For the week leading up to the race, Terry, the Race Director (RD) for the Northburn100, had been posting on the Facebook page about how the Cromwell weather was saving up all its bad days for the race. Northburn is a notoriously tough race, in fact it’s tag line is “You don’t race it, you survive it”. It is known for its challenging weather conditions, as well as its difficult, off-trail terrain. In fact, the weather was one of my main concerns leading into the race.
My training, under the direction of super coach, Matt Judd, had been my best to date leading up to an event. I had mimicked the terrain as best as I could guess from Strava profiles from previous years and despite an ankle injury in early December, I had missed very few sessions and reached race day feeling strong and confident that I had all the tools I needed to finish. Of course I knew, from past experiences, that it all comes down to what happens on the day and that the smallest thing can turn a good day into a not so good day or a disaster.
I travelled from home in Australia to New Zealand with my dear friends, Sarah and Maz, who had volunteered to act as support crew for the race. We spent a couple of days before the race exploring the surrounds of Cromwell, including Wanaka and Queenstown, and with each new vista my love for the New Zealand mountains grew stronger and stronger.
On Friday, the day before the race, we took the 10min drive from Cromwell to Northburn Station for race registration and gear check, to be followed by the race briefing later that night. As I walked up to the registration desk the RD, Terry recognised me from our Facebook messages over Northburn’s UTMB point status. I was surprised and a little embarrassed but Terry was lovely and reassured me that points were definitely on offer before sending me on my way with my bib. After being weighed for medical and having all my gear checked we headed home to prepare for the coming day, before heading back out for the race briefing.
We had had a crew meeting the night before, so when we got home my wonderful support crew set about readying everything they would need to support me in the downstairs area while I set about my own preparations upstairs. I began doling out my TrailBrew powder that I use for liquid nutrition, along with my solids of Clif Bars, Bounties, Snickers, Chips and chocolate covered coffee beans. As I divvied up my TrailBrew into bottles and baggies it dawned on me that I only had enough electrolyte for 24hrs. My heart sank, what a stupid miscalculation, it was a big ask for me to finish under 24hrs on such a challenging course, in fact that was my B goal for the race. Whilst trying to keep calm and not completely freak, I messaged my wonderful friend and seasoned ultrarunner, Jill. We chatted about working the problem and possible solutions. I figured I would plan to finish under 24hrs and I could use aid station electrolytes or more solids if need be. It wasn’t the end of the world. I finished packing up everything, put together my drop bag and sat back to reread my prerace email from Matt, whilst my crew packed some extra special things in my drop bag.
At the briefing we sat listening to the safety instructions. Both Terry and Tom reiterated the toughness of the course, the remoteness, the lack of dangerous wildlife but also that every plant has it in for you and will cause you pain. After going over what to expect on each section and what the course markings look like, Terry’s last words of advice were “Prepare yourself for the hardest thing you’ve ever done, but know it will be worse than anything you can imagine”. Reassuring right?
With the briefing done and the fear of Northburn firmly instilled (if it wasn’t already), we set off to try and grab some sleep before waking in the wee hours for the 6am race start, in the dark.
We got back to the house to our slow cooked dinner and as we ate and chatted about the race and the hilarity of the briefing, the nerves started to creep in. My crew took care of the dishes, in fact they had been taking care of me all day with such love, it makes my heart burst when I think of it. After dishes the crew set to work with some henna messages on my hands and arms to help me not feel so alone out there and to make me smile.
I then readied myself for bed, wondering if sleep would come easy. I reread over my notes for my race plan, a plan that Matt and I had nutted out the month before. After making sure I knew what I was doing, I spoke to my family back home and my hubby sent me a message so I could reread it in the morning before the race. I fell into bed exhausted but excited for the morning.
Late that night we were woken by a very loud, drunken party next door. It was, of course St Patricks day and the people next door were celebrating hard! As I lay there, trying hard to sleep despite the noise, I heard the garage door open and wondered what the hell was going on. I got up and Sarah assured me it was all under control and to go back to bed, Maz (bloody legend!) was taking care of it. She gave them a stern talking to and I was soon asleep only to be awakened by my alarm.
