UTA 2023 — Remembering that Racing is Fun!

Another UTA is done and dusted, and I’m so grateful to have a body and mind that wants to keep experiencing whatever the ultra gods throw my way.

The preparation for this UTA was atypical. I was living in Canada until 4 weeks prior to race. I came to Australia and proceeded to work a 1am to 9am shift for a couple weeks, just to spice things up a bit. Training since last December included skiing, a little shuffling in snow on microspikes, and further development of my love/hate (who am I kidding, it was 99% hate) relationship with the dreadmill. I had not run on dirt or stairs hardly at all.

Coach Scotty H was calm; I was mildly panicked. However, this was the first of 6 races I have entered between May and September, so it was mostly about connecting with friends and having a little litmus fitness test to kick off the year.

Support Crew Extraordinaire, Toy Martin agreed to come hold the towel which I thought was big of her since the last Crew experience kept her up for 2 days. I promised there would be no all-night shenanigans at UTA.

Given my limited preparation Mum suggested using it an opportunity to work on my mental game. In all honesty, I’ve dropped the ball in this department too many times over the past couple years. The comparison game has not been my friend and it was time to turn that around.

UTA is my ‘home’ event. Beautiful, ancient landscapes and so many awesome mates. The couple training weekends before the race were some of the best running fun I’ve had in years, despite becoming acutely aware how out of race-shape I was.

Off we went to the start. I was in Wave 3 thanks to my dismal UTMB ITRA ranking. Since we were approaching the race with a butterflies and rainbows attitude, I did consider it might be the perfect place to stop me exploding all over Golden Stairs in km 9 like in 2021.

Photos with friends at the start and I was honestly relaxed and happy! The first 10 km of the Landslide and Golden Stairs were downright weird…I was completely on my own. Usually there’s a big conga line but I couldn’t see a soul. Weren’t there meant to be 7000 people across all these races? The incomparable David Bristow was manning the first checkpoint and told me to get going as he topped my water.

Along the ghastly Narrowneck firetrail and I still disliked it, but did so with a smile on my dial. Down to Duncan’s Pass to see the some of my best mates, Emma and Erika, having a dance party in onesies, while directing the traffic. Duncan’s Pass is a little goat track and people were concerned it would be congested since we couldn’t climb down Tarros Ladders. I continued to be Nigel No Friends, which was fortuitous. Out of nowhere, Pukey Pukerson came to play. I was trying hard to aim off the track, without crashing down the hillside. No one needs to do a goat track covered in vomit.

It was demoralising that I was sick at just 20km. And before you ask…no, I have no FREAKING idea why this keeps happening. I’ve tried so many different tactics and sometimes I’m ok, but often I’m not.

As we were planning a good headspace day, I tried to ignore the nausea and trundled on. The rest of my day was a massive rollercoaster. The dips are to be expected. What was so great was between the dips (that mostly coincided with me losing my lunchbox) I had some REALLY good running patches that were FUN! Ironpot descent was a blast.

The delightful Jo Wood dragged me up Green Gully with her speedy powerhike and I could run at the top.

Getting to Six Foot Aid Station (46km) I was actually smiling at Mum without having to fake it. I found mates Fraser and Scotty in Six Foot and we left together. Another dip in the rollercoaster as I returned watermelon to the earth. Not a lot was staying down but we were ignoring that small issue.

Fraser was a total champion and got me running more. It’s the coolest experience when you are with someone you know well and just a flick of their wrist and their jog step gets you shuffling forward. I piggybacked off Fraser’s energy to the bottom of Nellies and then just suffered the stairmaster with no grace at all.

Fraser stopped to fix his shoe at the top and I expected to see him and Scotty catch me again shortly.

Into Aquatic Centre (57km) and the smile was still there. I told Mum I needed to try to get something in me in the aid stations because eating while running was no longer an option. I was just under 6mins at Aquatic. I left like a bandit with my party snackbox of watermelon, chips and snakes. I’ve never been able to do real food in ultras, but since I hadn’t kept a gel down in over 6 hours, I thought a change is as good as a holiday…let’s give it a crack.

Down the Giant Staircase and the heavens opened. A kind volunteer was helping runners get jackets on in Leura Forest but I didn’t stop. I thought I could stay warm enough climbing the Leura Cascade stairmaster.

My climbing was suffering. Lack of preparation; no nutrition; 8 extra winter kilos; they are loooong stairs. Take your pick for an excuse, I was resembling a smiling snail!

Mum made an unexpected appearance at Fairmont Golf Course and I was super happy to see her. Yes, the smile was still in place, but I was definitely a little unsteady at a standstill. Best to keep the ship moving forward and upright.

Then a real highlight. I climbed out of Wentworth Falls, got my headtorch on and ran all the way to the hospital. Yes, you read that right, no walking! It was a Christmas miracle.

Got the Hospital (78km) and achieved the goal of smiling at every aid station. Took the poles; left the gels. Nothing would go in so I took a bet I could make it across the valley on coke and GU Roctane drink. Down Kedumba and all that skiing came in handy. The quads were strong and I picked up a lot of people, but I may have been a bit gungho because climbing out of that Kedumba hole took a bit of time!

I was making slow but steady progress and then 91km aid station suddenly turned in a fluid pyro show for the poor volunteers. So freaking annoying but the vollies were amazing. I told them I was fine and the medical guy said ‘Of course you are’ and off I went into the night.

Less than 2 ParkRuns to go and they weren’t my finest hour. I could still run ok in between hurling sessions. I was very grateful that the wheels only properly came off in that last 10km. I can safely report there were no land speed records broken up Furber Steps.

Mum at the finish was a very welcome sight.

Overall, I’m stoked with the effort. It was my second slowest time, but the head game was so much better than it has been recently. I loved seeing friends and being uplifted by some of the best people I know.
15hrs 26min. 21st Female. 244th Overall.

There were some super inspiring performances out there. Standouts for me were mates Piera and Jennie. Piera was 8th Female Overall (55-59 age group) and Jennie was 11th Female Overall (50-54 age group) and broke her foot at 60km. Absolute powerhouses. Super inspiring stuff!

Now I’m off to bask in the endorphin high and give thanks that the ultra-gods were relatively kind at UTA 2023.

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