Ian, one of the race directors, made a yummy breakfast with bacon and eggs, and I had a pleasant time early in the morning to eat, take a last shower and re-organise my pack for the push to the finish. I gave myself an hour to soak in the moment and to reflect on the run so far. I have always maintained, to myself and to my young sons, that Triumph and Disaster are both imposters, in Keating’s words, and that winning and losing both insignificant. What is significant to me, though, is that I give what I do my best shot within the constraints that I have. Life is, after all, too short to be half-arsed about anything – just my point of view. If I could run, but walked instead only because I felt lazy, then I would have been unhappy with myself. I was pleased that I had given this race my best shot, considering my condition going into it. I had been lucky too to get this far. People often talk about conquering this and that. I believe that one cannot summit a high mountain unless the weather and the conditions oblige. Nor can one complete a 200 miler if the conditions are not in cahoots to some extent. There are amazing athletes who DNF’d this race year after year. It was not because they were not capable; it’s just the conditions or circumstances that did not come to play ball. It only takes one snake bite, a bad tumble or a wrong turn for a race like this to fall apart. There are about a dozen things that could easily go wrong in a race like this. I was grateful to have reached Denmark.
A couple of us took a 7am ride to the start of the next leg. In 2020, Andy and I had enjoyed an ice cream before taking a boat ride. This year the boat was replaced with a car. The vehicle would leave on the hour every hour. So if you arrive in Denmark at 7:01am, the earliest ride you could catch would be the 8am one.
Running through Denmark towards Lowlands was easy for the first dozen kilometres or so. I saw (and pretty much all runners did too) an injured kangaroo by the wayside of the overgrown trail. He made threatening noises to defend himself from perceived danger coming from foot steps. The trail was far enough from the road, so I was not sure if he had been hit by a vehicle or something. Somebody did try to call rangers for animal rescue but I did not know if they managed to come over. About 50 metres further on, I nearly stepped onto a nest of tiger snakes. Perhaps the roo had been bitten by one of these snakes. It was tricky to run through these overgrown trails, as your foot could be on a slippery snake at any point of time. I recall that Bianca did step on one during her race.
After this pleasant section, the morning fresh air started to heat up, the sun beating down with increasing vigour. It then became a hard slog to Lowlands. I have covered the details at Lowlands and the following aid station Shelley Beach in my earlier articles.
Climbing up from Shelley Beach was much easier than descending it, especially if you were carrying some form of knee injury. There was a sign pointing to Albany, and that was where runners would know that the end was close. Over 300km in, I was only a marathon away from the finish line and naturally felt a sense of relief. Shelley Beach to Cosy Corner was probably one of the most straightforward runnable segments of the race. I have also covered the hiccup that transpired between Cosy Corner and Muttonbirds in an earlier article.
After Muttonbirds, I headed towards Sandpatch, the last aid station. At this stage, I was about 25km away from the finish. All of this segment was runnable. The trail hugged the cliffs, sometimes close to the ocean, sometimes cut further inland. On one side, you could see the big waves throwing themselves against the sharply risen cliffs. On the other side, the wind turbines of Albany were always in sight.
At Sandpatch, runners had the choice of helping themselves to a “bush chook” should they want to. It is a fond nickname for the Emu lager. The idea is to celebrate the journey so far and the imminent finish. It has been very rare in the short history of this race for a runner to reach Sandpatch and not finish the race. I did not ask for the bush chook. When my fitness level improves, my body naturally rejects alcohol and caffeine. After Delirious, I made the decision to drop alcohol for good. Regarding caffeine, not 100% abandonment, but I would no longer drink coffee most days. The body feels better, the mind sharper and more relaxed, that way. I also know runners who consume more caffeine as they get fitter. Horses for courses, perhaps.
In 2020, Andy and I had sprinted most of the way from Sandpatch to Albany. Shaun Kaesler made it a point to hug every runner that finished. But he missed me then as he was expecting us to arrive about 2 hours later. I missed having Andy on this segment, and did the same thing and sprinted all the way. The sandy trail was slightly downhill so it was a great exhilarating run. It was only 12km to the finish, so it would not bother me much if I completely smashed my leg and quad muscles here. Checking my sectionals on Strava, I was averaging 8km/hour for much of this segment, a respectable pace for my standard this late into the race. I arrived at the finish line to no fanfare. A couple of vollies saw me coming in and they called Ian the race director. Apparently, my tracker had stopped working at Sandpatch, so nobody knew I was about to arrive. I liked it that way, quiet and undramatic. Ian took a video of a short interview with me and posted on Facebook tagging it as “Heath Watkins”. So if you want to watch that video, not that there is much interesting stuff in it, you will need to search for Heath’s name. Just be aware that Heath is much younger and better looking. Thank you Ian for that lovely breakfast at Denmark and for your warm welcome video at the finish.
It was the usual celebratory atmosphere at the finish line as the remaining runners came in. Lots of photos, videos, hugs, tears and laughter. We did a small memorial for Jeff Hansen. Then we said farewell and went our ways.
I hung out with Oliver for the last evening after the group dinner at The Earl, then woke at 4am the next morning to drive to Busselton. The body felt great. Naturally I felt sore but could move about freely right after the finish. In 2020, I had not been able to walk properly for days.
My gratitude goes to Shaun Kaesler, the vollies, the race directors, Heather and the medics, and everyone involved in making this race a success. I also thank the runners for coming to play and for their camaraderie and random acts of kindness along the way.
So that was Delirious #2 for me. For the effort, I earned my missing flip-flop. I have attempted 4 non-stop point-to-point 200 milers and completed 3.