This was my 4th consecutive year participating in the Ultra Runners SA (formerly Yumigo!) Adelaide 6/12/24. It also marked the 10th anniversary of the first 6 hour event (back then, if you’d told me this event would later become a staple on my calendar, I would have strongly encouraged you to seek psychiatric help!)
My first 6 hour was three years ago in 2015 – it also happened to be my very first ultramarathon. (The 2018 12 hour was my 14th) After having gone into it without a clue or a plan (backing up from a marathon, at least I had the training in my legs), I went back to do it ‘properly’ in 2016. Last year I made a last minute decision to do the 12 hour and I learned a lot, so I decided to go back and do it again, to try to do it better!
Here’s the short version. Ran for 3 hours, turned around and ran the other way for 3 hours, turned again and ran the other way for 3 hours, turned once more and ran the other way for 3 hours, then finished.
There shouldn’t be too much to say about a race like that, should there?
I’d prepared a lot better than last year, given that 12 hours was in the plan since, well, the day after last year’s 12 hour!
Since UTA100 8 weeks ago, my focus had been on this event. It really was my ‘A’ race for the whole year. I had done 4 solid training runs over the past 6 weeks, broken up by a trail half in Mount Gambier and a duathlon. My training runs were 3 hours, 4 hours, 6 hours and 3 hours. I used the strategy of 25 min run/5 min walk throughout all of those runs. My first 2 training runs were way too fast (30km in 3 hours and 40km in 4 hours – not sustainable over 12 hours!) but I nailed it on the 6 hour run, covering 55km, and then ran the last 3 hour run with 6 hour first timer Gary.
My pre-race dinner was from Pure Vegetarian at Adelaide Central Market – pumpkin, chickpeas, spicy eggplant and noodles – lots of carbs! And a glass or two of red wine to wash it down.
Race fuel was similar to last year – a mix of peanut butter and chocolate spread sandwiches (3 of each), Clif bars and nut bars. I also had some mashed sweet potato with salt but didn’t end up using any of that during the race. The plan was that on every 5 minute walk break I would eat either half a bar or a quarter of a sandwich. I had 6 bottles of Gatorade and 2 extra serves of powder. I’m not much of a drinker especially in cooler weather so I was confident that would be more than enough.
I’d also included a caffeination schedule – a shot of cold brew just before the start, at 2 hours, 6 hours and 10 hours, an energy supplement at 4 hours and an energy drink at 8 hours. Caffeine every 2 hours. I’d done a couple of the training runs with cold brew and it seemed to work well. In previous years I had enlisted running buddies James, Leanne, Kate and Beck to bring me coffee at strategic times. This time I wanted to be self reliant, to have coffee ready when I needed it, and to be able to quickly down it rather than have to waste time slowly sipping it and/or burning my mouth! I’d put the coffee in empty vanilla extract bottles, which was an interesting conversation starter when people saw me drink it!
I had music – my waterproof iPod that I use for swimming, with a nice upbeat playlist on it. I was only planning to use that for short periods, mainly between the end of the 6 hour and the presentation. I’d never run in this event before with music, but that was mainly because it had always been raining and I didn’t want my iPod to get wet! This year, I not only had a waterproof iPod, but amazingly it looked like it was going to be a fine day!
I’d gone with toe socks which I’d only just started using, they had worked well on a trail run last weekend and people seem to like them, so I decided to give them a go (instead of taping my toes like I did last year).
It was pretty chilly at the start so I had my beanie, gloves and Boston Marathon jacket as well as my normal race gear. I was set up in a tent with the ‘Vegan Beast Mode Team’ – consisting of fellow 12 hour runner Ian from Melbourne along with another Melbourne runner Cheryl, and the awesome 24 hour trio of Kate, Tracey and Sheena, being ably crewed by Sheena’s daughter Elle. I had all my food and drinks set up within easy access so it would just be a matter of ‘grab and go’. I didn’t want to waste time on fuel stops! Consequently I had a bit of sandwich in the pocket of one Spibelt and a nut bar in the other one. Ready to go on the first walk break, so I wouldn’t need to stop at the tent for an hour or so! I’d managed to get a car park just next to our tent – winning!
