From the beginning of my UTA100 journey I set myself the following goals:
- Base: Finish
- Target: 20hrs
- Stretch: 18hrs
The reason for the 20hrs is that there is a “Bronze Buckle” award for any finisher under 20hrs, and a “Silver buckle” for anyone under 14hrs. I knew Silver was out of the question, but I should be able to set my target on a bronze.
I never officially adjusted these goals since setting them back in January but based on my training, and how I was feeling I was starting to believe that it was closer to:
- Base: Finish
- Target: 18hrs
- Stretch: 16hrs
Now that the course had changed I had no idea what to expect. Perhaps 16 wasn’t so much of a stretch. But I would still be stoked with simple finishing.
7:21 as the clock ticks over, we are off. 10 months of training have led to this. My pace for the first 15km was too quick, 6'30/km (10'28/mi). My training was closer to 7'45/km (12'28/mi) or even 8'30/km (13'41/mi). My targets were showing me 10'30/km (16'54/mi) for a 20hr run.
Based on the training, you know that once the hills kick in, your pace will tumble, but still, I was going a lot harder than I should be. But, no matter how much I told myself to slow down, race day excitement and adrenaline kept me at 6'30/km
By the time we head off on to the long out-and-back trail, I’ve had amazing support from Sarah and the kids (This new course allowed for so much more). And I was prepared for the long lonely run ahead, knowing I wouldn’t see them until the next day (there was no point in them hanging around, because they’d be asleep before I got to see any supporters again).
This is that part of the race when you need to consider strategy. CP1 was coming up, Do I stop now and refuel? Do I have enough fluids and food to keep going? By this stage, I’ve forgotten distances, and when the next CP is. But I do know, my race plan is to continue to the Waterpoint around the 37km (23mi) mark, between CP2 and CP3. Based on my training runs, I should be able to do this with the 3L of fluids I started with.
Around this time I start chatting with Glenn, from the northern beaches (these events are very social), who tells me this is just a training run for the Kosciuszko miler (160km/100mi) in 6 weeks. Your f*#n kidding me. This is the exact same story I heard on my first 6ft track. You’re telling me that my “Goal” run is simply a training run for something greater. All the best to Glenn, and I hope he smashes the Miler, I guess the lesson here is to stay humble. As tough as my goal is to me, it’s just a stepping stone for someone else. And the flip side too, Glenn wasn’t bragging or trying to take away from my goals, he was simply on his own journey.
CP2 comes, I feel I’ve still got enough fluids, still tracking at a 6'30/km pace, let’s not waste time at the checkpoint and push to the aid station. Here I leave Glenn and continue on. Still feeling good, the terrain is quite flat, I’m deciding to make the most of it, and continue at this pace. It’s starting to heat up now. As I make my way to the next turnaround point, where the water point is designated, my main 2L bladder is now empty, I’ve still got 2*500ml flasks of water to go. But I start hearing rumours that there is no water at the turnaround point. At this stage, I need to consider rationing my water because I don’t know now when the next water will be. Is it CP3? or have they just moved the Water Point further down the track?
Hit the turnaround point and sure enough, there isn’t any water here. But importantly there isn’t any sign there was water. This means that they hadn’t run out (as has happened to me at both the Coastal and 6ft before), it simply wasn’t there. This means there should be a water point before CP3.
Heading the 6km(3.7mi) back to the junction and turning left, we are informed just 1 more km to the water point. They had moved it but failed to tell everyone (I would have filled up at CP2 had I known).
From here it’s another uneventful 13km (8mi) to CP3. It was during this phase that I meet Jacinda from Port Macquarie, who used to live not far from where I do, and Jenny from Tasmania. In much need of something to eat, I share the remaining peanut butter sandwich I have (I’ve got more stashed away at CP3). Meeting new people and chatting is a great way to pass time and kms. Before we know it, we arrived at CP3 the first one with our drop bags.
Precious minutes are wasted at this CP, looking for my bag. Time I could be spending filling water bottles. Topping up food portions, getting essential calories into my body. Not wasted rummaging through piles of similar-looking freezer bags. Finally, someone finds it for me, and I grab what I need, a quick change of shirt (because I can), and off I go.
The long slog back up the fire trail back to where we came from. This stage is pretty uneventful. By now seeing I am some familiar faces, and meeting new people.
