Glasshouse 2013 – Shaun Mulholland
I had fairly lofty expectations of myself heading into Glasshouse. I felt like I had done a heap of training, as much as any of the training programs I had read said needed to be done prior to a miler. In the preceding 12 months since I had done the 100k at Glasshouse, I had averaged over a hundred k’s a week, with several peak weeks of more than 150ks. I had done three 50K trail races at Glasshouse this year, the Oxfam Trailwalk in Brisbane, 112k’s in a 12hr track race at Caboolture, I’d had a really good race at the Mt Mee Classic earlier in the year and done a 3.20 marathon at the Sunshine Coast Marathon two weeks out from Glasshouse. I knew the course, I’d done the training. I was ready. But there was something nagging me. I didn’t feel as strong or fast as I had done earlier in the year. I had done a lot of K’s since June and I had a couple of niggles that wouldn’t go away. Going into this race, I was stronger, much stronger than I had been a year ago, but I thought strength had cost me some freshness and zip.
I’d done the GH100k in 2012 as my first trail race. Before that I’d done just one road marathon and a six hour race at Caboolture. In September 2012 I was fresh and I was keen and I just wanted to run, which I did, running my first 100k in 11hrs flat. That felt good. I wanted more. So I did more. In 2013 I ramped up my training and racing and did lots of both. By August though, I had started to feel a bit tired and at that time I read ‘Relentess forward progress’ by Bryon Powell. I thought maybe I’d overtrained a bit so I pulled it back a bit and had a longish taper into Glasshouse. I was a bit worried about doing the marathon two weeks out. Mick and I talked about taking it easy – I’d done a big back to back to back (90K) weekend just two weeks before and I wanted to make sure I had plenty for the miler. We did Sunny Coast and had an awesome day. There were so many people there who were also doing the miler. That gave me confidence. I did a 3.20pb in the marathon without hurting too much, I was feeling good.
The two week taper into the miler was uneventful. I rested, ran a few 10k’s and ate as much as I could, going into the race several kegs over my usual race weight. Mick, Jenny and I went to the race briefing at Beerburrum school on the Friday night. There was a big crowd and a great buzz, as there has been at all the Glasshouse events this year. We picked up our kit, said a few hellos and headed back for final prep and sleep. I had spent plenty of time with my prep and had all my drop bags ready. In my races this year, I had relied on gels a little bit, but also to had soy protein drinks, Staminade, protein powder, Titan bars PB sandwiches and lollies. My bags did look a bit meagre as I laid them out but I tried to have confidence in my calculations and planning.
On Saturday morning, the atmosphere at the school was buzzing. There were plenty of familiar faces and lots of people. I’d borrowed Mick’s Garmin to use in the first part of the race and was planning on using my own in the second part of the race. Off down the road we went. Mick was going to go hard in this race so he was off with the leaders. I was trotting along, trying to work out how to use the bloody Garmin. It was a glorious morning as we headed around the first loop of 9.7k’s. I saw some familiar faces and had plenty to listen to. There was lots of chatter and talk of races, strategies and predictions. I ran for a while with Mallani and Nic Moloney. I had met both over the last year and Mallani had just come off some great results. Nic was going to run his 2000th kilometre during Glasshouse events during the day, an awesome achievement. I got back to the school and picked up my belt and bottle. I lost a bit of time doing this, but reassured myself. There was a long way to go. I headed up Mt Beerburrum at a good pace. I’d been up there a couple of times before and done plenty of hills in my training, so the hill didn’t concern me. What did concern me was the heat. Boy, it was hot already and it was only 6.30 in the morning. It was great to the guys at the front bombing down Beerburrum. I took the opportunity for some high fives and hellos with Mick, Laurie Laine and Dan Bleakman. They were all looking great. And they were going fast. Everyone was going fast. I was really aware of how fast the pace was when I saw David Eadie and Nikki Wynn just ahead. I should be nowhere near them. Maybe they were just taking it easy today and not racing. Back down the hill, belt on again and out along the road. This part of the course was very familiar for me. I had done it the Flinders race this year and I remembered this section from last year. I tried to relax and take it easy. It was good to get some shade and nice to see some trails after checkpoint 3. I headed on to CP 4 and met up with Chris Jacobsen. Turned out Chris lived just around the corner from me and had gotten into ultras about the same time as me. It was good to run and chat and to enjoy the early part of the day. CP4 came. I saw Jenny for the first time, got my soy drink and Titan and continued on. It was a fast CP and it only cost me a minute at most. Soon after though, I had to stop and use the bush facilities, that cost me a bit of time and I saw a few people go past. No bother, plenty of time.
