an experience beyond words

"On Saturday we left Ray resting in Jindabyne and Ann and I shared a trip up to the Summit. What a woman she is - so strong, so kind, so generous - just an awesome co-crewer." Sue
sue ... thank you, thats just so lovely for you to say. x
words cannot sum up our time there, nor that summit journey of ours, (well besides with the singular word freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeezing for the latter!) emotional for us i guess cos yes, we had expected to do the summit with ray in tow - but i am so glad we still got the chance to head to the top - we did it differently than expected, but i know ray was really pleased we went and had the opportunity to experience the top of australia...

occasionally in life there are events that happen, that are so overwhelmingly amazing, they can't be described succinctly ... i have arrived home finding myself in that position, how do you explain a c2k experience to someone who wasn't there? - how to put into words, all the magic of the experience ...
c2k was not what i expected. yet. everything i expected.
like with any ultra, the best of plans get left by the wayside and you find yourself having to improvise along the way, change tactics, remove preconceived ideas of how it will all pan out, and you learn to do some incredible things you would never have thought possible - quickly... when the race is not 'yours' but your role is to get a single runner to the finish line, it takes on a whole different scenario, a selflessness - that you take on with such gusto, you surprise even yourself the energy it takes, and that you find you have an abundance of. the focus is simply on making such a relentless feat as easy as possible for them.

arriving in sydney on wednesday, ray picked sue and i up from the airport and we had a journey to foxtel, where they were last minute interviewed in a sports show airing live - to head inside foxtel is like entering another world. they dont even have camera men anymore :) however technology and an amount of people buzzing and pushing buttons everywhere ... sue and ray were so eloquent. i was proud by association.
it changed what we were doing for the day as it took a large chunk away however from there a lovely lunch at an asian restaurant who did a wonderful tofu dish before heading for the largest supermarket shop ever - we would survive months out in the wilderness with our stocks!!!! the afternoon spent sorting everything and working out how we would put everything into the car for easy access of whatever would be needed *THEN*, a yummy dinner made by helen who has possibly never had to accommodate for vegetarians before :) what a beautiful and gracious family ray has ... chatter and bed.
difficult to sleep though with anticipation in the air.

an early rise to discover ray couldnt sleep (no surprise!) and had already loaded the car - so we just had to have brekky and we were off to eden - i took over driving about half way - wary - to go from a tiny holden barina to someone elses monstrous 4WD mercedes - eeeeek heck!! ha - ray and sue slept most of it - it rained, it was a windy road, i was sleepy - i was slow - long journey first to bega for sue to pick up cords and such to show the film, then onto the eden fishermans club to set up for the preview of the c2k documentary before dinner ... then we headed to our accommodation. an hour to get ready and back to the club.
dinner was a mixture of the film, eating, drinking. more drinking. mingling. seeing people you hadnt seen since the last ultra race. meeting new ones. more eating. oh, and drinking.

then the morning dawns, well, pitch black when we wake up at 4 .. but - it was about to dawn :)
down to the beach, twofold bay. anticipation as everyone arrives and photos are taken, good lucks exchanged, hugs everywhere, excitement just buzzing, and the sun rises .... the runners wanting to get going

39 starters, with 31 runners completing the 242kms journey with their crews - every single one of those 39 runners who stood on that start line is incredible - the human body, proves to be an amazing machine.

ray began well, before the start he was calm and happy, enjoying the moment ...
we werent able to make contact with our runners till the 23.9kms rendezvous point, so most crews went to the organised breakfast at the wharf. then on the drive to the 23km mark, we werent allowed to slow or talk to the runners as we went past them, but it gave us a good look at where everyone was ...
the first point of contact was pretty cool as it gave most of the crews an opportunity at chatting and getting to know who was crewing who, see the majority of the runners coming in ...

