“Let’s have a moments silence before we start.”
Tactfully positioned at the front of the line up, you close your eyes and embrace the brisk air that warms on your skin in the mid-morning winter sunlight. Your thoughts are no longer racing around preventative measures of your mum discovering what you are doing. The slight injury in your left calf is no longer the prominent topic of self-talk. You breathe in and out. Deeply, slowly.
Mindful and in the moment
“Focus on each lap; not what happened before and not what is ahead”
Your phone conversation of the previous day seems to resonate with your current actions.
Your natural inclination to sprint off at the start is repressed as you allow your Ipod to sequentially play your friend’s diverse range of Pop, RnB and Happy Hardcore.
“There’s a 50-50 chance this Achilles will snap.”
The Delta Goodram “Not me Not I” allows you a 6min30sec per km power walking pace for the first 2 laps, taking all precaution to not allow your physio’s probability skills to be confirmed in anyway (he always was against your studying actuarial studies in the first place anyway; maybe it’s a sign? You hope.)
“Grape flavoured gel next lap!”
You warned your crew that no energy would be expended on politeness. The pleases and thanks would come after.
Your now-sticky-hands (from your crew member who really knows how to “go the extra mile in service delivery” by opening the gel before handing it to you) bring the satchel to your mouth and you swallow with the aiding of your Endura concentrated water bottle poised in your left hand.
“Better than last time” you think to yourself, focusing on your need of 100 calories per hour as you force the ingestion of this off hubba bubba tasting hardened-soup-like substance.
Lap 20 and you have your next bit energy to ingest. The Sustagen Sports Chocolate powder and water is surprisingly tasty and uplifting as you drink from your brother’s protein-shake container whilst you do your planned slow lap of static stretching and walking.
“Women get better as the distance increases.” It’s a conversation you had en route with the head of this Australian Ultra community. Your already activated maths brain from your previous day’s excel spreadsheet planning can’t help the urge to think of the outcome of a regression analysis on that; are women better at multi-tasking? Are they good at pacing themselves? Maybe they can focus for longer periods of time? Maybe they know how to plan more effectively (family-planning inclusive?)
The songs keep rolling through; it’s bliss! You haven’t heard Sisqo in ages so you decide to put it on repeat. Next thing you know 10 laps have passed and you’re onto the other half of that Sustagen. You can’t help thinking of your body building friend bulking up and loving eating every 2 hours. Every half hour would be heaven for him!
You are now aware that your Garmin’s battery power is precious; 12 hours. No devices were really made for these 24 hour races. With that revelation you decide to switch off your watch and rely on a verbal cue of lap times from your 10am-4pm crew member.
You’re experimenting with tactics to keep you on those 2min50sec lap targets with the 20th lap of 6min to make your goal; 180km.
Revelation! 200m power walk and 200m decently jogging.
“Try and walk as much as possible”
Your biggest fear is the Achilles. This seems like the ultimate risk mitigation plan!
You’re right on track as you run past your crew member soaking up the winter sunlight in her singlet top amongst your supplys;
excel spread sheet one hand, novel other hand and stop watch somewhere between the two. You begin to get into a rhythm;
200m power walking between 6min30 and 7min20 per km and 200m running at about 4min30 to 5min30 per km, grooving the Ipod number 1.
Finishing the songs on the Ipod, you move onto the Podcasts (most of which you have heard within the last year from your Itunes). It makes your mind run through the ingredients and materials for success.
“Millie, message Jerel and ask if he can bring some salt tablets.” You have to conserve your energy through not making commands questions and not using unnecessary words such as “please” and “thank-you.”
“I have a few salt tablets you can use” a fellow “competitor overhears your command and races by his gear. He hands over some aluminium ball to Millie in an almost drug-dealer-type-gesture.
“Take a salt tablet an hour and every second drink bottle refill should be electrolyte mix”. It’s Keith’s words of advice. It’s now 2pm and you’ve taken your first salt tablet… Can you binge on salt tablets to compensate? Perhaps better not…
It’s now 3.30pm and you have two crew members as you reach your 6min stretch and chat lap. You are feeling high and buzzing after an hour of “Danza Kuduro” on repeat.
“Photo time!” You anchor your love of photos to increase this endorphin-high you are surfing, positioning your crew for a happy snap with the salty, blue zinc faced girl.
Next 20 laps = new song. “Still crying” by Nightcrawlers and Taio Cruz.
“You are in very good form. What are you aiming for?”
You are startled to find someone talking to you. It’s a competitor with a red bib (6 hour competitior)
”180km. This is the qualifier for Coast to Kosci”. You keep your sentences short and sweet.
“Go for 190km. That’s the qualifier for worlds in Poland.”
”I’ll see how I am at the end. I have a spare 1.5 hours to play around with. Not quite sure I can adapt my excel spread sheet planning this far in though…” You take a breath. “But if I were to qualify, wouldn’t I have to be an AURA (Australian Ultra Running Association) member?”
“Technically, yes. But I am the president.”
“Ah I see! In life, it’s all about who you know. My name’s Larissa.” You put out your hand to proudly shake his.
