Ultra Trail 50km Recap
First and Foremost I had an amazing day, Smiled/grimaced the whole way though and I am nothing short of proud of what I was able to achieve. Though in saying that the race which was my A race didn’t go to plan.
Before the race I was feeling great and not at all nervous, I am a creature of habit and stuck to my regular pre-race routine. I had my trusty Oats and Coffee before the race, strapped myself up and got kitted out, no nerves to be seen. I headed off to the start line. No surprise to anyone I was close to if not the first runner there and still not nervous.
Gathered with a few of the Uppers/Gunners, did all the things I always do and then the nerves set in. No more than normal but strangely very late in the piece. The time between arriving and the race starting went ridiculously quick and next thing you know I was lined up with the rest of Wave 2 ready to go. I normally start at the back of the grid but in this case a lot of people were staying back so found myself right near the starter.
Off and Racing
The first 8 or so km of the race is largely road running, which felt weird but I knew was coming. Unfortunately that’s where things started not going to plan. I had a strange cramp in my stomach; not enough to impact my running but a reminder that something was there. I put it aside and just kept going. My race plan was never to push hard and whenever I heard footsteps behind me to pull to the side to allow people to pass I went in to play the long game. Pre race I had setup a number of alerts to keep me on track for habits I had done all through my training and had paid off during 6 foot. Sips of water every 2km, salt tablets on the hour and gels every 45 min.
By the time we got near the 3 sisters I knew some downhill would be coming. Again I stuck with letting people pass at any point when they were close behind me. Then came the stairs I took my time and went through the motions. Up, down, up, down, up, down, down, down, down, down, up, up, up and so on.
15km in my legs were starting to tell me it wasn’t my day. Cramps had kicked in so I knew it was time to change the game plan. I dropped back the pace and set myself up for a long day. Shortly after this point I past Ben and Steve – always a puts a spring in your step to seeing mates out and about. But when they asked how I was, I owned up to the fact that the cramps where there already. I could hear the worry in the voices, it was that point I knew that I had to make the choice to enjoy the day and work with what I had, not what I had planned.
Shortly after this there was a bit more road (a lot more road than I’ve seen on a trail race before), I enjoyed this section as it gave the legs a constant for a bit. Kept going through to Fairmont. Where I had an awesome mini cheer squad and I dashed for High Fives (of the short variety). Time to refill water bottles and stop and gather myself.
I upped the salt a little but it wasn’t really helping so I went to the strategy of numbers. I would make myself run as comfortably as I could and get out at a minimum 100 paces, anytime I felt good at the 100 mark I would push myself to run another 100 and so on. If during the 100 I could feel the cramps tightening I would push through to the 100 then enjoy some fast walk until they subsided. This was pretty much the strategy through to the 30km mark.
The other thing I made sure from this point on is that I would be the cheer squad for every single person that passed me that day (and there was a lot). It helped to break up my run and hopefully helped others when they needed it.
Then came the downhill this was the toughest part of my race. The bracing and running and push down the hills took their toll on the already cramping legs. In the end I employed the Cliffy shuffle (for those old enough). It wasn’t a walk but wasn’t quite running either.
Then we got to the bottom and started the climb out. This is where all my training came to fruition, I was passing a lot of people going up the hills, the cramping seemed to go into hiding whenever there was a climb so I was actually craving more uphills or I was delirious at this point or both.
Once we got out of the ‘valley’ part of the run my calves decided that they too would join in the cramping fun, this is where a trail run is a great community, every person that ran past me offered me assistance or encouragement and it felt great. I also learnt at this point to cater to things going off the rails more so on future runs. I had already taken far more salt tablets than I had expected and was running low. Luckily a lot of people offered me some and I sure took up the offer.
Friends are tops
I also got passed by a lot of UpCoaching/Gunrunners through here which was great to have familiar faces on course.
At 49 km I had run out of salt tablets and man did those cramps kick in. I couldn’t move more than a couple of very short steps at a time and it hurt, but at no point was this the end. I was never NOT going to finish this race. Another lady offered up some salt tablets and they worked their magic. I got through the last little section to Furbur steps. At this point I was looking forward as opposed to everyone else as UP was my friend.
These stairs are something else; I was actually passing people going up them. Don’t get me wrong, the higher I got the more the fatigue set in, but I kept going. I put in a minor attempt to run the finish chute, but the cramps weren’t done with me yet. So I walked and just soaked up the atmosphere, the ringing of the cow bells, the cheering of the crowd, the call of the PA of my name is something not matched at any other event and then to see a number of familiar faces is something else. Then there was that finish line, the awesome I can stop finish line, it was there. Of course crossing the finish line to see Kelly was wonderful feeling. I had done something that a year earlier I hadn’t even dreamed of attempting
In many ways this was my best race – when Plan A didn’t work I backed my training and all the wonderful guidance I had from the truly awesome Kelly-ann Varey and worked my butt off the get it done. I had a fantastic time running in one of the most scenic places in the world. I learnt a lot about mental strength. I knew to back my training for being able to get there, even if it took 1 or 2 hours longer than expected. I learnt to draw on other challenges both mine and what I had witnessed in others to get to the finish. So all in all a fantastic experience.
“The time between arriving and the race starting went ridiculously quick”
Having a great Coach was the difference between being prepared and Race ready to be flying blind.