Race day morning is a bit of a blur. I got ready determined not to let waves of nerves get the better of me. We were trying to time our leaving for the startline so we were there without too much time to wait around but early enough not to stress about being late – its a fine balance! I dashed for the bathroom for a last minute nervous wee. Ugh! Blood… Great… One more thing. I walked out and announced to Sarah and Maz “And! I have my period!” Whilst shaking my head. Once this would have sent me into a panic, but thanks to such random occurrences as my period starting without warning on the startline (Tour de Tambourine) and halfway through a race (TNF50), along with discussions with my friend Jill about the hormonal advantages of bleeding on race day, I just accepted it and decided to bleed through as I was wary of chafing.
At the startline, geared up and ready to go, 100k runners were informed they would now have trackers. These were crammed into already full to bursting packs and I was reassured that my crew would know where abouts I was, meaning I could leave my phone off unless I needed to contact them. I warmed up, had my last minute hugs and lined up at the back of the pack with a mix of miler, 100k and 50k runners of all ages.
We stood in the dark, waiting for all the trackers to come online, nerves slowly rising. I listened to the seasoned runners around me chatting, whilst trying to keep warm, not panic and reminding myself I could do this. I hate starts!
The start itself was very subdued. Terry and Tom counted down from 10, I flicked on my head torch and we were off on a 5km loop that would take us back through Base Camp before heading out onto the course proper. As people ran off up the hill, I stuck with a fast power hike, determined not to go out too hard. I tried to ignore the usual fears bubbling up inside (last again) whilst it seemed everyone rushed passed, constantly reminding myself that it is 100 very steep kilometres to the finish and to take my time. I ran, jogged, hiked in the dark, glancing at my HR to make sure it wasn’t crazy high, but not yet being stringent about it, knowing adrenaline was playing a big role right now.
About 3km in I could hear someone behind me, I figured they were stuck so I called out that they could pass. Aaron, who I would run with throughout the race, called back that my pace was good and he would stick with me for a bit to stop himself going out too hard. We ran and chatted and were soon passing through Base Camp where I waved and called out to my crew that I would see them soon. I dropped back to a hike as we started uphill again, passing Terry who was noting race numbers and congratulated us on “Being sensible in hiking the ups”. It was hard to tell whether he was joking or not…
At this point I decided I needed to click into strict MAF heartrate zone, so Aaron took off to run his race while I hiked and ran along, now watching my HR as much as possible. The sky was now starting to lighten a little and there were hardly any people around, although I could still see others ahead here and there. The grade of the track began to change to a bit steeper uphill, we were on four wheel drive farm tracks now, and I made the decision to get out my poles, I didn’t stow them again for the entire race. As I pulled out the poles, two men who were doing the miler passed me and commented that they were saving theirs for later. Fair enough, I thought, you have an extra 60km to do so why not wait! I was still feeling pretty sluggish and my legs were complaining more than I would like so early on, but I put it down to menstrual cramping more than anything else and tried to focus on the outside instead of what was going on in my legs.
The sun was now up and I was able to stow my headlamp and switch to my visor. The views were gorgeous, but it was still cold and I was glad for my thermal keeping me warm but not hot. As we continued to climb it was interesting to watch the different strategies. Some people seemed to pick a pace and just go with that constantly, whether it be up, down or flat. Others were hammering the hills and then walking the flats and short downs. I was being dictated pace by my HR so would hike the ups and do a gentle run down and either hike or jog the flats. I was also starting to yoyo with a few people including Amy (100k) and her friend doing the miler, as well as Marina and Andy (both doing the miler) who passed me whilst deep in conversation about UTMB – I may have been a little starstruck at that point!
We took a sharp turn behind a rock and the track curved steeply up to a ute serving as a waterpoint. I could see people off to my right and figured I was finally at “the fenceline” a notoriously steep climb from the first loop. I actually got really excited at this point, because it looked just like the steepness of my training fenceline at Mt Gipps in northern NSW. After a short chat with the volunteers and filling a soft flask, I clambered through the fence and started up the course. You will note I didn’t say track. That’s because there was no track. We were now just following each marker. There were sheep tracks to follow, but they didn’t always lead to the marker, in fact at one point I got so engrossed running along a sheep track that I looked up and it had lead me away from the markers on my left. So, up we climbed. It was here that I started to really feel comfortable, my legs knew what they were doing and I have to be honest, I loved the technicality of being off track. I was now jogging happily along any flat or non steep bits, enjoying having to pick my way between rocks and the spiky spaniards of death (super spiky plant that was everywhere higher up on the course, it has poisoned razor sharp leaf tips that sting really bad). I was also being buoyed by the fact that I was now starting to overtake people and holding my own. It was here that I passed Sam and Adele, two amazing Brissy women who were undertaking the miler. We had a brief chat and I kept moving, my HR now happily within the zone and actually having to work to keep it there at times.