To fit with the theme, I wore my brand new Mekong ‘Vegan Beast Mode’ T-shirt. (I had never run in this particular top, but I had run in a lot of other Mekong tops before, so I wasn’t concerned about the whole ‘don’t try something new in a race’ thing! (As it turned out, Sheena, Tracey, Kate and another vegan runner Ryan were all wearing the same thing! (I had spare tops to change into later, as I had never run 100km before wearing the same top throughout!)
The 6 and 12 hour runners kicked off at 6am, after the briefing from Race Director Ben and a special mention for 6 hour runners Kym and Graham, two of the three runners to have completed every one of the 10 6/12/24 events. (the other one was Colin, who would start 4 hours later in the 24 hour). Initially the event started as just the 6 hour, and eventually the 12 and 24 were added to make it the event it is today!
My goal was to beat last year’s 102.7km. I was aiming for 105km, as this would be the furthest I’d ever gone in one hit (my previous best being Heysen 105 in 2015, which actually ended up being around 104km). I’d aim to be on 55km at the 6 hour mark, giving me a bit of a buffer, expecting I would slow down in the second half. Last year I did 57km in the first half and just under 46 in the second – I was aiming to be more consistent this time. Last year I also had to change my walk/run strategy after 8 hours – I wanted to try to keep the 25/5 going as long as possible this time.
I started out running with Gary, who was utilising the same run/walk strategy as me (after we’d successfully used it on the run we did together) and he had alerts set on his watch, so while I was running with him I didn’t really have to look at my watch! Intermittently we were joined by Belinda who was also doing her first 6 hour.
I hadn’t looked at the 12 hour start list. It’s my thing. I prefer not to know who else is going to be there until I’m actually out there! I knew one of them, Kay, who I’d met on my first training run this year. She was aiming for 56km, her first ultra! Other than that, I didn’t know who I’d be up against! I was fully expecting to see Amelia, who had thrashed me (and the rest of the field) last year and it wasn’t until a few laps in when I hadn’t been lapped yet, that it occurred to me that she wasn’t there, and I had no idea who I was competing against! Actually I did know who I was competing against – 2017 me! I had to follow my plan to the letter, and I wasn’t going to let what other people were doing, interfere with that. I wasn’t going to look at the computer screen at all – I would keep track of my laps (47 was the magic number) and that would be all that mattered!
In the 12 hour we also had Randell who was aiming for a sub 10 hour 100km. So the only way I’d be seeing him would be when he was lapping me! Uli was there too – he just never looked like slowing down, I did tell him at one point that he made me feel totally inadequate as a runner, and he was always so damn chirpy (much like Randell!)
We had a few visitors during the morning – the Uni Loop is a very popular place for runners especially on the weekend, and it’s hard to go for a run there without bumping into someone you know! Nat and Beck came past on their long run quite early on, and then again on their way back – it was great to see them!
Another visitor was Voula who came to support Gary and myself with coffee and donuts! Voula and a few other regular Sunday runners were going to have lunch with Gary to celebrate Gary finishing his first 6 hour. Of course, I wouldn’t be having lunch with them – I’d still have another 6 hours to run!
The first 3 hours went pretty smoothly and I was running with Gary for most of it, until he dropped the pace a bit and I went on ahead. I was conscious of not going out too fast, but I still wanted to be on 55km by halfway.
3 hours marked the first turnaround. Sally and another girl, in giraffe onesies (because, why not?) informed me that I had 15 seconds to go before turnaround time. In other words, I could keep running another whole lap before turning around, or I could stop, wait 15 seconds and turn around now. I was all psyched up for the turnaround so I decided to go with the latter (I was walking anyway at this stage).
The turnarounds offer a change of scenery of sorts, as well as the opportunity to see a lot of the other runners that might be just behind or ahead of you, who you otherwise might not see!
From 9am we started to see some of the 24 hour runners arrive and get set up – they would start at 10. There were a lot of familiar faces there. Each time I went past our tent I tried to relay the message to the girls that there were some donuts on the table if they wanted any – I’d made a trip to the nearby Bakery On O’Connell for some of their famous vegan chocolate donuts!