“Nice to meet you! Well this is me.” You let him go as you indicate you are now up to the power walking component of your lap.
You have a little comedian of a crew member; playing around with your stash of goodies; he places a Barnardos head band on and seriously runs next to you for a component of the lap:
“Want some Danza Endura?” It’s code for Endura; the electrolyte substance for the day.
“Next lap. I’ll have finished this water by then. Hasta pronto!”
A few laps on and your already on your 20th lap; slow, stretch lap.
“This is such a treat being able to stretch like this and know I’m still going to make it. So different to my previous ultras.” You place your legs all over the place on the high jump mats.
“A treat like Messina?” Your crewer can’t help interject your favourite Gelati.
“Oh gosh, I can’t even think of Messina right now. It makes me Kotzübel!”
You walk off leaving your crew in disbelief at that comment.
“Are you going now Millie?” You run past, throwing a comment at your crewer number 1.
“Next lap, yeah I’ll be leaving.”
“Okay I’ll run it fast so I have time to give you a big, long hug!”
You are so grateful as you embrace your friend who arrived at your place this morning at 8am to load her car with your ingredients and utensils and has supported you, been your goal-keeper (pun intended) and commanded all your wishes.
As the sun starts going down, you notice people are rugging up; beanies, gloves, jackets, track pants and even balaclavas!
“Message Sally, Phil and Emma and ask them to bring a track suit top, gloves and Beanie.”
A few laps later, the need for a tracksuit top has exponentially risen as your crew member hands over his jacket, in a trade for your mother’s fleecy jacket that lays with your pile of goodies.
“Sally says she will bring gloves and V. Emma will also bring gloves. Phil will have a beanie.”
It’s an update on the move as you run past your crewer.
“Voltaren next lap.” By now the back of your right (uninjured leg) is a bit painful.
“Hiii Audrey. I’m here. It’s me. Larissa.” You have developed a bouncy, almost flirty, way of communicating your passing the lap counting mark with your assigned lap counter; a I-want-to-squish-you mother-type figure.
“Hi blue face Larissa. I’ve missed you!” She plays along with this game.
This lap you seem to have a bit up your sleeve to respond to a rather young looking girl’s comment:
“You seem very young to be doing the 24 hour” she remarks as you run side-by-side.
“Yeah I’m 22. I started marathon running at 17 and just wanting to go further so started ultras at age 19.”
“Cool! I’m 22 too. But I haven’t done anything more than a 12 hour. I’m just doing the 6 hour today. You are crazy!”
“Oh this is my first time doing 24 hour. We’ll see how it goes! I’m feeling on top of the world at the moment but I’m anticipating the sleep monster in the early hours of the morning…”
The pain goes away with the ingestion of the Voltaren and you power on to greet Crew member number 3; Brendan and Sally.
It’s a big hug. It’s amazing how much the hug spreads warmth through your body that is rapidly becoming colder and colder.
Click. Click. Click.
You are now onto lap 190 as crew number 4 arrive: Emma and Andrew. It’s the cue for crew number 2 to depart as you give him a cold-handed warm-hearted hug of gratitude and thanks. You can’t help but wonder what state you will be in when he comes back at sunrise…Positive thinking!
“Do not EVER let a negative thought be surfed.” It’s Keith’s phone conversation.
You are on a roll. It’s been 12 hours of this but you couldn’t feel more energised as every step you do now is more than you have ever done before.
“Yes! Yes! I can do this!” Chants of self-encouragement flow out in sporadic outbursts.
Lap number 20 approaches again and you finally get to chat to Emma and her husband, whom you have heard so much about! Click click click. There is no time for mucking around; photos must be taken for this moment to be captured. And on y va; you continue your journey.
“I can’t get onto Phil” It’s approaching 10.30 and Sally and Brendan, initially only able to come from 7pm-8pm are trying to track down the night-shift crewer.
“Ok plan B is to try Andrew Salsa on my phone or ask if Viv New can come earlier.”
Messages are sent.
“Your 8am crewer messaged to say her grandma has just been taken to hospital and she can’t come at 8am but wishes you all the best.” It’s Sally reading your SMS aloud.
“Tell her sorry to hear, I’ll call her tomorrow and message Mein Schmetterling to see if she can come earlier.”
The next lap, everything just seems to come together;
“Phil’s car has been spotted in the car park. Gale will be coming at about 7am and Phil will drive you guys home.”
You continue on, now onto Phil’s Ipod. Your excitement is dampered a little as the “On-the-go” playlist you saved yesterday just doesn’t seem to exist. You obviously outsource this task:
“Please find the On-the-go playlist I saved yesterday.” It’s directed at your crew of 3 and you realised you wasted your energy on the “please.”
The next lap you’re told it can’t be found so you scroll through the 6000 songs for that perfect song: Sunchyme. It’s amazing; it’s so euphoric.
By now it’s midnight and you are confronting the sleep monster:
“No doze next lap!”
Upon taking no doze; BAM! You are awake and singing!
“Only sing to keep yourself awake; don’t waste your energy.” It’s Keith’s phone conversation again.
