The Alpine Challenge 60km: Beauty and the… Brumbies

I knew I wasn’t ready – physically, and maybe not even mentally.

But I knew I wanted to do something…something challenging.

So, it was between the Buffalo Stampede 42km or the Alpine Challenge 60km.

My coach – knowing I was questioning my form – told me to choose the course I preferred rather than the race itself. The Alpine Challenge 60km it was then – up and over the Alpine High Plains.


But could I actually run 60km?

Only one way to find out…

Race Day

I woke just before 5am, before my alarm. Nerves or excitement – or maybe a combination of both.

The race started at 8.30am in Falls Creek and I wanted to make sure I had time to do… everything, to check and re-check, to re-read the map and instructions of the race, and to make sure I ate enough.

I’d pre-cooked my race potatoes and breakfast eggs and sat down to have the usual coffee, beetroot, sweet potato and pre boiled eggs while looking at the map of the race. The first 10km was a descent – steep in places, followed by a 10km ascent to get to the high plains. The remaining 40km was undulating.

Golly, it seemed like a long way.

I mobilised my body until I thought I was overstretching all my limb, and then journaled about how I was feeling until I couldn’t write anymore without causing muscle fatigue in my arm J

Nerves indeed.

I also knew that once I got home everything would be hurting – whether it was my heart or my body. So, I prepared my firepit, ready to be lit, and prepped some dinner and snacks for after the race.

And put some Prosecco in the fridge, of course.

During the drive over to Falls Creek I stopped at Sullivan’s Lookout – a favourite lookout of mine over Mount Beauty. I took a moment, a few breaths.

Just run Jess, do what you love.

I arrived to blue skies and other runners, all looking as excited and nervous as me.

Gear checks, more potatoes, both ankles strapped, and I was at the start line.

We counted down together and we were off, running down the road towards Packhorse, a 5km mountain bike trail. Single trail.

I’d been advised to get ahead before we hit the trail as it would bottleneck, so I let my legs carry me forward and down.

As we entered Packhorse I joined a pack of guys, aiming to keep up with them, or at least keep them in my sight.

This was fast.

We jumped and weaved over and around rocks and obstacles, until I eventually lost them, and I was alone.


The trail was beautiful and quite technical, and I wondered how mountain bikers actually biked up it.

I did a body check – legs felt good, lungs felt good. My brain felt slightly overwhelmed by what was to come, especially as my watch vibrated: 1km down. 59km more to go….


Eventually, I exited out of Packhorse and crossed the road, passing a volunteer who directed me towards a fire trail ahead.

“Crikey you did that fast.”

Initially distracted by the fact that I’d found another human being that used the word crikey, I looked at my watch: 5km in 29 minutes. Fast for trail, and perhaps for the start of a 60km race.  

I nodded at him.

But it was bloody fun though.

The next 5km of trail was a rough descent – rocky and scree-ey(?) and incredibly steep in parts.

Much slower than the first 5km.

I heard someone behind me panting, before he passed me.

“Who needs toenails anyway.” He commented.


But I do like mine.

We continued almost together, slowing on the steeper sections until we got to the bottom, to crossroads.

My first map reading, and also a check on the written instructions.


He nodded in agreement and we turned, then hit a small ascent and I left him with his toenails…or lack of.

A few hundred metres later I hit a river…. I mean, maybe it was a creek, but it was pretty wide and pretty deep.

I stopped and looked, and looked again.

No clear crossing.


Straight through then.

Thigh deep. I wondered whether there was a bridge I hadn’t seen, but the water was refreshing anyhow.

10km in.

I took a gel and a salt tablet – it wasn’t the best idea to take the beautifully sweet gel first, then the bitter salt tablet after. The taste remained in my mouth until I took the next gel. Hmmm.  

Now the ascent.

On the elevation map I’d looked at it had shown this as a steep ascent – my favourite.

But no no.

It zig zagged upwards. Not steep, just that awkward amount of gradient that you’re not quite sure whether to run or lunge.

10km of it.


And so I began. Running at first, then lunging.

I’d actually read (at least a million) articles on the pros and cons of ascending on gradient of less than 26%. It all came down to personal preference of whether you would rather sacrifice energy expenditure and run, or sacrifice muscle expenditure and lunge. The recommendations generally leant towards doing a combo.

So, the dancing began, and I swapped every few minutes between lunging and running.

