The Road To UTA100

Probably the most positive thing I can say about last year’s experience at The North Face 100 in the Blue Mountains (now rebranded as ‘Ultra-Trail Australia 100’ or from now on in this post, ‘UTA100’) is that watching people run it, inspired my entry into this year’s event.
As it turns out, I am not a good spectator/supporter – I need to be involved! That in turn was my inspiration to run the Heysen 105 last year, an event I really enjoyed and will run again. The intention at the time was to do a 100k closer to home first, to make sure I could last the distance. And I did!

Even before Heysen 2015, the entries for UTA100 2016 opened. The 1300 entries sold out in under 48 hours. OK, being so far out from the event, there are always going to be drop-outs and hence opportunities for others. But I didn’t want to take any chances so I was ready on the computer and my phone the second entries opened. A few anxious moments (during which I was chatting on Messenger with my mate Mick who was also trying to get his entry in) later, and a meeting with a work colleague postponed (she was very understanding) we were both in!

On that day or the next, Wendy messaged us about accommodation. Apparently it books out very quickly so she advised us to get in right away. Wendy quickly booked the house we had stayed in last year (actually a self-contained house within a hostel near the centre of Katoomba) and not long after that I managed to snag some cheap flights.

The stats are pretty daunting. The 100km race has an elevation gain of 4300m and roughly 7000 stairs (possibly more. I’d rather not know.)

So I managed to get through Heysen (if you’re interested, you can read all about it:

I ticked a few boxes that day:

-Running largely alone for long stretches – tick.
-Supplying all my own gear/food – tick.
-Planning and organising drop bags for the checkpoints – tick.
-Running in the dark and not getting lost – tick.
-Getting through a 100k trail ultra in one piece and finishing strongly – double tick.
-Not losing my car key on the trail – oh well, nobody’s perfect! (Fortunately I will NOT be needing to take a car key to UTA100. I am down to my last one!)

Of course, the elevation of Heysen is nothing compared to UTA100. But, it was a good start and I was confident I had what it took to complete UTA100.

The training I did for this race was not quite what I had planned when I entered. I had all these grand plans. I had planned to do a reccy trip to Katoomba prior to the race itself, but time (and money) got away from me. Never mind, Adelaide has a lot of fantastic trails and hills, so there was no shortage of suitable training grounds.

My biggest problem was that I was unable to commit to training purely for UTA. I still have my ‘A’ goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. Training for a fast marathon while also training for a challenging ultra is tricky, but I could not afford to focus too much on UTA, because after UTA it’s only about 7 weeks till the Gold Coast Marathon. (I think. If it’s less than that, I don’t want to know!)

Another problem I have is that I am a sucker for a race! So when I should have been doing a long trail run, I would instead run a 3k hot lap race around the Clipsal 500 track. Or even more ridiculous, a 1500m race at the Australian Masters Athletics Championships. (In fairness, I did get podium finishes at both of those events)

So, I’d do my usual 5 runs per week most weeks, with one of those (usually Thursday) being a fastish tempo run, and if I wasn’t Run Director, I would also try to run a fast parkrun. If there was a trail event on the weekend I would run that. In the last 3 weeks I would run Tuesdays and Fridays with my race vest (complete with all the mandatory gear to try to at least partly simulate the race day experience) and sometimes those runs would be hilly.

A couple of times I went up to Morialta with my backpack and did stair reps at the Giants Cave – 10 x 140 steps.

Another time I decided to go and check out ‘Il Bastardo’ hill at Brownhill Creek. 2 reps of that hill 3 days before a half marathon killed my quads. I planned to make that a weekly event up until UTA, but I never got around to going back.

Strava was a bit of a killer. I got to see what a lot of my fellow UTA athletes were doing for training. If I thought my training was a bit inadequate before, seeing what the likes of Karina, Alex and Simon were doing confirmed it!

So basically, to sum it all up, in under a week I will be going into one of the toughest ultramarathons in Australia grossly unprepared. And I can’t wait!

I plan to run it on my own. Well, on my own with 1299 other people. I’m in wave 3 of 7. Wave 1 is for the fastest runners – the idea being that the fast people then don’t have to worry about overtaking the slower runners on what can often be narrow track. So, it’s the opposite of Yurrebilla, where the slower runners set off first to give them extra time to complete the course before cutoff time). I’m not aware of anyone else I know in my start wave, but that suits me fine. I’ve been chatting with Karen about it. Neither of us want to be committed to running with someone else. Either holding them back, or being held back. We prefer to run our own race. We’ll no doubt meet new people along the way who we’ll run with for a while, but we won’t be tied down. We will run when we can, walk when we have to, and most importantly, enjoy the

I have all my mandatory gear. I am half packed. I know what I’ll be wearing on the day and I know what food I need to buy when I get to Katoomba. OK I may not have done the training I should have, but at least I have my outfit and food sorted. So, the important stuff is taken care of!

Next week’s blog will be all about UTA100. You might want to put aside a bit of time for that one. Much like the race itself, I have a feeling it’s going to be a bit of an epic!