After little training for 2020 I took on the 350k (218 Mile) Delirious West Ultra, it was never going to end well truth be told. As regular followers of my blog (Mum?) will know I have struggled with my running mojo since August last year, actually probably longer. I managed a few reasonable results last year but overall I was struggling with form and motivation. This culminated in a total of 108k for 2020 up to the race, ( 7 weeks of running!) I’d normally call this total ‘Thursday‘ , so I knew the Delirious West Ultra would be a big ask. ( http://deliriouswest200miler.com.au/ ) On the Monday of the race I was lucky enough to get a lift down to Northcliffe from Perth with the Race director, his right hand woman, Mel, and three other runners. We had a convoy ! After stopping at a KFC because Shaun, the RD, loves his bucket , Donnybrook for a pie (in the local bakery we found a pie-pizza, that’s right a pie with a pizza topping ! Genius ! ) a Woolworths in Manjimup , where Shaun dropped nearly $3000 getting food for the 22 aid stations !! (there was a lot of food, my running buddy Georges reckoned he put on 5 kilograms after finishing the race !) we eventually made it to Northcliffe late afternoon Monday. The race itself runs on the Bibbulmun track from Northcliffe to Albany, through some of the best scenery WA has to offer, apparently. ( https://www.bibbulmuntrack.org.au/ for anyone living and running in WA you need to get on this track !)
Right , Northcliffe is about 347km from Perth and about as country as you can get ! The hotel doubles as the pub, convention centre, holiday park and generally the catalyst of everything social in the town. The pubs landlord, Duncan , and landlady, Helen, are true blue Aussi’s who, if you cut them , would bleed green and gold. ! Such wonderful hosts and perfect for the event, they embrace the Delirious and for that few days in February become a runners dream location. The only downside to their wonderful establishment though is the rooms are a tad basic and my room, number 3, was right above the bar. On Monday night it felt like I was with Shazza as she dominated the pool table ! Luckily it was all quite Tuesday when I had ear plugs at the ready incase Shazza returned to kick some more pool table ass. The food at the pub is outstanding, steak on Monday , pasta on Tuesday and waffles both days, you got to love ultra running where you really can eat what you want this close to the event, no worrying about putting on a few pounds when you’re running over 200 miles. What a difference to running a marathon where you’re calorie counting weeks before the event and you spend more time on the scales than with your family. Ultra running really is the event that keeps on giving, one waffle at a time.
To show you how small Northcliffe is I had attached a photo of the train station, is that not the smallest train station EVER !! I’m assuming thee platform is for first class and the rest have to stand behind the painted line, brilliant.
Northcliffe train station, standing room only apparently?
Last year , it’s inaugural one, there was just over 30 runners for the event, this year that number doubled to over 60 starters and 15 , or so , defers to next year. Next year I’m sure it will sell out early and maybe even before it goes out to the public if Shaun offers entries to past runners and volunteers. I’m hoping that I’m on the list of past runners albeit a past starter rather than finisher as I’m going back 100% ! (with a full support crew , pacers , poles , better legs and a decent head torch!) Anyhow as you can see from the photo the start is epic , surrounded by like minded, nervous runners who are about to challenge themselves like never before and have an adventure of a lifetime . (or in my case DNF horribly about a third of the way in !) Its a wonderful place to be.
The photo below shows the race winner , Jon far left, who ran the race of his life. Destroyed the field on the first day, destroyed himself on the second and then came good to battle to victory on day four , before driving to the local parkrun and running the 5k. He has gone down in folklore for that trust me ! Will anyone ever repeat that ? I’m not sure but I’m pretty sure there’s a few people (myself included) who will try next year, the Delirious +5 !!! You have to finish before 7am on Saturday morning to make the Albany parkrun by 8am. Jon did it hard , with Peter Duff as his support crew driving his white BMW sports car through some seriously dirty outback roads, needless to say it was the colour of George’s shirt at the end of the adventure. Next to Jon you have my barista Georges. He, or his son Ben, make me and my Wife our morning coffee most weekdays. Over the last year I had been trying to persuade him to enter the race and he relented on the last day. Georges is recovering from shoulder and knee surgery a few months ago and, like myself , was undertrained .A cortisone a few days before the event got him through and he revelled in the adventure. I haven’t told him we’re going back next year, me to try and get into the Delirious +5 club and Georges for his double plugger, plenty of time for that and plenty of coffee to drink discussing it.
To my left in the photo is my good friend Amy who had been suffering , pre-race , with shortness of breath and also a tight calf. Unfortunately a few kilometres into the race the tight calf turned into a calf tear and although she stumbled on there was no way you can run 350k with a tear, impossible. Things went from bad to worse after Amy stopped as her calf swelled up and lots of blood blotches started to show up , as the calf continued to swell. The medic called an ambulance and off to Albany hospital Amy was whisked, rapidly. Turned out she had blood clots in her lungs , which explained the shortness of breath, and both her calfs. She is one tough mother though and already talking up next year. My goal is to try and recreate this photo at the start in 2021 and also at the finish……
The course is well marked and up to 112k you shouldn’t get lost, assuming you have a good head torch and the course on your watch . After that I don’t know as I was on a bus home to Perth, tail between my legs.
Theres a tradition , after one year, at the Delirious where you actually deliberately turn the wrong way 100metres into the race and run for about a kilometre before turning back. This was because last year this actually happened and most of the runners ran around 5k the wrong way before realising their mistake and returning,. Imagine the spectators watching all 30+ runners disappear running North instead of South and then, 20 minutes later, seeing them all come charging back and go the right way, priceless ! Shaun decided that because of this from now on all starters run the wrong way for a couple of kilometres, I suppose when you going to run 350k and extra couple should not be beyond you ? There was lots of giggling going on during the detour and the track, truth be told, was awesome. (I had actually walked that part of the track the day before believing I was going the right way myself, it’s easily done.)
The start of the race is biblical, you are full of beans and if you see a photographer you have to strike a pose. In the image below me and Georges are moving freely though the field, loving every step and excited about the journey ahead. This my favourite part of any ultra, well this and the finish, the hundred of kilometres in between can get a bit tedious ? I jest of course, in an ultra you really can enjoy the whole journey and still avoid the pain box if you have trained well and make the right nutrition and hydration choices along the way. Remember an ultra really is an eating and drinking competition, with running between aid stations.
More fun and games below, about 100 meters from the last photo, at this rate it’ll take weeks to get to the end , not days ! Can’t avoid a camera though, it’s be rude !
Right that’s it for Delirious part one.. I need a break and I’ll leave you with the image that will start the story tomorrow… some races are so long they need two posts !!
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