As it started to flatten out a little (I use the word flat very loosely) the terrain changed to being more rocky and less vegetation. It was here that I caught up to Amy and her friend. We ran/hiked for a bit together and chatted about Northburn (the friend doing the miler had done it before) and food – as you do. I stopped and decided to take off my thermal as I was hot and then moved past them up the hill. It was getting cloudy now and there was a slight breeze but I was warm enough thanks to the steady incline, interspersed with small clambers over rocks here and there. As I reached what felt like the top the cloud descended and I put my thermal back on as the temp dropped. I stood up and scanned for the next marker, taking a few steps in the direction I thought it was before it appeared through the mist. Huge shapes in the form of rocks also appeared through the mist as I ran to each marker, they were epic and other worldly and ahead I could just make out the shape of a ute and a group of people. I had reached the next aid station.
As I came into the station the volunteers welcomed me and took down my number. I busied myself refilling my flask and noted the two men also refuelling were those that had commented on my poles earlier – ok, I’m doing ok, I thought. I was as quick as possible , although my hands were shaky with cold at this point, the aid station workers commented that the temp had dropped at least 5degrees in the last 10min thanks to the cloud and also that we had just missed the photographer (seems to be the story of my racing life in New Zealand!) So, after a thankyou and checking I was going the right way I headed over another fence only to stop immediately and put my gloves on – my hands were freezing! My nose was also starting to drip from the cold, so I wound a buff around my wrist as a snot rag and set off again.
When planning my race the lack of possible beauty was something that Matt had brought up a number of times. I run because I love it but also I love the things I get to see and experience during the run, whether it be training or racing. Plus, a pretty waterfall or gorgeous treeline can change how your feeling when things get really tough. I had prepared myself for a lack of beauty. Lying in my bed in Cromwell looking out over Mt Dunstan and Mt Horn it all looked like brown mountainside. Not particularly beautiful or inspiring. But in truth there was so much beauty up there.
The next section was my absolute favourite. It was stunning and I really wish I had taken at least one photo but I was trying very hard to just stay completely present and I was feeling good and didn’t want to stop and possibly ruin that feeling. I was now running beside a small alpine creek on spongy, mossy ground. As I looked at my feet it seemed like an undersea scape with all different types of corals. The mosses and grasses grew right to the very edge and sometimes over the stream which was crystal clear with small granite type pebbles at its bed. Here and there I would jump over small star shape flowers, smaller than a 5 cent piece and bunches of what looked like small white tulips. All this in an increasingly misty valley with nothing to hear but my breath and the creek bubbling away. It was seriously like something out of a fairytale or Lord of The Rings. I was also still having to guess and search for markings thanks to the thick misty cloud, but kept Terry’s words in my head that if there was an obvious path to follow it, the path in this case being the creek. After heading down for a bit I then switched across to another creek and began heading back up. I stopped here and there to have a sip of the icy water and tried to take it all in as much as I could while continuing to steadily move up and out.
I don’t actually remember the transition up off the creek but I was then climbing over another fence and back onto four wheel drive track. I was now half way through my first loop, which in my head was just half way. I was doing two 50km runs, not a 101km race. Here we started to steadily descend. Nature called and I began to look for somewhere, a big bloody rock basically, that I could hide behind. Finding one where people couldn’t see you was difficult! I was also starting to catch more people, but was cautious of running as hard as I felt I could because I knew that along with a lot of ascent there was much more descent to come. Finally I found a big rock and found some relief. It was getting warm now and I figured I had enough water to get me through to close to 40km, keeping a steady pace I headed down off the mountain, chatting in short sentences here and there to those I passed, wondering if my watch was right as far as km’s and beginning to think about the 50k aid station stop with my crew. It was definitely warm now, and all my warm gear was stowed away.
