Massive mission to get myself, my wife, and 3 children over to Katoomba/Leura during my first attempt at ULTRA TRAIL AUSTRALIA... Been planning for and training with heaps of VERT and singletrack type trail running for this one for about 7 months in places like Kalamunda, Byford/Wungong Gorge, and Walyunga. It was always going to be a big challenge for various reasons, and required me to explore some new territory, but after PR's on the Crazytown, Utopia and Oblivion segments, Six Foot in March, and an epic 8 hour effort from Kalamunda to Mundaring Weir and back (in which I got thoroughly lost)... I knew I was ready to take on the Blue Mountains challenge. While I finished 2 hours off my original goal time (sub 7 hours 50 minutes.), I am immensely happy and have a strong sense of satisfaction to finish this one, and race some of it very well, and basically take my trail running to a higher echelon.
Its hard to really explain why finishing this race means a lot to me, but I know it does.
About 25km into UTA50k looking towards Tablelands and Jamieson Valley on the right.
Jamieson Valley about 35km into it. Garmin out of battery life 6 hours into
it, so stopped for 2 more photos.
Looking back at the finish line. Mission accomplished.
Also accomplished a longstanding goal of showing my wife and children the Blue Mountains, which I have been trying to do since 2011, but have failed on every attempt due to costs, until now.
This time I was determined to try and make it happen even if it was on a very tight budget. In December/January, I gradually bought $100 flights, until I had the trip done over several weeks. Even got one free flight. Put a lot of effort into trying to make it work with limited money, and every day was a big challenge, but a few big blessings came our way, including two accomodation bookings a few days before the event, and a loan the day before we left. This trip began by us all walking to a bus stop at night with all luggage in tow, and its not easy dragging 2 young children, and a wife and baby around Perth, Sydney, Leura and Katoomba on buses and trains with several bags of luggage in tow!!! Only just managed to check in for the race briefing in time, and went into the race with the mandatory gear, but with insufficient drinks in my opinion which combined with all the walking around the streets, hurt my final race time.... to the tune of at least 1 hour I reckon, but it was worth it to give my wife and kids, something amazing.... Couldn't afford to use taxis, or a car, although my loan coming good on the Saturday (raceday) allowed us to get to the race in time by indulging in a few $15 taxi rides on the Saturday and Sunday. If the loan had not come through (utter miracle it did) I may have been late to the start of the race, (and finishing it would have been unlikely), and my kids may have missed their race, because in both cases we needed a taxi to get there in time. Whole trip was pretty rushed (we had to change where we were staying each day in order to cope with the cost of night 1, as both the pay of my wife (my fortnightly pay was not available until the following week) and my loan money were not available until the Saturday, and my plans of saving up for the first 2 nights went out the window in the weeks leading up to this partly due to my daughter being in hospital a few weeks before) and flat out, short on money, but we made it work by the grace of the Creator Triune God, and experienced some amazing amazing!! memorable moments. On the Tuesday when we got lost trying to walk to the airport from a bus stop, but got a lift from a van driver and made checkin, but then with trying to make the luggage limits we lost track of time, so missed the flight after they closed the gate 7minutes before flight time, and 3 minutes before we got there, and did not call us or anything, but denied us access to the flight, which i thought was most unfair but then again I think the rule is 10min for the gate departure..,) but I got a loan from my sister to pay the extra $250 ($50 per person) change fee to get on the next flight to Melbourne so we made our connecting flight to Perth which we did make, although after a mad scramble in Melbourne with wife and kids struggling to keep up, and me running or fastpacking around the terminal trying to get from one terminal to the other terminal. Not a fun experience, but we just made it and I guess its "character-building" "teamwork" etc etc...Getting upgraded to a better flight on the way home was nice too although the charges we paid for missing our first flight was a source of angst and expense.
Took the family to visit the Lady Darley lookout (and got this photo of the edge of Mt Solitary and the Ruined Castle) on our Monday slog walk to a bus stop with luggage.
Took my 8 year old and 5 year old on Sunday to Echo Point, where we went down the Giant Stairway to the bridge to the 3 Sisters in 100km/h winds, which my son said was one of his favourite parts of the trip.