I came to a guy who I’d lost on Packhorse, then another, and passed them as they walked and shuffled – they weren’t overly happy with life at that moment.

I could feel myself getting higher and higher – surely near the top. And frost appeared on the ground, definitely near the top.

I passed a runner with poles and we chatted.

“This is my second ever trail run. I didn’t realise it would be so hard.”


I stayed with him for a while, until we hit what looked like the lead up to a flatter ridge line across the Alpine Plains. I wished him luck – the hard part was done.


The views took my breath away and I must’ve taken a million photos right there of the contrasting green grass, the frost, the blue skies and the mountains.

Oh, the mountains.

I felt like I was home.

But also in a race, Jess.

I continued on – single track along a ridge line, surrounding by beauty and mountains.

So happy.

And also, potato time.

Literally all my favourite things in one place (minus the prosecco…).

22km in and my legs felt good.

I knew there was a check point in a few kms up the small ascent ahead of me, where I could stock up on electrolytes and some more carbs. I’d only managed to fit three bags of potatoes in my pack with all the mandatory gear.

I saw someone running towards me and my adrenaline kicked in – something had happened? I couldn’t have been going the wrong way, surely? And I couldn’t be hallucinating yet…

Then I realised. “Simon!”

I knew him – volunteering for the race this weekend because he was unable to run due to injury, but out on his own run.

He reached me and turned and ran next to me, slowing to my pace. It was so good to talk to someone after almost three hours of running mostly solo.

“You’re first female, and fifth overall.”

Eek. I knew there were no females ahead of me, but not that I was fifth overall.

Come on legs.

We reached the check point full of beautifully cheery people – one of my favourite things about ultra runs: the people.

I had actually planned on getting to the check point at around 3 hours 30mins, but had reached it at 3 hours almost on the dot.


I filled up on electrolytes and bananas, allowing myself a few minutes to recharge before I set off, continuing along the ridge line.

It was too beautiful.

So, I video called my twin sister in Hong Kong because she would love this, because one day when were allowed to fly, I would bring her here to do this again. Together.  

We chatted and laughed before she told me to focus on the race.

I ran, alone along the single track, along a few dusty 4WD tracks. Thinking, singing (it happened), planning. There were tough sections – shrubbery where you couldn’t quite see the trail you were running on, and single track that was so narrow you had to literally put one foot in front of the other. Both instances forced me to slow down.

I checked my map and the instructions when I wasn’t sure, as we were told the course wasn’t marked overly well in places.

Another body check – my hips were feeling tender but that had always happened at anything over 25km. My ankles were fine, which I was grateful for.

 My pace drifted between 5.35min/km and 6.00min/km which I was happy about.

An ascent through some beautiful but rocky single track took me to 30km – halfway. Three and a half hours in.

I did a combination of the jig and the robot dance (sometimes it’s actually a bonus of ultra runs that there are rarely people around you….)

I looked at my time – could I do seven hours? I wondered.

The next check point came along, and I filled my water and ate a packet of chips – which I hadn’t planned on but just happened. And felt good.

“That way?” I pointed right.

“Erm no, that’s a car park. You go that way.” She pointed left.

Good one, Jess.

I set off onto more single track before hitting a crossroad.

I checked the map, and the instructions. Not overly clear until I saw a single track across from me and continued.


Then the pain started.

And not in any of my usual places (i.e. all over).

In my heel – it suddenly felt like I was running with a nail in my heel.

Not overly pleasant.

I continued on, hoping it would go away. But the single track had been covered in a plastic cover to make it more walkable, I guess? Compounding the pain in my heel on every strike.

Could I do this for another 23km?

I reasoned with myself that I’d run 50km on a broken foot before (not recommended)… surely, I could do this, and maybe it would ease.

So, I tried to ignore it and adjusted my foot placement to the point where it must’ve looked like I was running with a swagger.

Rocking it, I’m sure.

It was a lot though.

My mind battled with itself, should I take painkillers? We’ve always been told to err on the side of caution using painkillers in ultra-running – placing too much stress on your already overworked kidneys.

1km later I stopped.

I would take the risk.

Painkillers and a gel and some salt. A beautiful concoction of…everything I needed right then.

I continued on with my swagger, waiting for them all to kick in.

I kept my mind busy, focussing on the views and the mountains, aware that my pace had dropped but still shuffling through. I couldn’t afford to go to a dark place right now.

Mountains mountains mountains.


“Only 18km to go.” I told myself in an overly cheery voice. Almost to my own annoyance.