At the 40km we came to a waterpoint within view of Base Camp, it was tantalisingly close but from here we headed back out away from it along the Loop of Deception. Hiking along the up, I rang my crew to let them know where I was and some extras that I would like if they could get them (my toothbrush and some magnesium oil to rub my legs – I had both in my 80k drop bag but thought they might be good now). Sarah answered and exclaimed they could see me on the tracker and I wasn’t far off now. I laughed and said I reckoned at least another 1.5-2hrs and then made my requests. Getting off the phone I had been boosted by the short conversation and started really pushing.
It was super hot now and despite moving well it seemed to be taking forever to get to the next waterpoint. I started to worry that I was going to run out of TrailBrew, I was down to a quarter of my last flask. I had been staying well on top of my nutrition at this point, having half a flask of TrailBrew and half a Clif Bar or a funsize chocolate every hour along with extra water and I really didn’t want to stuff it up. After a nice short steep descent we began to climb again and I saw the waterpoint, much to my relief. I filled up my flask whilst answering questions about my interesting henna and then set off again, determined to keep moving. The tracks were much more dirt road like now and easy to run and I clicked along at a steady pace, catching people here and there and not feeling too tired considering the 50k I had just run.
As 50km ticked over I wondered where the hell Base Camp was, thinking around each corner I should see it, but couldn’t. At the same time I was feeling absolutely stoked at my progress, knowing I was coming in at the fast end of my time estimates for the run. Then, just as I remembered that the first loop was 51km, Base Camp appeared up ahead. I could see people waiting on the hill and as I got closer I heard cheering. Emotions welled up but I put my game face on knowing that the hard work was just about to begin and that I needed to not get too comfortable here with my crew. Sarah met me on the hill and cheered me down to Base Camp where Maz was waiting. As I walked into the tent where the crew had set up, they had everything laid out and ready for me, I spied Aaron and said hello.
I dropped my poles, I took off my pack and pulled out all my flasks and the bladder, put my watch on to charge and then Maz held my hand and walked me to the loo while Sarah refilled everything for me. Having the loo and loo paper to clean up was SO good. I was relieved I wasn’t bleeding too hard but it was still messy – oh the joy! Maz and I walked back into the tent as she asked questions about what I’d seen and what I needed to do. Maz gave me a rub down on my legs while Sarah and I sorted nutrition to pack in my pack. I emptied out one shoe which now had a hole in it thanks to a spiky spaniard attack, then Maz suggested she wet me down as they had been hearing reports that the next big climb was very hot. I stepped outside the tent and Maz doused me with 2L of water. It was freezing on my hot head, but oh so good as well. Quickly back into the tent and everything was repacked, pack on, teeth brushed and out the door. As I got to the dirt road, one of them yelled out that my butt looked sexy in those shorts (go the duds!) and I yelled back that they forgot to make me laugh – to which they both flashed me, bwah ha ha ha! That did it! What an awesome crew. As I ran past a caravan where one of the 100miler crews were sitting they also yelled out that my butt did look sexy in those shorts, which made me crack up again. Then I headed up the climb, away from Base Camp.
Soon after Aaron caught up with me, we chatted and hiked and having company helped pass the time. I was finding it hard to hike hard enough to get my heartrate up now, despite it feeling like I was working really hard. We were moving nice and steadily though, we caught up to Marina and had a brief chat about how we were practically neighbours (she is from Mullumbimby) then we kept hiking and hiking and hiking, going up and up and up. Aaron started talking about how I was keeping such a good steady pace and pulling him along and that I should do the third loop for him as his pacer, too which I laughed and said I wasn’t that crazy. As we got to a small flatter spot, with the sun starting to set, I pulled out a note my crew had given me at Base Camp. It was from my best friend, Tui, I had been instructed to wait until I was somewhere really beautiful to read it, this was the spot. Tears welled up as I felt her love in those words and the connection burned bright. I stuffed the note away and turned determined to get to Leaning Rock before night fall.
Soon after we decided to stop, put a layer on and get out our torches before it got too dark. Marina caught up to us and I helped her change the batteries in her torch before we ran together for a bit to get to Leaning Rock. As we headed up and up the sun began to set proper, treating us to a spectacular pink and orange sunset with snow capped mountains far on the horizon. We reached Leaning Rock aid station just as it became really dark. I refilled and grabbed some apple slices, although I was still keeping on top of my nutrition I was finding it harder and harder to chew and swallow solid food, particularly as the bars were so hard in the cold. I was ready to go and Aaron was happily chatting so I called out that I was off and headed out. Aaron caught up to me and reiterated that I was to be his pacer, which I laughed at again and we went in search of TW, the next major aid station and my drop bag point.
