KURRAWA  TO  DURANBAH  50KM  ULTRA. The return of a 70 year old shuffler.

KURRAWA TO DURANBAH 50KM ULTRA. The return of a 70 year old shuffler.

Robert crossing the finish line of the 50 km Ultra

My return to Ultra’s after 20yrs was a decision brought about by an injury to my buttock that prevented me from doing any running for almost 6 months and the realization that I needed to enjoy it while I still could. Starting at the end of 2013 I began the rebuild from zero up to around 40k per week then over the last 3 months to 80k per week, knowing I would be there just to complete it not to compete.
On the morning of the race my partner and running buddy of 23yrs Bernice ( I am not a morning person) Fitzgibbon, had me out the door and on our way just after 4am in plenty of time for the start at 5, no time to be nervous, I knew mentally I could do it but the question was how well? After hugs and good wishes I was on the start in time for some last minute instructions from the Race Director and we were away, at this stage the thoughts were, its only 50k, this will be the shortest ultra you’ve ever done, oh this could be fun.
Over the first few kilometres as we left the park and headed along Hedges Ave behind the beach side homes I was attempting to keep the pace to an easy 7min per km however with the 30k, 15k and then the 25k relay runners coming past, every time I looked at my watch I was running at 6min pace, not a smart move for a comeback performance. As I went through Nobbys I felt a pit stop was in order, but I had to cover the Miami beach front and the dreaded steps over the point before finding a toilet at North Burleigh. As I moved on I found Bernice, being a one person cheer leader, taking photos and calling out encouragement just when I needed a boost, from here it was on to Burleigh Heads around the car park, then over the hill, across the Talle bridge to the aid station at 10km still feeling great though my feet were a little tired of all those concrete paths.
Bernice showed up with some verbal motivation as I ran on through Palm Beach before heading off to her daughters place to return later. As I ran on up over the Currumbin Creek bridge and around past 15k at the Rocks, I noticed my left hamstring was a little tight, so after a brief toilet stop I tried to stretch out as I moved on to Kirra, this helped but meant I was dipping under 6min pace again, that soon changed when I hit Coolangatta to find the Sunday morning market set up along both sides of the path with customers all along moving from stall to stall, at first I thought I had lost my way but then saw some return runners coming through the crowd towards me so I pushed on side stepping the odd pushchair and family reunion and with only 2.5k to the turnaround I was looking forward to the return journey.
I was definitely a little premature with my excitement about heading for home as I saw the hill up to the Point Danger light, as I started to climb I made the mistake of following the path not the road so ended up in the car park and was about to go around the front of the light when I saw 2 runners going down the hill off too my right so changed direction and met a couple of marshals who set me back on course along the top of the hill. From here it was downhill to the park and the turnaround, that’s 25km done now let’s do it all in reverse, oh that means I have to go back up that hill, maybe going back might not be as much fun as coming out.
So up that hill with a little walk near the top and down the other side, at least I knew where I was going now, but as I got around to Coolangatta and was directed along the beachfront behind the market stalls with only about 22k to go, I felt I needed to asses my situation, so from here through Kirra It went something like this, both feet sore right one more painful than left, right calf tight probably caused by favouring the foot, left hamstring and buttock tight and starting to niggle, that right foot again, will have to bite the bullet, put up with the pain in the foot and try to iron out all the other kinks and tight spots. Look at that sign, only 15k to go and I’m feeling completely stuffed, should have no trouble finishing from here, so it was up and over the Currumbin and a slow shuffle to those beautiful people at the 10k aid station who fuelled me up and advised that Bernice had been there, but had left because when she last saw me I was running so well I must have already gone and she didn’t want to miss seeing me finish, I wish!!
As I headed over the Talle creek trying to break into a shuffle and my right foot felt like every bone was slowly falling apart it was time for another assessment. Ok mental strength fine, we’re finishing this no option. Next, in 2 days I time I need to be up north on an island off the coast of Queensland building an LNG plant which means wearing safety boots, for that I need a right foot, simple really. This is where that quote from Scott Jurek comes in,” Run when you can, walk if you must, crawl if you have to, just never give up.” So it was fast walking with a bit of shuffling for the next few km then 2km from the finish along the path toward me came a runner and 2 little cyclists, it was Bernice’s daughter Kerry and her children the advance search party, then in the distance came Bernice running towards me waving and calling out. To say I was glad to see them would be an understatement, so they ran off to the finish line to get some photos of my triumphant arrival while I shuffled along behind, I did try very hard to look like a real runner as I crossed the line but in the end it doesn’t matter, because if you set out to achieve something and you do then you are successful so be grateful and move on to the next challenge.
To sum it all up: Outward journey was just under 3hrs, return just over 4, giving a finish of 7.06hrs.
The course was spectacular just too much concrete for me, give me trails any day.
Will I run more Ultra’s, yes probably, I will just keep training and see what comes up, maybe something a little longer on the trails or a track.
I have to say I was very impressed by the race organisation and all those wonderful people who stood on corners and manned aid station for hours, who were still cheerful and encouraging even as the heat increased. Thank you all.
I also have to be grateful that Bernice the woman I have loved for the last 23yrs is as crazy about running as I am because only a runner understands the WHY.
“Being an athlete is a state of mind which is not bound by age, performance or place in the running pack.” Jeff Galloway.

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