I hit a crossroads next to a red roofed hut with five different options to go down. I could see one pink flag across a bridge on the aqueduct. Surely it had to be that way – but then was it left, or right?

I looked at the instructions which warned that this was where runners usually got lost.


I studied the map, which looked to go right, towards Cape Hut. Follow the poles – there were poles.

So I crossed the bridge over the aqueduct and went right with the poles, along the aqueduct – a 4WD track.

Flatter, less pain in the heel.

After a few minutes I stopped.

There was something in my gut.

Something not right.

I must’ve gone 800m, maybe 1km.

This wasn’t right.

I looked for Cape Hut, checked the map again.

I was heading the wrong way, away from Cape Hut.

Panic and disbelief.

I turned, looked back at where I had come from.


I picked up the pace and ran back.

Sh*t sh*t sh*t.

A couple of minutes later I was back at the red roof hut, so confused. I couldn’t see any other runners, couldn’t see any routes. I read the map again and re-read the instructions:

Cross the aqueduct and follow the numbered pole line to Pole 333 (check your map—many runners go the wrong way here). Watch out for brumbies in this area

Something else occurred to me: I didn’t know what a brumbie was. Was I about to be attacked by one? I looked around, not overly sure what I was looking for.

I felt beaten.

I called Paul, the Race Director, and explained where I was.

“Follow the poles, not the ones along the aqueduct. Not along a road.”

I could only see roads. He could sense my frustration.

“Stand in front of the hut door and directly in front of you is a trail, follow those poles into the grass, you’re aiming for Pole 333.”

At that moment the sun seemed to suddenly shine on an impossible-to-see single track across the road in front of me, the start of it obscured by overgrown grass. And there were poles.

I thanked Paul and ended the call.

I felt so stupid, so disappointed in myself.

There was at least one sob before I started running again into the single track, and if I could’ve lifted my foot high enough, I would definitely have stamped it in annoyance.

How much time had I lost? Not just from going wrong but the time spent looking for the right way and on the phone to Paul. 20 minutes? 30 maybe?

How many people had passed me in that time?

Had I given away the lead?


I was in the middle of a pity party for one.

I needed to find strength again, so I called Imogen who was out on her own run.

“I got lost.”

I explained what had happened and I could hear my voice going more and more high pitched. She could sense my frustration, could probably hear that I was almost in tears.

“It’s fine Jess, it doesn’t matter. You’re on the right track now, just keep on running. This is your race.”

There was so much positivity in her words.

“Remember where you are.”

And then I did.

The mountains.

I was lucky enough to be in the middle of the most beautiful mountains, able to run over and around them.

Nothing else mattered.

Bring present in the mountains mattered.

I thanked her and left her to her run.

Then I realised something else – my heel had stopped hurting.

Whether the painkillers had kicked in or whether the forced ‘rest’ had helped.

I laughed, finally. Happy again. Almost annoyed that I’d let myself become so caught up in getting lost. 

I focussed on the course – marshy and rocky so a little tricky, but a nice change to the plastic or road.

I looked at the poles and realised they were all numbered and counting down towards pole 333 – where the next aid station was at 47.5km.

No brumbies in sight either – although I wouldn’t have known if there were.

The pole numbers were getting lower and I could suddenly see the check point. I checked my watch which was on 49km. So, I’d maybe gone 2km off course?

Then I remembered it didn’t matter.

There were two guys at the check point with the biggest smiles I’d ever seen. Legends.

I refuelled with electrolytes and chips and we chatted for a few minutes about the race, the mountains, the day, getting lost.

But I refused to ask them what a brumbie was.

They did confirm that I was maybe the seventh or eighth 60km runner to come through the station – and the first girl so far. So, a couple of the guys had passed me when I went off course.

Was that a relief? Did that change things?

I didn’t think so.

I was pain free, on the right track and a few km away from completing the longest race I’d ever run.

I was happy, and I was so grateful.

“So, this way?” I pointed to a single track.

“Erm, no it’s this way.” One of the guys pointed to the pink flags that lined the course.

We laughed and I set off.

More marsh and rock but a descent this time, and without the pain in my heel the ninja tap dancing came back as I picked up the pace.

I also realised I had ignored my nutrition during the panic of getting lost and took a gel and a salt tablet. Still the wrong way round.

The course turned right onto a 4WD track that looked familiar – similar to when I’d camped at Pretty Valley Pondage and run around the trails there.


