Bustard Express Ultra Marathon Austraila

Trail running Australia

This is a race report from a trail race I ran called the Bustard Express, its located in Cairns Australia.

I know I shouldn't enter but I can't help myself, its been 4 weeks of pretty much zero running. I call up the race director "Chris" and just like that I'm in, "Cheers mate see you tonight" Chris says at the end of the call. I borrow my cousins (Paula) small yellow car and within 45 minutes I arrive at the race venue. Its been hot today but now the air is cooler as its almost 5pm (start time). We set off and within the first mile Im running with Bryan O'Mahony and Steven Francis amongst some others. These guys came 2nd and 3rd in 2016 edition with me finishing as the overall winner. Its good to see them again and we catch up whilst running. In the group is also Glen Robinson an ultra running legend here in Cairns Australia, two years ago we also took a training run together but Glen does not remember.

The trails here are mostly single track and we run in a train like group of five. Its still light, sun will set at 6:30pm tonight, so I have my head torch waiting for me after the first lap. The race is made up of 3 different length laps, 3k 7k and 14.5k. The idea is to run for 4 hours as many laps as you can, you can choose any distance lap to run but must complete the last lap within 4 hours or it does not count. I'm really enjoying the feeling of running these Australian trails, I saw a frill neck lizard two years ago and it what so cool to be up and close to nature. We come in after the first lap (14.5k). I grab my head torch even though its still light, it will be dark by the time I return after lap two.

I'm now running alone now and then I see the group who I was with they are leading this race, I'm not chasing these guys, just running my own race. I had decided they were going a little bit faster than I wanted to go. Running out in the bush of Australia is such an experience, the wildlife, vegetation and sounds all ad into the experience. We were told that we may see snakes and that the check point staff have compression bandages Chris also said most runners will have their own bandages, not me, hope I do not get bit.

I haven't run in a while but still feel okay, I have kind of switched off and I'm just looking at the trail ahead of me, concentrating on foot placement as its pretty rocky in sections. I think back to earlier when Andre, my cousin Paulas husband said Steven Hawkins quoted "look up now and then" but said thats not the case with trail running as you will fall so true, but I still find time to look up. I have two gels which I have eaten one. I stop for a wee, looking down seeing the dark orange almost red in colour liquid I know I'm on the edge of dehydration.

I get back to the start area after my second loop and Chris asks me if I going out for another lap? I ask if anyone else has continued, Chris says yes and looks at me with a smile as if willing me to do another lap, "Yes I will go for another lap" I set off regretting what I have put myself up for and what lay ahead. Up till now I still do not feel this possible and that I will not finish. But I carry on, I ate cake, water melon and half a banana at the check point, sugar is in my blood stream. I really do not think this is possible, over and over again my mind tells me. I shut my mind down and just run, taking in the sounds as I stare at the beam from my head torch. Then my head torch flashes, this is a warning the battery is going flat, the beam is weak and my vision is limited.

I get to the point at which you choose the distance lap you will head out on. I'm pointed to the 7k but say I'm going to for another big lap, the volunteers look at their watches and tell me I can make it. I fill my water bottle and head out, again totally regretting my decision. I still do not think this is possible, but I carry on running. Shutting your mind down is not easy but its something I have learned to do to cope with Ultra marathons. To move forward when every part of your body is hurting and your mind is telling you to stop is something that I only experience with running long distances, by continuing you override your brains natural mechanism to protect you. The feeling you get when you push past these messages, stop give up, quit now from your mind is something else. A feeling of super human power, like your in total control and can do anything, like run 100 miles with out stopping.

I'm in this zone now, the super human zone, but this does not mean my mind is not conspiring against me, no its just that the give up and quit messages are not so loud. I start to believe I can finish, this is the first time I have had these positive thoughts. I get to the bearded guy who is maning a check point all by himself, he asks if my name is Kristian, yes it is I reply, okay your the last one on the big loop and I will catch you up 5 minutes, he has a bike. I've been waiting for a downhill open dirt road section but each time I wonder how far it is, I become anxious and so pull myself away from thoughts about the future back to the present moment and suffering, this method is helping to keep me present.

Bearded guy catches me up on his bike and he cannot stop speaking, its obvious he's been by himself for over 3 hours and is now pleased to have some to chat to. I need the toilet and have to interrupt bearded guy to tell him Im going to stop for a loo break. We are off again, I know the course well by now as this is my 3rd loop, up ahead is a left turn then all that remains is 5 kilometres. I have the option of heading out on the last part of the big loop which is 4k plus then a 1k stretch to the finish, or I can just got the 1k to the finish but if I do this my last loop will not count.

I tell the guys at the check point I'm going to go out to complete the full big loop, I ask how long I have to get to the finish, 40 minutes I'm told. We all agree 5k in 40 minutes is achievable, I know it is as my fastest 5k is about 16 minutes on a track but this is no track, never the less I know its doable. I find myself saying out loud "change your mind set, zero limits" when I start to over analyse how far I have to go, it works. Its like flipping a switch in your mind from negative to positive.

Time has all but disappeared and I'm back with the guys at the check point, just 1k to go. Only positive thoughts remain in my mind now all the negativity that was there has completely dissolved. I run fast to the finish passing 4 runners as I go. Finally I can see lights in the distance and I'm rewarded with a view of the finishing area where people are gathered. I've done it, I have over come myself yet again, but this time is was so hard, I had told myself as I was running earlier how this felt just as tuff as a 100 miler due to the negative mindset I had entering. Well if anyone wants to rid themselves of negative thoughts and flood the body and mind with positivity you now know what you must do, yes challenge yourself, you will feel so much better for it. Life is to easy these days and we must compensate by setting ourselves up with mental and physical challenges. good luck.