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Fri, 20 May 2016
UTA100 - The big dance through the blue mountains again - 16:48
I am still fascinated by seeing how I can improve in this event, after running in pairs twice and now solo twice I signed up to come back this year still seeing how much time I can lop off my lap of the course. Though I continually claim I am not a runner with my mountain biking and adventure racing background I have been getting out on foot a lot since I got into doing this event. With an arbitrary number I apply to the time around this course before I may admit I am a runner of 12 hours I was coming back to see how close to this goal I would get.
My first year solo in 2014 I was positive I would finish just now sure how fast, thinking on the day I may take around 15 hours I managed 13:44 which at the time had me happy and a little surprised. In 2015 I had a few things interrupt my lead up and not everything felt great so though I hoped to go under 13 hours I was not sure, managing 13:15 was not what I wanted but I got around the loop again anyway.
In 2016 I continued to not have a training program and simply work toward goals by judging effort in my head and race schedule leading up to the event. However most running science seems to suggest the more you can run without getting injured the better. So on January 1st 2016 I kicked off a running streak to see how long it would last. I managed to run every day in 2016 until Wednesday before UTA100, so 132 days in a row with a minimum distance of 5km. This included the days before and after efforts such as the razorback ultra in Victoria and the Six Foot Track marathon in the Blue Mountains.
I never really managed to get much speed work into my prep again this year however had definitely upped my volume doing between 70 and 125km every week of the year with most of it on trails with some good altitude gain at times. I also remained un injured and able to run every day which was great, even with the odd fall or problem I could work around and keep moving through I was feeling good before the event. Due to my tendency to waste time at the check points on course I also had my sister here to support me this year so I would be able to run into CP 3, 4 and 5. Grab new bottles, have food shoved at me and head on out.
All was looking fairly good and I was sure I could go under 13 hours this year the question remained how far under I could get. Then Wednesday night before the race I got home feeling awful and shivering and needed to crawl into bed early and get sleep, waking up Thursday I felt worse if possible and was worried it was all over I had gotten sick and nothing would help. I left work at 2pm that day and headed home to sleep the rest of the day. Fortunately by the time I woke on Friday morning I no longer felt so awful, and actually felt I may be able to run the next day. I had stopped my running streak on Wednesday, no real need to continue it and feeling so bad for two days definitely had to stop.
I arrived Friday afternoon, spent money with Graham and Hanny in their store for some stuff I needed from Find Your Feet and headed to the briefing. The welcome to country form David King was once again a highlight of the runners briefing it is a fantastic part of the race every year and really heart felt, genuine and funny. Met my sister Jane at our accommodation and discussed the race day and estimated times while eating dinner. Fortunately I finally felt ready to run again by the time I went to sleep Friday night. I had a few runs the week before with what I call Happy Legs where you feel awesome running and light and happy on your feet. Though I hoped for that on Saturday I knew I just had to get out on the track and keep moving well.
I was in wave 1 and starting at 6:20am, had a chat with my mate Tom Reeve on the start line and then we got moving, taking it easy on the 5km bitumen loop I had a chat with Phil Whitten who was worried after stomach issues in six foot caused him problems he may have issues today too (in the end he did alas), still it was nice to be moving and cruising along the out and back before the steps. In wave 1 it was nice and open and even the descent down Furber steps was pretty open. Ran through toward the golden stairs feeling OK, never awesome but not like it was going to be a horrible day out.
I got onto the fire road out Narrow Neck and realised I was probably a few beats higher than I probably should be HR wise however decided to stay with it and ensure I not push too hard on the hills climbs along here. With the start out and back slightly extended this year it was good to pass through CP1 in the same time as last year so on course for slightly faster, however I would not have a proper idea of time ad how I was going until Dunphys camp. On the climb from Cedar gap I noticed some people around me seemed to be pushing harder than I thought they should however that had nothing to do with me so I kept moving and hoping I survived. On the descent down to the camp I had my left adductor cramp a bit which seems to happen here every year so I have to manage it and keep going.
