My First Ultra!

My First Ultra!

Sri Chinmoy Canberra Trail 100

The Canberra Sri Chinmoy 100km trail race was my first attempt at an ultramarathon. I had toyed
with the idea of doing an ultramarathon in 2016 however due to injury and then pregnancy, never
made it to a start line. In 2019 I was now ready to take on the challenge! I chose the Canberra
100km race as it is run in my hometown

Local knowledge

I had the opportunity to train on most the trails before
the big day. There was also some comfort in knowing I wasn’t far from home if things went wrong! A
few weeks before the race I joined UP coaching with coach Wes Gibson. This made a huge difference
to my preparation in terms of nutrition and hydration and gave me a clearer idea of the time goals
for each leg.

Perfect conditions

The morning of the race arrived, and it was near perfect conditions. My husband had agreed to be
my crew chief and pacer for the last leg which I am so grateful for and I knew my family and son
would be waiting to cheer me along the course. I have recently moved back to Canberra after a few
years overseas, so I didn’t know anyone else at the start line. The wonderful thing about this event is
that I met so many people over the course of the day.

On your marks, get set, GO!

I stood at the start line with the other solo competitors and we
set off just as the sun was rising. The start of this race was a very
different experience for me as the longest race I had previously
done was a half marathon, so I wasn’t used to the casual and
relaxed atmosphere of the start. One of my main concerns was
starting off too fast and suffering for it later in the race so I put
the brakes on. As we slowly jogged around the lake, I met some of
my fellow runners and learnt of their previous running experience
and goals for the event. It was nice to know I wasn’t the only one
tackling my first 100km run. As the race is a 4-leg relay which you
can choose to run solo, I mentally divided the task into the 4
sections and 3 transitions points.

Leg 1 starts at the Rond Terrace at Lake Burley Griffin and runs up past Parliament Hill towards Red
Hill when the trail running begins and follows a few climbs ending with Mount Taylor. As we reached
the base of Red Hill I began to relax and at the first climb I took the female lead. As this was my first
ultra I knew I had to walk the hills and run the downhills and flats even though walking in a race still
felt unnatural to me. I found myself at the back of a group of 4 solo male competitors who had all
run ultramarathons before. I decided to watch what they did so I walked when they walked and ran
when they ran. This made a huge difference to my pacing and I am very grateful that I wasn’t
running alone in this section. I arrived at the first transition at the slower end of the goal set by
Coach Wes of 2:30-2:45. In true triathlete form I didn’t waste too much time here and swapped my 2
bottles prefilled by my awesome crew chief grabbed some food and headed off for leg 2.

By this stage it had started to warm up and after back to back winters it was hot
by my standards. I was struggling to get to the aid stations with enough fluids. I was very thankful to
have taken Coach Wes’s advice to drink and eat from the start rather than waiting as I was starting
to feel a little dehydrated at this point. Luckily, I had some vegemite sandwiches which gave me a
good boost of salt and helped me on my way. I ran most of this leg alone but was surprised on more
than one occasion by my family cheering me along this part of the course. I reached the second
transition station earlier than expected and was feeling strong. I switched my hydration strategy to
carry 2x 500ml soft flasks instead of the 500ml and 350ml ones I had been carrying, loaded up some
more vegemite sandwiches, chews and muesli bars and headed off. At this point I had completed my
longest run ever!

Leg 2

Leg 2 is the longest leg measuring about 27km. It leaves the base of Mount Taylor and heads up
Mount Arawang, Narrabundah Hill, Coolamen ridge, and Mount Stromlo with the transition point on
the Molonglo river.

Leg 3

Leg 3 heads towards the Arboretum, and summits Black Mountain
before heading along O’Conner ridge towards transition 3 in Dickson.
During this leg I noticed I was more focused on how far I had to go
than previously in the race. My GPS watch doesn’t last more than 4
hours so I had decided to wear it as a normal watch and just run. This
was great for the first 60km however I started wishing I could see how
far to the transition station. I was still running alone, apart from the
occasional relay team member whizzing past, until the base of Black
Mountain where I caught up to another solo runner Michael Brennan.
He was also completing his first ultramarathon and we ran together
over O’Conner ridge towards Lyneham high school. I was still feeling
strong at this point but was starting to creep towards that dark hole
that I knew would come at some point in the race. This period running
and chatting to Michael gave me a huge boost so thank you! As we left
O’Conner ridge and headed along the paved section towards the final transition, I picked up my pace
and couldn’t wait to get there and have some more company on the final leg.
The final leg is the shortest leg but has 2 big climbs Mount Majura and Mount Ainslie.

At this point I
was looking forward to the climbs as a large part of the previous legs were very runnable and I was
keen to break up my stride with a hike. I had set a goal of not walking anything that wasn’t uphill for
at least the first 3 legs and decided to extend this goal into the final
part of the race. I knew that If I gave in to it once I would be
walking a lot of this leg. I also knew that my two big toenails were
no longer attached however I figured it couldn’t get much worse so
put it to the back of my mind. I was lucky to have my husband
running with me on this leg. I went into the pain cave around the
80km- 85km mark (I really had no idea at this point how far I had
gone) and we ran in relative silence over Majura and Ainslie. The
summit of Ainslie finally appeared, and I was fortunate enough to
see an echidna on the descent! 3.5km to go and I picked up my
pace down Ainslie and along ANZAC parade to the finish line.
I feel that I was so lucky during this race that things worked out. I put it down partly to beginners’
luck and the wonderful advice of Coach Wes in terms of pacing, hydration and nutrition. I found the
race a surreal experience and even now writing this it still feels like it all happened over a very short
period rather than an entire day.

5 Lessons learnt

A few things I learnt from this experience:
1. 100km is a great race distance! I have a good case of post-race amnesia, so I have already
forgotten those last 20km and I’m sure my toenails will recover one day.
2. Trust my training. I was lucky but also pleasantly surprised that I got through the first 80km
feeling relatively strong.
3. Pacing! I was so thankful that I started of slowly. It made the rest of the experience much
more enjoyable and I am looking forward to the next one.
4. Volunteers are amazing. There were so many volunteers out on the course and I appreciate
everything they did to help me at aid stations and cheer me along the way.
5. Running 100km is a great way to meet other runners. I met some inspiring people along the
way and hope at the next race I will see some familiar faces.

A big thank you to my husband Bill for being my crew and pacer for the race as well as taking on
extra parenting duties so I can get the miles in. My son Henry who always tells me to go faster when
he joins me for a run in the stroller. My mum Jennifer and her partner Markus for babysitting during
the race and on more than one occasion in the lead up as well as being an amazing cheer squad. I
got such a lift when I saw you all there! To my new coach Wes for the advice in the lead up to the
race. I’m looking forward to training even smarter now and can’t wait for the next event. Thank you
to the Sri Chinmoy team for putting on such a great race. To all the volunteers it is so amazing that
you set aside your entire Saturday to help others achieve their goals. I hope to return the favour

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