CP 4-5 was only 8ks but it was bit technical, with some rough stuff and some steepish hills. I ran most of this by myself. I went through five and then headed on. I met up again with Chris and also met Lee Maskiell and then his buddy Dion. Dion was a hoot. I’d heard him talking early in the race and I thought there was no way someone could keep up that amount of chat. I was wrong. Here we were 30k’s in and he was still chirping away. It was great. While I was running this section with Chris I’d told him how well marked the course was and how you couldn’t get lost. Sure enough Chris mentioned he hadn’t seen a ribbon for a bit. We got to the end of a road where two huge dogs thought they might like to take my leg off. This wasn’t the course, time for a strategic retreat. We soon found the trail again. Too much chat had meant we’d missed the turn. Chris estimated we’d added on a mile. Not what you need when you are already running a hundred but I was in good spirits and it didn’t bother me. I was having a great time. I was feeling good and it was a beautiful day. After some more lumps and hills and a bit of road we made it to CP6 where I met up with Jenny again. Jenny told me that Mick was going really well and in second place. He was killing it.
I loaded up with an extra bottle of sports drink and a peanut butter sandwich and took off. The sports drink didn’t last long. In fact it was gone before I’d even started on the Powerlines section. I had done the powerlines a few times now, knowing what to expect was both good and bad. I am not super-confident on the technical bits and some of this was a bit tricky and it was getting really hot. I had a weird sensation in front of my eyes, I was seeing spots which was really weird. I don’t normally suffer from the heat too much so I slowed down and got things back under control. After the powerlines you have a fairly long section of road. Along this section I ran into Dion, Lee and Chris once again. Everyone was doing well. I was really happy to see Jenny at 8. My PB sandwich had not gone down and I was out of liquids. I needed a drink. Jenny told me that Mick was about an hour ahead, he was on fire. I loaded up with gels etc and headed down to do the first loop of 8 with one bottle. The first part of the loop was a long downhill and then a long flattish section. Once again it was all familiar. I was by myself and soaking it up. It’s nice and shady on that first loop so I tried to keep up a decent trot. Inevitably, I ran into Chris and Dion again and ran with them for a few k’s. Everyone was feeling the heat. I didn’t mind it too much but realised I was just about out of water. I scabbed a drink from Tim Miller of Dreamsport Photography (thanks Tim)and headed on down the old railway line back to the hill. I really enjoyed this section, it’s one of my favourites of the whole course and was making good time, even if I was out of water, it wasn’t too far back up the hill to 8. Once again, going up the hill I crossed paths with a lot of runners coming down the loop for the first time. It’s amazing the range of personalities and body types that ultras attract, a truly eclectic bunch. Back at 8 and on the scales. I was down 3 kilos. Hmmm, I wasn’t too concerned, I wasn’t dizzy now and apart from feeling hot, thought I had it under control. I went to check out the food and saw Mick. WTF!!! I was speechless. ‘What are you doing?’ ‘I thought I’d run with you for a bit if that’s ok?’ Well Mick is a funny guy but he wasn’t joking. He’d had a bad fall on the powerlines and busted himself up. He’d only just got off crutches a few week before Glasshouse and here he was limping on the same bad leg. He told me that he was going to run the second loop of 8 with me and see how his hip felt. If it was no good, he was going to drop. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Mick was unstoppable and now he was talking about DNF’ing. We talked a lot on that loop about racing and running and life and looking back, that was my favourite part of that day. I was really happy to be running my training buddy and really hoping that we could get through this together. Back at 8 Mick told me to stop being such a water pig and that he was going to run with me to seven to see how he felt.
