I started training for the race of a lifetime on 1 December. I followed the “find your feet” program provided by UTA. It was a challenge. I poured many hours into training, all the while my husband and 3 kiddies stood by me supporting. I was always concerned about the hills and stairs, I knew this would push my body to the limit.
I twisted my ankle with a moderate sprain 3 weeks out from the race. I’ve been in physio since. I was taped on my ankle for the race. I was anxious about not falling on the steep down hill down Kedumba.
Prior to race day I did 95% of the course with some friends. It pushed me! It was tough, but doable. That run took me about 3:45 and didn’t include about 1km at the beginning and a different way up furber stairs.
So race day came round. I had trained with fuel, I knew it worked on my practise run. I had myself organised. Standing around at Scenic World waiting for race briefing and buses to drop us at the start line was surreal. I was nervous. It seemed like forever until we got to start line.
The race started at 10am. There were 800 competitors for UTA22. I had time to quickly go to toilet and head to the start line. It was time to head out! This was the first km I hadn’t done on the practise run. It was fine … gentle up and down until Kedumba.
I’ve decided Kedumba is dumb! I knew it was going to be hard not putting the “brakes” on on the steep down and down. I’m pretty sure everyone gets a PB on Kedumba. You fly down riding the hills. I tried to put into practice what I had learnt about downhill running. There were beautiful views at clearings in trees where you are running along the ridge. I knew what was coming from the training run and felt strong.
We got to the first creek and I was happy remembering there was the creek crossing and then the aid station. Between the two creeks the rise started. The HILLS!. I don’t remember the creeks being so far apart but I pushed on thinking the aid station was close at 12km.
At about 12km I passed a lady that had fallen on Kedumba and twisted her ankle (that was one of my fears!). Her husband was with her, her ankle was wrapped with the mandatory bandage and she was limping to the aid station. The aid station was at 13km! Sigh! Many runners offered to help, carry her etc.
The second creek appeared – the creek crossing. There was a short que because they had put stepping stones in for us. Yay for no wet shoes causing blisters! Time to power on to the aid station. Hallelujah it appeared. I stopped. I stopped for longer than I had imagined I would. I had a friend being attended to looking very unwell. That had me sad and hurt for her. She trained hard to get to the race and things hadn’t gone to plan. The lady with the twisted ankle hopped into medics as well. There were others with cramps as well.
I failed to mention it was hot on course! Hotter than the practise run. My hydration pack was almost empty. It got filled by volunteers. I had half a banana and stood still concerned for my friend. There was nothing I could do. Time to keep going. I decided it was time for music! I knew the hills on steroids that were coming next. The music helped with the beat of getting up the hills. I aimed for certain trees or bends then would catch my breath. EVERYONE was walking these hills and looked in pain! The music really helped – I focused on the words. Ocassionally people would talk to me so I’d remove my ear phones … “are you uploading your GoPro video?”, “These hills are ****ed”, “I’m dying”, “it’s hot”, “I’m recovering from injury”. Friendly chatters out there.
With the hills the gap between people got bigger. The music helped when I was lonely and could see no one. I was feeling like I could start to run parts which made me happy. Sewage Treatment works was getting closer. Almost there …nope, premature… Then there was a Asian lady doubled over in pain on a hill. I asked if she was ok. I remembered she had been with someone previously. “No” she replied in broken English “cramp” she said. I replied I was unsure what I could do to help and that I would see if I could see her friend ahead. I told her to stop for a moment, take a breath and gently stretch if she could. Thankfully as I went less than 50mtrs over the next rise there was her friend walking towards me looking puzzled. Phew! Her friend returned!!
Ok yay, almost at sewage treatment works. I recognised the change in scenery. I felt good and started running again. Out of the sun now into shade of Leura Forest. At the entrance to Leura forest it was very muddy and slippery. I felt a drop in temperature as I entered the shadows into my favourite rainforest part! Excitement! I can run this! Hooray! Not long now, then stairs. I had thought this single track beauty would take me about 1hr. Sure it was still going up but not steep in most parts and soo pretty and cool.
