Race report – Adelaide 6/12/24 hour


This past weekend I followed up my Gold Coast marathon in the only way I know how – with a 6 hour trot around a 2.2km loop…
I did this event for the first time last year and if you’re interested you can read about it here: https://randomthoughtsandracereports.wordpress.com/2015/07/12/47/
Just in case you don’t want to read that, here is a brief synopsis of what the event is all about.
There are 3 events – 6, 12 and 24 hours. The idea is to cover as much distance as possible in the allocated time.
During the week, I ran on Tuesday and Thursday. Tuesday was a bit rough but by Thursday the legs were feeling pretty good!
The race being on a Saturday rather than the usual race day of Sunday, I opted to do my shopping at the Central Market on Friday night rather than Saturday. As I often do when I go to the market on a Friday night, I had dinner at the food court – an AWESOME vegan place called Pure Vegetarian. Plenty of carbs in there – noodles and pumpkin, along with some eggplant and chickpeas. 
I was in bed reasonably early – I set my alarm for 4:15am so I could get to the start line at the Uni Loop super early – the plan being to get a spot as close to the start line as possible. I hadn’t organised a table or a spot in a tent, and I didn’t have any crew (not many 6 hour runners use crew) so my car was going to be my base camp. That way, if it rained (and the forecast for the morning was clear, but we all know the Bureau can get it wrong!) all my stuff would stay dry, and I’d have a place to sit undercover if needed!
Gear-wise, I would be better prepared than last year. For a start, GLOVES! It had been pretty chilly in the mornings and Saturday would be no exception. I went for ‘layer upon layer’.
The bottom half was the favourite Skins/lulu skirt combination and calf sleeves and socks rather than compression socks (I had a very iffy toenail from Gold Coast, which my awesome running friend and podiatrist Nat had very kindly patched up for me, and I thought the extra pressure from compression socks would be a bad idea) – I’d opted for black socks rather than white as I was fully expecting blood by the end of 6 hours! I’d also gone with trail shoes rather than roadies as the trail shoes are a bit bigger and therefore would give me more toe room.
On the top I started with a long sleeved running top, vest, arm warmers and a zip up long sleeved top. Also a buff to keep my ears warm. On top of all that I had a hoodie and track pants. And, of course, gloves!
Food-wise I went pretty simple. 2 white bread sandwiches. A new flavour combination – peanut butter and chocolate spread – like a Snickers! I also packed some nut bars, almonds and Lifesavers. Hydration would be Gatorade – I had a 500ml handheld bottle and also a big cooler bottle with 1.5 litres.
On Saturday I was up, breakfasted, dressed and out the door around 4:50. At the last minute I had thrown a singlet in my bag along with a T-shirt. I’d run all of last year’s event in long sleeves but it had been a cold, wet, miserable day. This time, the morning promised to be chilly but there was no rain forecast until the evening. 

I got to the start location about 5:05 and got a prime parking spot, just near the food tent. The race started at 6am and I’d already collected my bibs and timing chip (I totally just wrote ‘chiming tip!’) so I had plenty of time to get myself organised. I was seriously considering running the first few laps in my trackpants and hoodie! I had all the gear I might need, located in the front seat of my car. My bag of sandwiches was open, and my singlet conveniently located on the seat so I could quickly grab it if needed. I also had my iPod and headphones on the seat, in case I needed them later. I hadn’t used them last year simply because it had been raining and I didn’t want to get water in them! I was pretty confident I could get through 6 hours without music but it didn’t hurt to have it there just in case.
Unlike last year, I was there in plenty of time for a pre-race portaloo stop (pre-race is ALWAYS the best time to use a portaloo – they get increasingly unpleasant as the day goes on!) and then all I had to do was wait for the briefing and the 6am start!
And we were away!
We started in the dark – I reckon it was probably about an hour before the sun came out.
Within the first lap I was passed by fellow 6 hour runners Sarah (a well known ultra and trail runner and a great competitor – her partner Robbie was also there, awaiting the start of the 24 hour) and Samantha who I didn’t know but who also looked to be a big threat. Plus another girl called Tia who I didn’t know, from the 12 hour event which started at the same time. 
Last year I went in expecting nothing and was surprised to finish 2nd. This year I was hopeful of another podium finish but in the first lap I thought that was unlikely so I focused on my other goal of a 6 hour PB. I couldn’t remember exactly what distance I’d done last year but it was 60-point-something. So I’d aim for 61 just to be sure. I thought I’d count laps rather than rely on the distance my watch showed. 28 laps would do it.
After a couple of laps I took off my first layer, the zip-up top, and grabbed a sandwich from my car. I’d opted to lock my car – I had contemplated leaving it unlocked, but given that I’d worn gloves, my hands were functional enough to operate a key!
One hour in, I’d completed nearly 5 laps or 11km. It was a good start but that was with no walk breaks – walk breaks would be needed throughout the 6 hours, if only to get some food in. Eating real food as opposed to gels, you do need to walk in order to eat. I didn’t go in with a ‘walk/run’ strategy as I hadn’t needed it last year. I would run as much as I could and ideally only walk if I was eating. If I was doing 12 or 24 hours I would certainly be adopting a walk/run right from the start.
There was a computer screen with live results just past the start/finish line but I didn’t end up stopping to look at it at all – I didn’t want to lose momentum or get psyched out by seeing what other people were doing. As long as I kept count of my laps I didn’t need any more information.
Among the runners were many familiar faces and some new ones. A lot of people had come from interstate which goes to show what a highly regarded event this is!
In the 12 hour was Wayne, back again after being the event ambassador last year. He was on fire – I lost count of the number of times he lapped me! There was Luke, well known for running in sandals! I asked him if he had cold feet – he said no, and he still had all his toenails! Might be something in that… 
Rebecca I had met during the track 100k earlier in the year. She was aiming for 100k in the 12 hours after having finished second and missing out on the 100 last year. This was a training run for her. I asked, what is a 100k run a training run FOR? Oh, just a 100 miler next weekend! Also in the 12 hour was Matt, who along with Race Director Ben was the brains behind the trial 6/12 hour trail loop run I’d done a month or so back. He was also training a young guy called Tyler, only 15 years old, who is a real up-and-comer and was doing the 6 hour. Other familiar faces in the 12 were Toby, whose partner Bridget was doing the 6, Kath, who had done the 24 before but never the 12, and Anna, who I’d met last year at the same event. Early on I met Emma who was going for 100km and who had run last year through the night with Lee, the eventual winner.
The 6 hour had 60 listed starters, the most popular of the 3 distances on offer. Not surprising really – 6 hours is really doable and a good chance to do a first marathon or 50k.
I knew a lot of the 6 hour runners but a few need to be mentioned – Debbie and Karen got the ‘best dressed’ award for their matching tutus and Debbie was even wearing a blue wig for the whole 6 hours! Carolyn, who I didn’t actually meet until after the 6 hours was over, had only been running for a few months! Remarkable! The always quiet and reserved Michelle was there, modelling the new Yurrebilla T-shirt, along with her daughter Emma. The usual suspects from last year included Chris and Shannon who I would see frequently throughout the morning!
It wasn’t long before the gloves came off. Soon the buff was replaced by hat and sunnies as the sun actually made an appearance! Heading east in the back half of the loop, I was very grateful for the sunnies, as the sun was a bit blinding! Bit of a contrast from last year!
9:00 marked the halfway point and the first turnaround (turnarounds happen every 3 hours to break up the monotony!). I reached 14 laps right on 9:00 – I was halfway to my goal and right on track. 9:00 also marked the time when my friend Leanne arrived with the pre-arranged coffee (my coffee deliverer from last year, James, had abandoned me this year to go on a trail run!) which once again was MASSIVELY appreciated! I walked with Leanne as I drank my coffee and then she was off to have brekky with James and the rest of the trail running crew.
Amazingly, at some point in the morning, I actually decided it was too warm for the long sleeves! I was very glad I’d thrown the singlet in – the next time I passed my base camp (aka my car) I did a quick wardrobe change, leaving the arm warmers on just in case it got cooler again. It was a bit of a procedure which started probably 500m from the car – first I removed my Garmin, being careful not to accidentally stop it, then my arm warmers, and I had my key in my hand, ready. I got to the car and quickly changed the long sleeved top for the singlet, grabbed a sandwich and kept moving. Over the next few hundred metres I put my arm warmers back on and then my watch. In the process I realised my watch had stopped – disaster! I quickly started it again and checked my watch on my other wrist which displayed the time. It seems the watch had only been stopped for a minute or less – crisis averted!

Around this time the 24 hour runners started assembling for the 10am start. There were a few veterans, notably Barry and Karen. There was Marc, having a second crack at it after having to pull out due to injury last year. There were also a LOT of first timers! Rula was ably supported by Hoa and Bev. Tania, Katie and Laura were all also doing 24 hours for the first time.
I had my energy supplement not long after the 24 hour runners started. Not surprisingly, I passed a lot of them on the first few laps – they had a LONG way to go – while being regularly lapped by the likes of Wayne and Tia.
My pace was sitting comfortably around 5:46. 6:00 pace would put me at 60km, so even factoring in the inaccuracy of the GPS, I was well on track for a PB.
I reached the 5 hour mark. One hour to go! According to my watch I was on just under 51km which was on target. I was around the other side of the Uni Loop from the start/finish area. I set myself a goal – 5 laps, or 11km, in the last hour. That was ambitious (average pace 5 min 27 per kilometre) but achievable, and kept me focused for the last hour.
As per last year, my pace increased significantly over the last 5km or so. I managed to pull out a 5:13 right near the end! With about 15 minutes to go. I passed the start/finish line. Each runner was given a personalised sandbag with a flag sticking out of it. My average lap time was 12:44 (although I didn’t know that at the time) and I was confident I could get around one more time before time ran out. The sandbag was awkward to carry so I didn’t want to pick it up until I was sure it was my last lap.
I made it around in plenty of time, grabbed my sandbag on the run, and pushed it to the finish. I was looking at my watch – I knew I was about a minute out, and not long after that, there was the siren to signify the end of the 6 hours! I dropped my sandbag and made my way back to the start. Some smart person pointed out that we could walk straight across the grass rather than all the way back around! This was when I met Carolyn who had just completed a marathon after only a few months of running! My legs were so stiff after I stopped running, it was incredible!
After a slice of vegan pizza I quickly went back to the car to get some warm clothes on, take off my shoes and put my comfy sandals on (SUCH a relief!) and await the presentation. I was told I’d done 28 full laps, plus the part lap which was yet to be measured. So it was definitely a PB, I was stoked with that!
The medals were presented to the females by distance covered (lowest to highest) and then to the males in the same order. As names and distances were read out, I thought, I could be a chance here! I hadn’t looked at the computer screen because I hadn’t really contemplated a placing, but once 4th place had been announced and I hadn’t heard my name, I knew I was on the podium! 3rd place went to Sarah on 57.668km and then 2nd was Samantha on 58.155. Next, I was blown away to be announced as the first female on 62.199km and rewarded with a sweet trophy and bottle of Fox Creek Vixen (sparkling red, my favourite!). There was also a perpetual trophy which would have both the male and female winners names engraved on it. The male winner, Paul, had done an amazing 74.274km! I was 5th overall out of the 6 hour entrants (out of 58 starters, 34 females). Needless to say, I was pleased!
After treating myself to a vegan pasty and donut from the nearby Bakery On O’Connell, I went home for a shower and to get my compression tights on – ahhhhh! 
As I got organised to head back down to the Uni Loop for the end of the 12 hour, I got a missed call from Race Director Ben. I quickly called him back and he told me there had been a mixup with the results. Immediately I knew what he was going to say. In the event briefing it was stated that 12 hour runners were eligible for placing in the 6 hour event. Tia from the 12 hour had lapped me 3 times so of course she had covered more distance in the 6 hours! I had seen that in the briefing but assumed I must have read it wrong, it didn’t really seem fair! I was relegated to 2nd, still a podium finish, and Ben said I could keep my wine. I told him (possibly a bit tongue-in-cheek!) “I’ll bring back the trophy but you were never getting that wine back!”

So I made my way back to the Uni Loop, trophy in hand to return to Ben, to see the end of the 12 hour. I was expecting to see Tia fly by multiple times but surprisingly didn’t see her at all.
Just after the finish, and before the presentations, Channel 7 news were doing a live weather cross. Ben had got Michelle to organise some people to be ‘pretend runners’ to run small loops past Tim, the weather guy. I was one of the ‘pretend runners’ – most of them were volunteers and supporters – I think Michelle and I were the only ones who had participated in the actual event! Luckily I keep ’emergency running kit’ in my car so I threw on my old running shoes and shorts over my compression tights and socks. A few people said they saw us on the news – pretty cool! (By the 4th ‘lap’ the Channel 7 guy said that was enough. My legs said the same thing!)
The presentations for the 12 hour followed soon after. I was surprised to find out that Tia had finished second (no disrespect to the actual winner) – then found out she had pulled out after 100k in less than 9 hours and wasn’t there for the presentation! D’oh, I should have kept the trophy! (Just kidding!) The winner was Rebecca who had done 104km and was a very deserving winner! Third was Emma who had just missed out on cracking the 100km milestone. In the men’s 12 hour Wayne was a clear winner and Toby was 3rd, amusingly taking home the ‘3rd female’ trophy!
I stopped off at a nearby convenience store to buy a couple of loaves of bread after they had run out at the food tent, and was tempted to order myself an Indian takeaway but decided to have homemade curry from my freezer. Curry, wine, chocolate was my recovery meal!
Sunday morning I went to see the finish of the 24 hour. The eventual winner, Nicole, was looking strong and still running which was remarkable (most people were walking by now). Barry was in second place overall (first male) and on track for a PB. It was great to see such amazing performances – Nicole ended up breaking the course record and Barry got his PB. They were both worthy winners! Most of the 24 hour runners  were looking a little worse for wear at the presentation!
In preparation for this event I re-read last year’s blog. I am very happy with how my run went and I managed to avoid making the same mistakes as last year. I said last year that I would like to do the 24 hour ‘one day’. Without Gold Coast the week before, next year could have been the year for it. But now, unfinished business and all, I am determined to give the 6 hour another crack. If I can come into it fresh, unlike the last 2 years, I’m confident I can get another PB, and who knows, maybe I might even go one better than this year!
I was talking to Sarah and Robbie on Sunday morning (Robbie had pulled the pin due to injury but not before completing 100k for the first time – remarkable given that for a lot of it he was wearing what looked a lot like full scuba gear!)  and Sarah had said she had struggled with the loop concept -she has the endurance but feels she is much better suited to trails. Which got me thinking. I love road running, trail and even track. But maybe loops are my ‘thing’! I’ve done 2 6 hour races now and finished second both times, and got first female in a 100k loop race. Weirdly enough, I seem to enjoy the monotony! 

Well done to everyone who participated this year and ESPECIALLY to all the volunteers and of course Ben for making it all happen! See you again next year!