A gradual ascent and I caught up with one of the guys that must’ve passed me when I went off track.

He did a double take.

“I got lost.”


Yeah, but I didn’t get eaten by brumbies so I’m winning.

More 4WD track, more views.

More gratitude.

I continued on and watched as my watch ticked over to 54km – officially the longest I’d ever run for.

I checked my body and sure it hurt all over, but there was nothing outstandingly painful anymore.

I hit the Pretty Valley check point just behind another guy and filled up on water in my plastic cup. I knew the bladder in my pack was empty but didn’t think I had the mental or physical skills, or patience, to stop a refill it. Which was a bit silly really.  

The guy manning the check point pointed to a mountain in the distance.

“That’s where you’re headed. Out and back up and down.”

I looked.

Mt McKay.


I actually didn’t believe him, thought he must’ve had it wrong. Who would put a mountain in a race in the last 5km of a 60km? I checked the instructions.


Another gel, with caffeine, as I started back running ahead of the other guy who I think continued to stare at Mt McKay in disbelief for a little while longer.

I thought about what finishing the race would feel like, how it would feel to stop running. I was almost seven hours in now – I couldn’t even remember what not running felt like anymore.

I continued, and suddenly I was at the bottom of Mt McKay with a 4WD road going pretty steeply up it. I was actually grateful for the change in stride and pace as I started to lunge up it.

And then for the first time I thought about how near the second-place female might be, whether I had done enough to maintain a decent lead, or whether she would appear on this out and back. I looked back at the trail we had come from and could see no one but the guy I’d passed at the check point.

Would this be my first ultra-trail win? I decided not to get ahead of myself – a lot could still happen between now and the finish line.

Almost anything in fact.

The climb felt so good, I almost wanted to just stay in the lunge positions a little longer each time, and maybe just enjoy the view a little too.

I was also aware that I needed water and didn’t have any.


Maybe there was some at the top.

A small single track off the road took us to the hut at the top where I met a guy taking a photo of it.

“Do we need photo evidence?” I asked.

“Nah, just letting my wife know where I am.”

Of course.

I wondered how many more stupid questions I had left in me.

I took a photo anyway and touched the door. No water in sight.

The descent was…fast. I caught up and passed the guy, staying low and taking my little tap-dancing steps.

At the bottom I pulled out my instructions, confused.

Follow the flags through the scrub…



I wondered whether scrubs had anything to do with brumbies.

I turned to the guy behind me and pointed down the road.

“This way?”

He shook his head and laughed and pointed straight across the road, where the tiny pick flags led through what I could imagine is a scrub.

One more stupid question then Jess.

We entered the scrub together, ascending through shrubbery and rocks, but nice enough single trail.

“Paul likes to throw in a hill for the last few kms.” The guy said.

He also just threw in a mountain.

We held a steady pace together until we hit the 4WD track again, the start of the mountain bike trails, and I pulled away slightly.

There was a small sign by the side of the road.

2km to go.

2km until no more running.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about that, or how my body would feel.

I was just over seven and a half hours with maybe only 20 minutes maximum of human interaction. The rest had been spent in my head. Planning, thinking, life administrating, good memories, bad memories, more good memories.

So many questions. What would I have done differently? Could I have gone faster?

Focus Jess.

Just finish.

At 1km we were directed off the 4WD track and down into grass that cut straight down through the mountain bike trails.

Surely not.

There wasn’t a trail as such, only squashed grass from the runners that had already finished, and it was lumpy and hard to see where to put my feet.

Focus Jess.

A guy appeared.


I knew I must be near the finish.

We chatted as I ran past, and I could hear the cow bells and people at the finish line.

Real people.

And then it came into view, the finish line I’d left over seven and a half hours ago.

I sped up towards it, so happy.

So happy.

I’d made it.

60km (Ahem, 63km).

First female.

Fifth overall.

So grateful.

I took off my pack, took off my shoes.

Unsure what to do with myself.

Restless legs.

People started talking to me about the race – other runners, volunteers, and we exchanged stories.

I tried to stretch my legs, but every muscle was on the border of cramping – even my shoulders.

Beer instead then – which tasted so good after seven hours of potatoes, bananas gels and salt tablets.


I found out that the presentations were going to be held on the Sunday when I wasn’t around.

My last two ultra-races I had come third and second, with no presentations allowed due to COVID-19. And now I was going to miss this one.