THANK GOD. On the way to seven, after feeling good around the loops of 8, my wheels fell off. My head started spinning, my whole body felt dizzy and my hammys and calves were cramping with every single step. I didn’t know how I was going to make it the seven k’s to CP7, let alone to the school or to the end. All I could do was walk. I was trying to think about what I could do to finish this race, but I had nothing. I didn’t actually think I was going to drop but I had no idea how the hell I could keep going. Mick talked to me a lot. I was so grateful to have him to talk to. He was so positive and encouraging, even though he was in his own world of hurt. I felt like I was in a massive hole, with no way out other than one step at a time. Those steps didn’t get any easier and I was so glad to get to seven. Jenny was there and Mick got to work sorting me out. It was like an episode of MASH when the choppers come in. Salt tablets, Endurolytes, Protein drink, sweet potato, then glory of all glories, he squeezed a sponge of ice water over my head. THAT was the single best thing I had ever felt in my life, well that’s how it seemed at the time. He gave me a frozen bottle of water to hold to cool me down (this sounded ridiculous to me. How could cooling your hand down, lower your body temp?). The heat was clearly getting to Mick too, coming up with crap like that. But, it worked. We did the dodgy loop of seven. Five and half k’s of crappy fire trail, first walking and then some running and then some more. By the time I was back at seven again, I was feeling alive again. I think I even gave Jenny a goodbye kiss as we left.
We met up with Andy Bowen. Andy was doing the 100k race and had just done an extra ten or so K’s on top of the crappy loop at seven so he was pretty racked off. The section back to six has a bit of everything – sand, some hills, single track and road. We talked a lot, or should I say Mick and I listened to Andy. He had a heap of great stories about adventures and running and bikinis and kids. We were walking a lot, running a bit but I was having a good time. This was great company, out on the trails, on a beautiful (if not, slightly hot – it got to 32 degrees) day. I was out of the hole, not totally back on deck, but on the mend. We saw Dion and Chris – yet again. Last year when I ran the 100k I hardly saw another person. In fact the only other runner I spoke to after the loop at 8 was Mick – that is when we had first met. Today, I had hardly been by myself all day and I was glad for the company. It was slow going back to six. Thankfully the course had changed so we had done the much more technical bit of 5 to 6 in the morning. it was hard going because I was stuffed but it was manageable. I had some soup at six. It was the first thing I had eaten since the couple of bits of sweet potato at seven. I’d mainly had gels and soy drinks and had not eaten any of the food I had packed. PB sandwiches and Titan bars were a big fail nutrition-wise. The soup went down pretty well and stayed down. This was a great sign. We kept on going back to five. It was getting dark and we needed our torches. We left Andy at five, sitting in a chair chatting to the ladies at the CP and chowing down something they had given him. Mick and I ran and walked, mainly in silence. At least I knew I’d make it back to the school now. One of the biggest mental challenges I thought was going to be getting into the school and then back out again. I had not thought that actually getting to the school would be so hard. I had done the 100 ks last year in 11 hours and now it looked like it was going to take at least 13 to get back to the school. We had our torches on and trotted along. In the last year we had done this many times. It was all very familiar, normally though I felt great, today, not so much. After going down the big hill and back into the trails we saw a torch behind. Whoever it was, they were moving pretty well and gaining. It turned out to be Andy who clearly had enjoyed our company so much he wanted to finish his race with us. That last bit back to the school was slow. We passed Andy Duffus who had been crook for hours and was getting picked up by his wife. He was in a bad way but he was ok and he was safe. We walked a lot, Mick fell over again. I think he tripped on a grain of sand or something. We didn’t laugh of course, the guy’s day had nearly ended because of a fall in the morning, but in hindsight it was pretty funny. Jenny was going to have her work cut out getting that shirt white again. We finished the single track and got onto the road. Andy told us about his family and his running club at the Sunny Coast, about business adventures and about having the very first pair of HOKAs in Australia. The boys were both HOKA devotees so there was a lot of shoe love going round. Despite the excellent company this section seemed to take forever. Finally though we passed under the bridge and were on our way back to the school. 13 hours and 50 minutes after leaving we were back at Beerburrum state school again. Andy went off to celebrate and Mick and I met up with Jenny. Thank God that was done. Now for part B. Let’s get out of this place.