Race Report – UTA 100


Ultra-Trail Australia. Where to begin?
I arrived in Sydney on Thursday around lunchtime and made my way to Katoomba via train from the airport. I had packed all my essential race gear in my hand luggage but fortunately my checked baggage made it to Sydney too. I had been looking out at the airport and on the plane for other UTA travellers but hadn’t seen any likely looking people but then at the carousel I heard someone call out my name. It was Mick, who had sadly had to pull out of UTA but had already booked his flights and a few comedy gigs in Sydney. He had been on my flight but we hadn’t seen each other. We wished each other well for our weekend ventures and went our separate ways.
My first “what the hell am I doing here?” moment came on the train to Katoomba when I got my first glimpse of the Blue Mountains. It suddenly hit me, what a huge undertaking this was! I quickly got over that though, and enjoyed the scenery for the remainder of the trip.
By the time I got to Katoomba, dropped my bags off at the hostel and did a quick grocery shop, it was getting towards dinner time. It was too late to go to the event expo/check in by then, so that would have to wait until Friday. Being the “only vegan in the village” none of the food the others were having was any good for me, so I think I had a peanut butter sandwich on white bread. Mmmm, nutritious!
We were staying in a house which was part of a hostel. I had stayed there the previous year. Wendy and Dej, veterans of 2 and 4 North Face 100’s respectively (the former name for UTA 100) had been staying there for several years before that. It was an ideal location, just 500m from the railway station, within easy walking distance of the main street, and also walking distance to Scenic World, the centerpiece of the UTA festival. It was also great to have a house to ourselves where we could spread out, do all our pre-race rituals and not have to annoy any non-runners who just wouldn’t have understood why we had to be so messy!
Also there was Karen, a frequent flyer on this blog, and a fellow UTA virgin. One more runner, Jonathan, was to arrive the following day. Jonathan and Dej were allocated the downstairs bedroom and us 3 ladies all got a room upstairs to ourselves.
On Friday I had planned to go for a light leg-loosener jog with my race vest on. I’d had to unpack it for travel so I wanted to make sure it was packed so it would be comfortable for the race. There was a laundry list of mandatory gear we had to carry throughout, which was essentially designed to save our lives if we got into trouble and had to wait for a while to get rescued. There were 2 items, a fleece top and waterproof pants, which we would be advised later that day if we would have to carry (this was dependent on weather – with a forecast of 20 degrees and sunshine, it looked highly likely that we would NOT have to carry them, and could instead leave them in a later drop bag.
Karen and I firstly decided to go for a stroll down to see the Three Sisters. Another brief “what are we doing?” moment happened when we saw the sign at Echo Point that signified that this was the 60km mark of the 100km race. We wondered how we would feel by the time we got here the next day!
After the obligatory selfie in front of the iconic Three Sisters rock formation, we decided to wander a bit further along the race route. After a quick toilet stop (mentally noting that this would be a good place for a pit stop during the race – anything to avoid those damn portaloos!) we went past the Visitor Centre and noticed a few cool sculptures along the path. No way would we have noticed these during the run! I saw my first echidna (OK it was a sculpture) and there was also a lyrebird, some lizards and some Christmas beetles high up on a rock – you really had to be looking to notice them! Then we hit the Giant Stairway – another “WTF?” moment – after going down a few steps we decided “sod that, let’s save that for tomorrow!”
After a nice coffee we headed back to the house, I set about packing my race vest and drop bags and Karen went to meet Jonathan at the station.
I’d already planned my drop bags so it was just a matter of ticking off all the items. I’d cooked a couple of sweet potatoes the night before and mashed them with some salt. That was my version of energy gels and it had worked for me in the past. Karen had somewhat unkindly likened the mash in a ziploc bag to the contents of a colostomy bag!
My race fuel consisted of: sports drink (in powdered form), sweet potato mash (in squeezy flasks), nut bars, Lifesavers, almonds, nut butter sandwiches and peanut butter. Dej was horrified that I was eating peanut butter – he hates the stuff! That’s pretty rich coming from a guy that likes to drink beetroot juice on a run! I packed some of each in my drop bags and my vest. As the first drop bag was not until Checkpoint 3 (45km in), I had to pack a bit of extra sustenance in my vest for the first leg.
Other than fuel, I also packed sunscreen for CP3 and CP4 (I expected it would be dark or getting close to it by CP5 so sunscreen there was unnecessary), insect repellent at CP4, and some clothing changes. I had a clean top and arm socks at CP3 and CP5, spare shoes and running skirt at CP4, and clean socks at all the checkpoints. We had to take our checkpoint drop bags to the expo by Friday night.
The competitor briefing which we’d received several weeks earlier had suggested Coles or Woolies cooler bags as good drop bags. I already had them from Heysen, but this being a much larger event, I had decided to try to personalise my bags to make them easier to spot. At Heysen I had attached bright yellow tags, but at UTA they had recommended not to do that, as the tags could become detached in transit. So I had written my name, race number and checkpoint number on each bag, and attached a bright pink ribbon (double knotted) to each handle.
I wanted to go to the expo a bit earlier and I wasn’t ready with my drop bags so I wandered down at about 2:30, fully laden race vest on. It was only about a 3km walk to the expo. Well it would have been, had I not relied on Apple Maps for directions. I should have known better – Apple Maps has steered me wrong several times before! Over an hour later I finally got to Scenic World only to find that the expo was actually at KCC (Katoomba Christian something) which fortunately was just across the road. On the plus side I had walked for over an hour with my pack and it felt very comfortable.
I didn’t have much time at the expo – my circuitous route to get there had left me with less time than I had planned, so I said a quick hello in passing to Sputnik at the iomerino stand and then made my way to Fox Creek Wines to get a souvenir UTA 100 bottle of wine and meet the La Sportiva team including Mick Keyte who is an SA runner who also happens to be my good friend Sam’s brother-in-law, and Beth Cardelli who is a multiple winner of this event.
I completed my check-in quickly (another brief “WTF?” moment when I saw my race bib with my name on it) and headed back to the house to finish packing my drop bags. I checked the event Facebook page for advice about the fleece and waterproof pants, and happily informed the rest of the crew that we could leave both items in our CP5 drop bags. It would then depend what time we left CP5, whether or not we’d have to carry either of those items. The 5 of us then took the complimentary shuttle bus back to KCC to put our drop bags on the trucks, carefully making sure we put the right bag on the right truck! This was it – no turning back now!
I was the only one out of our group who attended the ‘compulsory’ race briefing. I saw a few familiar faces there – Alex, who had run this event last year and who I had also run with a few times in the lead-up to Heysen 105 last year, and Kim, who was with a group of runners who had done the Big Red Run (a desert stage race) last year and had decided to have a reunion of sorts here at UTA.
I was glad I went – it started with a traditional (and very entertaining) welcome. Then there was the ‘safety guy’ who gave us two key messages – don’t overhydrate (never an issue for me) and don’t take drugs (especially anti-inflammatories but even paracetamol). Finally the Race Director Tom Landon-Smith gave another entertaining address to complete proceedings. I quickly legged it to the bus – it was about 7:15pm by now and I hadn’t had time to eat dinner beforehand and really wanted an early night.
After waiting a little while for the bus (not surprisingly, most of the 1000-strong crowd from the briefing wanted to get on a bus!) I got back to the house just before 8. I had asked Karen (when she had left the expo earlier) to put on some pasta for me and it was just about ready as I walked in the door – perfect! I dumped it in a large microwave bowl (none of the ‘normal’ sized bowls were anywhere near big enough for an ultramarathoner appetite!), threw in some bottled pasta sauce and a bit of spinach and pretty much inhaled it! A glass of red wine and some dark chocolate topped off the meal nicely.
There wasn’t much left to do – my finish line drop bag was packed (mostly warm clothes as well as my fluffy slippers which would be a welcome relief to get into!) and my race vest was ready to go. I went to bed around 9:30ish, with my alarm set for 4:30. My alarm was on my old phone, which had no SIM card in it and had not automatically updated the time when we’d changed time zones – so it was still on SA time, half an hour behind! Lucky I’d checked it!
On Saturday morning we were all up early. Dej was in the first (fastest) start group and he was also going to get there early for a warmup with his coach, Brendan Davies. Warming up for a 100km ultra – hardly seemed necessary in my opinion but Dej is a veteran of this event and is the owner of a coveted silver belt buckle (sub-14 hour finisher) so I presumed he knew what he was doing!
After my usual breaky (muesli, Weetbix, chia and almond milk with a glass of OJ), I had one moment of minor panic when I was getting dressed and couldn’t find my running undies. SURELY I couldn’t have forgotten to pack them? I hadn’t packed any other running undies as I hadn’t planned to run other than this one race. I was debating with myself, do I wear non-running undies or do I go commando under my compression shorts? I had opted for commando and then turned around and saw my undies there on the bed – phew! Never try anything new on race day – especially when it’s a 100km race!
I did try something new though. My race kit consisted of my Yurrebilla race singlet and buff from last year (why not do a bit of promotion for a fantastic SA race out on the trails?), and none of my striped arm socks matched that top, so I’d bought new ones which had never been used before. I also wore cycling gloves, a recommendation from Wendy, because there was a bit of rock climbing involved and it would save my hands. Wendy’s suggestion was to wear them throughout. Other than this it was a pretty stock standard kit for me – compression shorts and calf sleeves, trail shoes, black socks and my favourite lululemon running skirt with side zip pocket and a few waistband pockets which are useful for having snacks at hand
I had a few moments to kill after I was ready and I thought I might as well go – Jonathan was in the group before me and had left not long ago. Better to be early than late, although if I was late for my start group I could always start in a later group which was nice. Wendy and Karen were a few groups behind me so they left the house a bit later.
On the bus I put on my sunscreen – it seemed odd to be doing it in the dark but it was going to be a warm day – I wasn’t taking any chances!
At Scenic World I dropped off my finish line drop bag and made a quick pit stop before watching the first start group set off. I met Sonja and Mike, two Adelaide runners who I’d met on a trail run early in the year and had been following on Strava. Before I knew it, Start Group 2 had gone and my group was being called! This really WAS it! Another Adelaide runner, Anna, called out to me. I hadn’t realised she was iny start group. Only days earlier she had been trying to downgrade to the 50km race as she’d had a lot of health issues and did not feel she was prepared for the 100km. Having not been able to arrange a swap, here she was! We wished each other all the best and we were away!
The first 4km was an out and back, on road, around Scenic World. It was a nice way to ease into it and there were a lot of people there cheering us on. Among them was Lucy Bartholomew, a well known ultra runner who I had met a few weeks earlier at a Q & A night. She has run Yurrebilla a few times. She was supporting her dad on this occasion and I recognised her and called out. I don’t know if she recognised me personally but she did call out “Yurrebilla!”
I ran with Hoa for a while, another Adelaide runner who had run the event the previous year. She was planning to run with Bev who was in group 4, one behind us. Bev was hoping to catch up with us. Hoa informed me that Anna was already well in front of us. That would be right, I thought, not even sure if she can make the distance and she’s going to have a smashing run anyway! We saw the first start group running back as we were running out – I spotted Dej and wished him all the best (as if he needed it!)
Hoa quickly picked up the pace and that was the last I saw of her!
Early on, we met the Furber Steps. I was a bit familiar with these steps. We would become reacquainted with them at around the 99km mark when we would have to go up them. All 951 of them. Fortunately, at this early stage, we were descending!
At around 6.5km, I don’t know what I tripped over, but I fell. I grazed my right knee and elbow, and probably would have grazed my right hand too if not for the gloves. There was a bit of blood but nothing too serious. I bounced up and kept going. I could get first aid at CP1 which was less than 5km away. I had fallen over at Heysen 105 too, again seemingly tripping on nothing, but that was at the 38km mark. I think probably I am cautious in the more technical sections but probably a bit blasé in the ‘easier’ bits. Plus, we were in the freaking Blue Mountains – it was hard not to be distracted by the incredible scenery!
In this section too, I saw the only instance of bad blood (no pun intended!) between runners. Etiquette states that if a faster runner behind you wants to get past, you let them. Behind me, on a technical rocky section, someone was trying to pass another runner. The runner in front took exception to this, saying it was not the time or place, there was a long way to go, and there was a wider fire track up ahead which would be ideal for overtaking. The runner behind got a bit shitty about this and while there were no raised voices, it was a little tense. I was thinking, come on guys, can’t we all just get along? The guy behind did end up passing, and I later let him pass me without a word. I can see both guys’ points of view but it really left a bit of a sour taste when trail runners and ultramarathoners in general are noted for their great camaraderie!
A little after this I was joined by a runner called Alex from NSW. He had previously run the event in 16 hours and that was the time I was (naïvely) hoping to do, so I was pleased to stick with him and chat for a while. He went on ahead just before CP1 and we wished each other all the best in case our paths didn’t cross again.
Somewhere along here we encountered the Golden Stairs, our first tough ascent for the day. I have to admit I have no recollection of this – others complained about these stairs after the event, but I just had no memory of them. It must have been that all those seemingly endless ascents and descents blurred into one!
I reached the first checkpoint at Narrow Neck (11.4km) in 1 hour 34 minutes. I put on some more sunscreen and topped up my water and sports drink (I also had a bladder with 1 litre of water in it – I hoped not to have to use this, as the bladder would be a pain in the arse to get out, refill and put back in.) I didn’t need anything else so early in the race, so I was about to get going when someone asked me if I needed first aid. Oh that’s right. My elbow and knee! Fortunately I had forgotten about them in the last 5km since I had fallen! I made my way to the first aid tent where the first aid officer insisted I sit down (I was reluctant as I thought it would be too hard to get going again). Paul Rogers of Fox Creek Wines was also at the first aid tent helping out – it was great to see a familiar face, since most of the people I knew who were in town, were actually competing in the race! My wounds were assessed as non-life-threatening, and cleaned up with a bit of saline. I was given a warm glass of concrete and sent on my way.
The next little section, Narrow Neck, was familiar. I had run this section last year as part of a training run – it was a week out from the Barossa Marathon and I had done my long 20km run on the Friday. Wendy had suggested this might be a good place to do my run. Last year it was so peaceful and a pleasure to run, getting away from the chaos for a while. This year, it wasn’t quite so peaceful (what with all the other runners around) but no less pleasant. It was gently undulating, wide fire track. This was going to be a piece of cake! (Except it wasn’t, and I knew that!)
Not far out of CP1 there was a sign indicating a photographer was ahead. The girl next to me had picked up a sturdy stick along the way which she was using to help her along. (I saw a lot of people do this. Also many people with trekking poles. At many times I wished I had poles or at least a stick!) As soon as she realised there was a photographer ahead, she quickly disposed of the stick – she didn’t want a photo of her using a stick, especially not at this early stage!
I smiled and waved at the photographer. I was tempted to try jumping – jump shots can look awesome and there was Buckley’s chance of my being able to pull off a jump shot in the later stages, however the last time I attempted this i nearly strangled myself with my buff so I opted for a smile and wave instead!
Around this time I was caught by another Adelaide runner, Ryley. I had briefly met him while I was helping out at a checkpoint during the Coastal Challenge ultramarathon back in Adelaide. He has a very distinctive beard so is hard to miss! We ran together briefly but he was in start group 5 (he started 20 minutes behind me) and was clearly running faster than me, so we weren’t together for long. That was pretty much the story of the day, you’d run with someone for 5 or 10 minutes, have a bit of a chat, get each other’s life story, and then one person would go on ahead. It was nice. THIS was the camaraderie I had been expecting!
At the 22km mark we came to Tarros Ladders. There was a slight delay here as only 8 people can be on the ladders at one time. There is an alternative route which is slightly longer and bypasses the ladders. Runners are sometimes rerouted via the bypass when the ladders are busy. When I arrived, I was told that the time to get down via the ladders and the bypass would be about the same, so I went with the ladders. The girl ahead of me on the ladders said when she had last done this descent, the ladders weren’t there and she had to use spikes in the rocks to descend. I thought that was a little harsh – I later found out that it wasn’t during the race that she did it, it was just a training run! (The extension ladders that we climbed down are installed specifically for the event and are not there at other times).
The ladders were kind of fun! I was glad I was going down and not up!
I ended up running with the girl who had been ahead of me on the ladders. Her name was Belinda and she was from the local area. We ran together for a while, then I got ahead for a bit and she caught up. Her husband was running too, in start group 1. I asked her if she was hoping to catch up to him and she sort of laughed and said no, he was fast. He had done the Western States (a hardcore ultra in the US which is really hard to get into) and had also run the Boston Marathon. We chatted about Boston for a while, Boston qualification being one of my main goals for this year. She said the atmosphere was amazing, and crowds lined the streets from start to finish. I thought that would have been nice here (but highly impractical given the environment!) – the crowds at Scenic World on the first little out and back section had really given me a boost!
Checkpoint 2 was at Dunphy’s Camp at 31.6km, accessed by climbing over a stile. More bloody stairs! I reached Dunphy’s in just under 4 hours 15 minutes. I had lost Belinda at this stage. First order of business was to top up my bottles. There was a Scottish guy at the drink station saying “Water here and sports drink over there” (or words to that effect. While filling my bottles I asked him if he got sick of saying that, over and over and over again. (I had volunteered at a drink station before. I DID get sick of it after a while!) He said no, but if I got sick of hearing it, that meant I’d been there too long! Fair point! Next on the agenda, while there was no queue at the portaloos, was a toilet stop – silly me decided to take my race vest in with me instead of leaving it on the ground outside like the sensible people did. I accidentally knocked the end of the hose of my bladder (ie the bit you put in your mouth) on the back of the door – ewww!
After that I went over to where the food was, had a handful of potato crisps, sat down on the ground and got myself organised for the next section, a little over 14km away. I wiped my hands with a baby wipe and then with another I wiped over the drinky bit on my hose. I’d rather the taste of baby wipe than the taste of portaloo! Besides, the bladder was for emergency use only! I got out half a sandwich, and while still eating it, set off for the next leg.
Not far out of the checkpoint I saw a familiar Big Red Run T-shirt. It was Ruby, who I had met at the briefing. This was her first 100km trail ultra – she had entered one previously that had turned into a track ultra because of flooding making the trail impossible to run. Happily, there were no such issues in the Blue Mountains! We ran together for a short while before she powered on ahead. I could see her distinctive red calf compression sleeves ahead for a while and then she was gone!
I soon came to an interesting part of the course, Ironpot Mountain and Ironpot Ridge. This was a roughly 500m in total, out and back section along a fairly narrow, rocky track. As I commenced the ‘out’, I heard a voice calling my name. It was Anna, who had just finished the ‘back’, so was around 500m ahead of me. I continued on, passing the 35km marker and the musicians at the top. We could hear the didgeridoo music and the sticks (I’m not sure if they have a special name) from a little way away and it was great to see and hear them on the ridge. David, who had done the traditional welcome at the briefing the night before, was there encouraging and high fiving the runners as we went through. It was a real lift for the spirits!
Not long after this we hit the aptly named Megalong Valley Road – it was LOOOONG! This is a dirt road, so we had to be on the lookout for traffic. This was where my buff first came in useful, as I could pull it over my nose and mouth when cars went past, so I didn’t have to inhale the dust.
It wasn’t just cars though, there was the occasional crazy bike rider as well! One such crazy bike rider looked oddly familiar – it was Rob, who you may remember from such blog posts as last year’s City2Surf. He’d come down from Sydney to cheer on a number of people he knew in the race. I gave him a high five as he passed me and carried on my merry way!
Somewhere along here I picked up an English guy called Mark who was from Perth. He was struggling, having rolled his ankle, and was intending to pull out at Checkpoint 3. He had walking poles in a drop bag but that was at Checkpoint 5 and he was unlikely to make it that far. (One of the benefits of having a support person is that they can have all your stuff available at checkpoints 3, 4 and 5, so you don’t have to plan ahead what you think you will need at each checkpoint.) Even if he had had the poles he probably would not have made it to the end. He jokingly said that if he pulled out, he might volunteer at the first aid tent at CP3, being a paramedic!
We walked/jogged (mostly walked) and chatted for a while, and then when we came to a point where I felt like picking up the pace for a bit (getting close to the checkpoint) he told me to go on ahead – he had decided he was definitely going to pull out, but would be able to make it to the checkpoint OK. Just before this we had seen a guy with poles on the side of the road, looking like he was in a bit of trouble. We asked if he was OK, and he said his hip and knee were giving him hell and he was going to pull out at CP3. After making sure he would be able to make it to the checkpoint, we had moved on. Not long after that we saw him slowly making his way to Checkpoint 3.
After I left Mark, I jogged for a while and I saw a familiar back in front of me. It was Anna again! She was really struggling and was planning to pull the pin at CP3 where her husband Michael was waiting for her. I asked her if she wanted some company and she said yes, so we walked together up to CP3 at Six Foot Track (46km). If she was going to pull out here,she wasn’t going to end the journey alone! We had been going for 6 hours 40 minutes at this stage. 
On arrival at CP3 we were subjected to a gear check – we had to show our waterproof jackets and head torches. Michael was there with Coke (OMG I was SO excited to have some Coke!) and some boiled salted potatoes which he kindly shared with me. I had met him several times before doing events with Anna, as we were around the same pace so I’d often see him at checkpoints waiting for her and he was always happy to help me out. I left them there to go and get my drop bag – at this point Anna was talking about trying to walk to CP4 (‘only’ 11.3km away) and then reassessing from there. I wished her all the best in case I didn’t see her again.
I went to the drop bag tent – on the way there I saw Ryley sitting on a chair looking like he was sitting by a pool at a tropical resort! At the tent I got my bag and sat down. I had gotten over my ‘fear’ of sitting down at checkpoints, realising that it was a necessity (for me at least, maybe not for the elites) in an event such as this. After reapplying my sunscreen and getting out the food I wanted for the next leg, I changed my top. I didn’t really feel I needed to change yet, but my next clean top was not until CP5 (78km – another 32km away) and I didn’t want to take the risk of chafing (which has happened to me in the past in ultras when I’ve worn one top for too long) and I didn’t want to carry the clean top. I kept the same arm socks on though, I really liked the colours on these ones! I filled up my bottles again on the way out and couldn’t resist grabbing another handful of chips and a couple of glasses of Coke. All in all I was there for 17 minutes (runners were timed at a number of points along the course and at some of the checkpoints we were timed on the way in and the way out).
The best thing about the next section was the halfway point! I was on my own at this stage (well there were others around me but I wasn’t specifically running with anyone) and we were on a track called the Six Foot Track. I knew the 50km marker had to be coming soon. My Garmin wasn’t showing an accurate distance, it was somewhere between 500m and 1km under the proper distance. That would be REALLY annoying at the finish line if it only read 99km!
Finally – yes – there it was! The halfway point! I forgot to sing Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ as I had done last year at Yurrebilla, but I did take a beaming selfie next to the sign. 7.5 hours down and I had reached the halfway mark. I knew, though, that the back half would be MUCH tougher.
For a while I ran with a girl called Danielle. I can’t remember where she was from – I have a feeling it was the Gold Coast. She, like me, was a relatively new runner, having only been running for about 3 years. She told me that she’d previously been a heavy smoker and drinker, so this was quite a dramatic change in her life! She also told me that I should definitely do the Six Foot Track marathon, an iconic event in this same area which I have heard a lot of people rave about. Another one for the bucket list!
Another girl I ran with briefly was called Kaz. We were in a small group at that stage, and Kaz was saying she wanted to sing ‘500 Miles’ by The Proclaimers but didn’t want to do it as a solo. So naturally I helped her out! And the people around is joined in! I would have liked to keep the karaoke party going for a bit longer but Kaz was a bit too quick for me so she was gone! I hope she found another singing buddy!
A bit further up the road, I came to the notorious stairway out of Nellies Glen. Definitely not the Stairway To Heaven. Stairway From Hell, maybe! The number of stairs is unclear (I certainly wasn’t counting them) but I later Googled and it is widely estimated that there are around 500 stairs. Now, normally when you climb a lot of stairs (and up until UTA I never had any problems with stairs), you get some respite with a landing every 15-16 stairs. Here, there were no landings, so it was a constant climb. It was, for me, the hardest part of the course. I definitely wished I had walking poles here! (Wendy later told me that she’d seen a whole pile of sticks at the top of the stairs that people had used to help them up. Pity there wasn’t a nice person to take them down to the bottom for the next lot of climbers!) I think from memory there were a few rails here and there (and wherever there were rails, I would use them to full advantage) but really, it was just a nasty, nasty section. To give some idea, it took over an hour for me to get from 50km to 55km. It was a hard slog! Somewhere along that climb I heard a voice call my name. It was Marc, a fellow Adelaide runner who had started in group 6 – he was making good time! He soon passed me and stayed ahead of me for the rest of the day.
Approaching CP4 I saw a girl standing by a tree. It was Sonja from Adelaide who I’d seen at the start. Turned out she had torn her Achilles only 6 weeks ago and was actually happy to have gotten this far in the event! After making sure she was OK to make it to the next checkpoint, I pressed on.
At 57km we were back in Katoomba again and into CP4 in the Katoomba Aquatic Centre. This was a weird checkpoint as it was indoors. So we’d go from some pretty spectacular trails, to a gym in the middle of the town! I was mildly surprised to see Michael there, and even more surprised to hear that Anna had got there ahead of me! She hadn’t passed me in the last leg, so we worked out that she must have left CP3 before me and stayed in front. I had some more Coke and potato thanks to Michael, and sat down on the floor and removed a pesky rock from my shoe that had been annoying me for some time. I reapplied my sunscreen for the last time and topped up my drinks again. Again I was there for 17 minutes and Anna set off about 5 minutes ahead of me, I said I’d catch up. She said she’d only be walking. I didn’t bother with a toilet stop here becauee only 3km away was Echo Point and the nice public toilets Karen and I had seen the previous day. I thought I saw Marc on his way out as I was sitting on the floor but couldn’t be arsed getting up at that stage to talk to him! I also saw Ryley again sitting on a chair looking quite chilled. He was still doing OK.
Not long after this I was running along a path leading up to Echo Point when I could hear cheering and music. I said to the guy next to me, “Is that the finish line?” He said something like “I wish! We’re only at 60km!” But it was the finish line – the first of the runners were starting to come through and we still had another 40km to go. What kind of sadist makes people go so close to the finish line that they can hear it, with almost half the race still to go? 
I saw Michael again at Echo Point – support crews were not allowed here but it is a big tourist area so they couldn’t stop people from coming along to watch and cheer. And it was nice. Not only those who had come to watch the runners, but also the random tourists who happened to be there, all gave us a great reception. I saw Anna, she was still ahead of me at this stage. My plan to use the nice toilets was thwarted when I saw the queue out the door. Queue? I was in a race! Screw that! Plus I didn’t really need to go that badly. The tourists on the path were very courteous, they would always get out of the runners’ way. The Giant Stairway was a perfect example of this, it is a very narrow and steep descent and tourists, seeing us coming down, would stand aside and let us through. I actually quite liked this bit. Especially with the handrails to hold onto, I was able to go down there at a reasonable pace! 
Near the bottom I encountered a guy on his phone. Turned out his support crew had broken his bladder and were out at one of the outdoor shops buying a new one! So, I guess there’s a good advertisement for NOT having a support crew! I asked him if he was OK for water, I still had my emergency 1 litre in my bladder and said he could fill his bottles from that if he needed to. I thought a broken bladder definitely constituted an emergency! He said no thanks, he’d be fine to get to the next water point which was only about 7-8km away.
Not long after this we were in a beautiful forest. It was a bit dark down there and I was contemplating getting out my head torch. It was around this time that I finally caught up with Anna. It was probably about 5pm by then and we were starting to see some amazing colours in the sky. We stopped to take some photos at a waterfall (I can’t remember which one!) and I said to Anna, “How beautiful is this?” Anna said that was so Aussie, making a statement like that in the form of a question! I’d never actually noticed that before but we do do that a lot, don’t we? I said to her, you’ll know you’re a proper Aussie when you start saying “Yeah, nah”! She said that they have a similar expression in her native South Africa so I guess we’re not all that different!
We decided it was definitely time to don the head torches. I took off my cap and carried it, and pulled my buff up over my head as a headband, so my torch wouldn’t rub on my head.
Around this time a guy ran past us, singing. It was Ryley again! He had left CP4 after me and the extended break had obviously done him good because he seemed to be in great spirits and running well!
A guy running near us said “This looks like a golf course!” That was good news, because that meant we were near the Fairmont Resort in Leura which was the 69km water point. Here there were only basic supplies (chips, lollies and water) and no support crews were allowed, so no Coke and spuds! On the way into the Fairmont we passed some apartments, some people cheered us on through an open window. I called out, “Do you have wine?” The girl said “We’ve got bubbly!” As tempting as that was, it was probably not the best hydration strategy so we politely declined her offer! (I don’t think Anna was remotely tempted!) 
After the volunteers helped us to fill our bottles, we were told it was time to put on our hi-viz vests and then we set off. (The hi-viz vests were actually great, despite making it really annoying to get anything out of the race vest, because you could really easily see when there were other runners.)
It was ‘only’ about another 9km to the final major checkpoint, Checkpoint 5. (I say ‘only’ because 9km in this context can be a bloody long way!)
Anna was slightly ahead of me because, after having put on my hi-viz, I remembered that I wanted to put my sunnies and cap in my race vest.
After repacking my vest and putting my hi-viz back on, I quickly caught up, but I didn’t recognise her for a moment because I’d forgotten she’d put her thermal top on. I had opted not to put any warm clothes on at this stage. I still had my arm socks on and was finding it really helpful to be able to roll the sleeves down and up as needed. As we descended it would often get a bit cooler so I’d roll them up to my shoulders, and then as we went back up I’d get warm again so I’d roll them down to below my elbows. My cycling gloves, although fingerless, kept my hands warmish. I had calf sleeves on so my legs were reasonably warm. Plus, it wasn’t actually that cold.
It was slow going to the next checkpoint. From the timing point just before the Fairmont, to CP5, was approximately 10km and it took us exactly 2 hours to get there. Anna was struggling especially on the uphills and we needed to stop frequently for a breather. There was little or no running by this stage! We heard a waterfall and Anna speculated that it might be Wentworth Falls. It probably was, given that CP5 was in the town of Wentworth Falls, but given that it was pitch black by now, we couldn’t see it! I thought back to the 60km mark, when it was still daylight, and thought about how awesome it would be to be able to run the whole race in daylight!
We did manage to run a bit in the bitumen section leading up to CP5. A runner passed us, calling out to me. It was Sylvia, a Gold Coast runner who I had met on a trail run back in January when she’d been visiting Adelaide with her husband for the cycling Tour Down Under. She was still going strong.
The entrance to CP5 was something else! If ever there was a rock star reception, this was it! We could hear the music pumping as we approached and the gathered crowd roared as we entered. For one fleeting moment I thought this actually WAS the finish line!
There was Michael again, and also some unexpected familiar faces! My friend Sam, after having come from Sydney and cheered on his brother-in-law Mick (who by now had long since finished) all day, had been following my progress and had come to cheer me on at CP5! Also there was occasional Thursday morning running buddy Toni who was there cheering on Marc (who had already been through) and Di, who wasn’t far behind us. It was great to see some familiar faces among the crowd!
I went to do my thing with my drop bag including a wardrobe change (fresh top and sleeves) and then one last loo stop, during which Michael filled my drink bottles. I had forgotten to get my last ziploc bag of Gatorade powder out of my drop bag, and I wasn’t going back now, so my Gatorade for the last leg was somewhat diluted! (When unpacking my vest after the race, I found an extra bag in one of the pockets of my vest!)
We were told at this checkpoint that not only did we not have to carry our fleece or waterproof pants, we also didnt have to wear our hi-viz vests anymore (but we still had to carry them). Double win! 
I grabbed a couple of cups of Coke as we exited the checkpoint for the last 22km. Just past the checkpoint was a guy having a spew. There was a lot of that out there. At one stage we were playing ‘dodge the spew’ as we made our way along the trail!
The next 12km was a hard slog. We were ticking off the kilometres as best we could with both our Garmins being inaccurate (and when we asked other runners what distance their watches were showing, theirs were often different again!) and hanging out for the markers that came every 5km (each one was met with a minor celebration!)
90km was a big barrier. Anna was worried that she was taking a big risk with her health continuing on, and was really keen to get checked out by the first aid crew at the final stop, an emergency aid station at around 91km. She really wanted to finish, especially having got so far, but wanted some peace of mind that it was safe to do so. After what seemed like an eternity, we saw the 90km marker and one long kilometre later we reached the last aid station. 9km to go. While the first aid guys checked Anna, I sent a quick text to a few people to let them know that we were at 91km and were going to finish but might be a while. Anna was given the all clear to continue, but was told that if she needed to pull out later, the last timing point at 94km (at the delightfully named ‘Sewerage Treatment Works’) was the Point Of No Return. From there on, there was no way for crews to get a car in to pick her up. If she went beyond there, she had to finish.
We were told we had to put our hi-viz back on. I had thought it was weird that they’d told us we didn’t have to wear it after CP5. Especially since there were cars on the dirt roads/tracks we were running on.

