NICOLE Barker spent more than 20 hours of her weekend competing in a 160-kilometre ultra marathon.
In the hours when most in the south-west slept, the 43-year-old Bushfield runner was pushing herself through the final stages of the You Yangs 100 miler.
Her energy-sapping efforts proved worthwhile. Barker was the second female home, and sixth overall, in 21 hours, 10 minutes and 51 seconds.
She set off on the first of eight 20km loops at 9am on Saturday, ran throughout the day and night and finished at 6.10am on Sunday.
Barker said her time, almost 12 hours inside the 33-hour cut-off, was “far better than I ever expected”. “I was originally thinking if I got under 30 hours I would be doing well. As time went on I thought I might be able to do a little better than that,” she said.
“Twenty-four hours is the goal a lot of people set. You get a silver belt buckle if you finish under 24 hours and a bronze belt buckle if you finish over 24 hours.
“To go under 24 hours and by a fair bit, I was really pleased with that.”
Barker, a speech pathologist and mother of three, said her achievement would not have been possible without the assistance of her support crew.
Renowned Warrnambool runner John Keats was her pacer for much of the night while her partner Greg Kew helped with drinks, food and energy gels.
The only food she ate was a couple of cups of home-made vegetable soup, for when the temperature dropped below eight degrees in the depths of night.
“I had to do the running but without John and Greg, there was no way it would have been as successful as it was,” Barker said.
“They were amazing, I was so thankful. The thing is they got no sleep either. We were up at five on Saturday morning, all through the day, all through the night.
“I finished at 10 past six the next morning and then we drove back to Warrnambool.”
The 160km event was one of six as part of the You Yangs Festival of Running on the weekend. Other distances included 15km, 30km, 50km and 80km. Barker had already conquered the three longer distances and so leapt at the opportunity to contest the inaugural 160km leg.
She admitted to self-doubts in the lead-up, particularly after struggling in a 66km training run to Port Fairy and back in the rain a fortnight ago.
“You always question yourself when you’re about to start one of these things, you do look back and think ‘have I done enough training?’,” she said.
But she surprised herself with her time and had pulled up “reasonably well”.
Barker was one of more than half-a-dozen Warrnambool runners who competed in the You Yangs Festival of Running.
Jarrod Mast, Teena Jubb, Lisa Rhodes and Jenine Dawson were part of the 30km field. Kerry Clapham contested the 50km event and Michael John ran in the 80km event.