10am came and we were joined on the track by the 24 hour runners. It was a record field for this event – possibly due in part to it being the Australian 24 hour championships. Consequently, along with being a relatively large field, it was also a star-studded one – including 2018 UTA100 champion Brendan Davies. I wondered how long it would be before he started lapping me! Also among the 24 hour field was Felix, an international runner and fellow vegan!
And it would be remiss of me not to mention the most distinctive person in the 24 hour, Thor! Actually his name is Stewart but he ran the 24 in full Thor costume complete with wig and hammer! And even when I saw him in the late stages of the 24, he was still in full Thor costume! Now that’s dedication!
Just after the 24 hour runners started I decided it would be a good time to visit the portaloo. Silly me had to choose the broken one with no water – by the time Michelle told me this, I was already committed!
As 12:00 and the 6 hour finish approached, I encountered Gary again. He was on track for his goal of over 50km and doing well! When I calculated I was on my last lap before the siren signalled the end of the 6 hour, I picked up my iPod so I could drown out the sounds of the presentation, and focus on getting through the next few hours!
The iPod worked really well to distract me, however unfortunately somehow I’d unknowingly started it earlier and I ended up only getting just over an hour and a half worth of tunes before the battery died! Oh well, it was enough to get past the presentation! (I’d got a solid 6 hours out of it during my training run, so I was expecting to get a bit more than I did!) And I had brought a mobile charger so all was not lost – when I went past the tent again I plugged it into the charger for a few hours to bring back out again towards the end!
I’d made it to my goal of 55km at the halfway mark. From memory it was 25 laps, which equates to EXACTLY 55km (one lap being 2.2km). I got pretty good at calculating how far I’d gone based on the number of laps – I couldn’t rely on my Garmin watch, as they are always out by some margin especially on a loop event like this! So to get my 105 I just needed to get 50km in the last 6 hours. Simples!
8 hours was the next big hurdle in my mind, as this was the point last year at which I had had to revise my run/walk strategy. I’d started doing 13/2 and quickly realised that 2 minute walk breaks were useless, so had reverted to 10/5 from 9 hours to the finish. I really didn’t want to have to do that this time, but I had in the back of my mind that whatever I had to do, the walk breaks would need to stay at 5 minutes. No more, no less.
One of the great new innovations this year was the motivational signs – I believe Michelle was responsible for these! I’m not sure exactly how many of them there were, over the course of the first few hours they were gradually put up around the loop. All of them were double sided so it meant we had something to look forward to when we changed direction! Some of them put ideas in my head that weren’t there before (eg “Your feet hurt because you’re kicking arse” or words to that effect – well my feet didn’t hurt before that but once I had the idea in my head…)
I had the idea early on to get my ‘RUN LIKE SOMEONE JUST CALLED YOU A JOGGER’ sign out of my car. That sign had been pretty much living in my car since I’d made it for the 2014 Adelaide Marathon. Coincidentally, it was in almost the exact same spot as the start/finish area for this race, that I stood in my tiger onesie and cheered on the runners 4 years ago! As Michelle was going around putting up the signs, I told her where my car keys were and where my car was, and suggested if she wanted to she could use that one as well. And sure enough, a few laps later, there it was, conveniently displayed right near our tent – it was a good landmark so I wouldn’t miss my tent (although I did nearly run past it once!) – our tent was a bit set back from the path due to the ground being a bit uneven, so it was hard to see until you actually reached it. But with the sign there, you couldn’t miss it!
Early in the 24 hour I noticed that lap after lap, Merle and Stephan were running together, sometimes with Merle’s running buddy Trish. I jokingly said “People will start to talk!” – they were chatting constantly the whole way! And then later I encountered Merle and Trish but no Stephan – apparently he’d ‘ditched’ them and gone on ahead – so later on when I ran into Stephan again I jokingly had a go at him for taking off! It’s this kind of camaraderie and good fun that makes this event what it is – a great fun day out!