I was still jogging all the downhills and hiking well on the ups but my heartrate had not been within the MAF zone for quite sometime. I could feel tiredness starting to keep in and my knees were a little sore, but Aaron’s constant chatter was a distraction in the now extreme dark. In the distance we could see the lights from Clutha Dam and cars driving along the highway well below, the stars were also amazing, but mostly I saw rocks and rubble and grass, concentrating on each step. TW seemed to take forever to get to. In reality what was only an hour seemed a lifetime. Unlike at Base Camp, when we entered TW I became the Queen of Faff. I got my bag, unpacked stuff, looked for things that weren’t there and were unneeded, went to the loo, read my notes from friends (thank you everyone) but barely took it in. Although Jonathon and Barry you made me laugh and Tina, I read yours out aloud and everyone in the checkpoint thought it awesome!
I had a cup of pumpkin soup and then, just before we were about to leave I decided I needed to get something warmer on. The volunteers confirmed that the temperature was dropping quickly so I decided to change from shorts to 3/4 length tights. Once that was done we were out of there, way too much time had passed, but that is in hindsight. During that time, Marina had been in and out and we caught up to her again in a couple of kms. Aaron was beginning to have stomach trouble and I was now needing to pee every 30-60min, probably because it was now so cold. We would power for a bit and then hit a low spot.
I was starting to struggle with having constant company. I’m not really used to running with other people and Aaron was starting to get increasingly negative. I think the realisation that he was only about halfway through was dawning on him. He kept telling everyone that I was his pacer and I seemed to take that on, whether intentional or not. It was a weird place to be in, mentally. I am a slower runner, to be honest knowing that I was keeping someone going, who can run 10ks at least 20min faster than me, was probably a bit of an ego boost. I was starting to feel a sense of duty to get him at least to the 100k but also feeling like I was losing time that I could be making up.
The climb to Mt Horn, which on the race profile looks innocuous after the two big climbs we had just done, was nothing short of arduous. I refused to stop though, my whole plan to get to the top of that bastard without having a break. So we climbed and Aaron began talking about dropping at 100ks, I shut him down, not wanting to hear any negativity, trying to keep my own thoughts about how hard and cold it was or how sore and tired I was at bay. The need to pee seemed constant and I past the point of modesty, taking a single step off the track before dropping my daks. At one point another miler runner ran past and called out “Still peeing? Thats a good sign”, just your normal every day conversation….
Finally we reached the top and then dropped down to the Mt Horn checkpoint. Here, I refused to go in the shed where the heater was set up and as soon as I was restocked with water I bullied Aaron back on the track, my sense of duty still strong, although it was hurting me at the same time.
As we did our last steep descent, I was really beginning to hurt. My ankles and knees refused to run due to pain and I was sure I was starting to get butt crack chafe, the worst kind ever. Picture me standing on the side of the trail shoving handfuls of PawPaw cream down my butt…. Hiking, however was fine and I was setting a good enough pace that Aaron would hike behind me for awhile and then jog to catch up. All I could think was I should be running this downhill, so I would start running but the aches would stop me within a few hundred metres. The path was overgrown and slippery because of the dew, markers were becoming hard to find again thanks to the terrain, long grass and fatigue. I kept seeing cats sitting on the side of the trail only to find they were in fact tufts of grass as I got closer. Then I had my first ever encounter with a hedgehog! The cute little guy was sitting in the middle of my track, at first I thought I was seeing things, but Aaron assured me no, it was a hedgehog. So cool! We saw a mother and baby a few kilometres later. Climbing over fences and styles was now comical and at one point I commented how they had put the fence crossing right in a patch of spaniards, sadisitic bastards! Only to check the other possible pass point and see that it was much worse. Bloody spiky shit!!
It was getting harder and harder to choke down my solid food, but I persisted adding a small pinch of potato chips after each bite, which seemed to calm the nausea
Aaron was now saying I was going too fast for him and that I should wait. At first I protested and told him to just keep up, but he was fading and not long after the 90k waterpoint he decided to stop. I couldn’t wait any longer, I just had to go. I cautioned him against getting too cold, to make sure he put another layer on if he sat down and then I set off, hiking as hard as I could, wanting to catch Marina if I could, after being told she had left the last waterpoint in the group before us.
