This year saw us doing the reverse of last years trail. So all the really hard sections at the start, and the easy stuff at the end. Funny though, how after 80k, even the easy stuff seems difficult.
We had the late start of 10am, which sees so much daylight burned before you even start, that you feel a bit 'behind' before you even leave the start area. With 2 teams from Westies, we arrived bright and early and checked in quickly to gain a good starting spot.
The first 3 sections were great. Though tricky terrain and lots of climbs and drops, all 8 handled it well. It is harder keeping 8 people together on the trail, when all are of varying levels in fitness and experience. There were 3 veterans (6th trailwalker), a couple of second timers and the rest first time walkers.
After the night section, it became apparent that one team member could no longer continue. His knees were shot to pieces and he was in a great deal of pain. He recultantly decided to drop at this point. Part of me was jealous as he took off his shoes and put on ugg boots and warmer clothes, sitting down to breakfast.
At this point I became very very cold and memories of The North Face hypothermia crept back into my mind. I quickly got out all the layers I could find, and ate some extra food, though I didn't feel like it. A couple of cups of hot coffee helped as well. Leaving this checkpoint, I ran some sections, just to warm up and get the blood flowing.
Once I was sweating and cursing all the extra layers I had to carry, I resumed walking and waited for the rest of the crew to catch up.
The remainder of the day was fairly uneventful, working our way from checkpoint to checkpoint, answering everyones questions about my strange choice of footwear. So many people were worried about me, thinking I couldn't continue in slippers. I assured them all I thought I'd make it ok.
We realised at CP7 that we were going to see the start of another night, so did a battery swap for the headlamp and grabbed the thermals again to head off. CP8 actually came around before the night set in, so we had picked up a little speed over this section.
Pulling out of the last checkpoint was a relief. Only 12k to go, with 7k in the bush and the rest on the road. By this stage I was longing for the bitumen, so I could take the vibrams off and 'rest' my bare feet on something. My feet had had enough of being closed in. We had been walking for close to 34 hours by now.
I cried when the road appeared. I ripped my vibrams off and rubbed my feet on the ground. Nothing has ever felt better, except perhaps, about half an hour later when we ran beside the beach. At least everyone else ran beside it, I ran straight down to the surf. The icy salt water and cold sand were heaven to my aching feet. The last 7k or so was barefoot. By the end of the race, my feet were feeling about 70% better.
I recall Kevin Tiller once saying in his blog about running barefoot at night with no headlamp. I gave it a go on the last leg of the course. I was just too damn lazy to get the lamp out. Surfaces ranged from bitumen, concrete, sand, dirt, rocks, trail, wooden steps, grass and even some steel grating at the end. Light varied from street light to pitch dark. I didn't step on anything nasty, or stub my toes. It's interesting how the 'sixth sense' takes over, and I enjoyed this little bit of silliness at the end.
Makes me wonder whether I could actually do a race like this completely barefoot. I'd love to try one day.