10 hours came and I was still on my 25/5 run/walk, and relatively comfortable although the sign that said ‘Blisters are braille for awesome’ was starting to speak to me – I was certain there were at least a few blisters on my toes, and was thinking maybe the toe socks were a bad choice! It was at this time that I decided it was time for another hour of tunes, so I grabbed the iPod but to my horror it hadn’t charged at all – absolutely NO battery! Devastated! However thankfully I did have a backup – I had my prized iPod classic with its 9000-odd songs, and had thankfully also thrown in a normal set of running earbuds (the earbuds that went with the waterproof iPod only had really a really short cord, which was perfect when I had the iPod clipped to the back of my hat, but would not work with the Classic that I would need to carry in a pocket. So next time around the loop I grabbed the Classic and the normal headphones.
This was the only time when I really got shitty during the race, and it was only because of stupid technical issues! Sheena was near me at the time and she commented that she’d never heard me swear, I got all my swearing for the day out in that couple of minutes! The iPod was fine, it was the ear buds I just couldn’t get in! They were those ones that hook over your ears and I was getting really frustrated having tried seemingly every way to get them in! Sheena’s suggestion of stopping to do it properly was a great one and I did acknowledge that but I wasn’t having any of it – no stopping today!
Eventually I did get them in and decided that the appropriate track to kick off this part of the race was ‘Detroit Rock City’ by Kiss. Boy did that give me a huge boost! If anyone had seen me a minute earlier and then once the music kicked in, they would have thought I’d had an injection of something really good! As the first song finished I saw Ben sitting on a bench, I now think that was the 100km mark and he was waiting to record someone’s 100km split – possibly Randell (who got the 100km in only a few minutes over the 10 hours he was hoping for).
I had my playlist on shuffle for a little while until I got to the next walk break when I had a bit of time to mess around with the settings and I put on my favourite running album, Def Leppard’s ‘Adrenalize’ which kicks off with ‘Let’s Get Rocked’. That usually makes me run too fast but luckily I was on a walk break for that one! I knew it was about 45 minutes worth of music which would take me through to 11 hours 20, and from then on I’d reassess whether I still needed music or whether I’d ditch the iPod for the closing stages.
The end of the album also coincided with around the time I reached the magical 100km mark! I remembered roughly where the little sign was last year, and had been looking for it but hadn’t seen it – I later found out that a few of the signs had been stolen, including that one – so it wasn’t just my lack of observational skills! Michelle’s husband Mark was sitting on the bench next to where the sign had been, and one of the other 12 hour runners, John, with whom I’d been going back and forth for the past 11 or so hours, was just ahead of me. I remembered him saying at some point he was going for an age group record. It was possible to get milestones recorded officially if you thought you were in line for some kind of record (age group or overall) but as I wasn’t in that league, I wasn’t doing that. However, John was, so that was when I realised that must be the magical 100km mark (which I confirmed with Mark)! A brief moment of celebration as I continued on! Last year I’d reached 100km with 20 minutes to go, this year it was more like 40. To get a PB I only needed just under 3km in that 40 minutes. To get my 105 I needed 5. And I was still hanging on to the 25/5, although I know my running pace was getting slower. Every now and then I’d switch to a ‘shuffle’ where I’d really shorten my stride and pick up the pace, barely lifting my feet. It worked well – really saves a lot of energy! Not really recommended on a trail ultra where you can easily trip over something, but on a track ultra it’s a great way to conserve!
With around half an hour to go, I was on 46 laps. I was hoping to get 2 more in that last half hour which would be well beyond my expectations! Even 47 laps would be 103.4km and a clear PB. Helping me was the fact that I wasn’t planning to take a 5 minute walk break in this half hour. I’d used up the last of my Gatorade but it wasn’t worth stopping to mix up another bottle now! (I’d been carrying a bottle from the first walk break onwards! I’d taken between 3 and 4 hours to drink the first one but then somehow I’d managed to get through them all!)
When I got to 47 laps I saw my parents waiting at the finish line for me, I wasn’t expecting to see them as I knew they had dinner plans, so it was a nice surprise! Voula also came out again, this time with her puppy Bob who was a bit excited! I went to get my rock (each runner is given a personalised rock which they drop when the siren goes off to signify the end of the race, and then the volunteers measure the distance covered since the last full lap. That way you get a measure of the whole distance, not just the full laps) and Ben jokingly told me he couldn’t find mine! Luckily he WAS joking because I wasn’t about to stop and wait for him to find it! I had about 15 minutes to go and I was pretty sure I could get around again but I didn’t want to get 2km into the loop when time was up and not get credit for that 2km!