We also went to Kedumba View. I was a bit stiff and sore from the race the previous day, but had my new finishers buff to shield me from the cold chilling winds, and feeling relaxed and extremely happy!
UTA kids 1km race.
If I get around to finding a spare $89 I will share my official race photos....
The Months training and preparing for this race;
I set a goal of finishing the Ultra Trail Australia 50km in October 2015. It was a brave move to even enter. I knew it would be a major challenge to try and race this one, which would take me to a slightly higher level of trails racing. Its a crucial choice though if I am ever to race at the UTMB penultimate race on the Ultra Trail World Tour, although I think I would settle for the CCC support race, but then again....
After surviving the Bloated Goat 31km in very hot conditions in the Wungong Gorge in November 2015, I knew I was heading in the correct direction to make my UTA dream a real possibility. My VERT (vertical ascent) count was as high as it had ever been in training, and I was starting to head into "unchartered waters" exploring a new level of training, while attempting to avoid acquiring an achilles or calf strain injury. Had a hint of a calf strain a few times, but rested it, did some calf raises, and rested it a bit more, to and each time I got through it. In December I needed a rest, after a long hard year of training and racing, and lots of family adjustments including new job, new baby, and daughter sick in hospital (all 3 in the same week in May 2015). However to keep my endurance ticking over I took on the six inch 47km for the 9th time (see previous post on this blog) and banked a valuable 6 hours 43minutes.
In January I ramped things up and started averaging around 1000m of VERT each week clocking up 4191m of VERT. Continued this in February with another 3619m, mostly working the Byford/Wungong Gorge Ascension to Karrakup and Bloated Goat course type of areas, with Roger and Nathan coming also. Some of those mornings involved starts in howling easterlys with a headlamp, where I occasionally questioned why I was doing this mostly on my own. Managed to see off the ankle issues that had plagued me since the Truth 50km in April, with a cautious approach to descents, singletrack, and avoiding nocturnal running. At the same time I had to leave the PHAT group, as where they were going and where I was at were no longer compatible. Emotionally that was not easy to adjust to, as they were an amazing group to run with, and some fantastic people there who I enjoyed running with. On one of the Byford/Wungong runs with Roger I went after 8x100-150m ascents in similiar fashion to the bloated goat. That was a tough 5-6 hours and clocked up 1283m of VERT in that one run. Managed to get over for six foot in March, but mucked up my pre-race routine a bit, and wasn't fresh enough going into it I suspect. Had an excellent first 15km, but after the River Crossing my race blew up as I succumbed to rapidly fatigueing legs.made it to 30km, but when a doctor on course asked me to pull out, I found it hard to muster up an arguement, as getting to the finish in under 7 hours was going to be unlikely after taking 5 hours to get to 30km, and slowing up considerably in the last 15km. In hindsight, maybe I should have argued and stuck with it, but I know I would have been well off my 2015 effort of 6.14. Some days you have it, some days you don't. I didn't that day. Made the most of the trip though by getting down the Giant Stairway and back up the 951 Furber Steps the day after Six Foot, which wasn't easy, but gave me an excellent mental preparation for the finish of UTA 50km, and also the Giant Stairway bit early on in the race. It also reminded me I needed to do a lot more ascent and descent training, and a lot more steps. The 3rd benefit was that I clocked up about 2000m of VERT for that weekend, which was excellent UTA training. In February March we were forced to leave our rental house, so was living with the daily angst of looking for a new rental for about 2 months, which had some blessings (closer to Byford/Wungong, and a small reduction in costs) while couchsurfing our entire family with relatives....so I am proud of myself for maintaining some training with everything that was going on....
After a week to recover I took my kids to visit Mt Trio in the Stirling Ranges for the first time ever for them on a Sunday night. After a scary gravel 42km drive, we managed to get about 2/3 of the way up Mt Trio before descending with headlamp. It was a tricky trip to make happen, but we got the 5 hour drive done, got a room at Kendenup, after the Mt Trio half climb, the following day we got up Bluff Knoll
the second highest mountain in Western Australia and the highest in the Stirling Ranges.