We reached the last timing point just before 11:30pm (16 hours 50 minutes in). We were going to the finish. And we were going to get a belt buckle (for finishing under 20 hours) – only 6km to go!
Then there was mud! Or, given the name of the timing point, probably sewerage! EWWWW! We had to squelch our way through it and by the time we got through our shoes were caked in it. Mud. Let’s call it mud. Anna was wearing gaiters which I had decided was something I needed for my next ultra. They are good for keeping rocks and sand out. As it turned out, not particularly useful for mud!
The next 5km was reasonably pleasant. I wasn’t confident running on the narrow trails because even with my head torch I couldn’t see that well, and I definitely did NOT want to trip and fall again! I used my handheld backup light as well as my head torch and that seemed to give better illumination, but even so I was mostly walking. We met a guy called Jack who was from Adelaide originally but now based in Cairns with the military. He had had a fractured fibula a number of years ago and as a result his ankle mobility was a bit limited. What a coincidence that he happened to be running with 2 physiotherapists! We chatted about his injury and the likelihood of improvement in ankle mobility, and also later he sought our advice on recovery (in particular, when to get a massage). Anna offered to give him a free massage in return for him carrying her up the upcoming Furber Steps. For some reason, he didn’t take her up on that offer!
We soon reached the point where earlier in the day (when it was still light), we had passed the 50km runners going the other way as they approached the finish. Now, FINALLY, we were nearly there!
After a few other sets of stairs that we thought were the start of the Furber Steps, we saw the joy-inducing sign that said ‘1km to go’. OK, it was pretty much 1km of stairs, but it was so close we could taste it! We could hear the festivities at the finish line!
It was just under 18 hours when we reached the bottom of the steps. Slowly, and with frequent rests, we made our way up the steps. I did break into song at one point. Appropriately, I thought, it was ‘The Climb’ by Miley Cyrus. Anna was not impressed!
About halfway up the stairs my Garmin died. It had been warning me that the battery was low for a while, but I thought I’d wing it, and I couldn’t be arsed getting my portable charger out of my pack. It wouldn’t have read 100km anyway so did I really want to put it on Strava?
Slowly but surely we plodded up the stairs, using the rails as needed and for seemingly the millionth time for the day, I made a stupid joke about there needing to be an escalator. (In fairness each time I made the joke it was to a different person!)