We hung around the school tuckshop getting our gear for the next loop sorted. I put on my Source pack and the irony struck me that I was putting on my hydration pack now that night had fallen and it was cooling down, rather than wearing it around the loops of 8, when it was like being in Hell’s kitchen. No bother, hydration fail. As often happens these days when I stop, I got cold, really cold. I started to shake and was glad to get moving again. Mick and I had done a recce of the second part of the course and all we had to do was to run down to Moffats road and take a right after about five k’s. Somehow though, running down an established walking track, next to the main road, we got separated. I still can’t really explain it. After a few phone calls and a bit of standing around and waiting, Mick turned up to meet me at Moffats. We took off and had a fairly uneventful trip to CP9. A couple of times during the day, Diana had called me. Taking phone calls was something I had never done before in a race but today I took great comfort in talking to her and hearing her voice and knowing that everything was OK! I spoke to Diana on the way to 9 and felt confident that I was going to finish this thing. At nine we did our lap of Wildhorse Mountain and had some awesome strawberries before heading on to 10. There was a bit of a party atmosphere going down there with cowbells and music and it was awesome to see my friends Alissa, Lucy, Mike and Bruce and the other crew from the Run Inn. Alissa gave me a huge hug and called me a crazy bugger. It was fantastic how much seeing some familiar faces and getting support from friends and strangers alike gave me a massive lift. We did the sandy loop first. I’m not sure whose idea it was to put a 4k sandy section after 130Ks of trail, but they are clearly masochistic. The second at 10 loop seemed a LOT longer than I remembered from Wildhorse at night and although Mick was finding walking more painful than running by this stage, I just had to walk a fair chunk of it. We said goodbye to the guys back at ten before heading back to nine. After another trip up Wildhorse, the descent from which took about ten minutes in itself, and, it was time to go home. I was feeling kind of numb by this stage, it was well past midnight, quite literally in the dead of night. I hadn’t slept for almost 24 hours and I was way past the point of exhaustion. But I was really happy. I had looked over into the abyss during the hot part of the day and somehow managed to pull it back together to have the end in sight. My Garmin had gone flat ages ago and I didn’t care. I didn’t care how fast I was going or how far there was to go or even what time it was. I just wanted to keep going and to get to the end. I wanted to finish this epic journey. And I did. Mick and I finished the last leg pretty well. He had given me a load of Hammer Espresso gels and I was rocking. We ran up the last stretch, Mick encouraging the whole way, reminding me of all the training that I had done and all the work that had gone into achieving this goal. And then, we were there. We made a fair bit of noise coming into the school which unfortunately woke Ian up from his nap. I hope he doesn’t hold it against me for entry into future Glasshouse events! And, just like that, it was over. I was done. I felt numb and kind of blurry all over (which could have been due to those gels). The longest, hardest most amazing journey I had ever taken.
I am very grateful to a number of people for helping me with this race. My darling wife Diana who gives me the freedom to train and supports me in all of my adventures. Mick, my training buddy and awesome friend. On reflection, I don’t think I would have finished without Mick’s support during the middle of the day. He will probably disagree but I think it’s pretty true. Jenny, who showed me that it is WAY better to have crew than to not and who did not stop smiling the whole day. And, to Ian Javes, the Glasshouse crew, the volunteers and to all the folks at TRAQ. I only discovered trail running a year ago and have been so fortunate to be able to participate in the awesome events that these guys organise. So that’s it. My first Miler and my first race report. I hope there’s many more…