Guest blog 5: Sarah Boettcher

I met Sarah whilst living up in Brisbane around 6 years ago. I was overweight, pretty inactive, and only just starting to realise what was going on. Sarah was one of a few of my friends who I admired for their active lifestyles. She has always been so upbeat and effortlessly active and has been one of my many inspiring women. Sarah is also crazy, and she’ll admit that herself! She happily signs up for any sort of physical challenge and achieves it. This inspires me to keep pushing myself and try new things. Recently, she completed a 50km coastal trail run, and was kind enough to share her thoughts on the event. It has, and hasn’t, inspired me to do some of the same! 

Race Report: Wild Earth Coastal High 50

So those who know me know I am a little crazy and can be talked into pretty much anything. I once signed up for an Ironman because a friend walked into work and said they had signed up.

So my latest was the Wild Earth Coastal High 50 (WECH50). For those playing at home it is a 50km trail run in the Gold Coast Hinterland. I am a swim school coordinator and had been talking to a parent about how great they had run in the Gold Coast marathon and how I got a new PB in the half at the same event. He then told me about WECH50. So while we were chatting I looked it up. 50km seemed a long way, but I had started doing a few little trail runs with friends and was looking for a new challenge. The parent had gone to watch his child in the meantime. When he came back he said ‘you are already at 21km so there is not that much more to go’. And that really was the moment I decided I was doing it!

“I knew I was undercooked for the event. It was not going to stop me though.”

So a couple of weeks later I signed up and then went on two weeks holidays. I stayed out late, drank too much, ate too much and had a good time. I did a couple of little runs. So I had kinda started training, but not enough really. When I came home from holidays I did knuckle down a bit better and managed a 30km week, 50km week and a 54km week. Yep that is the total running for the week. Only just what I was going to run in one day. So I knew I was undercooked for the event. It was not going to stop me though.

Race Day 

Race day was hectic. The race was a one way event from O’Reilly’s to Springbrook. You had to be at the finish between 3.15am-3.45am for check in. You then had to board the buses to the start line which took just on 2 hours. I sat with the parent that had talked me into the event. We talked a little and also tried to nap. Once we arrived at the race start it felt like the next 30 minutes went in about 3 seconds!

I was in wave 8 out of 10. I was happy with that as I had no idea how I was going to go. The start line was amazing! Everyone was chatting to each other. I had one girl ask me if I was I on my own and even offered to run with me once she found out I pretty much was. I did know the parent and it turned out 2 other parents I knew were doing it too! We were all in different waves though. I was so nervous so the chatting was great!

Then it was time. The first section to checkpoint 1 was 21km from O’Reilly’s to Binna Burra. I had two friends that were riding their bikes up to Binna Burra to meet me there. The track was beautiful!! There was a bit of fog covering most of the points that there would have been good views, but it was still beautiful. It was rough though. It was muddy, slippery, rocks, sticks and root sticking out everywhere. You had to sometimes walk to not fall over. I have no idea how I didn’t do an ankle. I had made some friends though. The track was narrow so sometimes you got in a bit of a train line. I made a friend called Paul who I chatted and ran with for a bit, but I didn’t realise I had left him behind. Whoops!!

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As I was nearing the 21km mark I noticed I kept tripping over myself. It was then I had to stop and eat my banana. I was trying to push through to the checkpoint but I was fatigued and not coping. That was not good, I was glad I stopped and ate. I was hurting already and not overly happy.

“I was so sad. I really needed a cuddle.”

I got to the checkpoint and could not see my friends anywhere. I did not want to stop for long though as I was already in a fair bit of pain and knew stopping was a bad idea. I filled my water, put some more food in my pack and started to get going. I checked my phone first to see if my friend had text to tell me where they were. Nothing 😦 I was so sad. I really needed a cuddle. Lucky a man saw me checking my phone and made a joke to me about texting. I told him that my friends were supposed to be there but they weren’t, so I was checking if I heard from them. Another lady heard and came running over. She was AMAZING!! She asked me did I need anything, could she help, what was my name and gave me a big cuddle!! I told her my friends were riding up. I gave her my name and theirs and asked her if she could just let them know I had been through.