I put any pride aside and jumped (erm, literally had to be lifted) onto the empty podium alone, with my horseshoe trophy. Happy.

Race learnings? So many, but here goes:

  1. People are amazing and can pull you out of dark dark places. Seek out those people and drag them along for the journey.
  2. Learn as much about the race as possible: the terrain, the course, everything. (I now know what brumbies and scrubs are…).
  3. Always take a moment, or multiple moments, to appreciate what you are doing and where you are doing it. Because it is awesome.

And next?

The big one will be the Surf Coast Century 100km in September.


But next up is the Wandi Cross – 3,000m elevation in 21km…


Bright Run Fest: 10 days of 10kms

I’d given myself an ‘easy week’ leading up to the running Festival, but after two days of rest I was itching to get back, which was a bad idea. Because something in my calf was hurting and I prayed it wasn’t shin splints. So, I rested. And waited.

And then Friday finally came.

Day 1: Happiness.

I mobilised, had my beetroot juice and coffee on my balcony and journaled. Excited.

A slow warm up told me that the problem with my calf hadn’t gone away, but actually got less painful when my speed increased. Right then, faster it was then.  

And I was off, down the Upfield bike path. I hit Princes Park – early enough to not be busy, and glorious sunshine. Happy.

I continued, trying only to look at my heart rate and not my pace, enjoying. Just running.

I jumped out of Princes Park and onto the Capital City Trail, suddenly I was on 6km already – only 4km to go. A huge difference from the 13kms I’d been running last week (for UTMB Virtual), where 6km wasn’t even halfway.


At 8km my brain went into overdrive. Only 2km left so of course I should pick up the pace, right? So I did, regardless of the sudden hills I came across at the Merri Creek Trail.

500m was an all-out sprint. I realised I had no control over my legs, they just went.

10km and done 45:11 minutes. Not too bad for the first run. Not too uncomfortable.

Coffee and the walk home in the sunshine. Best way to start the day.

Home to yoga and a cold bath.


But grateful.

Friday night. I had my one day of wine I’ve given myself per week over a zoom call with my twin sister in Hong Kong. As with me and wine, somehow the whole bottle magically disappeared.

Day 2: I’ve never said I had any common sense.

Day 2 was upon me and I chose a different route: just Merri Creek up to Hardings Bridge then down past Arthurton Road. A loop I often used for some speed work, and the tiniest sections of trail I could access within my 5km radius.

I did actually have a game plan for the ten days – to run one day ‘faster’, then the next day slower, to ensure I lasted the ten days.

But this was not to be. The route, though a little hillier and more ‘technical’ (erm… much more technical compared to just concrete, but the only way I get my trail fix). I landed on exactly the same time as Day 1: 45:11. Very happy.

I realised I’d bonked a little bit at 7km, not sure whether it was the wine (unlikely – I always see this is carb loading with added antioxidants), or just that I needed to fuel my runs differently given that  they were faster than normal.

At 8km though my legs kicked in and the sprint home happened… and so did some bodyweight exercises consisting of burpees, air squats and sit ups.  150 of each of them to be precise.

I’ve never said I have any common sense.

Yoga, cold bath. Gin.


Saturday, a friend’s birthday (Zoom) gin tasting. Five bottles of 50ml of beautiful gin.


Day 3: Crikey.

I expected to feel more than a little dusty (we didn’t really stop after the tasting). But my 9pm (ahem, actually 8.30pm…) bed time and the ten hours of sleep I had given my body seemed to have worked. Hello Sunday sleep-in.

Awake, mobility, coffee and more coffee, and the decision to fuel – sweet potato and beetroot juice. And water to negate the dehydration of yesterday.

Merri Creek, Princes Park then home, the opposite direction to day one.

60 seconds of strides and warm up seemed to ease the calf / shin pain in my right leg. Seemed to.

I was going to take it slowly, but I hit the Merri Creek and felt good, picked up the pace, felt the sun on my skin and Slash playing in my ears. Happy.

I hit Merri Creek and realised I was going quicker than day one and day two. Oops. But I continued and again, picked up the pace at 8km, then 9km and then suddenly I was sprinting up the Upfield bike path, grateful for the lack of traffic.

10km in 44:17. Crikey. I laughed. Not fast by some people’s standards I’m sure, but four minutes off my PB. And I’d felt comfortable. Maybe ten hours of sleep was the secret, or maybe gin was.

I stopped for an Acoustico coffee. Put on a podcast and shuffled home within my hour.