Now I was doing my own thing. I was hiking hard but my heartrate was still low, I had in fact given up looking at it. The dark and quiet was lovely, not scary as I sometimes think it will be. The tiredness was seeping deeper and deeper in, food was hard to eat but the chocolate covered coffee beans I had broken out at 3:30am were keeping my eyes open.
As I hit 98km I began to get excited, in that totally exhausted way. I knew that if I kept moving I would finish before sun up (my C goal) and possibly under 24hrs (B goal). I watched as the lights of Cromwell got closer and then further away. I was on a dusty track now and could see footprints everywhere, which I took as a good sign despite the markers being few and far between. I clicked over 100k at exactly 22hrs59min, 1min and 15sec faster than my UTA100 time, I had hit my A goal as well! I had a little celebration and then my stomach decided it was all too much and I frantically searched for a tree or rock, I found nothing, it was just lucky no one came past right then. I got up and buckled down. Less than 1.5km to go, tears were starting but also the wistfulness of it being over. Just then I saw a headlight and recognised Marina, heading out on her 3rd lap. From watching her all day I’ve learned that being super fast at stops makes all the difference, she was lightening fast at each checkpoint and that made a huge difference. She congratulated me on finishing, asked where Aaron was and said she would see me tomorrow at the miler presentation before heading off on her final loop. I jogged, power hiked as fast as I could towards the now visible lights of Base Camp. I finished, oh so happy. I had met all my goals and as Terry congratulated me I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.
Of course the story doesn’t finish there. My crew gave hugs and chicken soup, messages were sent to family and friends who were sleeping in Australia and I was bundled up to be taken home for a shower (Oh my how I did stink!) and the much anticipated cheese toasties and chocolate milk.
After a brief sleep, I woke to be told I was currently the second female, by Pat who had found the preliminary race results on Facebook. I was incredulous. How exciting! That is one of those “its never gonna happen to me” things, you know? At the presentation, I received my medal, a bottle of Northburn Station Pinot Noir and some Gurney Goo, a hug from Terry (#terryyoubastard) and smiled. However there was a level of disconcertion growing.
I didn’t feel I deserved this. I was so slow and we had amazing weather. Any other year in the usual, tougher conditions that Northburn is known for, I would have been lucky to be top 10 in the women (its always a very small field).
As we stood in the lake at Wanaka, trying to bring down the inflammation in my legs and just cause we all loved Wanaka so much, I voiced these thoughts to my crew, who of course immediately slapped them down. My coach had similar stuff to say, about stopping with the comparisons (a common theme for me) and relishing it for what it is. I still feel like a bit of a fraud, for taking the 2nd place. I know its not my decision, and its funny because I’ve always wondered what it must be like to get a placing. How much brighter the accomplishment must feel. If anything its made me feel awkward because its not the 2nd place that has brought me so much joy. It is, in fact, the conquering of Northburn, an epic adventure if there ever was one and meeting all my goals, something that I haven’t been able to say about a race for a very very long time.
It was a very good day.
Shoes – Inov8 Trailroc 245’s
Socks – Injinji Trail 2.0 midweight crew
Poles – Black Diamond Carbon Z flick lock
Pack – Ultimate Direction Adventure Vesta
Nutrition – TrailBrew, Clif Bar (Choc Chip/Coconut Choc Chip/White Choc Macadamia), Funsize Bounty/Snickers, M&M’s, Zentvelds Choc Covered Coffee Beans, Apple, Pumpkin Soup
My hubby, Sim – for always encouraging me to do whatever makes me happy, for looking after the kids so I could go play in the mountains and for always being there when I doubt myself
Sarah and Maz – for being the best support crew and travelling buddies. You took all the stress out of the trip and the race for me. I love you both and am so happy to have all those wonderful memories that we made together.
Matt (super coach) – for getting me to the start and finishline of this and many other races. For listening and caring and for believing in me, even when I sometimes don’t.
Mum and Dad – for always instilling a sense of adventure and for supporting my crazy adventures which I know are a bit outside the box.
To my friends who sent messages of support throughout training, the race and after – knowing you’re there holds me up when I feel down, helps me get out of bed when I don’t want to and makes me smile when it’s hard.