“She kept encouraging me, asked me did I need help and was just supportive”

The next checkpoint was 15km away, at the 36km mark. I was hurting and in a bad place now because I knew if my friends had not made Binna Burra in time they were not making checkpoint 2. It was a hard 15km. It was hard because the volunteers (bless their hearts they were great apart from this) had told us it was only 10km to the next checkpoint. I kinda knew that was not right, but was not sure if I had got it wrong or them. Turns out them. Or maybe they just did it thinking it would help. In this 15km there was a lot of descending. I knew that would be tough on the quads, but it actually got to the point I thought my toenail had come off. My big toe on the right felt funny and there felt like there was something sharp digging into me. I had to try and walk the downhill which hurts even more than running it! I wasn’t sure if I should take my shoe off and check or not. I started chatting to a lady and she was really nice and helpful. She kept encouraging me, asked me did I need help and was just supportive. What was even nicer about that is she had twisted an ankle and wasn’t sure if she would go past the 36km mark, but was determined to see me there.

I also started chatting with another man, whose name I did not get. I realise now he may have been onto something. In our chatting he kept asking had I eaten enough. Now I look back, I had not. I kept saying yes and I am fine, just hurting and not happy. I must have looked terrible.

As we pulled into the 36km, checkpoint 11958209_1029656863734429_575268167576105804_o2 I cried!! My friends were there!!!! The wonderful lady from checkpoint 1 clearly could see I needed them so she had driven them and their bikes to checkpoint 2 so they were there for me!! And boy did I need them. They were great. They took my pack off, got me lollies, fixed my water/food situation and then the kicker, got me a coffee! OH MY GOD!!!! That coffee was the best coffee I have ever had. It took away all the pain! Overall I was at the second checkpoint for around 20 minutes. I was going to quit, but having my friends and the lady there supporting me and that amazing coffee I got up, put my pack back on and got going again.

“I would not have managed without the support I had”

Probably not even 5 minutes after checkpoint 2 it started pouring with rain. Had that started before my coffee I would have cried. But after, it couldn’t dampen my spirits. I was ready to do this again! This section was 7km of mostly uphill, including 900 steps. I made another friend, Hayden*, that was doing it all on his own with no support. I told him he can take an hour off his time at least! That is hardcore. I would not have managed without the support I had. This section is also where the talking out loud to myself started. Even though I talked to people along the way, there was lots of time on my own. So, I have always been a talker, but it got bad! I was telling myself all sorts of stuff and all out loud. At one point I even said ‘Sarah you look like a nutter, stop talking out loud!’ And yep, I said that out loud. Then I looked around to make sure no one heard!!

The hardest bit of the 7km was the 900 steps. It felt like they were never ending. Down low in the valley you could hear cheering. It was both torture and a relief. You knew you must have been getting close to the next checkpoint, yet as much as you could hear the voices they seemed to be nowhere to be seen. What a relief when you finally got there! A photographer was there and cheering up a storm. I was so glad to finally see her. The stairs were over!!

At the checkpoint, 43km, there was a volunteer, she took a look at me and then said ‘do you want some coke?’ Oh my gosh, yes please!!! It was only a little half cup, which she apologised for not having more, but it was great. The little things that just mentally get you going. That and only 7km to go!! I asked the man there what the last 7km was like. He said up and down. I was actually hoping for more up than down as my toes were hurting so much on the down.

Off I went and less than 1km into the last 7km I got a tree branch stuck between my feet and it scratched the back of my ankle. This was not really a big deal in the scheme of things, but given how sore my whole body was it nearly floored me. It hurt so much more than it probably would have normally. I had to stop and bend over for a minute or two for the pain to subside.

It was the last 3km that really stick out though. They were so hard. I was crying I was hurting so bad. And it felt like the distance was not moving at all on my Garmin. I kept looking at it thinking why has it not changed!! I was probably in a worse way because I did get a bit of white line fever and pushed myself in some sections a little too hard in that last 7km. It knocked me for the last three (note to self, leave the white line fever at home next time).

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“The best thing about this event, … was the people”

When I got to the finish it was a right hand turn. My friends were on the corner, I asked them how far I had to go. They told me it was ‘just there’, which was such a relief!! Sometimes finish lines are tricky and longer than you think, I don’t think I could have dealt with one of those! But it was just there. Phew!!! So 8 hours and 7 minutes later I had finished!!

The two guys that run the event were at the finish line commentating. They gave everyone a big hug when they crossed which I thought was just great! I said to them though “you are brutal’, the one with the mic at the time said into it “I think she said we are really nice”! haha!

The best thing about this event, was not being tough and pushing through. It was the people. Everyone was encouraging, friendly, happy and supportive. The course was brutal, but so beautiful and had a bit of everything, ups, downs, creeks, mud and let’s not forget steps. I am now definitely hooked on the trail runs!

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*I may have met Hayden in the last 7km. I am not 100% sure anymore. It was a long day!!

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