A volunteer said ‘just a couple more flights and you’re there!’ I thanked him for being the first person today who was not a LIAR! (‘You’re nearly there’ is the biggest lie in distance running. But this guy was telling the truth!)
We got to the top of the steps. Wendy had advised Karen and me before the race, to turn off our head torches as we approached the finish, as the light would affect the quality of the finish line photo. Anna took off her torch, checked with me that she didn’t have a head torch shaped dent in her forehead, and I put the torch into her pack. I turned off my torch and let it drop round my neck, and with my buff on, head torch dent was not a concern for me. We rounded the corner and there it was!
THE FINISH LINE!
WE WERE THERE!
WE HAD DONE IT!
Anna grabbed my hand and we ran across the finish line. Triumphant. Together. It was a really special moment. I’d never crossed a finish line with someone else before and it was a perfect end to what was a very tough but satisfying day. We were each given a coveted bronze belt buckle and a souvenir finisher towel.
WHAT A DAY!
It wasn’t over yet. Anna and I finished just before 1am, in 18 hours 22 minutes. Dej was there to see us finish, after having finished quite a few hours earlier (he had had time to go back to the house for a shower and all!) After grabbing my drop bag, my first priority was getting out of my stinky muddy shoes and socks and slipping into my ugg boots – ahhh! Dej and I went up to the Runners’ Lounge where we met SA trail running legend Terry Cleary (whose day hadn’t gone to plan) and his mate Dave from Darwin who had had a great first 100km race. Terry bought me a wine (thanks Terry!) and after a quick wardrobe change and scavenging all the food that was left from my drop bags and my race vest, I had some delicious hot chips – sooo good! (I stopped short of eating peanut butter from the container, knowing Dej’s aversion! That would have to wait till we got back to the house!)
We saw Kim, who had unfortunately had to pull out at 70km due to blisters. When Terry gave her a lift back to her accommodation, Dej and I went to have a nap on the beanbags while waiting for Wendy and Karen to finish. Dej set his alarm for 1 hour and despite the music still pumping outside and the finish line announcer still going (I have NO idea how she still had any voice left!) we managed to catch a few z’s before heading outside to see Wendy finish. 
It was so great to be able to watch her cross the line, I’d missed seeing her finish last year and after health issues since late last year, she wasn’t even sure she’d be able to run the event until quite recently. Dej took Wendy inside to get warm and I waited outside for Karen and another Adelaide runner, Jen. Jen’s husband Stirling had had to pull out after a fall before CP3 and was there at the finish line. Jen had seen the sunrise last year, taking around 24 hours to complete the course. This time she took about 2 hours off that time (powering across the finish line!) and was stoked to receive a medal. Last year, because she missed the 20 hour cutoff for a belt buckle, she had walked away empty handed – thankfully the organisers had seen fit to award medals to all runners over 20 hours this year. Not far behind Jen was Karen, who also finished strongly and announced ‘NEVER AGAIN!’ (Wendy had said the same, but she had also said that last year!) We had all made it!
We stayed in the Runners Lounge for a while to allow Karen, Jen and Wendy to get changed and get some food and drink. We got to meet Race Director Tom Landon-Smith. I told him “No offence, great event but I won’t be doing it again!” Tom’s response was, “I wouldn’t run it!”
Eventually we got a taxi back to the house, seeing the beautiful sunrise as we went. After eating a whole bunch more food, showering and somehow getting my compression tights on, I finally went to bed around 7:30am. An hour or so later I was up again to go to the presentation – one of our SA runners, Howard, had won his age group.
The presentations overlapped with the last of the 100km runners finishing. Those runners got the best reception of all! Among them was Alf, a 74 year old man who had also been one of the last finishers last year. Early in the race, I had run with last year’s sweeper who had told me he’d run the last 20km with Alf, pushing him towards the end to give him an hour to get up the Furber Steps and make cutoff. He did the stairs in 40 minutes. This year he did the stairs in 33 minutes and made cutoff by 13 minutes. I wonder if he’ll be back for more next year? 

Sam came back from Sydney to take me for a celebratory lunch, and later that night the 5 of us from the house went for the traditional post-race dinner at the local Thai place just up the hill with Terry, Dave and another Darwin friend Robbie. I find spicy food really helps my recovery! Despite being incredibly tired from sleep deprivation and just overall fatigue, I could have listened to Terry, Karen, Dej and Wendy exchanging trail running stories all night!

On Monday morning, Jonathan having left for an early flight, Dej, Wendy, Karen and I got up early to walk to Echo Point to watch the stunning sunrise. We all wore our UTA T-shirts and there were a few others down there wearing them too, so we exchanged stories with them while marvelling at the view.

It was a perfect way to end an epic weekend!
So, after having said “Never again” after the race, I may be wavering a bit. Maybe I will do the 100 again. I can see myself doing the 50km, and a lot of the other Adelaide runners have also said they’d do the 50 but not the 100 again. I won’t do the 100 again on the training I’ve done. I will need to focus on UTA and not try to do everything. Having said that, I’m really happy with how I went, and can’t really see any way (other than training properly) I could have done better.
UTA is not for the faint hearted. But it is an amazing experience in a stunning location with awesome people. If you’re up for a serious challenge, I can highly recommend it!
Now it’s time for recovery and eating everything in sight -then back into marathon training mode!

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: https://randomthoughtsandracereports.wordpress.com/2015/10/25/race-report-heysen-105/

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
ride!

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!

Race Report – SA Trail Championships

The SA Trail Championships are run every year on the Cleland Trails. There are 3 distances on offer (being a trail race, all distances are approximate) – 6km, 12km and the championship 24km course.

Cleland is a popular spot for hikers and runners alike, with regular wildlife sightings (I’ve seen kangaroos, koalas and even deer) and some pretty challenging sections of trail. Any time from early in the morning to the dark of night, you’re bound to run into someone – from weekend warriors to serious proper athletes. I’ve done it in mornings before work, Sunday Runday, even Friday night group trail runs. I’ve run through there during Yurrebilla Ultra Marathon (during YUM, Cleland is home to one of the best buffets I’ve seen) and I even spent last New Year’s Eve running through there.

Trail Running SA, who put on the SA Trail Championships, also put on social runs on most Sundays when there are no trail races scheduled. I’d run the Cleland 24km loop, pretty much the same as the Championships course, several times, so was pretty familiar with the terrain and the course.  

The first time I ran Cleland was also the very first Sunday social trail run I ever did. We were given printed, very clear, directions (eg “400m along Winter Track and then left on Long Ridge.”) Even so, one of my regular running buddies (who shall remain nameless) somehow ended up atop Mount Lofty (which was in no way part of the run) and tried to call several people for help. Said people allegedly saw who was calling and decided to ignore the calls! I ran with Kim and we did pretty well except towards the end when we took a wrong turn which ended very quickly in a dead end and we got back on track.

Another time I ran with Beck in pretty horrible conditions. Cold, windy and rainy. We were lucky enough to finish just before the big deluge hit. David, who organised the run, was not so lucky – getting back to the Cleland café just after us, he somewhat resembled a drowned rat!

This was my first Trail Championships. In 2014, my first full year of running, I was training for my first marathon and from memory it was only about 5 or 6 weeks away. I’d opted for a long road run instead of a challenging trail course where I might roll an ankle (being extremely inexperienced on trails) and put my marathon plans into disarray. In 2015 the championships clashed with the inaugural Bay-City Fun Run, which I decided to make into an ‘out and back’ to make it into a long road run, again as part of my marathon training.

This year I am also in marathon training but the marathon I am training for is later in the year. I’m also training for a challenging trail ultra in just under 3 weeks. This year, the Trail Champs fit perfectly into my plans!

I spent the week debating the merits of racing it versus using it as a training run. Realistically I wasn’t ever going to be a contender (although many very good trail runners would be skipping this event to taper for the inaugural Hubert ultra next weekend) but I still couldn’t resist the opportunity to race! A training run would mean wearing my big race vest, laden with mandatory gear and a bag of rice for extra weight. I’ve been trying to make up for my lack of training by running some of my regular road and hill runs with the race vest. But I didn’t really fancy doing that at the Championships. Instead, I opted to wear my small race vest just with sports drink and maybe half a litre of water, simply so I wouldn’t have to stop at the drink stations. (That tactic had actually resulted in my getting a placing at the Kuitpo Forest trail race last year).

I was picked up in the morning by regular morning running buddy Max and her husband Ray. I had gone out without a jacket – thinking my rainbow coloured arm socks would be warm enough – but was quickly sent back inside to get something warmer. I was so glad I did too, because it was a tad chilly at Cleland when we arrived about 45 minutes before go time! I peeled off the jacket with about 10 minutes to go.

I didn’t really have a goal time in mind. Mark, one of the fast runners I try to keep up with on my morning runs, asked me at the start what time I was aiming for. I said “2 and a half hours but I have a feeling that is a bit ambitious”. 2 hours would be 5 minute kms (even less, considering it was a bit OVER 24km) and with over 1000m total elevation, anything close to 2 hours was just utterly ridiculous! Anyway, 2.5 hours seemed like a reasonable figure to aim for. Given that it was my first Trail Champs, it was a guaranteed PB whatever happened! 

And without further ado, and spot on the advertised start time of 8:00, we were away!

Having not done a warmup, within the first few hundred metres I seem to recall, I blurted out to anyone who might be interested, “This is awful!” Not a good start when there’s over 24km of tough running to go! However, it soon went from awful to tolerable and then to pretty damn fun! It probably took a good kilometre for my dodgy hip (hamstring tendon most likely) to warm up and start feeling good.

I soon found myself running with Kate and Kay. Kate I have run with a fair bit, including my first ever half marathon (possibly also Kate’s first?) and regularly on a Thursday morning. Kay I used to run with regularly on a Sunday and also for about half of last year’s Barossa Marathon. We were also joined by Leon who is training for the 6 day Big Red Run in June, and may I say the best colour-coordinated man I have ever seen out on the trails, in head to toe blue! (Well maybe not toe – he dropped the ball a bit with the shoes. Let’s say ‘neck to ankle’.) 

We lost Kay after a while (she happily did make it to the finish!) and Kate and I settled into a rhythm as we chatted away.

Early on Kate had a couple of little trips but saved herself like a pro. It was then that I thought I’d better start concentrating on where I was putting my feet. I still find steep downhills very challenging – I tried the zigzag technique to reduce the gradient and that seemed to work.

For the most part.

At approximately 7.5km I think I must not have lifted my foot quite enough and caught my heel on a rock. One could say I went down like a sack of sh*t. Actually I think it was more graceful than that.  Kate complimented me on my roll! I hit the ground with my right elbow, knee and hipbone, rolled and bounced back up to do a quick systems check. There was a bit of blood on my elbow and knee (but thankfully not dripping) and I dared not peel back my skirt and Skins shorts to look at my hip. Miraculously (and most importantly), save for a bit of dirt and a few specks of blood, my lululemon skirt and Skins came out unscathed! And even better, other than Kate and a guy behind us who had previously proved to be an absolute pro on the downhills, NO-ONE HAD SEEN IT!

I had avoided any major damage and prescribed myself a tall glass of concrete (aka ‘HTFU’). We pressed on.

I won’t lie. It was a challenging course. 1000m of ‘vert’ in 24km was comparable to the 4000m in 100km that I will be tackling in just under 3 weeks. The scenery was beautiful, the day turned out absolutely perfect, and it was just wonderful to be out there among friends, enjoying the trails.

The uphills were at times runnable, and at other times either Kate or I would set a landmark and we agreed we could walk until we reached that landmark. For example, “the black tree” as Kate suggested on one occasion. I cheekily suggested she might want to be a bit more specific. There had been fire through there recently. There were a LOT of black trees!

We enjoyed the relief of the flats and the downhills and used the uphills as an opportunity to get some hydration on board. Kate commented that she would have expected to see a drink station earlier than we did. There was a spot just near Greenhill Road, just after 5km, which we thought would have been a perfect spot for a drink station and we thought it was odd that we didn’t see one until 10k. Not that it mattered because neither of us needed anything at that point – except maybe a pair of glasses. Sure enough, I later found out that there WAS a drink station there! That shows how little attention we were paying to our surroundings at that point! 

As we reached the drink stations Kate would stop for a refill and I would plod on ahead. At one of the drink stations Louise, who had been a beacon way ahead in her hi-viz yellow, joined our little party and ran with us for a while. It was around this point (19km – just over 5km to go) that I decided to make a bit of a move.

Looking at my splits, the next kilometre was effectively the fastest (considering it was slightly uphill and the faster splits I’d run were downhill). I was kicking it up a notch!

And then. I hit Doug’s Hill.