CP4 was a stark contrast to CP3. As I approached, I was asked, “Do you have a drop bag?” And by the time I entered the CP, there it was waiting for me. Amazing. Then as I start getting my stuff sorted, an amazing volunteer said “Give me your water bladders, and I’ll fill them for you” again, I was blown away by the support of these volunteers, aside from a massage they couldn’t have done more for me.
Leaving CP4 it feels like we are on the home stretch. By this stage, I’m starting to think about my finish time. Sure my pace has dropped back from the 6'30/km I was pushing earlier but not significantly, it’s now closer to 7'00/km. I’ve been keeping Sarah and my support crew updated all day as to my pace and progress (the race timing was very sporadic). At this stage, I looked at my the time and realise I was well ahead of my race plan. I message Damo, “CP4 ETA 6:10”, I was about 8km (5mi) away and gave myself an hour. Well…
I was wrong. It turns out the 8km leading into CP4 was not the same terrain as we’d had all day. And it turns into a tough slog. “What goes down must go up” was often repeated. At this stage heading downstairs is simply painful on the knees, whilst upstairs requires muscles that refuse to work, and the flats hurt my ankles.
As we slog it out with about 2km (1.2mi) to CP4 there is a small train of people building up. Jenny from earlier had passed me, and now I’ve caught back up.
By this stage, I’m starting to vocalise my thoughts and pain, as much as to motivate myself and those around me. Something I learned back at Bootcamp. I’m sure some thought I was yelling at them, yet I didn’t care. I needed to push myself. As we push it up into CP4, the time is now about 7:15 (1 hr after my original ETA update), I’m verbally pushing another competitor up the last little hill, he can see his daughter (I’d say less than 2yo), and she started to cry, seeing him. At that point I lost it, I got emotional. I knew my family were at home (as they should be, it was already a long day for them), and I wouldn’t see them till after I drove home the next day.
As I get into the CP, I’m looking around for Damo, and find him, but because I’m still ahead of schedule, everything we had planned was thrown out the window. He was going to change my headlamp batteries, but it was still daylight, no need. He had hot noodles for me, I felt great, I didn’t need them. As he filled my fluids back up and got me back going he said one last thing, “Sarah and the kids are waiting around the corner”. I couldn’t believe it, I thought they were at home in bed. But because of my time, she figured they could see me one last time. So I load up on chips, and chocolate from the CP and head up the hill to see the family.
That last boost with the kids was all I needed to push on to the end. By now it was only 10km (6mi) or so to the finish.
The final phase
From CP4 the route went up onto the roads, then down onto the trails, and then back up onto the road. It did this several times. I was surprised one last time as the family was there waiting for me, screaming. Abi was so proud “Go, Daddy, You will finish”. She knew it and so did it. At 6 years old she understood what this meant to me.
Not long to go. Through this phase, I came across Jenny again, and as we headed under the tree canopy the light just disappeared. Time for the headlamps. As we pushed through the dark trails, I started to do the Maths. If I can get to the finish line before 9:21 I will actually get in under 14hrs, this is doable, but I need to push, it will be touch and go, I’ll either finish minutes before 14hrs or minutes after. I would be devastated if I missed the 14hrs, knowing that I could have pushed harder. I had to push. The terrain was downstairs and back upstairs, the 8km into CP4 took forever, and I wasn’t sure how long the final 8km would take. I said thanks for the help to Jenny, and it was time to hustle. Let’s give this a go.
The time was pretty much 8:21 I was 6km (3.7mi) from the finish. The Maths is simple: 10'00/km for 6km is 1hr, so I had to push for < 10'00/km, and I would do it I would get in under 14hrs.
1 km down (5 to go), it was a 10'40/km, that wouldn’t be enough. It HAS to be below 10. I started shouting at myself, I got very vocal. “Keep it under 9”, “You need to finish under 14”. I was screaming.
Another km down (4 to go) this time 10'25/km. Still not good enough. I’ve lost a whole minute now. 13:59.59 is acceptable 14:00:00 is not. I need to push.
Next km (3 to go). This time 8'45/km. That’s better I’ve clawed back some time, but can’t stop now
Next km (2 to go), another 8'40/km. Awesome, It’s still possible. 2km to go, and there are still plenty of stairs. I can’t stop.