While it was easy steps training for me, it was a massive achievement for my kids to summit Bluff Knoll at the age of 8 and 5 years. Very, very , very proud of them. From a UTA training point of view it was a very slow but solid 4 hours on mostly steep steps, bricked with the previous night on Mt Trio,so very valuable. I finished March with a record VERT count of 5097m!!!
Picked up a hammy/gluteal strain a few days later chasing my daughter on one of her energetic sprints, but managed to nurse my way through the Bridges fun run 10km for the 20th consecutive year!
in 52min 20secs. This was my second race for 2016 after Six Foot.
In April I clocked up 4655m of VERT. After our move to a new rental house (thanks God, and thanks friends!), Kalamunda became more accessible, and I was bored with Byford/Wungong, and needed some new singletrack, Was cautious with my injury prone ankles, and used my slower Exodus shoes, with a 7 ascents Kalamunda run which involved a flock of black cockatoos
one of the better ones, and eventually managed PR's on Crazytown
, Utopia, Oblivion and bam-ba-lam
. An epic long run out to Mundaring Weir where I got lost, and ended up being out there for 8 hours was also a standout session. See here
!!! for the first 5 hours or 28km of this 47km effort.
My final big sessions included a 10 hour drive one evening to and from Mt Trio
(31min to summit it) in the Stirling Ranges for a serious attack on this summit, and a run in JFNP/Jane Brook
On race morning I struggled to get organised in time, and was concerned that my 2 powerades would not be enough. Called a taxi to the Fairmont, and made it to the race start with about 20minutes to spare... Had time to do bodyglide, and watch wave 2 take off, and then its was time for my race. Noone wanted to go to the start line, so I did, then everyone else followed me when the announcer told them to. Massive adrenaline rush at the start and running pretty fast in the first 300m.
Started the race leading wave 3 in 391st spot... Incredible views of Megalong Valley. After 300m as the road climbed I backed off the pace a bit, and tried to keep things strong but sustainable. Feeling good, and enjoying the moment. Runners paradise, arguably one of the biggest races of my life so far.... A bit of trail on one of the loops, a bit of ascent, and good views of wave 2 ahead of us, and wave 4 coming up the road behind us... first few km strong but cruisy.... mostly bitumen road with a bit of trail... steep downhill back to scenic world had my 80kg powering me past a few people again, and tried to keep the pace strong as we headed for the cliffs, and the first of more than an hour of lots of steps.....Amazing views, but focused strongly on staying upright, and maintaining position on the group I was in. On the climbs I would sometimes get passed, and on the flatter sections I would run strong, and so the walk/run familiar routine began. Was keen to get to Giant Stairway in a good position as I knew going down behind the 3 sisters, I didn't want to be stuck behind slow runners on 1000+ steps of descent, and I knew it was coming after Echo Point, after my recon in March, and checking the course notes/map pre-race. Two English ladies from Yorkshire and Shropshire I heard them say, were behind me all the way down the Giant Stairway, and i traded places with them for about an hour on the narrow singletracks and neverending stairs through the lush tropical rainforest type areas to the first aid station at Gordon Falls, Was letting some faster runners past me, as I wasn't ascending as strongly as others. My 80kg handicap a problem, but my singletrack and stairs training was standing me in good stead. Staying upright a major part of the game, and fatigue becoming significant. High pressure racing similiar feel to 6 inch or Six foot (just before coxs crossing), but inan amazing almost "underground" forest wonderland. Waterfalls, creeks, massive plants, logs... and a lot of steps... Falling over a constant danger. Also saw one wave 2 runner which we had caught, headbutt the side of a cliff face at speed, coming around a narrow singletrack. She fell to the ground in pain for a bit, but eventually she got going again, reckon she might have a big bruise on the head from that. Also got passed by 3 ladies with pink hats who said something about having done a 24 hour race together (they were chatting a lot just in front of me)...Some tricky climbs up steps, and after several "false summits" eventually we ascended into Leura streets and back into suburbia briefly, awesome crowd support coming into the Fairmont Resort which was a major aid station. 17km done and in 556th position (of 1322 starters) after 2 hours 22minutes I was pretty happy with my start.... Recognised one bloke with the same 2015 six foot visor as me, and someone in the crowd recognised my six foot hat as well and yelled out "i see you six foot track",,,hahahaha...