You dedicate your slow lap for your 2nd toilet trip in 14 hours. Everything spins around as you sit down to pee in the portaloo. You quickly jump out of the portaloo, avoiding unconsciousness by a millimetre.
Your legs are becoming hard to move in this cold despite your balaclava, 2 pairs of gloves and jacket.
“Here; have my tracksuit pants.” It’s your ultra-generous crew member.
“What about you?”
“I’m wearing two pairs of tracksuit pants.”
It almost feels like your father tucking you into bed as your put these warm tracksuit pants on. You power on!
Lap 320 and you finally hit a motivational-low.
“What’s the slowest pace I can go to still make it by 10am?”
You outsource the calculation to your crew as you power walk these laps.
“You can do 3min37 and still make it.”
You use that “slower time”; 1 lap, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8…BAM. You’re energy reserves are now back as you realise it’s 4am and you will soon be greeted by some freshly slept faces as your new crew arrives. The excitement of seeing them pushes you to aim for 6am when you can have a “stretch-lap-chat”. You have now consumed 3 no doze and 5 voltaren; everything is bliss.
“Wow look at this girl go!” It’s the crew, the crowd and the competitors. They just don’t understand how great it feels. You feel spiritually connected with God as you let out some tears on lap 360. Only a marathon to go; an amazing feeling. You put on your GPS now.
“Thank you. Thank you. я люблю тебе God, я також люблю тебе Grandad, я також люблю тебе Babalala.” You can’t help but to express your gratitude to your Father in Heaven and your beloved peacefully rested grandad and great grandmother. You are so grateful for your strong genes from your grandfather.
By now you have no voice but you have the determination for the 450. The sun is coming out;
“Let there be light! YES!” You are rejoicing like crazy as you see the inklings of the sunlight. Your voice is completely gone as you are offered some cooked rice pudding and apple crumble by the race organisers. Hand gestures suffice at this stage.
Lap 410 and it’s only 7am. You have made this with time to spare! Should I go for the 190km…2 hours for a 20km is a decent pace…I might get injured…
Your walking lap with your crew of one not so freshly slept face (Phil going all night) and 2 freshly awoken persons (freshly hugged by your cold smelly body), miraculously makes your voice come back.
“Are you going for the 190km Laz?”
“I’ve thought about it. And I’ve thought about it. But I think I’ll stick to 180km. Risk mitigation for injuries.”
“Risk mitigation. Ha Treasury taught you well.”
You are told that your crew are not allowed to walk with you around the laps.
As you approach your final lap at 9.20am, your crew brings your spongebob and walk with you, feeding you a high-protein up and go to prevent fainting.
“And here comes our champion! 450 laps. 180km! Well done Larissa Tichon!”
“Yes! Yes! Yes!”
You feel so healthy as you walk over to your chair, immediately raising your legs. Your 2 crew members take off your shoes, placing your slippers on your feet as your 3rd crew member takes photos of this princess-like gesture.
You sit back and watch the end of the race in your chair, totally conscious and awake; this is so different to last time.
The first thing you want to do is call your dad to tell him the news. It’s a loud speaker moment as your crew wants to hear your mum’s reaction to what you have just secretly done behind her back. She’s otherwise occupied with a fire drill happening in the hotel in Darwin but dad gives you a big phone hug and congratulations.
It’s an array of congratulations for the race organisers, competitors and other crewers as you sit back
Your 3rd place overall female and business card from president of AURA acquisition (given to your crew during the night) is only an added bonus to this high as you sit in the “hot-wired” car of Phil’s to be driven a la maison by a man who hasn’t slept; conversation is a necessity!
I’d like to thank many people for making this amazing achievement possible. Without them, it would not have been possible:
Keith: Your advice was invaluable. I adopted your nutrition, excel spread sheet and overall mental approach. Thank you for spending half an hour with me on the phone planning this out.
Dad: for not telling mum about me doing this and just letting it be; wishing me the best but also warning me of the potential consequences.
Millie: for driving me to the event and listening to me with the nerves fluttering around and being such a great friend to lean on (and a great multi-tasker sun-baking and reading whilst also keeping me on track with the time and feeding/nourishing me!). Your final comment “Larissa can do everything” really helped at my midnight low.
Jerel: for being that bit of humour in the race, the lender of the perfect jacket for the race and coming back for second lot of “Larissa demands”
Sally and Brendan: for being my PA of organising people, getting the snaps on and staying well beyond your anticipation (oh and thanks for the music!)
Emma and Andrew: for being such a mother-like figure (I swear Emma, you were born to be a mother!)
Phil; for being that nocturnal friend that even gave up one of his pants. Your music was so invaluable as was your keeping me conscious through the portaloo toilet door conversation.
Gale: for your fantastic babysitting on Sunday, banana feeding and great photo editing. I would recommend you to the children on my street as a babysitter!
Everyone at work: for thinking I’m crazy but still believing in me
Greg: for telling me I can do this
Kai: For his Ipod (it still works!)
Ollie: for offering his babysitting on Sunday and also his Ipod
Demi: for offering her babysitting on Sunday
Athletes foot; for the great shoes (I wasn’t paid to say that!)
Uta, Diego and Andrew for their best wishes to me on Friday