The Wet Year
Leading into this race there was quite a bit of hot weather and Ben Harris had organised a snake bandage bulk buy. With everyone’s snake bandages dutifully purchased the forecast turned to pouring rain for most of the Saturday.
In 2014 I was racing the 50 Miler and Ron McGlinn had taken on race directing duties for the first few hours. I’d cancelled the pre-race bus this year after the 2 hour 4am drive before the 100 Miler the previous year and offered a post-race bus instead.
The weather was fine as the gun went in Jarrahdale with the first 30 minutes a little too warm dressed in wet weather headband and gloves. Meanwhile in Dwellingup the rain only waited 5 minutes for the 100 mile runners. Over the course of the next 7 hours I only recall 2x 5minute fine breaks which, accompanied by a cold breeze weren’t much of an improvement.
I chased Josh Garrett down into the Serpentine River valley for the first 5K in 22minutes and that was the end of my fight for victory. Climbing away from the river I was soon joined by Brett Tucker and we remained together through the next 2 aid stations. I remember being completely drenched at Nth Dandalup Dam and hurrying through before getting too cold. This aid station was run by the energetic Kelly Underwood and Jeremy Savage who were great servants of the emerging sport of ultra-running in the early days.
When we hit Whittakers Rd a few Ks later I let Brett go ahead while I had a gel, something I was never very fast at. With the out and back to the top of Goldmine Hill ahead I wondered if I would see Josh. Sure enough there he was. He called out the driveway number where he had turned around and I informed him that he’d turned too early. Therefore, I’d just caught him! A quick U-turn and he powered away to the correct turn in the distance adding about 2K to his journey.
With Brett now chasing Josh I was soon joined by Tom Bakowski on track to take a huge chunk off his course record. By 46K Tom had pulled ahead and I noticed I had run 3:3* one of my best 6 Inch times with probably similar vert. Only problem was I still had over 30K to go. I thought back to my lift to the start with Ron and longed to join him in his warm car with seat heaters. However, I was in the middle of the bush so there was no way of pulling out yet. I remembered my goal, to try and make my quads hurt, so after a brief walk I decided to hit the nitrous and make them hurt. If was going to pull the pin at 56K I didn’t have much time left.
The feeling passed and I soon found myself approaching the Oakley Oasis. Brett went past closely followed by Tom on a short out and back to the aid station. I was informed Josh was powering on ahead. Always a relief for the race director to know no one is lost. Cold and wet I stood under the gazebo sipping on pumpkin soup. Not generally my preferred food for such a short race but it was beautifully warming. Mick Francis informed me there was some deep puddles up ahead. I just laughed saying we’d been running through water for 5 hours.
Finally arriving at the finish Josh had run 6:35 to surprise everyone. This still ranks as my best ultra performance I have seen on WA soil. Fifteen minutes later Brett Tucker finished the race of his life in 6:52 with Tom 2minutes behind. I finished in 7:15 one of my best ever races. One can only guess why we all ran so fast. Probably a combo of good form, not much racing and the cool conditions. Without the rain it’s unlikely you’d have no heat control problems at 1pm. No sweating required.
Back in the pack Ben Harris clung to Nikki Wynd who was visiting from Vic before dropping back and finishing with local legend Barb Fieberg. Nikki was one of the best and most versatile ultra runners in Australia at the time and her record still remains. Finally Dave Tams rounded out the field and it was still raining when he finished in 12:12.
In the 100 it was the Hunter Dodds show. Hunter was living in Rockingham at the time and had done a lot of his training on the course and was primed for a great performance. He ended up nearly 3.5 hours in front of Martin Grepl in 2nd. Quite a few runners had pulled out because of the cold weather when Mick Hearn arrived at Oakley physically and emotionally spent from the tough conditions. Having had to pull out with a migraine the previous year, he was ready for a sit down, eat pizza and chat and happy to just finish. However, when Mick found out he was in 3rd he was out of there quick smart and stoked with his first podium finish.
Natalie Wallace and Anne Ziogos ran a strong first half before succumbing to the weather and deciding to walk the 2nd half. They finished together in 30:56 as joint winners.