at this point, as ray came in, he had a lean to the left (a point that was told to us many times over the day by everyone but which we were aware of!) graham checked his hamstring and massaged it, put some voltron on, we were told how to massage it if it were needed (and to NEVER use an ice pack on it)
gatorade/water/cheese/nuts. then off!
the journey from there became 5kms stops with mostly cheese and nuts being eaten, and gatorade, coke and water ... a constant flow of food ...
he had a flat patch through a sunny hilly bit and came in cranky ... but bluedog ran with him for a bit doing 6minute kms, after that he came in hot and cranky!!  around noon he started to pick up and become chirpier :) yay! just starting to get his rhythm i think. and responding to bullying - eating some things we gave him for most of the time he didnt want to eat anything -
rocky hall was absurd, a general store and a phone box :) we had to check our runners in here via phone ...

met up with bernie and bluedog at the bottom of big jack mountain - our first sort of 'break' that seemed to be real - i was going to head up bjm with ray, whether he wanted me to or not :) ( i WAS hoping he would be ok with the company though :D ) to spur him along, so i was mentally preparing for his rejection :) had a red wine with bluedog - had something to eat, had chucked my running gear on, and was ready!

to this point we had already got some olives and chips into ray besides the cheese and nuts which were his preference, but past lunchtime, we had made him a sandwich, which he refused but took a banana and we were off ... he already had his poles the past few kms, so, up we went. and up. and up. and up. and up :D but i was most pleasantly surprised he was quite happy to chat and also that he was finally being, VERY positive!!!  and we laughed a lot heading up ... this i think was his turning point to all he was doing. jan passed us, but we caught up to seow. reaching the top, seow promptly started vomiting, and ray got stuck into an orange.
open farming country for a while, so sue and i continued with our 5kms pit stops. ray packed the poles away and ventured off on some running. along the way he was joined by tim cochrane and by misterg for a little bit.

cathcart was the next mandatory check point - a store and a phone box again! - waiting there, i went in search of the toilets and when heading back came across hermie walking with a limp. he stopped to chat and i said keep going i will walk with you! which i did .... but hermie, loooooooves talking :) we got to the curve in the road and i looked around to see how far i had gone with him, oh my goodness - had to leave him and race back - worried ray had already come in ... running back fast i arrived just as he was - phew.  he was happy and glad he was back 'on the road' and feeling strong :D
at 4.45 ray started to accept that he would be looking at a 15 hour 100km - he was feeling confident, and said he was feeling perfect! his lean however, was worsening ...
to be briefer for the night ....

deb potato (has anyone ever tasted THAT!!) tuna and cheese for dinner, plenty of fluid ... put some night gear on and was ready for whatever adventure the night was to bring!
at around 8 i headed out with ray - sue parked 5kms ahead ... i would race in - tell her what ray felt like, and she would have it ready - he really had no time to stop anymore ... and we did that routine for  awhile ...

life became stars and car taillights way off in the distance - ABSOLUTELY DIVINE!!!!! an cattle grids - hard for ray to negotiate across ... a journey through the loudest mooing cows i have ever heard in my life, everything dark around so so you couldnt see anything except know they were there and on the road - i asked ray what if it turns out one was a bull ! he said we run over the cattle grid - i smiled at him, knowing he wouldnt make the cattle grid before me, nor negotiate over it without me, so told him he would be the one have to worry haha! he is such a sweetheart. as crew would i have to be the one take the bull horns for him though? :D the cows, will be a memory i will never ever forget.

and the big dead tree - against the night sky - pointed out by rob and rod - awesome :)
gosh, running with ray, night cold air, chatting non stop for so many hours, admiring his every strength and at that stage - focus - truly magnificent and unforgettable.

we had one mishap when ray was really wanting some gu, kendall and coke ... i thought we could see 'our' car - i raced off, only to discover it was billies crew - generous enough to give me some gels though for ray, we wondered where our car was ... we continued running and the sweepers actually drove ahead looking for sue ... she was another km down the road - we had had a fork in the road earlier and they had become concerned maybe they hadnt waved her through that so didnt want to head to far from us till they made sure they knew where she was :)