Happy Sunday (until I got back in the ice bath).

Day 4: It’s the little things.

I promised myself I’d go easy – just chill. Not look at my watch and just enjoy.

I paid extra attention to my calves, rolling them out, aware that the pain was still there front and back.

More strides, and some dosey does (haha is that what you call them?)… I’ve only done line dancing once in my life*

(*this is a lie)

I hadn’t eaten this time but took a Koda gel when I hit Princes Park, banana. One of my favourites, that seemed to do the trick. No walls were hit.

Zig zags of Princes Park, not too busy, beautiful sunshine.

I took myself out of Princes Park and back to Upfield just in time for a train to turn all the lights to green for me. It’s the little things.

281 Project coffee, podcast, and shuffle home.

Day 4 done.

Day 5: A huge wind tunnel.

The wind that kept me up through the night – that I knew would continue into the morning – was howling. Strong. Everything rattled.

I drank my coffee and ate some pan-fried pumpkin as fuel, while I watched a bright red sunrise appear then quickly disappear, swept away by the wind.


I decided to mix up the 10km this session, by adding in 15 x 1-minute effort and 1 min tempo, for both my body and my sanity. And because Tuesday’s were my usual speed sessions and I like to stick to plans 🙂

I shouldn’t have though. I should have reconsidered the wind.

The first 2km was a warm-up along streets – anything North-facing was a wind tunnel, so I zig zagged my way to Allard Park that leads to the Merri Creek.

Holy Moly.

The oval was an open battlefield against the wind, and I think I almost got blown off it.

I persevered, ducked down onto the Creek itself in seek of shelter, and started my first effort.

So far so good, body felt good.

My right calf felt ok, and my speed for the efforts felt comfortably uncomfortable as I’d expected.

Further up and I could see the Creek was closed, trees blown over maybe? Directions to the road, up and more up until I was eventually diverted onto Nicholson Street.

A huge north-facing wind tunnel.

I dug deep and pushed on, not knowing how long I had to endure the wind pushing me backwards.

Forever apparently – or at least that’s how long that section took.

I saw the diversion route pointing back down to the trail, and my jazz hands came out in excitement.

Once back on track the efforts continued. My lungs were trying to catch up with my pace as they recovered from the street running.

Suddenly I was on 5km, and 22 minutes. Not as bad as I thought, given the wind.

I continued, tried to find something flat but failed. Undulating would have to do.

I headed South, the wind behind me, and I enjoyed the brief sensation of flying before I turned back into the fury of the wind.

8km. Usually where I was able to pick up the pace for the sprint finish.

Not today.

After 1km, I literally felt like I wasn’t moving, wasn’t gaining ground.

I ducked off the Creek into a street, ran along it. This was better.

I continued, sheltered. 400m to go.

I was faced with either Allard Park hill or heading back down the street and facing the wind.

I chose the wind and started my slow motion 400m run.

Forever passed, and I hit 10km.

Under 45 minutes.

I was surprised to say the least.

Day 5 done. Halfway.

Sorry legs.

And lungs.

Day 6: I’m getting better at not screaming.

I did a body check, everything felt good except the twinge in my calf. Twinge? More like a mild stabbing. But only during the first 30-60 seconds of warm up again.

My options within my 5km are quite limited; parts of the Upfield track north are closed due to track works and to try and find 10 different runs that don’t involve too much road (and therefore traffic) was going to be a challenge.

So today I decided to choose my favourite route of the five I’d already run, knowing that my body had endured enough in the last five days – especially the wind yesterday. Merri Creek, Capital City, Princes Park.

Beetroot juice, mobility, coffee and a gel – in that order.

I was off, so grateful for the lack of wind.

My body felt good, really good actually so I picked up the pace. Just a little.

I sprinted for any green man at the traffic lights I saw – and the ones I missed I ran up and down the pavement (yes like a madman) until I could get across.

Princes Park was beautiful, sunny, not too busy.

I looked at my watch again, 8km.


Time to pick it up (forgetting I already had).


Under five minutes to go Jess, keep going. Faster.


43:58 – my fastest time so far.

Not expected.

I spent the 2.5km home jogging to a coffee shop then walking home listening to Chasing Excellence. Happy.

Until I got into the ice bath of course.

But I’m getting better at not screaming.

That day I also managed some gymnastics and strength work because I felt like my body was missing movements that didn’t involve running.