At Dunphys CP I had a chat to Myf happy to actually see her or Matt this year (I missed seeing them here last year) and got moving aware I would need to take it easy on iron pot to keep the cramps at bay. I got onto Iron Pot and loved being able to say thanks to David King and his colleagues welcoming us to country with Didgeridoo and clap sticks up there, the short out and back made it easier this year and then I took it really easy on the loose ski slope sort of descent down due to cramps being close to the surface. Continued taking it easy chatting with other runners as we went back past the outgoing track on our right and then we dropped down to the bottom of the valley to start heading up Megalong Rd.
Looking at my watch I was probably behind time to do sub 12 hours already at this point but would have a much better idea once I got to Six Foot CP in a little while. I took it easy climbing the rd at strong power walk and then managed a comfortable 4 to 5 minute pace along the road into the CP. I got out of CP3 just before the 5 hour mark, this was confirming I was unlikely to go under 12 hours, I expected I needed to be gone from here in 4h40m to manage sub 12 knowing how I was feeling. I grabbed some risotto and baked potatoes with salt from Jane to see if I could eat these for some variety rather than sweet crap while climbing to Katoomba. On the way into the CP I passed Etienne who had an injury so asked her to see if he needed help when he got in (though that made it harder for her to get to e in time at Katoomba, fortunately Etienne had his parents there to help him out when he had to withdraw there)
Trying to eat the solid food was difficult and slowing me down so I gave up by the time I hit the single track just before the stairs. I had a chat with a blonde woman (it may have been Daniela Burton) and it was her first 100 so I told her not to get discouraged how long the next leg (CP4 to CP5) takes and to keep focusing on moving forward. I also had a chat with Ben Grimshaw a few times on the way up Nellies as I was passed by him while trying to eat solid food and then caught him again on the stairs once I started pushing up there reasonably fast once more. We cruised through the single track at the top passing a few runners and got into CP4 pretty much together.
I had to refill my water bladder here as well as get two new bottles, still with Jane's help I got out of here fast and left by 6 hours 30 minutes on the race clock. Though behind Ben now as he was quicker in the CP. Now I was happy to hit my race goal of feeling pretty good at Katoomba and still being keen to run which is always the way I think you need to feel at this point as the next leg is the the crux of the race, the half marathon of stairs is really a tough mental and physical barrier to get through.
I headed along to echo point through some crowds on the walk way near the cliff edge and it was nice to have some of the tourists cheering us on, a few other runners were near by and we got through nicely. On the descent down the giant stair case I seemed to pass a few people pretty comfortably and then on to Dardanelle's pass and it was nice running through there for a while. Of course getting down to Leura forest we got to see some 50km runners coming the other way (a few asked me where I was going worried they had made a wrong turn, when I said I was a 100km runner they realised all was cool told me well done and kept going).
I caught Ben again on the way up the stairs from Leura forest and we were near each other a bit for a while then however I seemed to pull ahead on stairs a bit so over the next while I got away from him (he caught me later in the race anyway though). Last year I had a diabetic low blood sugar incident in this leg, somewhere just before the wentworth falls lookout carpark I think. So I was paying more attention through the day on constant calorie intake with lots of clif shot blocks and gu gels. I kept moving well enough through this whole leg so that turned out well. I Said hi to Graham (Hammond) who was cheering runners on at the Fairmont resort water station and ran on for a few more stairs.
Running in to CP 5 on king tableland road I still felt alright and managed to eat another three cubes of shot block there. I had run out of plain water (bladder) again so had not had a salt tablet for a little while. This year I had decided to run with more salt consumption and had bought hammer enduralyte salt tablets, I was downing 1 or 2 of them every time I ate all day which I think may have helped, though I still had cramps around Dunphys that happens every year and I knew I had run a bit hard early anyway (hoping to hit splits needed for sub 12). However even though it was a hot day and many people struggled more in the heat than other years I seemed to deal with it well. However I had discovered I struggled to down the tablets with electrolyte drink from my bottles (high 5 tablets, usually berry flavour) so I needed plain water from the camelback for them.
