One Life, No Excuses – New FKT for Cape to Cape
Mum of two and amateur trail runner Michelle Hooper recently set herself a goal of running herself into the record books by establishing a new women’s self-supported fastest known time for the Cape to Cape trail in WA. Needing to run under 26 hours, Michelle did just that while raising more than $3500 for the Perth Children’s Foundation in the process. Here’s her story.
I’m no elite, I’m just a regular mum with a full time job squeezing what I can out of my one life. I’m here for the memories and the adventure.
The Cape to Cape track runs 135km from Cape Leeuwin to Cape Naturaliste, in South West WA. It is a beast of a trail. Kudos to anyone who walks or runs it.
My guesstimation is it’s roughly 30km on the beach, the rest covers mostly clifftop or inland sandy trails with some very awkward and tricky slow rock sections and a 4WD track.
I am impatiently driven at the best of times. It is probably my best and worst trait. Most runners would advise to do this track in the shoulder seasons (Spring/Autumn) to avoid the cold, the rain, the river crossings and short daylight hours. I didn’t want to wait. I weighed the risks in my head and felt none of those things would make it unsafe or not doable, it would just make it that little more challenging.
I chose to run at the end of June, funnily enough a few days after Winter Solstice (the shortest day of the year).
I set off from Cape Leeuwin at 9am only to be greeted by a storm front about two hours into the run. It caught me on a 10km section of beach and fully exposed to the elements when it came through. I decided to seek shelter in the dunes while the worst of the front passed and then continued trucking on, heading straight into the sand, wind and rain.
Luckily that was the worst of the weather and the rest of the day had scattered showers and clear skies. I really loved the section through Boranup Forest as I was actually able to run it unlike the sand or technical rocky sections. My spirits were high coming into the 60km mark where a fresh change of socks made my day.
Contos Cliffs are magical to run. I was 60km in but this is the stuff adventures are made of and I found myself running along the cliffs at sunset, the waves crashing below as the sky became an array of fairy floss colours, creating memories I won’t ever forget.
Despite completing some training runs in the dark I knew beforehand that the night grind would be tough. My longest previous run was 84km and I had no idea how the body would hold up or move beyond this point, let alone trying to stay awake past the 20-hour mark.
Funny enough, the night time grind was not as bad as I was expecting, I stayed focussed on the basics of the run, that is to keep moving forward. It was peaceful and quiet, and an amazing experience to see the moon reflecting off the water.
I reached 100km early in the morning and by this stage had figured out what was working for my stomach. Solid foods were out and I was relying on my endurance powder, two gels, a small coke and EatNosht Chews every two to three hours. Technically I knew that wasn’t enough calories but I was eating to feel and this was enough to keep me bopping along smiling.
As the sun rose, I knew I was near the end. But first I had a technical 10km stretch on rocks to navigate on very wobbly tired legs. It was a relief to get through without rolling an ankle, to see my ‘non-crew’ at Yallingup for the last time and empty my Torrent 2 shoes of sand. I lubed my feet (this was almost a tradition now) for the final time and continued on the last 13km stretch of amazing coastline to the lighthouse and finish line.
It was here the unexpected happened. Almost 130km in and it was as if the legs could sniff the finish line, giving in with 5km to go. I could barely will them to shuffle along in those final kilometres but when I saw my Dad and friends at the finish line I managed a last little shuffle before stopping my watch bang at 134km finishing in 24hours 49minutes 49 seconds to claim the new self-supported FKT.
I did it. The memories and the adventure are in the bank. This is why I run, not for the accolades or medals. But because when I am 90 I know I will remember this experience and think, “Yep, you squeezed every drop out of life.”
And you can too. Dream your dream and take imperfect steps towards making it reality.
See the photos and videos of Michelle Hooper’s incredible achievement here, donate to the Perth Children’s Hospital Foundation at this link and check out her trail running shoe of choice, the women’s Torrent 2 here.