Had drunk about 2 litres of water, so filled up at the aid station and as it was now almost 10am I decided to go for my long sleeve shirt to fight any sunburn in the next 4 hours... Stopped at this aid station for about 20minutes just organising myself. Disappointed that my wife and kids were too busy moving to the next place they had to stay at to come and see me here (especially as we had slept at the Fairmont the night before), but nice to see a familiar place...
Phase one a good start was done, now with depleted carbohydrates levels, and the worst of the steps completed, it was time to settle in for the long haul for a few hours... Was hard to get running again but eventually did and got some much needed extra drinks. Ran past the Conservation Hut soon after, and while stopping for a few moments to adjust pack, accidentally stopped my Garmin, Realised a few seconds later though so didn't lose any important data. Running past some hikers after the Conservation Hut, and started to get some good pace happening again on the asy flat trails of the tableland... Stopped to take a photo here as we headed out into the tablelands about 22km-25km into it... More crowd support as we ran past several very remote houses... and towards the phone tower? (see left corner of this photo below on horizon)
Then it was CP501 28km mark in 4 hours 49min? and I was about 850th place by this time...where there was cool music playing, I made a quick use of the portaloo there, then grabbed a few hammer gels which proved to be very useful in the next few hours and got out of there quickly started trying to step up the pace on the firetrail....
Then we hit this incredibly steep 638m descent
into the Jamieson Valley, which really worked my quadriceps over. Couldn't go fast on this bit, but copied a side to side technique i saw another runner using so I could run a bit and avoid walking it... Also came across a Perth Runner Moz during this bit. He ended up running about 8 hours....Strava analysis of the first 35km here
Then my race turned into a slow grind up neverending ascents and descents, as some of the top 10 100km runners passed me. About this time is when I wished I had done more training on Bluff Knoll, and the Stirling Ranges in general, and had lost 10kg in weight, (oh for a 70kg body!!!) as I was struggling to get up the hills about 7 hours into the race... after wasting at least 30minutes between Fairmont and CP501.... I knew sub 8 hours was gone, and about 9 hours was going to take some effort. Seemed to take forever to get to 41km mark, and got passed by heaps of people, including some of the top 5 100km runners.... Also knew I was running out of daylight, and I was keen to avoid running nocturnally... 41km aid station not much use for me, but the hammer gels i got at CP501 were handy, and went for my last powerade the mountain blast one, as we headed through the last of the firetrail rolling hills in the valley, and hit grassy forest, deep mud, and very wet areas, near the base of the cliffs not far from the 3 sisters. 45km marker, trying to run every flat section or good terrain bit even (though every instinct wanted to just lie down and go to sleep for more than 2 hours now), no garmin data since 35km mark so a bit unsure of pace, but starting to pass a few people now, so i knew i was finishing strongly... 4km to go finally showed up...two race officials asked me if I was ok... base of cliffs, single track, getting very tricky in fading light... want to get this finished in under 10 hours... past the 9 hour mark.... about 10 runners with me we were spread out over about 100m but trading places... 3 ladies running together stopped for a photo with one of the Aurora cameras... 3km to go.... 2km to go... sat down on a seat and ate a hammer gel...Getting really hard to see my footing in the fading light, but resisting turning on the headlamp...Eventually had to turn it on.Race to get to Furber steps before running out of civil twilight.....1km to go and up the 951 steps I go, passed a few people on the steps, and then an amazing memorable few moments crossing the finish line!!!! Crowd cheering, sunset, I'm going to get under 10 hours, its done, HURRAY!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks God!!!!!!
2016 Anno Domini;
ULTRA TRAIL AUSTRALIA 50km 9 hours 50minutes 09 seconds 956th of about 1240 finishers, 1322 Starters....211th in age group...2378m of ascent http://www.uta.livetrail.net/coureur.php