My Last One Standing Report

After 17 years of racing ultra marathons, a new event caught my eye, The last one standing concept. I had entered The Dead Cow Gully event scheduled for next Easter, based on a cattle property at Nanango. Having attended a couple of training events at the property, I was impressed by the venue and course. Basically, the event entails, running a 6.7km loop on the hour, every hour until there is only one person left. If you do not make it back into the starting coral when the whistle blows you are out.

However in the crazy, the changing year of 2020, a new late addition to the calendar appeared, an unofficial world champs style version of the event. Our team was made up of previous top performers in this style of event and a number of runners who have excelled in other longer ultras. Each country put forward 15 runners, who all started simultaneously. The winner would be the last one standing overall, but in a unique twist, once a country was down to one person then their journey was over. So really you needed a bit of depth in the field to push the time out as long as possible. I got a call, asking me to be part of the event. Having just done two, 100-mile races in 6 weeks, I was not sure about trying another long one, in just six weeks time.  

Somehow the intrigue got the better of me and before I knew it, I was unpacking my gear on Oxley Common getting ready for a 10 pm start.

Craig Smith and John Whelan were the pit crew and had already set up a superb base for the next day or two. The event got underway in the still darkness and I started out with a steady run/walk for the first lap, to stretch the legs gently after the drive down. To be honest, I would say the hours from midnight Saturday to 4 am Sunday was the hardest, as the body was not working hard, so the sleepy feeling was washing over me strongly during the 15 mins or so between laps. This had me questioning how on earth I would feel once darkness descended upon us again on Saturday evening!  

I was soon feeling energised by the morning sun, enjoying seeing what the course actually looked like in daylight and suddenly found myself having to have more walk breaks to keep myself in my desired time zone for each lap. I preferred to land around the 47-50 minute mark.  This gave good time to eat, drink and relax, without being too long that the body tightened up.  

Generally, all of my nutrition would be taken on board during the short breaks, which seemed so easy compared to my usual events when I had to eat on the run. By 9 am the sun was climbing and so was the temperature, which eventually topped out around 30C. With little shade on the course, it was a time to be sensible, ease the pace back a couple of minutes and just get through the heat of the day. I had many visitors during the day which was always a good distraction when I got back to base camp. I noticed a few of the runners, starting to show signs of distress and we lost our first at the 14-hour mark, followed by another 4 by the 18th hour, as darkness was once again upon us. At this stage, I was still feeling fine, although the body was just starting to feel it and an ongoing foot niggle was kindly saying hello!  

Chatting to others on the course, it became apparent a few had Locked in the 24-hour target, which gives you a 100 mile, 161 km distance. I enjoyed sharing laps with different runners in the cool of the evening, as we watched the sunset and reached for the head torch once again.

This enjoyable stage was abruptly halted by a burning hotspot under my arch within a few minutes of heading out on lap 20. Normally I would attend to this ASAP, but now I had to get the 6.7 km loop completed and then try and deal with it in the break. So with this in mind, I put on a surge to allow the extra time to deal with the issue.

I arrived back at base with 14 minutes to get the shoes off, slice the suspect blister, dress the area, shoes back on and be ready to go……plus make sure I ate and drank the required amounts.
On taking off the shoes, it revealed a wet and crinkled left foot, which looked like I’d been in the bath all day and a perfect right foot?
 
Obviously, at some stage, my ice bandana had dripped into the shoe and caused the crinkling which allowed the skin to fold on itself.  So the usual scalpel fix wasn’t an option. We dried it and applied foot powder, shoved on some clean injinji socks and a fresh pair of shoes and made it back out there just in time for the next lap.
 
That took the edge off of it and I was able to resume running with my normal running gait, rather than the limping stride I’d adopted with the issue.
 
24 hours came around and I think there were still 9 or 10 of us that set off on that lap.
Many were running stronger than they had for hours as it was to be their penultimate, lap.
Suddenly the field shrank to just 6.
 
I suddenly felt a deep-seated boredom wash over me.  I have never really experienced this before in races.  Maybe it was given to the drive to get the job done, or to get to that finish line……  .but this event had no finish line!
 
 
The thought of an upcoming race in 7 weeks, the Coast to Kosci, which was a priority for me, came to mind.
I got back to base in a surprising 51 minutes, which I found amazing, as it seemed I’d been out there for two hours.
 
I headed back to the crew tent and informed Craig, I had done enough for the weekend.   It was midnight Sunday.
 
The thought of being able to pack up, rest a couple of hours and then shoot back up the coast to see the kids off to school was appealing.
 
 
Final result 26 laps/hours with a total distance of 174km.
 
Looking back on the event, I enjoyed the new challenge but ultimately given the short notice and this not being a key race, left me lacking in the desire to push it out longer.  So with that in mind, I will arrive In Nanago for the Dead Cow Gully event a little more prepared for what lies ahead.
 
It’s a unique concept that really has appeal for a broad range of runners.
 
Can you do 8 laps and tick off your first ultra marathon, or maybe 12 and hit the magic 50 miles.  Or are you up for the more ambitious 15 laps and a 100 km…….we could go on!
 
Hopefully, this will inspire a few to throw in an entry for Dead Cow, in April 2021 and see if you can push your limits too.
 
John Pearson – intraining Sponsored Runner and Coach