Voula and Bob ran with me for some of that loop although they did cut across the grass so they didn’t go the whole way! I knew I was going to get my 48 laps (105.6km) and probably then some!
I crossed the timing mat for the last time, still with a few minutes left, so I tried to pick up the pace a bit – no sense leaving anything in the tank! The siren went off, I dropped my rock and made my way back to the finish line!
My official distance was 105.91km which was very satisfying! The plan worked perfectly and I was able to keep the same run/walk schedule going for the whole 12 hours which was extremely pleasing!
And the top lasted the whole day – not a single issue, no chafing, no nothing! Kudos to Mekong for a great product!
I went to greet Mum and Dad (turned out Dad had been attacked by a possum which thought he was a tree and tried to climb him – luckily the first aid lady was there ready to attend to him – not that she was expecting to deal with a possum attack!) and Voula and Gary who had come back to see me finish.
After Mum and Dad left it was time for me to grab some Coke (I’d managed to hold off drinking any during the 12 hours – MAN that tasted good at the end)! and a slice of vegan pizza, and then go see the first aid lady to look at my blisters. I probably had blisters on most of my toes and I put it down to the socks – I had managed to wear a hole through the bottom of one of them, although I didn’t get a blister where the hole was, strangely! Just everywhere else! (Toe socks are not for me, apparently!) While the lady (I can’t remember her name!) was examining my feet and patching up the bits that needed patching, Michael (who was also the course measurer) was very helpfully telling me that I should pop the blisters (which went contrary to what the first aider was telling me – I was pretty sure I was going to follow her advice and not his!) Michael also told me I was 2nd female which I didn’t realise up until that point – I was 5-6km behind 1st, which was far enough that there was really nothing I could have done to beat her. It was weird because I’d barely seen Kerrie (who was 1st) all day! Actually there weren’t many people in the 12 hour – only 20 in total, a much smaller number than either the 6 or the 24.
After that I went back to the tent to get changed into some warmer clothes and have some wine and donuts! We then went back to the start/finish area for the presentations. This was the first time I could remember having an official photographer at the 12 hour presentations – being at night time, often we only get people’s phone photos, but this time official photographer Gary was there to capture the moment! Cheryl also got over 100km to finish 3rd (another runner I’d hardly seen!) and the men’s podium consisted of Randell, Uli and another guy Ben who I hadn’t met before.
I was also lucky enough to win a $100 voucher for The Running Company in the random prize draw – I guess the odds of winning are pretty good when there’s 5 prizes and only 20 runners in the event, of which a lot of them had already left (and you had to be there to be eligible for a prize!). Looking at my shoes at the end of the run, (and they were past retirement even BEFORE the race) I have a feeling I’ll be putting that voucher to use sooner rather than later!
I hung out in the tent with Elle for the next few hours, refuelling (I had about 2 of my 6 sandwiches left, which were quickly consumed – that meant I’d eaten pretty much an entire loaf of bread that day on top of several Clif bars and nut bars!) and cheering on the 24 hour runners especially Kate, Tracey and Sheena. I wasn’t really doing much in the way of supporting (to be fair, I wasn’t really capable of much at that stage other than cheering) but Elle was doing a stellar job supporting the 3 girls, along with Lachlan who came down and did some laps.
I tried to have a sleep in Tracey’s tent out the back, but that wasn’t happening, so eventually I decided the best thing to do was go home for a few hours sleep in my own bed, which also meant I got to have a shower (THE BEST!). I woke up around 4am and headed back down to the Uni Loop around 5:30 to watch and support for the last few hours. When I arrived, Lachlan informed me that Elle was asleep in the tent, Sheena was about to get taken off in an ambulance, Tracey was finished, and he hadn’t seen Kate for a number of hours. My plan had been to do some laps with the girls, as long as they were only walking, and I’d left my running shoes at the track along with a fresh pair of socks (WITHOUT holes) in preparation. Oh well, it looked like that wasn’t happening, so I went to hang out with Vicky (who was backing up with a volunteer stint after finishing 2nd in the 6 hour – machine!) and Dione at the food tent. Where they also had a heater. Best place to hang! I brought what was left of the donuts from the previous day, and also made a quick trip to the bakery for coffee and a sausage roll for Ben!