It’s not officially called Doug’s Hill. I think it is part of the Birriee Track. It has been unofficially named after SA trail running royalty in Doug Smart. Lovely guy, and very involved the organisation of Trail Running SA events including this one, but that hill? He has a lot to answer for! I’m told that, on a wet day, it’s kind of like trying to climb up a waterfall.

Kilometre 20 was 5:19, just a little uphill. Kilometre 21 was 12:04 with 116 metres elevation. I could see Kate and Louise not far behind me. Kate had earlier asked me, “Is this the steep hill?” I replied yes, it was A steep hill, but it wasn’t THE steep hill. Halfway up Doug’s Hill I yelled out to Kate, “THIS is THE steep hill!” I joked to the guy just in front of me that this would be a good spot for hill repeats. Except, having to go back down – bugger that! (Plus, he pointed out that access was a bit of an issue – a tough 5km ‘warmup’ just to get to the hill! A good point well made.)

I thought I was almost at the top when I said that. Nope! Still more to come! Kind of like Heartbreak Hill! When I realised I was finally at the end, I did a bit of a fist pump. The worst was over. It was all downhill from here! (Except it wasn’t!)

A few more kilometres slightly uphill and we were on the home stretch. From the point I’d left Kate and Louise, I’d been following a girl called Tracey who I didn’t know personally but who I knew was a good runner (and running buddy of Kazu, Yurrebilla runner-up and eventual third placegetter here as well as winner of our age group) I tried to catch her, at one point I did pass her but my lead was short lived. I chased her all the way to the finish and she beat me by a few seconds. It was great having someone to chase, even though I couldn’t quite get there today!

On one of the uphills I was easily passed by another girl. Looking at the results afterwards, I think it was Angie, who had finished in 2nd place ahead of me at Kuitpo Forest. I did eventually pass her and was surprised she didn’t pass me again on the downhill ‘sprint’ to the finish. I ended up finishing in a dead heat with another girl, Bronwen. The finishing arch had collapsed just before we came through so we had to do a bit of Limbo to get over the finish line – easier said than done after a tough 24+ km!

Having not really been looking at my pace at all, and just running by feel, I was pretty happy with my finishing time of 2:35:34. 2:30 is definitely doable and maybe something to aim for next year. Except hopefully this time next year I will be in Vegas, still basking in the post-Boston glow!

Kate, Louise, Kay, Leon and Max all finished not far behind me. I was extremely surprised to see Mick, fellow SA UTA100 athlete and awesome comedian, cross the finish line, fresh from breaking the Guinness world record for the highest comedy gig in the world. At Everest Base Camp. He’d only got back into town the night before the race! Now that’s impressive! (And that was probably the only time I will ever beat him in any race!) 

I also chatted with Andrew, winner of the Heysen 105 last year and who had done really well at last year’s The North Face 100 (now UTA). He had finished 6th in this race – he said the fast guys were just too fast for him! Now when someone like that is talking about ‘the fast guys’ you know they’re going at some scary pace! We also chatted to Simon, a fellow UTA100 virgin who had just marginally missed out on cracking the magical 2 hour barrier. I expect he will do very well at UTA.

I went to the first aid station to get my wounds cleaned up. The first aider was pretty happy with how clean they were so she just cleaned the blood off with a bit of saline and sent me on my way.

Presentation time, and more importantly, random prize draw!

Standing next to me was Micarla, who was in red-hot form having won the Clare Half only a few weeks earlier. She was dressed in street clothes despite having run the event! I soon found out how she had had time to freshen up and change – she had WON the women’s 24k! Nice job Micarla! Second and third places were filled by some familiar faces – Bronwyn, fresh from a great performance at the Buffalo Stampede, and importantly now no longer in my age group (at least until next year!) in second, and Kazu, happily back doing well after a nasty fall in a trail race here in January, in third place. (I later found out that Kazu had also had a bit of a stack out there but thankfully only a minor one this time! See, it happens to the best of us!)

Somehow, I was 2nd behind Kazu in the 35-39 age group! Kind of like Masters last weekend except this time there were actually other people in the age group! I was very happy with this considering it’s a very tough age group (even with Bronwyn having ‘levelled up’ to the next age group!)

Speaking of age groups, I need to give a special shout out to Max who won her age group and was only a few minutes behind me! And this after overcoming a long-term injury! Well done Max, you’re a star and an inspiration!

I was lucky enough to win a prize in the random draw – entry to the next TRSA event, Sturt Gorge on 22 May. My face must have dropped a bit – I’m volunteering at that event, being 1 week after UTA100. As Claire handed me my voucher, she said I can use it for another event seeing as I’ve already got my name down to volunteer. I look forward to running one of the TRSA events later in the year, after the Gold Coast Marathon!

All in all, it was a fantastic, well run event, and I would like to give huge thanks to everyone – committee, volunteers and of course runners – that made it possible! 

I highly recommend this event to anyone. 6km is great both for relative trail newbies and for people who like to run FAST! For those who want a challenging course but don’t think they can manage 24km, there’s the 12k! (Both the 6k and the 12k are also great for walkers!)

I LOVED it (yes, even Doug’s Hill)!

Race report – 100km track championships

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250 times around a 400m track. Brutal.

When I first heard about this event I was keen to enter. I’m not sure why, but it just appealed to me. 100km on a track, with a 12 hour cut off. I had only run 100km once before, in a trail ultra, in just over 14 hours. But on a dead flat track it should theoretically be easier. Faster, certainly.

There are so many pros to running an ultra, on a track, at night.

No possibility of getting lost.
No snakes.
No need to carry any food, drinks, mandatory gear.
No sunscreen, sunnies or hat required.
Never more than 400m from food, drinks and toilet.

My race week was quiet. I had two fairly challenging trail runs on Sunday and Tuesday. After Tuesday’s run, which involved a stupid amount of stairs, I decided I wasn’t going to run again until the big day. I did one easy walk on Thursday and that was it.

Food-wise I took 3 sandwiches (a combination of peanut butter and chocolate nut spread), a couple of nut bars, some almonds and some mashed sweet potato in a tube. And a big container of sports drink.

On the day I thought I’d better switch my meals around. As the race started at 8pm, and I was used to eating cereal (or a cereal-based smoothie) for breakfast before a run, I thought it would make sense to have breakfast for dinner! So I had smashed avo and chickpeas on toast for brekky, sweet potato vegan mac and cheese for lunch, and cereal for dinner. In between lunch and dinner I managed to sneak in a few hours sleep.

I went with my favourite long distance running skirt over Skins shorts, and on the top a singlet I’d worn for my first two marathons and my rainbow striped arm socks. I also threw into my bag some clean singlets, long sleeved tops, buff, fleece headband, rain jacket (just in case), extra shoes and socks. As it turned out, the top was not the best choice as it started to chafe after about 50k, and consequently I finished the race in a different top.

I arrived at the track about an hour before the start. There were 27 starters, with 12 in the 100km and the rest in the 50km. All runners started at the same time and had the same 12 hour cutoff. Conditions were perfect, with around 18 degrees at the start, and no wind. The previous night had seen torrential rain so we were incredibly lucky! (The temperature only dropped to 16 in the stadium overnight, making for the best possible running conditions)

We had access to the stadium toilets for the duration. Unfortunately, they were up a flight of stairs!

It was going to be a long night!

Running around in circles can be tedious. I’ve run a timed event on a 2.2km loop, but this was something else entirely. I thought the track would ve easier to run on than the gravel of the Uni Loop. At first it seemed easier but as time went on, I found it really harsh on my feet, especially my toes. I could feel blisters coming on but I didn’t want to take my shoes off – mainly because that would involve sitting down, and I thought getting up and getting going again would be a struggle!

I had expected the 250 lap thing would be the biggest barrier but as it turned out it was the track surface. Paul, the eventual winner of the 100k and with whom I ran a fair bit, changed shoes and socks after 50km and found that this helped a lot.

The progress times were written up on a whiteboard every hour by event organiser Ben. After 1 hour I was in 8th place overall, 2nd female, one lap behind the first girl, Rebecca. (Interestingly eventual winner Paul was one place behind me). Also in the event were Sheena, a last minute entrant, and 2 Karens – Karen C who had come from interstate, and Karen B who will be well known to anyone who is a regular reader of my blog! On the male side, the people I knew were Paul, Barry (who was doing the 100k as a training run for a 48 hour event in March), and David who was going for a very fast time – possibly sub 7:30! David lapped me pretty much every second lap but eventually withdrew – it wasn’t to be his night! Which then made for a very interesting race as he probably would have been a runaway winner.

It was great having the 50km runners out there too. Many of them were going super fast, including Alex (the eventual winner), Simon (who led for much of the race and ended up finishing second, not bad for a last minute entrant!) and on the women’s side Anna and Tina (who took out first and second place respectively) looked strong throughout.

There was also Michelle, who was the 3rd placed female but took first place for most entertaining runner! She was the one who started the singing (she had her iPod in) and not long after that I decided it was time to pull out my iPod too. I don’t normally like to run with music but in an event like this where there are no road crossings, no marshal instructions to follow, not to mention the monotony of running lap after lap, most of the 100k runners and a lot of the 50k runners had iPods.

To distract me from my feet and legs screaming at me, I started singing (pretty loudly, and hopefully in tune), much to the amusement of the spectators. I hope it wasn’t too off-putting for my fellow competitors!

The laps went by quickly at first. I was sitting on sub 10 hour pace until probably 65km (I haven’t uploaded my Garmin data yet due to tech issues) and it would have been amazing to be able to sustain that, but I knew it wasn’t realistic. I hoped/expected to finish between 10 and 11 hours.

The support tent was fantastic. Every time I passed, the volunteers gave great encouragement and were always willing to help me with anything I needed. Ziad, Chris, Katie, Vic and anyone else I may have forgotten, ably manned the support tent/food table and I can’t forget to mention Kieran who I think came to support Michelle but even after she left he stuck around right till the end and was my unexpected but much appreciated support crew – what a champ!

After 2 hours I had moved into 7th place and one lap ahead of Rebecca.

By 5 hours many of the 50k runners had finished including the top 3 men and top 2 women. I had just cracked 50k myself and moved into overall third place, one lap behind Barry and Stuart in equal first place. Somehow I had managed to open up a 13 lap lead over Rebecca, that’s around 5km. This gave me a little breathing space when it came to toilet breaks (I only had two – those stairs were a struggle – and managed to keep them to around 2 minutes which equates to 1 lap or less).

At 6 hours I had moved ahead of Barry into overall second behind Stuart. My lead over Rebecca was now 17 laps. Paul had moved into 4th place, one lap behind Barry and 2 behind me, and looking incredibly strong.

Around this time my left hip started playing up. Michelle, who had not long finished the 50k, offered me some Voltaren which I gratefully accepted and which seemed to help, although I still looked like a 90 year old during my walk breaks (interestingly I was a lot more comfortable while running than while walking – I just had to take more frequent breaks as the race went on!)

By 7 hours Paul had leapfrogged me into first place and that was where he stayed. My lead over Rebecca was now 22 laps, and a further 2 laps to Karen C in third position. I thought, surely neither of them can catch me now? Even if I end up walking most of it? Fortunately it didn’t come to that. I started with a 30min/5min run/walk strategy. After about 5.5 hours I went to 25/5 (it was easier to keep track, plus I was tiring). Later I tried 20/5 but quickly went to 15/5 and then 10/5. By the end I was doing 7/3 but still managing to maintain my position (obviously everyone, with the exception of Paul and possibly Barry, was struggling as much as, if not more than, me!). I was constantly checking my watch and counting down to the next walk break!

At the 8 hour mark Paul had opened up a 5 lap gap between himself and second placed Stuart, who was beginning to struggle and was walking more than he was running. Paul was looking unstoppable and regularly lapping me! I was still 3rd, 3 laps ahead of Barry and 25 ahead of Karen C who had moved ahead of Rebecca into second place.

Getting towards the pointy end, at 9 hours Barry had passed me into a strong second position, and I had passed Stuart so still sat in 3rd overall, with my lead over Karen maintained.

After 10 hours Paul was practically finished and Barry only a few laps behind. Hearing Paul and Barry’s finishes called by Ben over the PA gave me a lift, as I knew I wouldn’t be too far behind them!

My Garmin was well out, so I didn’t really know how long I had to go until Adam, the timing guy, started calling out numbers of laps. Once that number was into single figures I knew I was really nearly done! I was up to the 7/3 run/walk by then but once I got down to the last 3 laps I somehow managed to run the rest of the way. The best feeling was when Ben announced me over the PA as I started my last lap. I can quite safely say that was my fastest lap of the whole 250!

I finished strongly and was glad to see some friends who had come to see the finish, including Neil who made it just in time to see my last lap, and James who had come down for the last hour or so before going rowing. Mum had also come down and had seen my last 3 or 4 laps – I didn’t realise she was there until I’d finished and it was a nice surprise as I hadn’t expected her to come!

I finished in about 10 hours 43, just before 6:45am, in daylight! I then sat down, had some delicious vegan pizza, and Kieran helped me get my shoes off before first aid legend Susan came and taped up my epic blisters.

It was only just over an hour until the 8am cutoff, and I sat back and watched the rest of the runners struggle around the track. Stuart finished 4th overall (3rd male) and another guy John was the last to finish the 100km, with 4 minutes to spare! The only other 2 left by that stage were the two Karens who stuck it out to the end but didn’t quite make the 100km. Still – a fantastic effort to keep going for 12 hours, I’m not sure if I could have done that!

After the presentations Karen treated me to a guest pass at her gym where we had a very luxurious spa interspersed with quick dips in the cold plunge pool – perfect way to finish a very tough but very satisfying event!

Thanks as always to Ben and all the amazing volunteers, all the supporters who came down to watch, and last but not least all the legends who ran in the event!

2015 in review

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Well we’re almost at the end of 2015 (scary as that is) so it seems like an appropriate time to reflect on the year that has been!

So many highlights. A few lowlights but no need to talk about those!

I think if I had to choose one highlight for the year it would be the Yurrebilla Trail 56km ultramarathon. It was much anticipated and of all the events I ended up running this year, Yurrebilla was one of only three that had been on my radar at the start of the year. (For those playing at home, the others were Barossa Marathon and the City2Surf in Sydney which I had already entered back in December 2014)

My Yurrebilla race report: https://randomthoughtsandracereports.wordpress.com/2015/09/28/race-report-yurrebilla-56km-ultramarathon/?preview=true

Entries are open for 2016 already and I intend to enter before the end of this year. I anticipate that it will be a regular fixture on my calendar, whether it be as a runner or a volunteer.

There were so many other highlights and I’m just going to touch on them briefly. And I will no doubt miss some too!

