Pic from of the course from one of my recon runs
If anyone would have told me at the start of the year that I would have done an Ultra marathon by the end of it I wouldn’t have believed them.
It all started when I just looking around at races online and noticed this one. It looked absolutely terrifying and way beyond what I could ever attempt to do, 46+K of hot, hilly trails . I’d never ran over 21.2k and with the prospect of heat, hills and trails it seemed super tough for a runner of my ability and experience. So, being sensible I decided to volunteer to help out on race day . That way I could check out the course, see what type of runners enter it and learn enough to maybe do it the following year, I also thought it was sold out.
After all, this was my “year of halfs ” (marathons), where I hoping to build more stamina in running and finally get a sub2. I was planning (with the help of a fantastic coach) on 3 races with my 2nd one being my “A” race, the other 2 just really for experience – I hadn’t raced the distance for about 3 years so I thought it was good plan. I did my 1st race with no expectations as this was my 1st one and on a hilly course. I couldn’t believe it as I got my sub2! Apart from achieving my goal I ran exceptionally well and literally recovered straight away. My sister met me at the finish and told me I looked so fresh it was like I’d never raced.
1st half mara of the year At the 18k mar, feeling strong and relaxed
With a bit more confidence I started to train for my “A” race. Training was going well and then I found out from a guy at parkrun that there was still spots available for the 6inch mara. I looked at it again online and thought maybe I should have a go and it doesn’t matter if I’m last, just as long as I finish – this was totally for fun, experience and to see how I felt finally running longer distances. Also, with it being a bit longer than a full marathon and on a trail I wouldn’t feel pressured to reach a specific time – the aim was just to finish and have fun. So I entered!
Training was on track and after a bit of trepidation of finally running over 30K and working out my fuel I started to relax and believe I could finish the race. However, towards the end of the training I got a couple of nasty blisters which caused me quite a bit of stress. Luckily I found http://www.blisterprevention.com.au and this helped me enormously. I was hoping to train more on the race course but the blisters were really bothering me and I wanted to stay on my regular running route until they healed. They finally healed and with a couple of longer runs to do I was able to try the course out.
My 1st recon run was from the start of the race as I wanted to tackle the “horror hill” at the start. Apart from getting lost a couple of times, my run went well, and then I tripped on the trail while heading back to my car. I wasn’t injured but it really shook my confidence. The tracks I had been training on were mostly wider and not so rocky. I did another couple of ones to restore my confidence , which they did ….sort of.
lots of small, single tracks along the course
Nice wide tracks, which is what I prefer
The day finally came of the race, and after a few days of feeling very excited to very nervous (and checking the weather constantly) I was ready.
The race started super early and I was lucky enough not to have to drive there myself. I checked in and got to the start -there was a howling wind and it was freezing, which I knew would change to the dreaded heat.
Before I knew it we were off! I took it easy on the massive hill as it was so long and I didn’t want to burn myself out . My very vague plan was just to take it aid station by aid station (23k & 36k) and finally get to the finish. The 1st section was messy in parts and I found I had to hop a lot, just making sure I didn’t trip early on. I chatted to another runner who had fell and he told me about his friend who had broken his ribs on the course the year earlier – I was being very careful! I finally got to the road we had to cross and it was nice to see non-runners. The next section was also rocky in parts but as I got closer to the 1st aid station, the paths started to widen and I was running on gravel roads which is what I’m more used too. I started to run faster and overtook quite a few other runners. At this point I realised I was going to able to complete it. I got to the 1st aid station and felt great – I was in very high spirits. I then got to the pea gravel and the big long hill in the middle , the ks felt like they were ticking along quite fast and I was relaxed and having fun.
I was getting closer to the 2nd aid station, knowing that the short steep climb was getting close … I later found out this hill is fondly named “the escalator” due to the steepness. I was still feeling quite good and couldn’t wait to see my husband who was meeting me there. I had told him to be prepared in case I looked terrible and to try and push me if I wanted to stop-I was far from stopping!
I then got to the steep climb. I had studied this on the map several times and knowing the terrain of the area I had an inkling it would look like it did. Going up was fine, It was coming down that terrified me and after 34k and being up since 2am I wasn’t exactly fresh. I have always had a fear of falling and heights and the rocks,gravel and boulders just looked like an accident waiting to happen for me. I had encountered bits like this on bush walks years ago and I was terrified then. I got to the aid station, saw my husband which was just fantastic and thought , ok I just have to do it …take it slowly and I’ll be fine. Luckily I was and I couldn’t believe I got down in one piece …I did it! However, I think the extra stress tired me out. I knew I just had another 12k to go so it wasn’t too bad. But after a few K I fell not once but twice! I wasn’t badly injured but as I fell my head hit a rock and it shook me up a bit. It wasn’t serious , but I wasn’t taking any chances . I stuck with a bunch of runners as I didn’t want to be on my own in case I had any after effects . The ground was still rocky in bits, and with my legs tired I just had to take it easy to the finish, which I did.
I got to the finish finally and to my surprise there was a medal, I’m not really a collector of race bling, not quite sure what do with it ! My wonderful husband handed me my recovery drink and I went to the st. Johns Ambulance to get checked out and patched up.
Pic at the finish getting my finishers medal
Overall I had a great race, the steep hill didn’t do me any favours but I conquered it which was a huge achievement for me. Would I do it again ? Yes, but there are so many other races I’d like to do before, if I did I would train more on the course and gain extra confidence on the trails 1st. One thing I learnt is I’m much tougher than I thought I was and its much better to have a go than not at all.
A big thanks to Rodrigo Freeman www.braziliangunner.blogspot.co.uk for his patience and experience in coaching me, and the support of my amazing husband, family and friends.