- fed ray up - we mixed up running and walking, i could push him so far then his body was simply too tired - his garmin battery died - and he was kinda lost without it (thats a WHOLE different issue! :) ) he wanted to lay down he wanted to change the battery, it was freezing by this stage - we were heading towards the car it was 11.30 - by that stage i had run/walked for 3 and a half hours with him. he refused to listen to me - and when we reached the car, sue was sleeping, he lay down on the ground - well - i thought that was the end of his race right there :D his body froze right up and then went into convulsions (?) - i dont know how to describe it ... he couldnt stop shivering/shaking - downright scary - knowing there was noone else around, sue woke and helped me get warmer gear on him ... i just knew we had to get him moving, we walked him on, and eventually his body warmed up ... and the shivering stopped, PHEW! (from there he went on to do another 48kms - i am sooo in awe of the strength he had to utilise to get past that point!) ... i was never gonna let him stop AGAIN!!!! i did another 5kms, sue then took over running with him, i however, could not sleep at all. so i was just sitting and waiting and trying to stay warm all the time.

i did three 5km drive stops, sue ran with ray (and a little the two of them with jan) making coffee for them all, and spending time with one of billies crew (whose name escapes me but i DO know who you are!) - he made me green tea, man they had an awesome set up in the back of his ute - and i took over running from sue again after she had done 15kms ... by that stage, ray was needing great guidance to stay in a straight line, and stay on the road .... we were 21kms from dalgety, still plenty of time to make it before cut off ... but the next 21kms was to become a long slow journey. with a 6.30am cutoff the push to get ray to run was measured mostly, roadpost to roadpost, all the while my arms up in an L shape to keep him on the road, he was fatigued, a lot of times barely coherent, his back was in a lot of pain and we spent a lot of time him hunched over while i massaged his back ... then trying to get him upright again
rather than drag the expletives out, (haha and they WERE awesome! :D)  and the next 5, 5, 5 and 6km venture between car stops ... i think all i have left to say, is i admire every step ray took, his lean had become a huge problem, i cant imagine the pain he was in - i question a lot of what i did and whether under the circumstances it was right or wrong, did i make him run too much? did i not push enough? did he eat sufficiently (the final hours he wasnt, thats for certain, but that was not the problem he was having, plus sue and i tried everything we could to get him to eat more) ...
facts are though, if i become less harsh on myself - to make cut off, he had to run ... walking would not have got him at the destination - by that stage he was far behind his predicted times - that is the journey of ultra running though, things dont always go to plan, and you improvise and change as you go along.
end result, 500m from the dalgety community hall, the sweeper offered him 'choice' .. lots of to'ing and fro'ing conversation between us all, ray kept looking at the road out of dalgety and telling me there was no way he could get up it, i just wanted him to get to the hall and eat and change and have a small break and decide ... but it was his decision, ....sue was going to take over running with him from dalgety and was waiting for us, while i got something to eat and get a short rest ... ready for our saturday

then, he did it. made choice,
in a lot of pain, tired from the night, he hopped into the sweepers van and said that was it, he couldnt go on  anymore... i was shocked - yes. i burst into tears - yes.

but NONE of it was from disappointment at ray, it had been a very long and slow 21kms journey that latter part of the night, watching him come slightly back to life as the sun rose - i am female, so an emotional critter anyways, but the tears were, of how proud i was of him. i had watch every step of that struggle, i knew his decision he had been thinking of possibly for a good many kms beforehand. it probably wasnt as out of the blue as it appeared
as jan passed us coming into dalgety ray had asked him how much further, he had been saying and thinking the hall was just at some trees not very far ahead, and jan turned and replied 2kms, ...  that had hit him hard. his mind had been on 'nearly there' to. quite a way to go. alternating between walking stopping and massaging. i have no doubt had the sweeper not come along, he would have made it to the hall. of course he would have. bad timing. only 500 metres around the corner. but thats the way it was.
ray did 148kms - THAT - is an incredible journey! and an incredible test of endurance ability.