The gymnastics largely involved upper body, and the intention with the strength was the same, or at least to go lighter on the weights. But whenever I program deadlifts… somehow, they just end up really quite heavy.

Sorry legs.

Day 7: Madness.

I hadn’t slept well (well – my sleep app had told me I hadn’t slept well) And I think I figured things would start to hurt more from today, start to get slower.

I spent a little longer on mobility, then rolling my calves to try and ease the building pain. There was tenderness around my right Achilles, which made me think (hope) it hadn’t been or wasn’t the shin splints I originally thought.

Beetroot juice, coffee (I even made a second cup but decided against it) and my Koda banana gel.


The plan today (as is always on a Thursday) was a tempo session – warm up during the 1km to Clissold Park, then run 2km laps with increasing speed on each lap.

I wasn’t sure whether it was a good idea – either to do laps again after the mental battle I’d endured doing the same for the UTMB race, or to try and get faster on tired legs.

I reasoned with myself that I wouldn’t clock watch, I would increase speed by feel.


I started off by easing my body into running. Feeling out the aches and twinges and trying to stretch my calves out a little.

I got to the track and maintained the warm up pace, reasoning with myself that I probably need to start slower if I was going to increase efforts.

The park was beautiful, lively with people walking their dogs and sunshine.

I looked at my watch after the second lap. 5km and 24 minutes.

I was behind.

Was I? Didn’t I need to go a little slower to start? Yes.

Either way, I picked up the pace for the third lap – my body felt good, my lungs felt good. Everything was ok, or more than ok.

It’s strange how you notice the smallest elevations when you’re trying to do a tempo sessions and running through the same park multiple times – the smallest inclines become mountains to avoid. Or maybe that’s me.

By lap four I had caught up with myself, and as usual at 8km I nodded to myself, most likely spoke to myself. Time to go.

At 9km I realised I could actually get a faster time than yesterday, which was madness to me.

Limp Bizkit came on (don’t ask). Game on.

My version of sprinting probably looked like someone else’s casual jog at that point. But I felt like I was flying.

Faster (again, probably still a casual jog).



Fastest time yet.


I stopped, checked my watch. Thanked my body.

The jog home was a slow jog in the sunshine, again happy to be out and have run and to have felt good running.

Yoga, longer holds, deeper breathing.

The bath – deeper than normal (it’s really when it hits my belly button that I lose my sh*t for some reason).

And then some upper body strength training with Imogen.

Because why not?

As the day went on my legs became stiffer, and I wasn’t sure whether it was the strength training, or the weights – or both.

I did some more stretching, and rubbing and rolling.

The shin pain had shifted round to the back of my calf – which almost confirmed it wasn’t shin splints – and just some muscular knotting. Did it though?

Day 8: Do you know how hard it is to get out of bed with legs like planks?

Blue skies and a little bit of wind. Knowing the weather was going to turn to crap over the weekend, I wanted to end at my favourite place for some yoga and meditation before returning to the daily grind.

Upfield, Princes Park to Merri Creek.

Hello Friday.

When I woke my legs still felt stiff, like planks. Do you know how hard it is to get out of bed with legs as planks?

Well, I do.

Mobility – I jumped on my spin bike to loosen up.


Coffee and gel (not together, although banana coffee actually sounds quite nice)

The warm up still felt like I was running with straight legs, toy soldier style. But as my mind relaxed into it, so did my body.

And I was off.

I hit a few traffic lights, which led to me running up and down the pavement until it was clear to cross. I put it down as agility training.

Princes Park, oh my so busy. So busy. People running on both sides at me.

More agility training.

One lap and I was out, onto the Capital City Trail, more traffic lights, more agility training.

Beautiful sunshine.

Before I knew it, I was at 8km and 35 ish minutes.


I picked up the pace, my legs felt strong.

I had a choice between a steep descent or a gradual descent onto the Merri Creek. I chose gradual, and suddenly realised as I picked up my pace that this was where I needed to reign in my stride, shorten it and tip my body forwards – I’d sprained one to many ankles on long strides down a hill, essentially exposing my outstretched ankles at their weakest point, with little support.

Short strides, leaning forwards.

Less steep descent, 1km to go.

I took off.

The river was beside me, the sun gleaming off it. I was happy.

Happy to run, and happy to almost finish.



My fastest time, which again baffled me. But I went with it.

Yoga in the sun, bliss.

Some meditation.

More bliss.

Happy Friday.

