Contributed by Duc Do, Feral Pig Ultra (WA) 100 Mile entrant
he Bibbulman Track covers nearly a thousand kilometres from Kalamunda to Albany and passes through Western Australia’s beautiful south west and great southern regions. It’s the site of the Feral Pig ultra event, which I ran on November 3.
Running a 100 miler was not something I had planned for up until I completed the 100km at Blackall two weeks before.
As a newbie at ultra distances, the thought of lasting this sort of distance simply did not occur to me. However, when I realised back in June that I had ticked off all my running goals for the year, and the year was still young, I suspected that there would be room for some stretch goals.
In July, I tried my first 24-hour race in Adelaide and got the hang of a new race format. Strangely enough, I actually did not mind the monotony – much. I would try a 48-hour race in 2019 to see if I could handle even more monotony in a race. Blackall in October was my first proper 100km trail race.
It took me more than 21 hours of shuffling to finish it, but I did finish it with something in hand.
So you know what, during those 10 minutes of resting after ringing the cowbell at the finish, I thought to myself, “Let’s do a hundred miler.”
My stretch goals for the year were just to see out some of these longer distances, so speed was never a factor. I just wanted to finish them, ideally feeling strong on the line. In the back of my mind, I was plotting a 200 miler for 2019.
But back to Feral…
We 100 milers in the race only managed to cover a bit over 160km of the Bibbulman Track, but boy oh boy, wasn’t it a stunner?!
The track is very well maintained, a mix of single trails and fire trails, sun exposed boulders, dirt tracks, dams, and bushland. Wild flowers were out en masse covering the landscape with bright colours. We had a bit of everything, heat, thunderstorm, lightning – nothing big, but enough to spice things up. Flies and mozzies were also out in force to cheer on all the trail runners.
Various runners who entered Feral Pig had sightings of roos, pigs, kookaburras and all different sorts of birds, snakes, lizards, scorpions, and spiders – light emitting, light reflecting, or the dark types. The most memorable plant for me was the spiky bush that hissed like a snake through branch movement as our legs brushed past them in the dark.
Thirteen runners started in the hundred miler. Most of them bolted out when the gun went off at midnight (figuratively). I was back of the pack with Darlene Dale. The aim was to finish the race within cut off. Being a good looking sort, she only agreed to run with me because there was some lightning and threats of a thunderstorm about 7 to 10kms into the race.
You see, I am a bit taller, and used hiking poles with metal bits on them. It would have been easy to make associations with the lightning!
Darlene carried one of those Garmin bricks with a map. It was our safety net against wandering aimlessly in the bush. I am not exactly a bushman, though I sometimes sound like one, and navigation in the bush with sleep deprivation has never really been my forté.
For me, the race was obviously hard due to sleep deprivation, hilly terrain, and unfamiliar distance range. At least now I do not need to be convinced that 100 miles is really a long way away!
But anyway, with the help of wonderful supporters including children, pacers and sweepers, Darlene and I made it to the finish under a welcoming arch of human arms. Such kindness from a generous bunch of people! Many of them had to wait for many hours for us to cross the aid stations. Specifically, I would like to thank my dear troops at home for holding the fortress during dad’s absence, Shaun Kaesler and Jon Storey who organised the race, Darlene my running partner in crime, Kelly-Lynn Fleming and her husband, Raquel, Sophee, James, Tod and other pacers who gave up so much of their own time and sweat to do some exercise in the bush with us. The vollies are the backbone of races like this, and in this event, the Feral Pig, it is no different.
I met some of the most amazing folks here through this race.
The completion of the Feral Pig gave me the huge confidence boost I needed to train towards my first 200 miler in 2019 – the Tahoe 200 in the US.
Pictured: Duc Do getting a 100 miler under his belt at the Feral Pig Ultra. Photograph – Shannon Dale.