in at the community hall, i sat away from everyone for a little bit to reflect the past few hours - i peeled my socks off, toes full of blisters - :) anyone would think i had run the whole way! - one of billies crew (whose name escapes me) came and sat on the floor in front of the fireplace with me, brendan was heating up lasagne - i was so hungry for some hot food i figured i could scrape the meat out and told him thats what i was waiting for ... he offered to get eggs from his ute and make me scrambled eggs :) what an absolute sweetheart! for despite my words of protest and that it was ok, he did. i was most thankful, MUCH better than meat lasagne - we had also shared a journey that night at many a stop point and also when i had been running past him ... i joined ray sue and the dr to eat once they were made ... and shortly after we headed to the hotel at jindabyne to get ray some rest.

i am honoured i got to crew for such an amazing and proficient runner who i have admired for so long and who has encouraged me on my own personal ultra journey along the way also... i am honoured i got to do it alongside sue. an amazing role model of a woman with such a tenacity and work ethic, i have no idea how she does all she does but simply admire from afar ...
i hope next year, ray decides to run it again and conquer it, for i know he can - if he does, the one MAIN thing i would change, i would get his garmin at the beginning, and smash it against the rocks on the beach :D!!!! with a great deal of love of course!

the journey to the summit of mt kosciuszko was an adventure unto itself ... driving ray to jindabyne to get some rest - passing runners along the way and wishing them well ... we had a quick couple of hours sleep ourselves then sue and i, with rays blessing and encouragement - for we didnt really want to leave him alone - went up to charlottes pass to make the journey ourselves...

we passed many runners once again along the way, stopping to chat to most to see how they were all doing - hard to beleive we had been to the hotel and slept for a couple of hours and these amazing athletes had been still slogging it out ...

i have never been in this area before so was fascinating to watch the unfolding landscape - arriving at charlottes pass to many crew members milling around, cars etc

it was cold. to say the least.

put all our gear on. a chatter with a few people. and sue was heading up with one of the runners as i was still chatting with bluedog and bernie ... told her i would catch them (actually thought i would ha!) ... i left only a couple minutes after them - i missed the charlottes pass turn off - blue dog had yelled after me (what i thought) was - "dont forget you have to turn right about 3kms down the road" - apparently the reality is, it was something like "dont forget to turn right 300m down the road :)

i was running pretty fast to catch up. got to a sign that told me i had 900m to go, - boy the quickest 8kms i have ever run haha! figured on seeing that and it DIDNT say the summit i had obviously missed something - turned to go back to paul and dianne at the beginning, and on my way back, saw the sign to the summit - CLEAR AS DAY!! and, about 300m from where we had entered in - however, i still was being careful looking for another 'right turn' that of course was to never occur ... only one step of chinese whispers and i screw it up!
needless to say i didnt catch anyone, plus, i was buggered from running uphill going nowhere - :) i thought when i got some really long view points i could see sue but she wasnt with anyone - eventually the photographer was coming towards me - spoke with him and he said it was indeed sue. so i endeavoured to move my backside faster in hope of catching her ... just the other side of the snowy river she must have been looking around and spied me coming, and waited ...

together we travelled the rest of it - freezing at times, so cold our faces were so numb we thought we had been to the dentist - passed some santa clauses (a runner and crew dressed up!) .... passed snow drifts, which excited me immensely - and - made it to the top!

the wind was so strong there was no way we would be able to stand on the pillar - but grabbed some quickie photos, i did a strip off for sue to get a photo of me in rays thermals for him and gloves back on frost bitten fingers, we were outta there!

of course on our way down passed many along the way - it was a journey of hugs - and colder heading down - at one point my face - the little bit that was uncovered was so numb it felt like i had been to the dentist, and when i spoke i was certain my speech was slurred!
i stopped many a time to take photos :) we made it back down at quarter after seven! still a little light, so we were fortunate - i could not imagine how the ones still to do it in the dark could do so capably - incredible.
sue was gonna head back up to help at the finish line but she took me back to jindabyne first, we went and bought pizza for us all, ray and i shared and headed to bed -

the breakfast and presentation in the morning, just full of excitement, so many hugs i lost count, congratulations, stories, adventures - a wonderful atmosphere to be a part of, so amazingly positive - all those people, and EVERY single one of them, runners and/or crew, has a different tale to share, all for the same journey.

pretty amazing, that concept. isnt it!?  :D

photos at:
day before to jindabyne
to the summit


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