Barossa Marathon was my favourite of the 3 marathons I’ve done so far. It wasn’t my best time – that came 6 weeks later at Gold Coast – but I think it had something to do with being in front of a ‘home’ crowd with so many familiar faces cheering us on, and also so many friends running in the various events, that made it so enjoyable. I won’t be running the Barossa Marathon next year (next week I’ll explain why) but I do plan to be there either as a volunteer or maybe running one of the shorter events. Probably volunteering though. My race report: https://randomthoughtsandracereports.wordpress.com/2015/06/01/race-report-barossa-marathon-24-may-2015/

Next highlight – the Yumigo! 6 hour event, just 6 days after the Gold Coast Marathon. As challenging as the weather conditions were, I actually enjoyed (almost) every minute and was surprised and delighted to end up with a podium finish. I plan to do the event again next year if I pull up OK after Gold Coast – either the 6 or the 12 hour, but probably the 6. Not quite ready for 24! My report for the 6 hour: https://randomthoughtsandracereports.wordpress.com/2015/07/12/47/

The City2Surf was another highlight, not just because it got me back to Sydney, a city I called home for a short time! The biggest fun run in the country, of course I had to do it at least once! Despite the mishap at the start I had a great run and cannot wait to do it again! Race report: https://randomthoughtsandracereports.wordpress.com/2015/08/10/race-report-city2surf-9-august-2015-3/

Being a pacer at both the Adelaide and McLaren Vale half marathons was such a fantastic experience. Being a volunteer and still getting to run, how good is that? My Adelaide report: https://randomthoughtsandracereports.wordpress.com/2015/08/23/your-pace-or-mine-pacing-the-adelaide-half-marathon-2/

I hadn’t planned to run City-Bay this year but managed to get a free entry so of course I decided to run it! I managed to get a new PB which will be VERY tough to beat. I think I actually enjoyed it this year and I may well be back next year! My report: https://randomthoughtsandracereports.wordpress.com/2015/09/20/race-report-2015-city-bay-fun-run-7/

The Masters Games was meant to be just a bit of fun but ended up also being quite lucrative (in the bling sense) as I walked away with 3 medals. More importantly I got a long-awaited half marathon PB (by nearly 5 minutes) which like my City-Bay PB will take some beating! My HM (and McLaren Vale HM) report is here: https://randomthoughtsandracereports.wordpress.com/2015/10/11/two-halves-make-a-whole-right/

If you told me this time last year I would run a 100km ultra this year I would have told you to lay off the mind-altering substances. But it turns out that hypothetical person was not so crazy as I did complete the Heysen 105km ultra back in October (and I still have the tan lines on my legs to prove it!) Despite a few things not going to plan (which you can read about in my report below) I LOVED it! Such a great day! https://randomthoughtsandracereports.wordpress.com/2015/10/25/race-report-heysen-105/

That just about sums it up – plus on the  non-competitive side, I managed to beat my 2-year-old 5km PB and am edging ever closer to breaking the elusive 20 minute barrier.

It really has been quite a year! Next week I’ll talk about my goals for 2016!

Race report – Heysen 105

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For those who are unfamiliar with this event, it is a 105km (ish) ultramarathon along South Australia’s Heysen Trail, from Newland Hill to Kuitpo Forest near Meadows. It is the brainchild of Yumigo!’s Ben Hockings and has been going for some years. This year for the first time there was a ‘half’ distance, 57km, which proved popular with over 100 entrants across the two distances.

My day started at 3.30am after having as much of my gear sorted as possible the night before. I stayed at my parents’ place for the Friday and Saturday night as it is slightly closer than my place to the start of the race.

The day before, I had seen an article on the Ultra168 website which mentioned my name as a possible podium contender – I was shocked (and flattered of course!) I think that did mess with my head a bit because before seeing that I was just focusing on going out and doing the best I could. All of a sudden I was now thinking potential placing!

We had to be at the finish line by 5am to get a bus back to the start. It was somewhat chilly down there compared to when we left town! Breakfast for me was a shake of cereal, rice milk, chia and cacao.

The start line was a hive of activity. There hadn’t been many 105km runners on the bus (most of the passengers were 57km runners) but there were a lot more at the start who had managed to get a ride to the start, negating the need for such an early start! Last minute gear checks and bib collection done, it was time for the race briefing. Beck had lent me a buff which I had planned to use as an ear warmer if it got cold later, but it came in very handy at the start!

The forecast maximum temperature was 31 degrees (Celsius) which was going to make the exposed sections of the course very trying!

Before we knew it the clock had ticked over to 7:00 and we were off! It was going to be a long, hard day.

START TO CHECKPOINT 1 – 17km
The first section was relatively easy, more so of course because I was still fresh! I may have erred by having an energy drink at the start – that possibly made me go out too fast. The other effect of having the energy drink was that very early on in the race, despite the bus making a toilet stop on the way to the start line, I needed another! Maybe that made me run faster too – I knew there were toilets at CP1 (real ones, not portaloos!)

I ran the first section in good time and 1 hour 43 was on the clock when I left the  checkpoint post toilet stop and application of sunscreen – average pace 5:59 per km . I seemed to waste a fair bit of time there despite trying to streamline my pit stop procedure after Yurrebilla! As I left the checkpoint I saw Jo Kruk, red hot favourite to win the women’s event, approaching the checkpoint. I was surprised to see her behind me – I would have expected to see her ahead in the distance.

CHECKPOINT 1 TO CHECKPOINT 2 – 18km
From the training runs this was the hardest section I’d seen (bearing in mind that I had missed the CP2 – CP3 training run). Lots of elevation, STEPS, narrow trails, ducking under trees. I also grew to hate the stiles we had to climb over to go through paddocks – there were so many of them! I ran with SA running legend Barry McBride for a little while which was great, and found out that Jo is a slow starter and fast finisher. He wasn’t kidding! As most of the runners slowed to a walk going up one of the early hills in this section, Jo kept running, relentless! I couldn’t see any way that she wasn’t going to win the women’s event!

After a particularly brutal section of the course my pace had dropped when I reached the checkpoint but still respectable at 6:34/km, the time clock showed 3 hours 51 and I’d covered 35km.
Once again I tried to be as efficient as possible at the checkpoint – reapplying my sunscreen, filling up my drink bottles (water and Gatorade) and guzzling some amazingly delicious Coke!

This was also the first point where we could have drop bags – I had put boiled, salted potatoes in each bag so eagerly hoed into those but they didn’t taste very nice (maybe not enough salt… who knows?) so that was the last I had of them! I had planned to supply most of my own nutrition so I was carrying nut bars, almonds, Lifesavers, sandwiches and my new favourite, salted mashed sweet potato in a gel flask. Like baby food. Nom nom nom! I should have put a nut bar in each drop bag but had gone with alternate ones – I REALLY felt like a nut bar at CP2 but didn’t have one. Another lesson for next time!

I got out of the checkpoint quickly but soon realised I’d forgotten to grab a brownie or two – DEVASTATED! Those brownies are legendary! Oh well, too late now – no turning back!

CHECKPOINT 2 TO CHECKPOINT 3 – 22km
This was a hard slog. The temperature was really starting to heat up and there wasn’t a whole lot of shade in this section. Plus it was LONG – 22km between checkpoints – whose idea was that? It was also the only part of the course I hadn’t seen, having missed that particular training run. I had been warned though!

To make matters worse I managed to have a stack at around 38km (still nearly 20km from the next checkpoint) and grazed my knee. It happened in slow motion – as a result I managed to land relatively softly and saved my hands from damage but still when I looked down, there was blood. Oh well, can’t stop now, just gotta keep moving and we’ll deal with that at the next checkpoint! There was a fair bit of running through sand in this section – something I knew I would experience again near the finish! We also encountered a few curious cows – I greeted them and kept moving, trying not to startle them. I didn’t think any of them were bulls but I didn’t want to take any chances!

At the 50km mark I rewarded myself with a couple of energy pills (all legit I might add!) and certainly noticed that they gave me a boost when they kicked in about half an hour later. I approached the checkpoint strongly and reached 57km in 6 hours 58, average pace 7:14, slower again but still within my goal pace (I was aiming for 14-15 hours) and faster than my 56km Yurrebilla time. So all in all, things were going well!

It was a bit weird seeing the 57km runners finish… why did I enter the 105 and not the 57??? I had some fantastic help at this checkpoint from volunteer Annie (who was at every checkpoint from then on) and supporter Shannon who reapplied my sunscreen while I tried to text my buddy runner Kirsten to let her know I was ahead of schedule and suggested that instead of meeting me ar CP4 at 5:00, she could meet me at CP5 at around 5:30/6. There were some technical issues with the phone and there MAY have been some swearing.

I also had the first aid girl take a look at my knee, I said I didn’t want a dressing on it as that would restrict my movement. She put some Vaseline on it to keep the flies out (they were all over it before then – ewww!) I marked the halfway point with a fresh top and I was good to go!

CHECKPOINT 3 TO CHECKPOINT 4 – 17km
This was when it all went a bit pear-shaped. At around 60km (coincidentally also the longest distance I’d ever run up to that point) I got myself a bit lost. Up until that point I had had no trouble following the Heysen Trail markers and the extra markers that the fantastic volunteers had put out, but I came to a field where I was supposed to go ‘diagonally across’. Unfortunately I went the wrong diagonal! No markers, no nothing! CRAP. I walked around the perimeter of the field for what seemed like ages, still nothing! I tried using navigation on my phone but that was useless. I did have brief thoughts of quitting at that point but told myself to HTFU and get on with it. I even contemplated getting out my map and compass (the latter item I had very little idea how to use) and then I saw a figure running diagonally across the field in what turned out to be the correct direction. I chased him down and ran with him for a while, his name was Brenton and he was very familiar with that particular section of the course, having marked it previously. I was back on track!

That little detour made that section probably the least enjoyable for me. There was one other point in this section where I wasn’t sure of directions – at a point where a group of guys were sitting having a few beers. How rude of them not to offer me one, I thought… a hard earned thirst needs a big cold beer, right? I continued straight ahead, up a hill, and couldn’t see any markers, so I thought to be sure I’d go back and ask the guys where the runners had been going. They told me, up the hill. Of course it was up. Barry had told me earlier, when in doubt, it’s always UP hill. I said to them “You’re not messing with me are you?” (I may not have said ‘messing’) and they said of course not, they wouldn’t mess with someone who runs 100+ km for fun! Right. Fun. That was why we were here!

My pace really dropped in this section so I was texting Kirsten back and forth revising my ETA at CP5. First it was 5.30, then 6, then it became apparent I wasn’t going to make it by 6. In the end I should have stuck with the original plan!

Throughout the day I’d been regularly encountering people who were crewing for competitors in the race. Two in particular were Bev, Barry’s wife, who would always offer me something as I ran past her, and Michael, husband of Anna, who I had met on a trail run at the beginning of the year and I seemed to keep running into at events ever since! Michael had offered me an Icy-Pole during this section and I had declined, but on the approach to CP4 there he was again with the Icy-Poles. As I was going to be stopping briefly there anyway, I gratefully accepted – the Icy-Poles were a winner at Yurrebilla and I really needed one now!

I reached CP4 (74km) in just under 10 hours, average pace 7:52 min/km – a significant drop in pace, not really surprising! Again Annie was there with the other fantastic volunteers and helped me get my hydration and nutrition sorted as well as my night running gear which would soon be required. I took my head torch and hi-viz vest out of my drop bag (both mandatory items) and threw in the gloves and hand warmers (just in case – nothing worse than cold numb hands!). I did one last sunscreen reapplication and ditched the sunscreen in my drop bag. Thankfully the temperature was starting to drop and it was looking like being a beautiful evening.

CHECKPOINT 4 TO CHECKPOINT 5 – 12km
It was about 4:50 when I left the checkpoint, trying to text Kirsten with an update but frustrated to find that even with the supposedly superior Telstra network I had no reception. It didn’t matter though because a car drove past me and I quickly realised it was her! Dropped off by her husband, she joined me and my mood elevated immediately!

This was a short and relatively easy section, but I have no doubt that Kirsten’s arrival improved my run from that point. They say ultra running is mostly mental and there’s nothing like having someone fresh to run with, to take your mind off all the crap that goes through your head when you run on your own for long stretches! The 4-and-a-bit hours we ran together seemed to go so quickly, the conversation just kept flowing and I didn’t even have to resort to singing!

We reached the final checkpoint (86.5km by my watch) in 11 hours 35 – average pace 8:03 min/km. We hadn’t lost much pace at all in that section! We definitely ran more than I had in the previous section – I think I had walked more than half of that one. Again it was having a fresh set of legs with me that encouraged me to run/walk when I would otherwise have been inclined to walk/walk!

The fabulous Mal and Merrilyn were at CP5 with their usual spread of food (the pumpkin soup sounded very appealing but I didn’t really want to eat ‘proper’ food at that point – I would have preferred that at the finish! I opted not to have a toilet break here because I thought if I sat down I might not get up again. Besides, I didn’t really need to go. I could make it to the finish – only 18km to go! We had to don our hi-viz vests and we had our head torches ready to go for when darkness fell.

CHECKPOINT 5 TO FINISH – 18km
This section was just magical. The course was beautifully marked with glow-in-the-dark signs that made it impossible to get lost (a good thing given that I am somewhat navigationally-challenged, not to mention the fact that by now I was a wee bit tired!) The weather was ideal – balmy and still.

It was quiet, and we saw very few other runners other than a few behind us at times. Whenever we saw someone getting closer we’d pick up the pace – there was NO WAY I was letting anyone pass me now! We walked/ran (amazingly I still had some ‘run’ left in my legs) and made sure we kept some distance between us amd the people behind. They may not have even been part of the race but we weren’t taking any chances!

I was re-acquainted with one of my least favourite running surfaces – sand! MAN that was tough after 90+ km!

Running through Kuitpo Forest was wonderful. We saw a bunch of roos bounding across the track. The trail was relatively easy, a good thing given that it was dark by this stage and we were navigating by torchlight!

I guess the fact that we were almost at the finish helped make this section my favourite! The last little bit did seem to go forever though… the course was measured to be 102.4km so I had based my time estimate on that, but I knew my little navigation mishap in the field would have added on distance – I just didn’t know how much. When we hit 100km I was still confident we’d get under 14 hours. It wasn’t to be – but it would be close!

Kirsten saw a red light up ahead and said ‘Is that a clock?’ I quickly realised that was the time clock and THAT WAS THE FINISH LINE! I was so excited! We had done it! I picked up the pace and crossed the line to the cheers of the crowd. There is no better feeling! According to the Garmin I had borrowed from Simon for its longer battery life (unfortunately software compatibility issues mean I haven’t yet been able to upload the run to Strava, which technically means it didn’t happen), my time was 14 hours 5 minutes. Just outside my goal of sub 14 hours but I ran 104.87km rather than 102.4km so I’ll call that a sub-14! Average pace was 8:03 min/km – we had maintained our overall average pace from the previous section! I was over the moon!

It was time to celebrate and eat All. Of. The. Food. Spuds with salt. Coke. BROWNIES. I was very excited to open my finish line drop bag and find a pair of ugg boots in there. I was initially scared to take off my shoes and socks but surprisingly my feet were relatively intact and slipping into those ugg boots was HEAVEN!

The only thing that marred my enjoyment of the finish line was the fact that I couldn’t find my car and house keys, which I was SURE I’d put in my finish line drop bag! I checked ALL my drop bags and other people were only too willing to help, Paul very kindly even went back to CP5 and got my last 2 remaining drop bags (they weren’t in there either!) I called the RAA to break into my car (which was parked MILES away from the finish line) so I could get everything out that I needed. While waiting for them, Michael found some tape that would allow Vince to try to get into my car. We made the long trek to the car. Not only had I left it UNLOCKED but I had left my interior light on! A girl called Kate had left a nice note on my steering wheel to tell me she’d turned it off! Luckily I had left it unlocked otherwise I would have had a flat battery as well as no keys! Thanks Kate!

Vince and fellow 105k finisher Arwen very kindly gave us a lift back to my parents’ place, getting there around 2:15am. Mum was there waiting to let me in, as I’d told her about the key situation! After a long awaited shower I finally hit the hay around 3:30, 24 hours after I got up! What a day!

THINGS TO NOTE FOR NEXT TIME
-No energy drink at the start – save that for CP3 or 4. And on a related note DON’T GO OUT TOO FAST!
-More nut bars!
-Buddy runner – ESSENTIAL!
-Learn how to run in a diagonal.

Overall I was really happy with how it went. It was a tough day… many people didn’t make it to the finish. I don’t know if I’ll run this event next year but if not I’ll definitely be involved somehow! It was a great first 100km experience and I would certainly recommend it to anyone who is keen to give this distance a crack!

Heysen 105km pre-race diary

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MONDAY

The enormity of the task ahead is beginning to sink in. What have I gotten myself into? After a chat with the very experienced ultrarunner Karen last night I am going to try to increase my carb intake this week without going silly on the calories and without strictly ‘carb-loading’. Karen suggested to replace protein with carbs. This is going to be tricky because I already know I struggle to get enough protein in. I’m thinking I’m going to be eating a lot of potatoes and bread in the next week.