Now it’s just a blur… I have no idea where the energy came from or the lung capacity, but I pushed, nobody was going to take this away from me. I climbed the stairs one step at a time, using my upper body to pull myself up on the handrails (hey my arms hadn’t done much all day).
I finally get to the top of the stairs at Scenic world, you can hear the crowd. That familiar feeling, the emotions. With nothing but adrenaline and a primal roar, I push toward the finish line in 13hrs and 55mins. I had less than 5 mins spare
WOW… Over 24hrs later and it still feels surreal. Although my running journey began many years ago, my UTA journey started in January this year and dragged out way longer than the original 16 weeks I bargained for. Over this time I’ve learnt a lot about myself, and my resilience. Things won’t go to plan, and sometimes you’ll be ahead of your plan. Sometimes your race gets postponed, or your waterpoint gets moved. You need to adapt and control the things you can. Don’t focus on the things you can’t.
When in the heat of the battle on race day, everyone is in the same boat as you. Enjoy the journey. Use those around you to distract you, to help you through it. I don’t want to blow my own horn, but I had Jacinda remind me several times, how much that half a peanut butter sandwich helped her, or Jenny told me that I got her up the hill into CP4, there were many others I just know I helped along the way with encouragement and pushing. When I crossed the finish line 100km and 13hrs 55mins after starting, the volunteers at the end checking my gear, said they loved my energy at the finish line. As much as this was a personal accomplishment, this was a journey I have thoroughly enjoyed, and I only hope that I have had the positive impact on these random strangers that they have had on me.
First and foremost, Sarah, your love, support, and dedication are more than I deserve. There is no way I could have even gotten to the start line without you.
Damo, being there as a support crew without hesitation. Insisting on waiting at the finish line potentially at midnight, rather than babysitting the kids.
Jez & Bolho, being great training buddies, see you on the trails.
Kyra & Jesse, It was your races last year that I watched and there was no turning back.
Brendan (Sarge). Not specifically for this race, but for life in general. You showed me what is possible if I set my mind to it. You taught me to push my physical and mental boundaries. The body will go so much further than the brain believes. Without your coaching and mentorship, none of this would be possible.
- 100km / 62mi
- +2500m/-2000m / +8202ft/-6561ft
- 125000 steps
- 95000 kCal
- 2200km/1367mi training since January
- 256 hrs training since January
For those gearheads:
- Trail shoes: Salomon Speed Cross, I’ve NEVER had issues with Salomon shoes. Since the beginning, I have run in Salomons, from the heavier, sturdier XAPro to the Speed cross. I’ve thrown on a brand new pair and ran 45km with zero issues. I just love them. The lacing technology has never let me down, I’ve never had to stop to tie my laces. I have broad feet, and they’ve always fit perfectly.
- Road shoes: New Balance 888. I’m less picky with these but have found them to be the best fit for my foot. Be sure to get fit but a proper running shop.
- Watch: Suunto 9 Baro. This is my second Suunto, I bought the first one for my first 6ft track, purely because it was the only one I could find at the time that would last 7hrs plus. My old Ambit2 definitely wouldn’t last the distance, so I switched to the Baro 9 for the UTA. 48hrs after the start of the race, which included 14 hrs of race tracking, and it’s still got 21%
- Pack: Salomon
- Headlamp: Petzl
- Nutrition: Tailwind. I used to use GU Gels but found my energy levels would spike and then drop, with Tailwind mixed into my 2L bladder, the energy supply is more consistent. Some people have gut problems with gels, I never did, but prefer the tailwind mixed into the water
- Hydration: See above for tailwind in the 2L bladder, and 2 * 500ml flasks of plain water. I usually try to save these until the main bladder is empty, so I have a good idea of how much fluid I have left. I may also drop some Hydralyte sport into one of these.
- The remaining clothing is whatever works. Tops are always previous event tops (I’ve collected a lot over the years.) For compression tights, I generally stick to 2XU, I’ve found these to be the best, others don’t seem to last.
There are so many:
- Find a Goal Challenge yourself, really push
- Find a good Mentor/coach
- Find training partners
- Find Support crew
- Have a plan and stick to it. Make it obvious
- Enjoy the journey
- Help those around you
- Adapt to change, control the things you can
- Have fun
The only questions left now are:
- Am I stupid enough to do it again?
- Am I stupid enough to aim higher?