THEN about 4.5km to go I’m not sure what happened. I got nauseous and dizzy. I had been fueling every 30mins as planned. I checked my watch to check I hadn’t missed fuel. I had had the extra banana at the aid station and more fluid – that was the only difference. Less than 1km on I decided I couldn’t run and I had to get out ASAP as I was feeling really unwell. I was highly emotional. I was trying to calculate what I had done wrong!
A few people past me and I was given cashews and salted chips. A couple had told me I needed sugar. I explained I couldn’t as I had quit sugar and if I put it into my body I didn’t know what my body would do. Spew or poo? No thanks! I plodded in telling myself “I am strong, I can finish”, “it’s not far now”, “Gods looking after me while there are no medics here”.
I decided to stop on a rock and catch my rather anxious breath. I could see no one … scary.. it was getting late! I kept telling myself I should have finished by now! Then out of nowhere appeared two little Japanese ladies. Competitors. They had their walking sticks. She shoved her drink bottle in my mouth and said “now, big drink!” Electrolytes, no sugar. You need salt now she said! She put a tablet in my bladder. Then said “I’m not leaving you, can you walk in front” I replied “yes, thank you”. She chatted briefly to me mostly about the course without her knowing she was encouraging! Saying to me “you are strong, you have been here before.. looks like you have”. Oh what a blessing!
I felt like my body no longer existed. To step over a log or a cross a stepping stone seemed too difficult. We continued and I tried to focus on the beauty and tried not to think about how I would get up 951 stairs that was growing closer. Before the stairs there are stairs that are not part of “furber stairs”. We got to under the Three Sisters. I pointed and looked up to show my escorts .. Big mistake! No balance. She caught me and stood me up straight again. “Just walk” she said “be careful”. She asked me 2 times, “are these the stairs???” “Nope” I’d reply!, but they were close.
Onwards I continued. I noticed the change in scenery again …the Furber stairs were close! Ok stairs, oh my they had arrived! I took a deep breath and started. My escorts were still behind me. I tried to do 30 stair as a time. Man I felt unwell!!! I really didn’t want to throw up, but thought I would. Gross. Eventually when we got to the skinny ladder type stairs I told my Japanese angels to go ahead! It was lonely, it hurt like hell and I didn’t know how I would get up.
I had a lovely RMA appear who said she was going slow but I couldn’t keep up with her, no way. I would say in the last 10minutes I had 1 lady in front of me and 1 male behind me. The lady in front felt nauseous as well. A couple of times we both stood with our heads on the rail trying to no throw up. The body was at its limit! The guy behind me said he wasn’t going to be passing, so I didn’t have to move. Phew! Someone wasn’t passing me! He looked unwell as well!
The public were allowed on the stairs. There was a young family on the stairs that said it wasn’t much further. Honestly, I didn’t believe them. I had had enough! I wanted to collapse in a heap and cry. I continued. I wanted to call my husband, but I didn’t have the energy to get my phone out and doubted reception. Up the next lot of stairs there was red and white material on the rail. That’s strange I thought. I turned to go up the next stairs and my name was being shouted. Ok. My thoughts were “who the hell is that? How on earth do they know my name?”
I had no idea who it was but to be honest my head was pretty much turned off by that stage. I got hugs and finally recognised friends out of their running gear! Then my friends that had finished before me and were waiting joined me to get to the finish shoot. I’m pretty sure they dragged me! My legs were not working and I’m pretty sure I was having a drawn out panic attack. Just 5 steps after the boardwalk I got to the finish shoot. Ok time to run to the finish so I can collapse. I ran, well more like shuffled over the line! 5 hours and 16 minutes. TEARS, RELIEF and my medal that I worked hard for! And a medic with a spew bag.
I think I tried to eat some watermelon. It was a blur but wow I didn’t spew, hooray!!! I was done!!!!!
Things didn’t go to plan, but I finished and wasn’t last!! Now it’s time to recover and be kind to my body. Yes, I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed with my time but I know I worked soo hard and to my limit. I’m still very emotional about the whole experience. I finished!