On Saturday night I taped my feet to prevent blisters. I was a little overzealous when removing the tape and took some skin off the bottom of my foot, near the pinky toe. I can feel it with every step. I need to find some way of padding it so it doesn’t affect me on Saturday. 105km is a LOT OF STEPS! Tomorrow morning will be my last run before the big day – my last opportunity to try out whatever remedy I manage to come up with!

TUESDAY

Went for my last run this morning – 10km in 1 hour. Felt OK – a bit flat, just tired I think! Will be good to have a few days off leading up to Saturday. I put some gauze over the open area under my foot and secured it with strapping tape – seemed to work OK. I noticed it when I thought about it, but it didn’t really bother me too much. It should be better by Saturday anyway. Caught up with Kirsten this morning – her husband was a buddy runner for someone last year so she knows what to expect.

Finally got around to reading the event handbook. Good thing I did too because I found out there is no gear drop at Checkpoint 1 which means I will just have to carry a little bit more food in my pack – glad I found that out now and not on the day!

WEDNESDAY

Shit’s getting real now.

Just saw on Facebook that CP2-3 is very wet and possibly won’t dry out by Saturday. This is also the section I haven’t seen, having done City-Bay instead of that particular training run. Also heard it’s gonna be WARM – I still think I’d prefer warm to freezing cold. Will need to throw an extra pair of socks into my pack!

I’m halfway between ridiculously excited and shitting bricks!

On a positive note I took the tape and padding off my foot this morning, seems to be healed and it’s felt OK all day today. Must be more careful next time I take tape off!

I’ve decided to carry 2 phones on the day – a small basic phone with a Telstra SIM card (better reception and battery life) and my usual smartphone (let’s face it, mainly for photos/videos and Facebook updates!)

THURSDAY

OK so I’m sort of organised now. I’ve started packing food and gear into my drop bags. I can’t leave the drop bags out because my cats will destroy them! I’ve put spare shoes and socks into the bags for CP2 and CP3 (apparently CP1 – CP2 is also wet) and I think I’ll just end up putting spare socks into all the drop bags. I don’t have enough spare shoes!

I went for a walk this morning with my regular Thursday morning group. There were a few of us walking this morning! My fellow 105k competitor Arwen was RUNNING – crazy woman!

Tonight I’m going to cook some potatoes to put in my drop bags. I found the salted potatoes at Yurrebilla THE BEST!

FRIDAY

A nice sleep in (6:00am alarm) and coffee with my running group was the perfect way to start race eve. Last night I got all my food ready and ticked a few more items off my list. I’ve got a short day at work today (finishing at lunchtime) to allow for any last minute prep so I can get to bed at a reasonable hour! (I haven’t quite worked out what ‘reasonable’ is but it’s gonna be pretty damn early considering I have to be up at 3:30ish tomorrow – eek!)

FUCK! Less than 24 hours and this is actually happening! Whose idea was this?

100km – a whole new ball game!

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This week I entered the Ultra-Trails Australia 100km event in the Blue Mountains in May. You may know it as The North Face 100. It is an iconic event, Australia’s biggest ultra (I think!) and this year there were 1300 places allocated to the 100km event. At just under $400 to enter (let alone all the costs for gear, travel and accommodation) it’s not cheap but still it sold out in under 2 days, so I got in early. I’m in!

I decided to enter the event after crewing there this year. Much like my Yurrebilla volunteering experience in 2014, attending the event as a non-participant made me determined to enter as a competitor the following year!

Yurrebilla was my first ultra. Although that was a challenging course, UTA100 is a different kettle of fish. For a start, it’s pretty much double the distance. And instead of being in the Adelaide Hills, this is in the Blue Mountains. Extremes of temperature are common, and there is 4200m of elevation. On top of this is the added challenge of running through the night which most (other than the super elites who are finished before sunset) have to contend with.

As part of my long-term preparation for this event I entered the Heysen 105k ultra which takes place this coming Saturday. I thought it would be good to have a 100km event under my belt before tackling UTA100, and being close to home (less than an hour from town) the travel and accommodation costs would be minimised. I would also have the opportunity to train on the course, and it is a much gentler course than the UTA100.

One of the biggest challenges of the 100km event as opposed to the shorter ultras, is running through the night, mostly on trails. I have done a bit of night trail running before but never in a race. The night trail runs I have done have been around Cleland and Belair in the Adelaide Hills, always in a group, and always social, so we tend to stick together (or at least regroup at regular intervals). A race is totally different, especially an event with around 100 participants, where the night section of the race will come quite late and therefore the field will be more spread out – it is highly unlikely that I will be in a group by that stage.

Last weekend I did 2 night trail runs. The first one was around Cleland, which is relatively familiar territory for me (although with my somewhat limited navigational skills, I could probably easily get lost if I ended up on my own). It was an abbreviated, 12km run, thankfully cutting out the climb up Mount Lofty, and we saw a couple of koalas, lots of kangaroos, a few deer, and even a frog!

The second night run for the weekend was along the last section of the Heysen 105 course – around 18km. We started just before 7:30pm in fading light, and it wasn’t long before the mandatory head torches came into action. This run was different to any of the night runs I’d done before. Whereas the Belair and Cleland ones are more technical, this one was mostly wide tracks, quite a bit of dirt road, and some sand (which I’m sure will be a whole lot tougher next week when I will have already run 90km!)! I ran pretty much the whole run with a guy called Adam who had run this section in daylight the week before, so was familiar with the course – very handy! Running through Kuitpo Forest was interesting, I couldn’t imagine running that section on my own – well I could imagine it but it was a scary proposition!

Luckily in the Heysen 105, runners are allowed/encouraged to have buddy runners to run the last part of the course. Buddy runners are allowed from Checkpoint 3 which is also the finish of the new 57km event. The idea of the buddy runner is to run through the night. The cut-off time is 7am Sunday, and runners have the option of starting at either 6am or 7am. As someone who values her sleep, and has no intention of being out there for even close to 24 hours, I opted for the 7am start.

Beck, with whom I ran most of Yurrebilla, was originally going to be my buddy runner and then, after making sure I had an alternative, she decided to enter the 57km event. That worked out well, because now I potentially have someone to run with for the first 57km! Theoretically I can then have my buddy runner (Kirsten) with me from that point, but I thought I’d be nice to her considering she has just run the Melbourne Marathon!

I needed to work out what time I would estimate getting to the checkpoints so I could then work out when I would be likely running at night. The plan is to have Kirsten with me just for the night section and based on my training runs there was no way it was going to be dark by the time I got to 57km! I had done all but one of the training runs and cumulatively covered around 80km in 7.5 hours, averaging just over 10km/hour. It is a less physically challenging course than Yurrebilla which I did at around 8-ish km/hour, but realistically I knew I wasn’t going to be able to run 105km at 10km/hour – I’d LOVE it if I could, but fatigue will be a factor.

Double Yurrebilla time seems to be a pretty good rule of thumb for those who have done both events. For me that would be around 14 hours – add an hour to be safe. So I’m hoping to be finished between 9 and 10pm. Therefore realistically I might only be running from Checkpoint 5 to the finish in the dark. To be safe though I decided to ask Kirsten to run with me from Checkpoint 4 which would mean she would be doing the last 28km with me. Just a nice walk in the park for her after Melbourne Marathon! It wasn’t going to be fast running either, let’s face it (and probably a lot of walking). I did the last 18km section in 1 hour 40 on the weekend but I’d be dreaming if I thought I could do that in the race! Based on the average pace of 7-7.5km/hour I estimate I will reach Checkpoint 4 between 5:15 and 6pm.

One major difference between the 56km Yurrebilla ultra and this event is that the checkpoints are fewer and further between. This means that I need to carry a lot more gear and food. For a start there is a mandatory gear list including head torch, hi-viz vest, beanie and gloves – all of these for the simple fact that night running is part of the event. I’ll also need to carry more water – at Yurrebilla I only carried a maximum of 250mL water and 250mL sports drink whereas at Heysen I will need to carry not only bottles but also some water in a bladder, given that there will be around 20km between checkpoints. I needed to buy a bigger pack – the pack I have been using all year for my long runs and also for Yurrebilla just won’t cut it for the longer distance. I went with an Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest which I ordered online and fortunately arrived on the Friday before the second last Heysen training run. So I have had 2 opportunities to practise with it before the event – so far so good! The only minor hiccup was, the first time I used it, I couldn’t figure out how to operate the drink bottles – I got to the point where I would unscrew the top and drink like I was drinking out of a glass – I knew that there had to be some easier way to get the drink out!

At Yurrebilla I relied mostly on the food provided at the checkpoints, but at Heysen I am going to have to supply a lot of my own nutrition. To avoid weighing myself down, I plan to use drop bags – one for each of the 5 checkpoints and one for the finish line. For this I bought 6 supermarket cooler bags and labelled each with my name and the checkpoint I want it left at. Without having a support person to follow me around, this is the best way to ensure I have what I need, when I need it. In the bags will be mainly nutrition but also other gear that isn’t going to be needed throughout the entire race (eg cold weather gear and hi-viz vest).

Nutrition-wise I’m keeping it simple and keeping with the tried and tested. My sports drink of choice is lemon-lime Gatorade, having not had too much success accessing the Nippys True Grit which was supplied at Yurrebilla – that stuff was GOOOOD! I use the powder, so will put 500mL worth of powder in each of my drop bags, so I can mix up some more at each checkpoint. I’ll also have a few pre-mixed protein shakes if I need them along the way.

For food I am going to carry a cut-up nut bar (with a couple more spread between a few of the drop bags for later), a portion of Lifesavers and almonds (again, some more of these will be in drop bags), and half a white bread sandwich (each drop bag will have half a sandwich in it – alternating between 2 different nut spreads, for a bit of variety!). I plan to have some salted, boiled baby potatoes in each drop bag as these were a godsend at Yurrebilla – I’m not normally one who craves salty food but it’s amazing how much you need (and appreciate) it after running for a long time!

My new ‘thing’, and something I tried for the first time at that last night run (not wanting to try something new on race day – NEVER EVER do that!) is mashed sweet potato with salt, in a gel tube. The tube I used was actually designed for toiletries, easy squeeze with a leakproof valve, but is certified food-safe. I used that during the night run and MAN did it taste good! I plan to carry one of these and put more in later drop bags. Very easy to eat, no chewing required, tasty, salty and a good hit of carbs – ticks all the boxes!

I booked a room at the St Francis Winery Resort, about 17km from the finish. I did not fancy driving back to Adelaide, potentially very late at night, after running 105km. Camping at the finish line was an option but I thought a bed sounded a lot more appealing.

Normally I run 5 times a week. My plan for race week is to have an easy run (call it a ‘jogette’) on Tuesday, and a walk with my Thursday morning group. I will skip Friday altogether (although knowing me I will probably go and meet the group for coffee afterwards!). I need to be fresh for Saturday and I certainly don’t want to risk injury by doing anything silly!

My next blog post will be a report of the Heysen 105 – wish me luck!

Race Report – Yurrebilla 56km Ultramarathon

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I’ve talked about Yurrebilla 56km ultramarathon before but for the uninitiated I’ll bring you up to speed. It is a 56km course through Adelaide’s hills, from Belair to Athelstone, where you’re never more than 12km from the Adelaide CBD. (There are places on the course where you can be running through beautiful bushland, feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere,  then look to the side and see the buildings of the CBD… a stark contrast!) Each year more and more people take up the challenge, with over 400 people lining up this year. It is a wave start, with waves starting at 6am, 7am, 8am and 8:30am (the last group is the ‘racing’ group – only people who enter this group can be considered for a placing). All groups have a 5:30pm cut-off, the idea being that the people who expect to take longer to complete the course will start earlier, to give them the most time.

I decided to enter this year’s event after volunteering last year and having just the BEST time! Despite having a fairly busy programme of events this year, Yurrebilla was always at the forefront, being the one event that I knew 12 months ago that I would be running this year.

I did all 3 of the training runs which covered the entire course. I did a number of other trail runs too including a new event at Belair National Park (where I was lucky enough to win a random prize draw for a pair of trail shoes!), several night runs, several 24k Cleland loops, plus 2 of the training runs for the Heysen 105k later in the year. So despite most of my training runs being on roads, I felt like I had enough time out on the trails to be ready for Yurrebilla Ultra Marathon (YUM for short – legendary for the fantastic food provided at the aid stations – its motto could well be ‘come for the food, stay for the run!’

I had paid for my entry 6 months earlier, having won a silent auction as part of a fundraiser for fellow runner Emma. I didn’t actually enter until much later but once I had forked out the cash I was pretty much committed! I decided to enter the 7am wave – 6am was way too early for me, given I would need to get up 2 hours earlier than that to eat breakfast and get myself to Athelstone to be on a 6am bus – plus there was the small matter of a very poorly scheduled but unmissable Sebastian Bach gig on the Saturday night… ’twas going to be a late night followed by an early morning! 8am was doable (and tempting) but I thought I might get caught up running with the faster runners and burn myself out early. Plus if everything was to fall apart, I would regret not giving myself the extra hour to finish. (Later in the week I was offered a lift to the start at Belair by regular trail and road running buddy Beck which I had no hesitation in accepting – I would still need to get up to eat at 5 but at least I would have time to be sure I had everything ready, rather than having to rush around too much!)

Having run City-Bay the previous weekend (a greater contrast you could not imagine), I planned a relatively easy training week in the lead-up to YUM. Tuesday was my fast run for the week – it was a bit of a struggle after pushing myself to the limit at City-Bay! I also felt a bit of left hamstring soreness during the run but nothing that I thought would impair me at YUM. Thursday was an easier paced run and Friday I opted for a brisk walk rather than a run. Saturday morning parkrun was a light ‘jogette’ with Beck and her daughter with more focus on socialising. By Saturday the hamstring soreness was gone and I was feeling fresh and ready and raring to go!

The most important decision was what to wear! The forecast was for a maximum of 24 degrees. Normally in an event, I’m done by the time the maximum temperature hits. On this occasion I would be out there until mid afternoon so most likely would be running in 24 degrees. That’s not hot,  but it’s warmer than I’ve been used to.

I had most of my outfit worked out weeks ago. On the bottom half it would be the black lululemon skirt (black as opposed to my otherwise identical white one, because dirt!) with one zip pocket plus 2 side pockets for snacks. Under that, Skins compression shorts, which I wear for all long runs and would also be good for my hamstring. On the legs,  blue Compressport calf sleeves to match my blue Salomon Speedcross 3 trail shoes – shoes nicely broken in with over 100km of trail running. The socks were black Nike – black again because DIRT! I also planned to tape my arches for blister prevention –  I did feel the beginnings of a blister there during City-Bay.

On the top I was tossing up between 2 tops (both lulu, naturally!). One was blue and one was cream – both coordinated nicely with the rest of the outfit and both had been tested on longish trail runs with the trusty Ultimate Direction Jenny backpack. In the end I decided to go with both – wear one and carry the other in case I needed a wardrobe change midway. To top it all off I had my rainbow striped arm socks and light running gloves ready in anticipation of a chilly start. I also had my white 2XU white hat… white not the most practical colour for a trail run but that particular hat had seen me run a marathon PB and good runs at City2Surf and City-Bay, so of course superstitious me had to go with it!

In the bag I had a compression bandage in case of snake bite, a few band-aids, baby wipes and ziploc bags I was really hoping not to need, and a small handheld torch for Echo Tunnel… that tunnel scares the crap out of me!

Given the buffet on offer at the aid stations I didn’t plan to carry much food. I had 2 nut bars cut in thirds, some Lifesavers and almonds, and a packet of plain potato chips. In addition I had a small bottle of Gatorade and one of water, which I planned to top up at the drink stops.