And Friday always has a place for gin.

Happier Friday.

Day 9: Shut up, Jess.

I knew a storm was coming, BOM radar said 95% chance of rain from 10m, which had shifted overnight to 95% chance of rain from 7am.

I’d set my alarm for 6.15am to assess the damage, but for some reason I was awake at 5.30am, waiting for daylight? Waiting for the storm.

I was awake, so I figured I might as well get up and get out when it was light enough.

Mobility, rolling the calves – they felt tight but I had spent some time massaging them the night before. (yes, even after the gin)


A cola gel – not my favourite, and I made a ‘why am I eating sugar at 6am face’ which didn’t disappear for at least five minutes.

I stepped out onto my balcony, reasoned with myself that it was light enough to run safely.

I was off.

My route had changed – not knowing whether Merri Creek had been flooded with the rain overnight,  I headed towards Princes Park.

I had it to myself, the trail, Brunswick. Beautifully eerie.

Still, I managed to mistime a traffic light and run circles up and down the street. There were cars out this early at least.

I hit Princes Park, other runners, maybe five in total.

The lights were on and the sun was rising, it was almost romantic.

No sign of the rain so I picked up the pace – the sooner I finished the less chance of rain and wind beating me up.

The East side of the park was great but turning to face West then North was headwind galore. I knuckled down, tried to maintain my pace. Just slightly uncomfortable. 

And I continued, in the slight humidity, clouds looming. Spits of rain.

Back down the East side, 7km.

I hit 8km turning back up North, the wind grew stronger, the storm closer.

Marilyn Manson came on. Game on.

I pushed through, got to the top of the park.

Realised my time – I could go under 43 minutes… no wait, under 42 minutes.

More power.

Down the East, the lights, the sunrising, the romance.

Shut up, Jess.

I was near sprint. That’s what I felt like.



I checked and checked again.

90 seconds away from my PB.

90 seconds – with 8 days of running behind me.



Farmers shuffle home to a Science of Ultra podcast.

No coffee shops open this early. The only fail of the morning.

Longer yoga, longer bath.

All the breakfast.

Day 10: I did a little jig.

The rain through the night confirmed that I wouldn’t be running the Merri Creek for my last run – there would be flooding for sure.

Safest option? Same as yesterday.

Physically, a good route. Mentally, a battle to repeat.

I was awake before my alarm, which may or may not have had something to do with the wine from the night before.


Mobility. I creaked. My calves – or my right calf – was on fire. Just a little, maybe embers. Enough for me to notice.

I warmed up for 100m. My calves weren’t really playing ball. Less like embers, more like tiny little fires.

I persisted. And started.

Upfield path was fairly empty, so it surprised me to meet traffic each time I hit a road. Grrr.

Finally, I was at Princes Park, free. No traffic lights, but lots of people.

I kept my head and down and pushed through. Less wind today and I was so grateful. More colour in the sky.

Last day, I told myself repeatedly.

I felt heavy though, or heavier than yesterday. But I still felt like I was going ok.

I passed a few runners a few times, we smiled, appreciated each other’s efforts.

I knew this course now… and I also knew I didn’t want to run it for a few weeks after this.

Yes, I was grateful it was flat. But I craved the trails, the mountains, the air. Maybe not on day 10 of a ten-day race though.

I remained grateful.

At 8km I moved to go faster. Moved.

I think I did.

Go faster I mean, I definitely moved.

I knew the last km was going to be painful, from experience. From multi-day races. When you’re so close, yet so far.

I tried to push through.

When I say I tried, I mean I did. With everything I had left in my legs. I pushed.

I even changed my song – which never happens – to Skrillex, for my last km.

Game on.

I looked at the time, realising I was going to be outside the 42 minutes, but inside 43 if I continued (I had wanted between 42 and 44 minutes for my last day).

Son 43 minutes sounded pretty good.

Last 500m. I stupidly thought I’d turn around and head back towards home.

Head wind.

I changed my mind very quickly and suddenly didn’t care how far I was from home. Turned back around and continued.

People must’ve thought I was mad – mostly because I was chastising myself out loud.

I continued.


All out sprint.


42:57. Second fastest time.


I stopped.

I looked around, wanting to high five someone, anyone.

Not going to happen.

I did a jig.

Yes, you read that correctly.

Farmers shuffle home to a Nike Trained podcast.

So grateful.

So mangled.


Long bath.


Happy Sunday.

First place female, first place overall.