My goal of running 100km has been a long time coming. Ever since I started running ultra’s my ultimate goal was to hit the magical number 100. I don’t know why. It seems so ludicrous to the average human, and yet, to me, it seems relatively achievable. I remember when 16km was hard, then in my first half marathon I really thought I may die as I neared the 18km mark with my hubby crying that I ‘couldn’t go on’….imagine if I didn’t? I wouldn’t have run numerous races, marathons and ultra marathons, and I wouldn’t have started Running Mums Australia. (Can’t even imagine how sad my life would be).
Well I did go on, and in 1.57 in-fact, not a shabby time for a first half marathon if I do say so myself, and the love for endurance running has grown and grown, race by race, year by year. The half marathon has become a regular weekly event really, most weekends downing that for breakfast or close to it for quite a long time. Some weeks more than others.
The eye on the prize has always been that with each race I learn a little more about myself and with each training block I gain a little momentum towards the goal.
In early March, few weeks after a training run on the 6 foot track course for the 6ft race I was struggling with a niggly calf for a few days. It felt a little tight and I was trying my best to keep it lose and make sure that it didn’t cause any issues. That day I went out on the trails with a few friends for a run and unfortunately I sustained an injury to my calf. I distinctly heard popping sounds and was in a fair bit of pain. I remember immediately in that moment panicking about my 100k dream. I felt as in that instant it was all stripped from under me.
A few days passed of rest and rehab and I was able to slowly run. I got back into my training, albeit slower than normal and trying to manage the niggle that the calf gave me. I decided two weeks out of 6 foot track things were still not that great and I thought that I had a better chance of hitting my UTA100 goal if I didn’t race at 6 foot this year, so I pulled out from the race, determined to give myself the best chance.
Unfortunately things just progressed and each run seemed to get worse and the pain intensified to the point that one day I had to stop dead on the grass oval 25mins into my 90min run as I was in so much pain I couldn’t run another step. Devastated.
Together with my coach we sought answers and I was eventually, after numerous scans, diagnosed with a stress reaction in my medial tibial bone. This could mean the end of my race.
Being the ever optimist I decided that I would do whatever I could to still give myself the best chance to line up for my first 100km race on the trails of the Blue Mountains. Thankfully I had support from all of my team to help me get there and the whole RMA community behind me.
For the last 7 or so weeks I have diligently worked hard with every training session, hours and hours on the spin bike, running in the pool and trying to keep myself from going insane, not even being able to go for a hike until recently outside on the trails. All the while I was optimistic that I would still make the start line for the 100k.
Sometimes your heart needs to catch up with reality and also your head with what is sensible.
Two weeks ago I headed off on my first big hike on the UTA course, on the first part of the 100k. I felt so alive and free heading into the bush on my own, just me and the trail and although I couldn’t run, I was so thankful to be out on the trails doing what I love. After that day my my body certainly knew how many stairs I had hiked and I spent the next 5 or 6 days with major DOMS. To me, it was a feeling I missed and welcomed. Priming the body for the next assault!
This weekend I was finally allowed to take a big risk and run my long run how I wanted; sometimes risks need to be taken in order to see if achievement will happen. I headed out on the UTA22 course with some friends and my run was to be 4 hours long, so we were going to add some more out and back of the 50 course at the end. All the bike riding certainly has been helpful as out of the four times I have done Kedumba pass, this was the most pleasant and I felt quite strong. By the time I got to Leura Forest I had realised that my fuelling was quite slack and so I kind of started to bonk and by the time we got to Furbers, well I was about done 🙂 I pulled myself and my soul up those stairs with all I had and when I got to the top I wish that I could have stopped, but I had another hour of running to do, so we plodded along for the rest of the run. Mental training at it’s finest I say.
The next few days my body has recovered okay. There is a slight niggle every now and then in my injury site that I need to be mindful of and respect. I need to be on top of my recovery more than ever now to continue to my dream.
What I did realise, and what I NEEDED to see for myself is that I am simply not ready to take on the 100km UTA course. This course demands respect and a lot of training, and although I had worked hard for the last 12 months leading up I have lost valuable time, specifically course specific time in the last 7 or so weeks where I simply don’t have the strength in my body and legs to make sure that I get through this race without damaging my body.
I know that I have the endurance in me to finish the 100km, but for me, it would be a painful and probably slow process at the moment; one that I wouldn’t be happy with as I generally like to train easy and run well on race day, not just go through the motions to the finish line. My goals, all of them around this race would most probably not be met and I would be disappointed and broken by the end.
Running means too much to me to be broken.
This decision has been agonised over for quite a few weeks and there have been a lot of tears, but this is the best decision for me. As RMA founder, and a UTA race ambassador, I felt a lot of pressure (from myself really) to do you all proud and finish what I started and get to the finish line of the UTA100. What I have learned is that as runners, things happen and we get injured. A good runner and ambassador respects their body and inspires others to do the same, and finds another way to encourage and motivate others to achieve their goals, while reframing and re-shaping their own.
Thankfully my body is still in some relative shape and as long as the next few weeks leading up to race day go to plan I will be lining up to race the UTA50km event instead of the 100k. I ran this event in 2016; probably one of my finest races to date where things just worked well and I finished close to my goal. I am lucky that I have the knowledge of the course to help me plan a good race this time, I just hope that my body comes to the party.
I look forward to joining the many RMA that are racing the 50k along side me and the camaraderie from the ultra and trail running community at large at one of Australia’s most amazing trail races. I want to thank everyone for coming along side me during this very trying time; my family and friends for all the sacrifices you have made so far, for the RMA community for believing in me, and for the UTA staff for their support, and I hope that I continue to do you proud during this next adventure.
You can continue to follow my journey on Facebook here, or instagram @nicbunyonrma
See you on the trails!