Michele Dean Smashing 200k @ Riverhead ReLaps Backyard Ultra!

Just WOW, what a weekend that was! We flew up to Auckland from Wellington on Thursday night so we could be at Riverhead Backyard Ultra this weekend- and it didn’t disappoint!
Super fun on Saturday as around 200 runners took to the course, I (Chris) got in my 9 hour training run for Faultline Ultra in 4 weekends time- all on track 🙏
Then we went home for a bit for rest, food, shower and 3 hours sleep! 1:45am the alarm went off on Sunday morning and back to Riverhead we went for Crewing duties for Michele. We took over from legend Matt, who had been crewing her for the prior 8 hours along with Sandrine- who was another epic crewer legend of the weekend!

Michele was in great shape with 18 laps and 120km already under her belt… With these distances and laps its all about setting small goals along the way- the next goal being was to hear the birds prior to sunrise- then sunrise itself, as that always brings a renewed energy 💪

24 Hours was coming up, and in the backyard Ultra world that means 100miles. We didn’t really acknowledge it too much or hype it up, Michele was happy in the moment of ticking by each lap, fueling, drinking, lapping, and getting 8-10 minutes of chair time each lap, where we all took on our own roles of looking after her. What a crew that was there!

From there it’s ‘Just’ 3 laps to 180km. We did acknowledge this one a little more. The field was starting to thin out. For a long time overnight there had been a solid crew of around 15 runners pushing into the new day, 5 of them very strong ladies with solid backyard experience. However, somewhere around there within a couple of laps we were down to a total of around 10 runners, and just 2 ladies- Michele and Brooke.
28th lap completed @ 187km was the first time we heard Michele voice some new topics along the lines of ‘I’m not sure I can get around in time,’ she could sense inside her that she was having to dig a lot deeper to get around the loop. Off she goes for the 29th lap still in the game. At 45 minutes past each hour we had taken to going to the section of the course that pops in and out of the event base, you see your runner there cheer for them, then it takes them about 5 minutes of ‘cruising’ to make it back to the starting corral. We (Chris & Char)  were waiting there…. the minutes kept creeping by…. 50 minutes, then 52 minutes, still no sign. At 54 minutes I said to Char ”I’m heading back to our crew tent to get things ready, when you see her- tell her to MOVE IT!” 

By this stage she was the only runner on the course from this loop, @runnerswithbeards Chris was calling her out on the microphone, he had seen her run past on of the live stream cameras on the course- she could make it, but it was going to be tight. Out from the bush she emerged pushing hard and looking pretty distressed, giving it everything she had. Huge cheers from everyone bringing her back, highly emotional. She makes it with 1 minute to spare, a quick drink of coke and we handed her another calipo ice block! ”All you got to do is 1 more lap I said” 

What happened after that will forever be etched into our minds. She steps back into the starting corral to run the 30th lap and get those 200km, some of the other still stronger runners left in the pack wrapped themselves around and her and pulled her along- what a community of legends 🥹. A few of us went to the Barlow road crossing which is over half way into the loop- she crossed this part of the course with the pack pulling her along at around 30 minutes- plenty of time, she’s going to do it…. ”You’re going to run 200k’s today!” I shouted.
She ran in her final lap back to the starting corral in her usual 52-54 ish minutes, time enough to get back to our crewing tent. ”Do you need anything?” Not this time, we’re done! 
Highly emotional for all of us, hugs and tears all round, and huge support for Michele by the crowd who had come to love her energy and approach to the weekend. It really does take a team to get a runner to go long and we had an epic team of crew myself and Char, Matt, Sandrine, and Sarah…. Also good friends of Michele’s popping in along the way all weekend.
What’s amazing about this story is not about one athlete physically training and knocking over 200k at Riverhead ReLaps. It’s about Michele, the person, and what she has achieved in her life these past few years. Personal Growth and Running performance when it really counts go hand and hand, and she is on the epic journey of self realisation as she smashes out her running at the same time! Its a real privilege as Coach’s to be a spoke in the wheel of Michele’s journey that contributed to her 200k run and 2nd to last female standing. An awesome athlete, and an amazing human 🥹
We LOVE YOU Michele you 200k legend! 
Chris & Char xx


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