Not long after this, Kate surfaced – she’d had about a 7 hour rest break and was ready to go for the last 3 hours! I offered to walk a few laps with her, and my offer was gratefully accepted! Her mission was to get to 110km and she was on 99 – just 5 laps in 3 hours!
We were walking at a reasonably brisk pace, every now and then Kate would break into a shuffle and although I tried I couldn’t go with her, so at times I’d cut across the grass to catch up with her! There was a fair bit of socialising going on as well as a bit of coffee drinking, so consequently we had to pick up the pace in the last few laps otherwise she wasn’t going to get her goal! Not only did she get her 110km she actually kept going after crossing the line for her 50th lap, until the siren went off! (Although she didn’t reach the distance she’d done last year, she also didn’t end up in hospital this time so surely that’s a win!)
I think it was great for me too, partly because I needed to keep moving and stretch my legs after the 12 hour, but also I got to see what the end of a 24 hour looks like, from a runner’s point of view rather than just a spectator! In previous years I have always gone to see the end of the 24 hour, and even when I’ve had thoughts about wanting to do the 24 hour one day, watching the runners stagger around in the final hours has made me never want to even contemplate it! This year was different. Firstly, I think I’ve achieved as much as I can in the 12 hour. I don’t think I can improve on this year’s effort. Maybe if I dedicate myself to this event and train specifically for it for the whole year, but if I want to continue running trails and road races as well, I don’t see how I could possibly do a better 12 hour. Kate is one person who has been egging me on to do the 24. She said it’s not for her, and she never wants to do it again, but she thinks it would be right up my alley. And I think she may just be right…
Also encouraging me to ‘step up’ is Glen, who ran the 24 hour this year as well. I had no idea until afterwards that this was his first time doing the 24! So he was encouraging me based on NO experience! (I asked him afterwards if he still thought I should do it and if he’d do it again – the answer to both questions was a resounding ‘Yes’!)
Last year, when I stayed all night and saw a lot of the 24 hour runners at various stages, I had no desire to do the 24. Here is a direct quote from me from last year: ‘One of the pluses of staying overnight after finishing the 12 hour was getting to see the 24 hour runners through the middle of the night. Watching them made me decide I NEVER want to run the 24 hour. Although, I do want to do a 100 miler one day and I’m sure a trail miler is not in my future, so I guess I will have to do it eventually. Give me a few years!’
Now – I think I might just give it a crack next year!
It was great walking the last 5 laps with Kate because we got to see most of the other 24 hour runners who were still going. Felix was going from strength to strength, never looking like slowing down, and ended up winning, and in doing so, obliterating the course record to finish on just over 260km! Second place was a runner called John who just looked super strong and smooth throughout, and his distance would have been good enough to win most years! In third place was Brendan, who Kate and I passed on our last lap, and I said to Kate “We just passed Brendan Davies – you don’t get to see that too often!” OK, admittedly he HAD done more distance than both of us combined, but still… small win!
In the women’s race, the winner was Heather who had passed me fairly regularly while I was still running, and looked super strong. Second place went to Anna (another vegan on the podium!) for the second year in a row, followed closely by a runner I hadn’t met before called Melissa, who astounded me with her crazy fast walking pace!
Congratulations to everyone who participated, particularly to those who dipped their toes in the 6/12/24 water for the first time, and I hope to see a lot of you back next year! It was a pleasure to share the track with you all! I always have to thank the volunteers and this event is no exception! The volunteers who had the ‘witching hour’ shift deserve special thanks and I’m sure I will be appreciating them even more next year! Thanks also to everyone who cheered us on, whether they were there supporting other runners or just out to give everyone a boost! (Special thanks to the crew with the maracas and clappers – you guys were one of the highlights of every lap and I really missed you when you weren’t there! I’m not sure who you are but I hope you’re there next year!)
And as always big congrats and thanks to Ben for making this such a fabulous, inclusive, fun, challenging, brutal, delicious and enjoyable event!
So who’s going to come out and run with me next year?