Writing race reports always seems a bit self-indulgent, but man I do love reading about other peoples triumphs and woes.
I’ve been less keen to write this one, because frankly my 2021 UTA100 was a train wreck. In the interests of balanced journalism, I’ll share the less-than-pretty story that was 2021! Goodness knows the world needs another pukey pukerson story 😉
Leading into the race I was acutely aware that my body was not in peak condition. I’ve had months of injury and health issues. Between that and a less-than-stellar mindset, this year would be a bit of a battle. It’s always a bit daunting standing on a start line; doing it with little faith in your body is proper scary.
I thought I had realistic expectations. Finish in whatever time. Collect utmb points for (fingers-crossed) an entry in 2022. I mentally prepared for seeing friends run off into the distance and gave Mum (Best Support Crew that ever lived) some VERY wide-ranging aid station arrival expectations. Even with all this “realistic” mental prep, I couldn’t help but think… “well surely I won’t be slower than the first time I ever ran 100km”. Anyone wanna bet what happened?
On Friday, Mum started the weekend off in spectacular fashion winning Women’s 70+ in the UTA22km by over half an hour. In fact, she was 2nd overall in 70+ age group. She bounced across the finish line full of running.
She laughs at the word ‘inspiration’, but man, her resilience really is an inspiration. Boyd and I are lucky to have grown up with parents that normalised the trials and tribulations of pinning on a number.
Friday night the wind was moving the campervan in an alarming fashion. I don’t tend to worry about the weather. My best races have been in god-awful conditions.
Saturday morning and off I set in a calm, collected fashion. Who am I kidding!?! I attempted Kipchoge-pace while reassuring myself this was ‘easy’! Thankfully the stairs and landslide brought a return to sanity. I ended up behind a girl who was struggling with the technical track. Personally I didn’t mind the pace, but as she lost contact with the congo line in front, people behind started to get antsy. Finally, she asked if I wanted to pass. The dilemma. Go and you are suddenly “it” and responsible for finding the tail of the snake in front. Stay and be stuck.
I went. Bottom of Golden Stairs and I pulled out of the line. I was being CALM and SENSIBLE! Up we went. My heart rate sky-rocketed and I realised I was in deep doo-doo! Blood pressure was wacky, vision went orange. I swallowed my pride and pulled over in a tiny alcove. Felt a little better and joined the party line again. 5 mins later I sat down hard on the side and had to get my head down. Friends streamed past asking if I was ok. Fainting at 8km, left a lot of room for improvement in the next 92km!
Narrowneck sucked. But then it always sucks. The line at Tarros was bigger than I’d ever seen before and the little ‘Negative Nelly’ voice peeped up. “You must be a lot slower than previous years”. Over to Dunphys (31km). Concrete legs and soooo much hiking. WAY too much mental comparison to previous years going on.
I still had my sleeves on — No Tanya Carroll ‘frozen buff’ needed today! I shuffle/hiked near a lovely older lady and she was super chipper. I took a page out of her book and started ‘fake’ smiling at everyone that passed me. Sounds dumb, but I think it helps when you are circling the drain.
Into 6 Foot (45km) and I was shaking my head at Mum. I also grabbed my poles…it was a brave new hiking world! Muttered “this is going to take a while”, stuffed watermelon in my face and left.
Then the first (and possibly only) highlight of the day. I found my mate Fraser on the way to Nellie’s Glen. He had rolled his ankle and was in the hurt locker. My most favourite bit of ultras is the mental world you get to explore. Trying to buoy up Fraser immediately turned me around (although I am not sure I helped him all that much!). My focus on him and my bravado talk about “buckle down, we’ve just got to ride it out and get it done” changed my own headspace completely.
We hit Nellies together. Again the lack of fitness hit me and I slotted in behind Fraser to grind it out. Tried to get some nutrition in and whammo, Pukey Pukerson made a sudden and dramatic appearance. I told Fraser to go ahead. No one needs to witness projectile vomiting if they can help it.
As we popped out the top, a squall brought a bit of sago snow. Not your typical UTA weather but I wasn’t cold.
Into Aquatic Centre (57km). Mum and my friend Karen were there and suddenly I was teary! The seasoned professionals (Mum and Karen) had firm and pragmatic advice. “Keep moving forward. Leave now.” The benefits of experienced crew are immeasurable, especially when you are in the shit.
Over to Giant Staircase where the wild winds kept the tourists at bay. That or I was so late in the day that they’d all gone home for dinner! Onto the descent and I was between two guys. As we got towards the bottom some tourists were coming up and we were suddenly stopped. My hamstrings decided to throw a surprise cramp festival! I fell into an unexpected squat with a yelp and the guy behind helpfully told me he could see my hammy standing out the back to my leg!
I started sucking on Saltsticks like a mad woman. As per 2019, they worked their magic by Leura Forest and I could get my fake smile back in action to greet the 50km guys, including my friend Alex Duffy going home (lucky bastard)!
Up Leura Cascades. Do you really want to hear the next puke story? Nothing was staying down but somehow the mental switch had been flipped. I was into gladiator mode. It didn’t matter how long it would take. It didn’t matter how much I would puke or cramp. I was now super comfortable with the suck. Most ultras a constant rolling wave of feeling like a hero and then a snail.
By now I knew there would be no hero moments, but I was ok with getting it done as a snail. It became a problem-solving exercise. What was the most efficient way to get to Scenic World, without calling an Uber 😉
Into the Fairmont Golf Course (67km) and I was told to put the inglorious fluro vest on. To soften the blow of being slow enough for the first time in 6 years to wear it, a volunteering Michael Milton helped find it in my pack. What on earth was I whining about. Michael has done an ultra on one leg!
The Undercliffe track dragged on to Wentworth Falls and it was properly dark. The wind made the waterfall reverse into the air, saturating me. As I climbed into the wind on that god-awful new track to the Hospital I had my first feeling of cold.
I was trying to remember what a privilege it is to have a body and brain that allows me to do ultras at all. But mostly I crashed onto my face 2 or 3 times. Definitely a Class 2 fun moment. I hoped it wasn’t going to take me all night to cross the valley home and was aware it had been WAY too long without any calories staying down.
Queen Vic Hospital (78km). I was reasonably incoherent. I sat (Danger! Danger!) and started dry-heaving in front of the crowd. Such a glamourous sport! Mum was a force of nature and her positive, fast decisions were so helpful. Emergency hot pink thermal—put it on. Big headtorch—put it on. Switch soft flasks, gel flask, take poles. LEAVE NOW! I was 8mins (a long time for me) and cramping and shivering had started as I crawled my way away from the cheering crowd.
The next 4 hours were somewhat unpleasant and hazy. Silver linings – I hallucinated some imaginary dancing pink streamer people. A gorgeous young girl volunteering at the heli pad lied and said I looked great while she filled my soft flask. And I could still shuffle on Federal Pass enough to pass a couple people.
My amazing Mum and kind friends were patiently risking hypothermia at the finish line to cheer me home. No finish is ever guaranteed and I’m grateful I found it. I really hope the next UTA involves a little less night running!
16hrs 4min (1.5hrs slower than my first UTA100). 59th Female. 431st Overall.
Dirty Girl gaiters
Black Diamond Poles
North Face Sleeves
Mum’s god awful pink thermal
Find Your Feet headband
Walmart gloves 😉