I got more food from Jane at CP5, re lubed myself a bit refilled the bladder and got moving. I also grabbed a second head torch, though I was carrying one already I liked the beam pattern more on the one I grabbed here, though with full water, bottles and the extra torch I felt pretty heavy running out of CP 5. Still just 3 hours to go now I expected. I got out of there at 9h25m on the race clock which was good, thus if I could have a good run through here I may be able to get in under 12h20m (2h50m run would be nice for this leg at this point). I got moving on the approach to the kedumba descent joking with a few others around me it was time to smash the quads and say good bye to them as they were no longer needed after this really. (only one short sort of descent to Leura creek) I was asked if we needed quads on the stairs, my response was they were a glute fest and allowed use of arms due to the railing so who needs quads after Kedumba.
However as I got on to the descent and passed under the overhang I noticed my legs were a bit off and I could not open up well, I thought about it and realised I was probably low on sugar and needed to eat, eating at this sort of downhill pace was a bit hard (especially as some food was making me feel like throwing up (gels)). I thought I would try to hang on until the bottom as I could walk up out of Jamisons creek eating. However I needed to slow to a walk just after passing the Mt Solitary turn off and down a gel. Then a few minutes later trying to run still did not work so I had to stop and walk and eat for a while again rather than descending at full speed. Doing all of that I was passed by a few people (I think the woman who came 5th, the guy I joked about not needing Quads with and a few others).
Oh well I should have eaten more while stopped at the CP or on the flat at the top, oops, lost time (in the results comparing with people I ran similar splits all day to I may have lost as much as 15 minutes here with this issue). Once I got onto the climb out of Jamisons creek I ate some more and focused on holding a reasonably strong hike, the people who passed me were long gone and I could not motivate myself to push hard to see if I would catch them or not. I was passing a number of 50km runners by this point (I think the sweep must have been at CP5 when I went through). They were fun to cheer on and chat with as I caught and passed them, getting down to Leura creek was good as it was still day light and I could get moving up there to the last aid and onto the finish before I thought about lights.
Ben caught me a gain here saying he had really pushed hard on the kedumba descent and he was looking good so sat a little ahead of me up to the aid station. I refilled my bottles and kept going chatting with 50 km runners as I passed them. I got to the poo farm a bit quicker than I expected (going on feeling as I was not looking at my watch much) however it was good to finally be up on Federal pass not long after that and this is where I decided to focus on moving fast. The last two years I crawled along here and I think I lost a lot of time, I know last year I had mentally given up so was crawling, the year before I think I was just a bit stuffed by then. This time I focused on running whenever it was not a steep up and on getting over to the stairs as quickly as possible.
It was still fun cheering on the 50km runners and chatting with them as I passed, I even saw some women in awesome pink outfits I had seen here a few weeks earlier while training so it was good to cheer them on, when I asked them about it they said it was them and they recognised me (it's pinky they exclaimed) as I passed. I got to the base of the stairs at 12:14 so knew I had to work hard to finish in under 12:30 but it was time to get that done if possible. On the climb up the stairs it felt like I was getting stuck behind 50km runners on many of the narrow sections of stairs however it probably was not much time slowing up the pace (one occasion a race doctor was walking up the stairs with a runner just to help them get to the finish). I managed to get across the finish line in 12:29:51 (57th overall) which was a good result all things considered.
Thanks go to Jane for coming up from Sydney and supporting me all day, Tom, Al and AROC for keeping the fun happening for all the runners, Dave and co for some excellent course markings, all the other AROC people and volunteers. David, Julie, Alex and others for company on lots of the training the last few months. I have a few ideas for what I need to work on next to faster on this course, however am thinking I may have a year off UTA100 to go do something else. The Hubert race in South Australia at the start of may looks like it could be awesome (running in the wilpena pound area through the Flinders ranges) and it will probably be good to develop my base and speed a bit more over time before my next attempt to see if I can become a runner (crack 12 hours on this course).
UTA100 really is the pinnacle of trail running in Australia with the level of competition, course fun quality, vibe on ocurse and the welcome to country, the event history and everything else so I hightly recommend it to anyone keen to challenge themselves. Even if so far this year the event that has really grabbed my attention the most is probably the Razorback Ultra, it is a very different day out to UTA100 so it is all good fun to get outdoors and enjoy the Australian wilderness.