Donna Voysey - Living the dream
The Six Foot Track Marathon:
The final few weeks building up to the Six Foot Track Marathon had me questioning if I had bitten off more than I could chew. I am a pretty positive person by nature, but I was concerned…concerned that I would let myself down or that I wouldn’t live up to the expectation of having a place on the start line for this race, that I was not worthy of my race number. I also had some pain in my hamstring and I couldn’t get any relief, my leg felt heavy and so tight and I wondered if the pain was pain or stress. A few trips to my Osteo had some relief but I missed a few runs in the two weeks before (and I never miss a run) which messed with my head. But I was physically feeling better.
The week before the race I went through my usual pre-race what if’s scenario, what if this happens, what if this goes wrong, what if I don’t meet a cut off… and I made a decision, I reflected on all the training I had done in the lead up to race day and in the last year in fact and I realised that the bottom line was all I should feel was pride. I had worked hard for my qualifying race and I had stuck to my plan and until now had not missed a training session… I was worthy, no ifs and no buts.
I decided that regardless of the outcome on race day I would be proud! Proud to line up and start and proud of how far I had come! I was going to get out there and give it my all. I had done the training there was no doubt in my mind that I could make the distance. But those cutoffs were what played on my mind. 4 places I had to be by a certain time. But if I raced smart I was pretty sure I could get to that finish line.
Race morning I plastered a permanent smile on my face. Fake it till you make it was my mantra! A smile sends a powerful message both inwards and out, I was going to trick my brain and harness a sense of calm, there was no room for nerves. “You’ve got this” my partner in crime and I always reassure each other on those tough training runs and we did it again on race morning. “Team Awesome” was going to finish this race!
As the count down began for wave 5 to line up. I recalled the one-pager that Brendan had written talking about his race approach. There were certain parts of this that resonated at the time I read it so I decided that I was going to draw on that and use that to guide me through the race.
I had decided to place myself as far forward in wave 5 as I could amongst my UP Team Mates and try to get out fast and hit Nellie’s with as little congestion as possible. This was one area I was nervous about losing valuable time. Each time I had descended the stairs I had had a near miss and I had also taken a fall on one training run. “Don’t do anything stupid and you will be fine” the wise words of one more experience than I rang through my head. They held me steady through the race, I repeated them to myself often.
So the gun went and the race began. I started with fast feet moving with purpose making sure I held my footing. Heading to the start of Nellie’s as swiftly as I could. I channelled Tarzan down those stairs swinging from vines and trees to keep my fast momentum and ensure I stayed upright. I got down quicker than I had on any of the training runs. I remember looking at my watch as the single trail opened up around 17 mins in and feel reassured that everything was going to be okay. I ran with a fast cadence and took in my surroundings and tried to bring myself to a state of calm and get the heart rate down, I was feeling good but I knew I had a long way ahead and I didn’t want to get carried away.
As I came out onto the fire trail I remembered the mental notes.. he always takes this section at talking pace…so I look to my right and I introduced myself to Bob, who turns out to be “the original number 4”. I learned today was his 30th attempt on the course and 29th finish. We chatted for a while and I was comfortable I was pacing well, running my own race. I remembered to smile and enjoy the moment and before I knew it I was approaching Megalong. Seeing the uppers and Coach Graham calling out “just remember to smile Donna” as I came through was such a lift. I looked at my watch and thought “I’m ok. 55 minutes…we are good”.
The single trail from Megalong to Cox’s river is my favourite part of the course. I navigated through this section and enjoyed every moment, down the stairs and over the rocks and roots my mind was busy on the task and my body was feeling good. The little obvious downhills gave me joy and before I knew it I was approaching the swing bridge and remembered this was where Brendan had suggested to drop back slightly to recover ready for the water crossing and climb. All the concern about not reaching the cut offs in time and I check my watch 1.50 I was fine. “I’ve totally got this” I remember telling myself but “be smart…don’t do anything stupid…we are not out of the woods yet”.
High knees through the river did not keep the debris from my shoes but I decided to ignore the discomfort and push on. Filling up my bottles and sticking to the plan of music I loaded up the tunes. The Prodigy was going to create “the zone”, head down and the grind began…now to take on Mini Mini with some power. Hiking with purpose and running every flat between I focussed only on my climb choosing a landmark on the side of the trail and moving with single minded purpose to reach it and as I arrived choosing the next and the next. About the 20km mark, I went to get my electrolytes ready for the next stop and to my horror, they were no longer in my flip belt…oh no…nope, nope! I’m okay… I had though about this as part of my race prep, I had considered what might go wrong…this was fixable, I decided to keep topping up the bottle I had and do a slow change over from my Shotz to Tailwind. I calmed myself and continued on.
Before I knew it I was enjoying the flow of that sweet down hill ride between Mini Mini and Pluvi and just for my ultimate comfort I got to wet my feet again and remembered those rocks in my shoes. But it was so fun! Until I was reunited with Pluvimeter and the climb continued. I was back in my zone focussing only on those beats and the small goals of the climb. A few butt kicks where I could as my legs were not loving the climb!
When I finally hit the top of Pluvi at 3:49 I double checked my watch. I was okay, well ahead of cut off but stay smart. I tried to run as soon as the top levelled out and I realised my legs were not as fresh as I had hoped. I was suffering a little, I picked a tree and let myself recover to the tree and then I ran to the next land mark. I took on most of the black ranges as a landmark farlek hiking with purpose and then running and I continued this process with the exception of the down hills I ran all of those and my smile was refreshed each time they arrived. With the odd piece of watermelon and a cup of coke I was going okay with the Tailwind and those butt kicks seem to keep the terrible cramps at bay. If nothing else they amused the other runners in my vicinity.
The final two climbs out of the ranges were hard work but the crossing of the timing mat and making my way over Caves Road my smile grew wider and I felt the excitement of the finish coming. From this point , there was absolutely no doubt in my mind I was finishing the race. I was going to make it and I was going to have time to spare. I would get to be a finisher. I celebrated when I hit 42.2km…I had just run a marathon…Go Me!
When the trail finally gave way to those down hills that would take me home my pace increased and I enjoyed the path that had been cleared, this section was awesome, I could hear noise in the distance and with every step the anticipation of finishing grew stronger. Before I knew it I crossed over the final set of rocks and made my way onto the cobblestone down hill ramp. Well, I bound down that with everything I had and ran to that finish line. I threw my arms in the air and celebrated that win! I had done it!
The commentator announced my finish…”Donna Voysey…She’s living the dream”
You have got to love filling in race forms and sharing some of your personal craziness with the world but the commentator had it right. That’s my line… and I certainly felt it at that moment.
I crossed the line in 6:27:49…I had my medal and I felt like a rock star! The cheering, the bells and the finishing line excitement is something I don’t think I will ever forget. Will I do it again next year…perhaps…I don’t think I have ever felt such a sense of achievement as I did complete the six foot track. As this race all starts with a lottery I guess it will also be up to the luck of the draw!