Race review: Snowy Mountains UTRA 70k

My A race got cancelled, again.

So I found an alternative, the Snowy Mountains 70k. It was the only long race on the calendar for the few weeks I had off work. I had never heard of it before, turns out because it used to be a 50k and this was the first year they were doing a 70k. It’s also organised by a company I hadn’t heard of in the trail and ultra space before, In 2 Adventure.

The Snowy Mountains 70k ultramarathon was run as part of a massive series of events over a three week period at the Lake Crackenback resort. Wedged almost smack bang in the middle of Jindabyne and Thredbo the resort is a perfect location for all the events and a cool place in general for people keen on hiking, mountain biking or just hanging out by the lake or river.

Organised by In2Adventure, the running races are held on the Friday and Saturday with the mountain biking/trail running triathlon called “trex” on the Sunday.

The 70k was a beautiful course comprised mostly of single track.

I have mixed feelings about the course because I love single track but I do not love mountain bike tracks. They are horrible to run on and this course was mostly pre-existing mountain bike trails.

The first 5k was an alternative course due to flooding in Jindabyne and then the next 20k was the Thredbo Valley Trail or TVT. It was smooth and mostly runnable, following the Thredbo river and mostly dense bush land. The bike switch backs and never ending undulations are great fun on a bike, not so much on foot.

Some of it was super isolated, with large 10 and 20km sections without an aid, Marshalls or course support. The Athletes Guide said it was “semi supported” which basically meant water only every 10km or so. Not the fresh fruit, lollies or chips usually found at aid stations in a trail ultramarathon.

Generally speaking the run wasn’t very well supported and they could have been clearer in their communication of this. There were very few aid stations and the ones they had pretty much just had water and other ones had some electrolytes and orange slices. You could leave drop bags at the 25k and 45k mark but the lack of support really took a lot of the atmosphere away from the event.

I came into the event feeling fresh but also super puffy and bloated. By the time my Garmin had ticked over 10k, I felt like I was carrying a bowling ball around my waist.

Don’t let the straight line fool you!

The 25k mark and finish line was the Crackenback resort and then it was back out onto the TVT to Thredbo where it was hot and exposed. Coming into Crackenback I really didn’t want to be there. I had walked easily runnable sections, my tummy hurt and I was just cranky.

Considering how cranky and miserable I was, I actually had a second wind and felt good between the next two aid stations. It was nice to know there was a checkpoint 5k away, especially when it got hot.

If I was over it by the time I got to Crackenback, I was super over it by the time I got to Thredbo but I was determined for a finish, even if it had to walk it it. I let myself get angry and frustrated by the switch backs and the heat and it didn’t help that my poor shoe choice had resulted in the bottom of my feet feeling like I had smashed them with a meat mallet.

Note to self: if you see river trail or mountain bike trail in any course description, bring high stack, spongey shoes! A lesson I should have learnt at Old Ghost.

The second half from Crackenback to Thredbo (and back) also had quite a few bridges with great views over the river even if they did feel super steep on the return trip!

It was weird that it was an out and back course. With COVID rules, a lot of the out and backs were limited but this was in NSW, run by a QLD company so maybe the rules were different. It was very narrow and I spent a lot of time standing off to the side letting speedy marathoners pass from behind or speedy ultra runners pass from the front.

With 15k to go, both my feet and my legs were over it, but I wasn’t pulling the pin, so I power walked the last leg. It wasn’t much slower than running because my poor feet just couldn’t handle any more pounding.

The last section was an out and back loop and I have never wanted to cheat so badly in my life! It just kept going and going and going and on any other day would have been so beautiful but on this day, it was the single track of doom and would just never end.

I don’t think I’ve ever had such a tough day out but I was super glad to get it done and I’m proud of myself for not pulling out when things got hard.

Overall I’m still not sure how I feel about this strange festival situation.

A weird hybrid of sports with the overall feel of a nervous teenager, unsure of their place in the world so trying to be everyone at once. The emo, the hippie, the nerd, all blended into one confusing mess.

If you blend triathlon with ultra running, with trail running, with mountain biking with a splash of road running thrown in, you’d get this event.

A bizarre mix of cultures that don’t really fit together.

As an example, As a trail runner (and without speaking for all trail runners but I know a lot of my friends feel the same) we don’t want all the cheap mass produced swag. It’s bad for the planet, both the people who make it, the waste it produces and where it ultimately ends up, landfill.

Many trail events all around the world are now ditching the cheap swag, some are even ditching finishing medals, making them an option at registration checkout. Some races are even giving runners the option to plant a tree instead of receiving a medal.

This is not the vibe of this race. I came away with a finishers medal, an age category medal (yep that was a thing!), a pair of casual socks, a large draw string bag and a beach towel.

Frankly, I would have preferred fresh fruit at the aid stations over all the random stuff. Or even just more on course support in general.

Now of course this is an ultra trail runners perspective. I’m sure the mountain biking and triathlon crowd have their own 2 cents.

And since I’m making the strange hybrid comparisons, when I came through the checkpoint which also doubled as the finish line, the race announcer announced over the speaker that I was the 85th person through, like I cared and what my time through the checkpoint was, again I didn’t care and I doubt all the spectators did either. Super odd. Almost as odd as hearing my name announced as third place in my category at the presentations (which I was only at to collect my lost go pro and wait for my coffee!)

Not only was their age group prizes but champagne to spray for the overall winners.

It is kinda cool that there was enough ladies to fill all the podiums though. The last time I was on the podium there was only 4 ladies in the whole race.

The cross cultural differences were highlighted even more a few days later when the trail triathlon took place. The “vibe” just wasn’t the same, not as inclusive, not as friendly, more individual focused than group focused. And don’t get me started on the crap and rubbish thrown on the trails.

It didn’t help matters that the bloke on the microphone insulted everyone who came down the finishing shoot. I heard someone with red hair referred to as the “first carrot”, a lady described as “looking like she had been through it out there”, a larger bloke described as deserving a prize for carrying that sized body around the course. I get that he was probably trying to have fun with it but this sport is full of middle aged, wealthy white people so maybe don’t insult people who are having a go.

Overall, it left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth and a little concerned about the whole Ironman taking over large trail races. They are just different sports, with different cultures.

But I’m not about to judge the new Tarawera or UTA without trying them and giving Ironman the benefit of the doubt. From the stuff I have heard and read Ironman Australasia, they are keen to listen to the trail community so it will be interesting to see where this goes.

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