Most importantly of all I had left a nice bottle of Jansz sparkling wine and an icy cold can of Coke with MC extraordinaire Karen, to have there for me at the finish. I was sure that as I ran the tricky last few kilometres, that sweet nectar would be at the forefront of my mind…

I painted my toenails. I’m not sure why I did that. I never paint my toenails. I have runner’s toenails.  I guess I was anticipating that there wouldn’t be much left to paint after YUM, so I thought I’d do it while I still could!

Despite saying all along that I just wanted to finish and enjoy the day, I did have a goal of finishing in under 7.5 hours (people had said ‘double marathon time’ was a good guide – which for me was 7.25 – 7.5 hours. I wrote down the estimated times I expected to be at each drink stop. My parents wanted to come see me at the 3rd drink stop near their place so I needed to give them a rough estimate of when I’d be there. Missing the cut-off time was not a concern.

Race day came and along with it the 5am alarm. My ears were still ringing andy voice a little hoarse from the EXTREMELY loud and EXTREMELY awesome concert the previous night. I mixed up and downed my breakfast shake (Weet-bix, muesli, rice milk and a little cacao powder) and got dressed. It felt weird putting sunscreen on at 5:30am but at least that would get me through the first few hours of the race. I got to the start at Belair Railway Station in plenty of time to enjoy the atmosphere and have a quick toilet stop. (The bus, as it turned out, was a bit late and got there not long before the 7am start!) There was a guy playing some kind of unidentified string instrument… nice and laid back for a Sunday morning!

It was a tad on the cool side so I had my arm socks on but not cold enough to need gloves. I had my XS Energy drink – normally I have that before a race when I want to run fast, on this occasion it was purely to counteract the sleep deprivation!

After a briefing from Event Director Barry McBride, at 7am we were off! I had planned to run with Beck, Kate and Alison but at the start Kate and Alison were a bit behind us (having arrived on the bus) so Beck and I did our own thing,  expecting that the other two would catch up.

Knowing that there was 56km to go, we tried not to set out too quickly but it was hard! The first few kms were just over 6 minutes… that was hardly sustainable over 56km but the terrain was downhill and maybe just a little uphill. The plan was that we would run the downhills, flats and gentle uphills, and walk the steep uphills.

The first hurdle was Echo Tunnel… I had my torch in hand and managed to get through unscathed… the organisers had even lit it with little candles (I think battery operated) which was a nice touch! Still, it was a relief to be out of there… weirdly that is my least favourite part of the whole course!

Before we knew it we were at the first drink stop at Sheoak Rd. I had safely tucked my predicted times into my backpack and didn’t look at them again, but looking back at it now, at 7 hour pace we were predicted to be there at 7:37 – we were 3 minutes ahead of this. It was a quick stop as we really didn’t need anything by this stage. The volunteers were all in onesies… I imagine by the time the last runners came through that stop they would have been getting a bit warm! (I had already removed my sleeves by this stage.)

Next came my FAVOURITE part of the course – the switchbacks at the top of Brownhill Creek Road! It’s so much fun flying down there, with aeroplane arms, and it’s early in the course so people are still relatively fresh! I later heard that there are often snakes there, and it was perfect snake weather yesterday.  VERY glad I didn’t know that at the time.

Running down Brownhill Creek Road it got a bit chilly – it always seems a good few degrees cooler here. It’s a great place to go for a run on a hot day! I almost contemplated putting the sleeves back on but I knew it would warm up soon enough…

Drink station 2 was at McElligott’s Quarry, around the 10km mark, around 7 minutes ahead of 7 hour pace. I was aware of the risk of dehydration especially since I knew I hadn’t drunk nearly enough the day before. I wasn’t thirsty but had a cup of the event sports drink – Nippy’s True Grit (lemon-lime flavour). I’d only tried it once before and quite liked it.

Stop 3 was Kavel’s Lookout where I was expecting to see my parents. I’d told them to expect me between 8:56 and 9:12. We got there at 8:52 – luckily they were a bit early! Here I had my first food since breakfast – a delicious vegan brownie! I also reapplied my sunscreen with some help from Mum to get the tricky bits on the back of the shoulders. (One advantage of wearing a backpack is that it covers that part of your back that’s really difficult to reach to apply sunscreen!)  Beck left me at that point while I chatted to Mum and Dad a bit more, I told her I’d catch up.

I left Kavel’s and sprinted (well, relatively speaking) up Mt Barker Road to catch Beck. It’s a relatively easy (by easy I mean runnable!) climb but quite tedious and long. I could see Beck’s pink top from a mile away and slowly but surely caught up with her. We shared the path with Sunday cyclists who were all very courteous. Some of them looked like they were doing it pretty tough… I was definitely glad to be on foot and not on 2 wheels!

Pretty early on after the start I thought I needed another toilet stop… I thought it was just psychological and tried to put it out of my mind. I did NOT want to have to resort to a bush wee! (We did see one girl emerging from the bushes early on). I knew there were actual proper toilets at Cleland and we were nearly there, and I also knew there was coffee there, and PIZZA! So we carried on up the road and into Cleland, and before too long we reached the aid station. First stop though was the toilet – there was no queue and we did not want to be wasting time standing in a queue at this point! That taken care of, it was time to hit the buffet!

Now in hindsight I could say we lingered way too long here. At the time I was all about enjoying the experience, and I don’t regret anything, but if time was an issue, this stop was the killer! After being ahead of 7 hour pace for the first 3 stops, we left Cleland at 9:48, 15 minutes behind 7 hour pace, and 4 minutes behind 7.5 hour pace. But having said that, if we’d rushed through that stop, who knows if I would have had the energy to do what I did from there on?

So at Cleland there was a coffee van. Beck and I both went for a short black – I didn’t want to linger over a long black, plus it was getting warm so I didn’t really feel like a hot drink. It was pretty good too! There was also freshly made pizza – I couldn’t bring myself to have any of that but it looked and smelled amazing. What I did have though was some boiled potatoes dipped in salt… OMG so good, who knew? I also had some vegan fruit cake which was also delicious! I can’t remember what else was there but there were plenty of options, definitely something for everyone!  It was a bit overwhelming actually… like a Vegas buffet! Like at all the stations there were familiar faces volunteering here including Sally and Victoria. Sally had run her first marathon earlier this year and people had been trying to talk her into running Yurrebilla (exactly like what happened to me last year!) I encouraged her to volunteer if she didn’t want to be talked into running, and I was glad to see her out there. I have a feeling she’ll be running it next year…

Eventually we left Cleland, and for the first time since the start we saw Kate and Alison. They were behind us and we were walking up a hill… I think they were suggesting we were a bit soft for walking! All in good fun though… we ran together for a short time. They seemed to be enjoying themselves, both of them like me were ultra virgins. Also around this point we ran with local running identity Chris (aka Chicken – of The Running Company – best running store EVER) and his wife Megan.

Somewhere between the Pillbox and Coach Road stops we were passed by a guy with a white bib, an 8:30 starter. I looked at my watch, it was 10:26 so we were nearly 3.5 hours in and he had started 2 hours ago. That turned out to be race ambassador and eventual winner David Byrne (in a new race record time – 4 hours 20-something minutes for 56km – bloody amazing!)

As we got close to 28km I wished I’d brought my old iPhone with me… given 28km was the halfway mark I thought it would have been appropriate to play Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ at that point. (I almost always mentally sing the chorus at the halfway point of a race). What to do… the only thing I could do was sing it! 28km also happily was the location of a drink station, at Coach Road. Here we met up with a large contingent from the 6am start group, including fellow virgins Ali and Libby (and many more). So I burst into song… “Oh – we’re halfway there…” and a few people joined in. I did struggle to hit the high notes!

After we left that stop Beck and I did a few more songs to the amusement of those around us (OK it was mostly me) – ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ and ‘Total Eclipse Of The Heart’ were belted out with great gusto!

The next challenging section was the climb out of Horsnell Gully. I decided (to the probable horror of those around me) to ‘treat’ everyone to a rendition of Miley Cyrus’ ‘The Climb’. Running up a hill, while singing, is a bit tricky, I discovered! Once again the high notes were a bit beyond me. The distraction was good though because the next time I looked at my watch we’d passed the 30km barrier!

At some point before the next stop at Woods Hill, Beck spotted a koala in a nearby tree… well she HEARD it, and eventually saw it! It was really close to the road and quite low down, I’d already passed it but turned around and ran back to see it. It really seemed to be cheering us on!

The next (and as far as I know only other) proper toilet stop on the course was at Norton Summit, however as we approached, both Beck and I decided we didn’t need to go and could make it to the finish.  That was possibly an indicator that we weren’t hydrated enough – I didn’t end up going again until the post-race dinner!

At the aid station at Morialta Cottage, around 37km, we were greeted by James and his family driving by with supplies for us! James is a regular running buddy and had earlier messaged Beck to see if she (and I) needed anything. I had requested a lemonade ice block. I have not had one of those in YEARS but wow, it was sooo good! (James was also the one who had brought me hot coffee during the 6 hour event a few months back – once again he had brought me EXACTLY what I needed!)

Beck and I walked for a bit and ate our ice blocks. Not long after this (I think it was 38km – 18km from the finish) Beck said she needed to walk for a bit as her heart was racing a bit. After making sure she was definitely OK and had a phone in case she got into trouble, and promising to wait for her at the finish before cracking open the bubbly, I left her and went off on my own.

It was a bit weird running on my own after running with Beck for so long, but I quickly settled into my rhythm. 40km came and went without an issue – I NEVER felt that fresh at 40km in a marathon! Of course I was running a lot slower here,  and stopping regularly,  and eating. I was glad to have my snacks on board as there were times in between stations where I needed a little sustenance. I don’t do gels. Never have and don’t ever plan to. In road races I stick with sports drinks and in trail runs it’s actual real food.

The only really tough section for me was between the 42.2km and 45km marks.  There was a small station at Deepview (42.2km) with our lovely cocktail waitresses in fishnets and sexy cocktail frocks, serving drinks on silver platters. We had Sally, Sonja, Deb and Harry. Yes, Harry is a man and yes he was wearing a rather fetching strapless number. (And enjoying it way too much I might add!) In hindsight I should really have had a Coke here. I don’t often drink Coke and I didn’t want to start drinking it too early – so I resisted. But that sugar hit may have made the next section a little easier.

I don’t know why but the next 3 or so km seemed like an eternity. I was on my own for most of it, and I didn’t see any trail markers for what seemed like ages, so I was worried that I may have missed a turn somewhere! I knew there was a drink stop soon so I finished my bottle of sports drink, planning to top up at the next stop, at Moores Track. My spirits lifted when I saw the CFS truck and the fireys at the drink station! I clearly hadn’t studied the competitor’s manual enough though because the 45km stop only had water and Coke! Again in hindsight I definitely should have had a Coke here because the next stop was not for another 5km, at Quarry Track, at the bottom of Black Hill.

Luckily my Lifesavers saved me and got me through to the last drink stop. There I was ably assisted by Diane and got my bottles topped up, and had a quick bite to eat. I also saw husband and wife Brian and Shannon who had been planning to do Yurrebilla together before Shannon rolled her ankle a few weeks ago. Brian ran it on his own instead with Shannon supporting him, but sadly he too rolled his ankle around Cleland and had to pull out. This couple clearly does everything together! I said it was the universe telling them that they were MEANT to do Yurrebilla together – next year guys!

I was happy with my time at that point. With 6km to go I was at 6 hours 19 minutes. Still 70 minutes inside my goal time of 7 hours 30. If I couldn’t do the last 6km (even including the brutal climb up Black Hill) in 70 minutes something was seriously wrong! I thought 7:15 looked like a better goal.

Black Hill is nasty but didn’t scare me. I started to feel the niggle in my left hip that normally comes much earlier in long runs. I had Voltaren on board but that would have required me to take off my backpack to get it, and I didn’t want to do that. Besides, anti-inflammatories + dehydration + heat is a bad combination!  So I pressed on and it soon went away.

Looking at my Strava times for the 3km of the Black Hill ascent I averaged about 10 minutes per km which was not too bad… I even managed one more little bit of singing, this time a version of ‘Running Up That Hill’ – I’d changed the lyrics to ‘Walking Up Black Hill’! I did walk pretty much all of it – it’s hardly runnable at the best of times, let alone after 50km!

Once I had completed that climb there was about 3.5km to go and it was just after 1:45 (6 hours 45 after I started). 7:15 was a no-brainer – I could almost get close to 7 hours! (Without the extended Cleland stop it could definitely have been sub-7!)

I LOVED that last section. All downhill,  a few tricky sections especially right near the end but just so enjoyable. I managed to pass a few people along this section too! 55km showed on my watch when I passed the awesome bell-ringers – they told me 1.5km to go, so obviously my watch was a little out, but still… 1.5km was nothing!

I remembered what race ambassador Tymeka Warburton had said at a ‘newbies’ dinner earlier in the year. Enjoy the finish. Don’t run, walk. Soak it all in. I was flying for the last km until a guy told me ‘200m to go’. Once I heard the crowd and saw the finish line I slowed down. I didn’t walk but I jogged. I heard MC Karen call me over the line, stopped my watch, got ‘badgered’, got my sweet sweet bling and hugged a few people (sorry I can’t remember who – it was a bit overwhelming!) I was pleasantly surprised to see Mum there – I hadn’t expected her to be at the finish! Luckily she was early because I was well ahead of where I had thought I’d be – my time was 7:06:48. I was STOKED.

It was just after 2:00. The next few hours were so enjoyable, watching people finish and catching up with friends everywhere I turned – runners, volunteers and spectators. It was such a perfect day to be out in the sunshine with friends. Beck finished under 8 hours as she’d hoped, and as soon as I saw her I cracked open the bubbles and poured us both a glass. Then I had a celebratory drink with Mum before wandering around with the bottle and a couple of glasses,  offering it to anyone that would take it! (I wasn’t driving, but even though it was Jansz I didn’t particularly want to drink the rest of the bottle myself!)

Later after Mum left I had a few more drinks with Mandy, Sue, Leanne, Lorraine et al who had several more bottles in their esky!

I had an AMAZING vegan pie floater from ‘Give Peas A Chance’. I had never had a pie floater before in my life! Soooo good.

I stayed till after the 5:30pm cutoff – tradition states that Yurrebilla is not over until the last person finishes. The last person across the line, with 2 minutes to spare, was MC Karen’s husband Daryl. I think there were 440 registered, and exactly 400 finishers. All 6 of the Yurrebilla Legends (those who have done all 9 events) finished.

Then it was on to the dinner – me still in my race gear (sans shoes and socks – I had changed into sandals earlier and was happy to see I still had all my toenails!) and wearing my medal. I put on my race singlet – superstition states that it is bad luck to wear an event singlet before finishing said event. I could legitimately wear it now.

I wolfed down 2 serves of vegetarian pasta and a couple of rolls. The tiredness was really sinking in by then. Once the presentations to the placegetters and the speeches were over, I eventually got home and showered, and spent the rest of the night catching up with Facebook posts from friends. It was nearly midnight before I got to bed – still wearing my medal!

A few people told me I had potential to do even better.  Graham told me I should consider getting some 1:1 coaching and I might really scare myself how fast I could go! Justin told me at dinner “OK you’ve had your fun now… time to stop just running and start RACING!” By that he meant no lingering at drink stops,  no singing, definitely no selfies! We’ll see… let’s see what hext year brings!

It was just the BEST day. And a perfect weekend – my Hawks winning their way into another AFL Grand Final, and finally seeing Sebastian Bach live (AND getting a retweet from him on Twitter – gobsmacked!)

Thankyou SO VERY much to everyone that made it possible!

Now I just have to wait 52 weeks for my chance to do it all again!

If you’re thinking about it – stop thinking and put it in your calendar for 2016 RIGHT NOW!