. Thankfully we made it and set off on the final descent on the Yurrebilla Trail. It had been some time since I’d been on this section as the course for the Yurrebilla Trail Ultramarathon had been changed to finish at a different location a few years ago. It was great fun to descend down into Ambers Gully and we were even able to push the pace a little. When we got to the checkpoint at Gorge Road there was a slight hiccup in that my directions for Andrew weren’t specific enough and Neil and I had to wait 5-10 minutes before he got there. We refuelled and reloaded before deciding to push through to the finish in one last push and forgo having a checkpoint half way. Neil and I were both feeling good and just wanted to get it done. 18km to go seemed like a relatively short distance…. 86km done.
12:30pm Saturday June 6th
After a little messing about working out the best way to get onto the northern side of the River Torrens we settled into a rhythm. I wanted to see if we could get the last road section done in 2 hours but soon realised how mentally tough it was to maintain that pace now we were running on concrete again. At times it felt like time was stretching and it felt like it was taking an age just to tick over one kilometre! With a couple of walk breaks interspersed we edged closer and closer to the finish point. Neil kept reminding me of the ways I’d been practising to be strong mentally and force my legs to do what I wanted them to do. “Your legs are still as strong as ever, your brain just needs to shout at them louder to keep going!” Another burst of energy came when another running friend who was also running a “choose your own adventure” 100km came past and gave some words of encouragement. Our mobile phones were buzzing too with messages of support. It was with great excitement that we finally passed under the King William Street bridge and could see the Elder Park Rotunda where I hade started almost 15 hours earlier. Our wives were there to cheers us home as we ran up the grassy hill and touched our hands onto the rotunda’s railing. 105km done.
2:50pm Saturday June 6th
It was very different to the finish line feeling at a race or event but we had done it! My team had enabled me to not only do some excellent training for the Irrational S.O.U.T.H. 200 Mile event but it was a fantastic way to launch the fundraising effort. Personally it showcased the 2 part message that I want to share over the next few months with as many people as I can.
First, that it’s ok to do things for yourself. The reasons I do ultramarathons are selfish. I want to challenge myself and give myself a chance to improve my own abilities – both mentally and physically. Sometimes the best thing you can do to help your loved ones is to take some time out and work on you.
Second, that is’s ok to ask others for help. Even when what your doing is for yourself! It can be surprising how much others will want to be a part of you achieving your goals. By sharing your journey you inspire others to be the best version of themselves.
Tim O’Brien, June 2020.