Stage 1: Racing the Planet Australia

Looking slightly possessed at check-in

WWWOOOOOWEEEE that was a hard first day! It felt like a balmy 60 degrees C out there… I’ve heard rumours it was slightly cooler than that, but I simply don’t believe them.

Okay, so I definitely let the nerves get to me last night. During the final briefing in Kununurra, I made a last minute shoe change and switched from my inov-8s to my mizunos. I just got too worried about trying a relatively new shoe in this kind of race. I’ve used my trusty rusty mizuno elixirs in vietnam and namibia I decided to stick with a known quantity! However, the gaiters that I had arranged to fit on my mizunos were still back in London… darn. I had ordered them through itchy feet and they were supposed to arrive on Tuesday. Given that I left London in a panic on Monday morning for Paris, I was SOL. No matter – I took two extra buffs and sewed them onto my shoes. I tried the same technique in Namibia and it seemed to work, but would it work in the Kimberley????

Anyhow, after breathing in our last little bit of air conditioning in at the Kimberley Grande, we piled into buses and drove about an hour out into the countryside. The sunset was absolutely gorgeous and I remembered the old sailing saying: “sunset at night, sailors’ delight…” Hmm, did that mean I would have a nice breeze for running or would that mean clear skies (and nothing to shield us from the sun???).

Well, I’ve come up with a new saying now: “sunset at night, ultrarunner’s nightmare.” It doesn’t rhyme, but it rings true.

I didn’t get nearly as much sleep as I had hoped last night. In the RTP Namibia race, I didn’t bring a warm enough sleeping bag and I absolutely froze in the evenings. I had to use my emergency heat blanket every night. So, thinking that I was being smart, I brought a sleeping bag for here that is suitable for temperatures down to -1C. AHA! I won’t be made a fool this time!…. Or so I thought. It REALLY doesn’t get cold here at night…At all! Ugh, I tried to stay in my sleeping bag but pretty soon I was drenched in sweat. You’d think that I could just sleep on top of my sleeping bag instead, but the feeling of a whole bunch of creepy crawlers on my legs in the night was a bit disconcerting. I saw a bunch of cockroaches introducing themselves to me and my tentmates last night before we went to bed, and once they found out where the party was I’m pretty sure that they invited some friends. Anyhow, I basically baked last night and dehydrated myself immensely. To distract myself from the nerves, I turned to food (naturally). The night before an RTP race is an eating frenzy. More entertaining than the hot dog eating contest on Coney Island, I reckon. I must have consumed about 6000 calories from last night and my midnight feeding… I woke up this morning nursing my food belly and hoping it wouldn’t actually weigh me down too much!

We set off at 7am with some local school kids leading the way. Darn it, those little kids were FAST!! Ha! The field went out fast and strong, but I remember from the other races I’ve done that that is the norm. Everyone is just so eager to get going that we come out of the gates like gangbusters. I tried not to get too worried or caught up in the madness. I just wanted to find my legs again and work out the kinks from the last five days of travel.

I have to say, the terrain was pretty tough. It was flat (yay!), but as I quickly learned, flat does not mean easy!! Most of the course was covered in this really tall, tough grass and this dreaded spinifex thing I keep hearing about. Running through the grass was tough for a couple of reasons:

(1) it simply slows down the feet because you have to push these loooong strands of tough grass out of your way;

(2) it obscures the ground underfoot…which often contained large angle-twisting, knee-breaking ‘potholes’, gulleys, or, um, snakes???

(3) it hurt!!! The little spikes from the grass shot right through the compression socks (which worked brilliantly, Kimboles – thank you!) and also right through my homemade gaiters.

I managed to keep Lia (Farley) in my sights only for about the first 15k (or was it less than that??). What an incredible runner she is! I have a lot to learn from her. Instead, I was pretty much evenly matched with an Australian runner (an ironman athlete with wicked calves) until checkpoint 2. Despite the terrain, I wasn’t feeling TOO badly until then… I left Barb, the Australian, behind just after checkpoint two and forged onwards.

But then the heat got worse. The sun got higher, and the wind was non-existent. No matter how much water I drank, it never quenched my thirst. Drinking hot water… I filled up my bottles from the occasional stream, but it was never enough! I came into checkpoint 3 feeling pretty drained and eager to get to the finish.

The last 10k were brutal. I kept moving slower and slower… and for the first time in my life, I actually lost my appetite so I wasn’t getting the calories in. I really had to dig deep, which I wasn’t expecting on the first day!! The last 4k did me in. It was all on road and I was expecting to have just a 2k run…You wouldn’t think just 2 more km would make a difference, but believe me it does!! Mentally and physically, I was spent. I started counting down every 100m and mentally patting myself on the pack (I wouldn’t dare do it physically because of the chaffing). Not a great way to be. There was a lot of walking that last little stretch. I had stopped sweating, which is always a bad sign, but I knew i was getting close…

Finally i finished. 2nd female, 9th overall. VERY happy with that!! It feels good to get the first day out of the way but I must say, I’m worried about the days ahead! I am just not coping with this head.

Goal 1: don’t get lost.

Goal 2: don’t vomit.

Goal 3: finish.

If I make the first 2 goals I have a much better chance of making goal 3!!

THANKS TO EVERYONE for your support in the race and for cancer research. For those of you who have been following along and have been thinking about making a donation, now is the time!!! This race is brutal, but not anywhere NEAR as tough as what victims of cancer go through fighting this deadly disease. You know you can make a donation – any amount helps. Just do it!!

US: firstgiving.com/scase

UK: justgiving.com/stephaniecase

Canada: there is a page for me called “oz for the cause” on the canadahelps website… I can’t remember the exact address but go to my personal blog for details: http://www.canadianultrarunner.blogspot.com

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to tell you about the wildlife. At one point I say what looked like a clothesline strung up between two trees. I thought, weird! And went in for a closer look… OH MY GOD it was a GIANT spider web with a humungo scary spider in the center. EEEEP! I had to limbo under that bad boy and pray that I didn’t become its next meal!!

Once I finished the stage I went and soaked in the little river (or, jacuzzi is more like it from the heat) behind camp. That is when I discovered all my lovely chaffing spots so it was over to the medical tent.

Lots more to blog about but I am WIPED so it will have to be tomorrow. I have to tell you about my OSO bite plate (yes!) and my amazing polar watch that is helping carry me through this race!!!

Already one person on IV and multiple pukers…. feeling actually quite lucky now….

Please keep sending your thoughts, prayers, and donations!!!

xxx

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