Training for Ultra Trail Australia, the race I had no intention of doing but got suckered into when someone said I couldn’t do it, is in full swing. Actually, with less than a month to go, it should be almost at the end but I’ve entered the picture smack bang in the middle of peak “specificity” season.
What does that mean for UTA, stairs, single track and more stairs.
I went out yesterday and smashed two repeats of the Flinders Peak steps so when I showed up on the start line of Sharpy’s Beer Run, a 21 (+) km trail race out in Arthurs Seat, I knew we were booking a one way ticket on the struggle bus to trail running hell.
I was at the start line uncharacteristically early.
I don’t think I’ve been at a race that early since I ran a road marathon.
So I had plenty of time to think about what I’d done and what I had to do. I considered lying down on the grass like Lauren Fleshman describes in her book, a way of grounding yourself before a race but the sogginess and frequent kangaroo poo diswaded me so I sat in my car, trying to keep warm until it was time to go.
As soon as I started running I knew it would be a tough day. After 1km, I was already pushing my mantra “just one more like that”.
My legs were heavy and completely springless.
I caught sight of someone up ahead, a stunning blonde woman in a hot pink skirt with a pony tail that swished like a shampoo commercial.
“Just stick with her”, I said to myself, assigning her the role of the fluffy white rabbit, “be a greyhound”, I told myself, “eye on the prize”.
I caught her at about the 5k mark. Elated, I passed her feeling the energy boost as I went.
I picked another target, a young Asian man, insanely tall for a trail runner, in a fluro orange shirt and fluro yellow shorts.
I shuffled up each climb, not letting myself slow to a walk.
But this bunny did not want to be caught.
I passed him at an aid station near the turn around point, around 10km into the race and before the really big climb. But he was not keen on being behind me, I thought maybe I too had been assigned the role of bunny.
I surged up the hill, putting my hands on my knees and walking with purpose. I passed him, then he would start running and stop right as he passed me. I surged again, and so did he. He just wouldn’t quit. I laughed to myself, are people still worried about being “chicked”? I’m happy to play this game.
I eventually lost the fluro man. I wasn’t sure if I passed him or if he just got too far away and I lost him.
I continued to push but nothing crazy just one kilometre at a time, embracing the fatigue. “This is just what the end of UTA will feel like, this is the exact point of this, keep going.”
I’m notorious for doing great right up to 70km of a 100km race and then falling in a hole. I wanted to focus on running with really tired legs.
I focused on folks up ahead of me, not paying any attention to their gender or what race they were in.
As I passed people I would hear the dinging sound when Mario collects coins and watch the coin spiral up into the air. Who says playing video games is not good ultramarathon training?
I didn’t stop at a single aid station. I just kept shuffling along.
With about 7km to go I needed a new bunny. A chick in a pink top was way up ahead, but she was the only one there so she would do.
As I turned each corner I’d catch sight of the flash of a hot pink course marking and it would get me excited and then simultaneously break my heart. Not my bunny, keep pushing.
The course for Sharpy’s was new for 2023, after there were some issues with parks permitting on the old course. Last time I did it in 2021, my watch said 21.8km and it took me 2 hours and 44 minutes.
So when I got close to 21 I put down the only hammer I had to catch my final bunny. I laid down a sub 5 min km at kilometre 21 to pass her but unfortunately I was way too early. CRAP!
I kept pushing. 22km, 23km, what the actual F?
I always say that I don’t “race” when someone asks me what I’m doing on the weekend, but I was racing.
I crossed the line in 2 hours and 31 minutes, my watch displaying a soul sucking 23.37km.
I was wrecked and super chuffed with myself.
I waited at the finish line and cheered in each of my bunnies.
I took away so much from this run. Yes I can keep going when my legs want to stop. Yes I can push and not fall on my face. Yes I can do this silly sport.
See you in a few weeks UTA. I’m coming for ya!