About the race:
Oscars100 Hut2Hut is a 100km run/trek challenge starting and finishing at Mt Buller with approximately 5,700 metres of elevation. Invitational solo runners and teams of 2 take on the challenge over 1, 2 or 3 days.
My team mate Nick & I chose the 2 day option. We had 2 layover points to choose from, either at the 38km mark, or the 70Km mark. Whilst we initially planned on nominating the 70km layover point, after feedback & advice from Race Directors (who actually know their stuff funnily enough!) we opted to nominate the 38km point. Our tent would be transported out to this point for us. In the back of our minds we had a plan to see how we felt at the layover point, and if we came under the 2pm cutoff, push through to the 70km. We would then rely on emergency tents to sleep in (yes, a risk!)
Getting ready for epicness:
Thursday arvo and night involved mandatory gear checks (an event like this out in the Alpine wilderness requires a lot of mandatory gear) , registration, pre race dinner (pizza and pasta, bring on allll the carbs!) and Race briefing.
4am alarm goes off and the 5 of us in shared lodge accommodation are up! Get dressed, triple check packs, final nervous wees and we’re off down to the start line in the Mt Buller village square. Atmosphere is amazing! Head torches on, starting horn blown, watches started and we’re off!
Leg 1- Buller Village to Mt Buller Summit-2.5km (224m ascent)
The first of many climbs to come! Straight up to the Mt Buller Summit. A bit of flatter, runnable trail but mostly up which means getting your power hike on early!
Leg 2- Mt Buller-Eight Mile-16km,388m ascent (18.5km cumulative distance, 610m acscent)
Down the stairs of the summit. Taking it very carefully with only head torches to light the way, then onto the ski run and straight down. A bit of flatter trail, then we turn off onto Four Mile track, the first of many super technical descents. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t enjoy this part. Dodging trees, rocks, fallen branches in the dark, only relying on your head torch is mentally taxing. As dark started turning to day it become a bit easier, but we still had to rock-hop along very narrow ridges. I couldn’t wait to get this section done. I was grateful I hadn’t fallen yet, then around the 9km mark on a downhill, BOOM, my toe caught on a fallen log and I landed hard, scraping my knee and elbow. I must’ve looked like a turtle trying to get up with that 7kg pack on my back! Dust myself off, keep going to the first river crossing, and guess what I do? Slip on a rock and find myself sitting in the river! Have a laugh, get through the river, and we finally pop out onto some runnable trail alongside the river for a couple of kms. First aid station, but we only stop to have our numbers recorded.
Leg 3-Eight Mile Flat-Refridgerator Gap-6.6km,877m ascent (25.1km cumulative,14883 ascent)
The longest climb of the course. 5.5km climb with a 850m rise to be exact! This was lung busting. You just had to keep grinding away with your poles trying to take some of the load off your legs. The higher we got, the steeper the trail got and we were now almost hands and knees climbing up rocks. The views were nothing short of spectacular though. Whilst I was relieved to get to the top, I knew we had another 1.5km climb ahead of us up to Bluff Hut. A running mate Oli was on the aid station so stopped for a chat whilst he refilled my soft flasks, only to see another good mate Mak who’d had to pull out after doing his ankle on the descent. He told me to not worry about him & get going!
Leg 4- Refridgerator Gap-Bluff Hut 6.6km,562m ascent (31.7km cumulative,2049m ascent)
Now for the next climb! 1.5km with 400m ascent. This was so steep it was pretty much vertical. Poles stowed, literally hand & knees rock scrambling. The relief of getting it done was immense. It was now just a steady climb to Bluff Hut where we were rewarded with 360 degree views of the mountains. It was up the top here Nick and I decided we would definitely stop at the 38km layover point. Our legs were smashed. Yes, we maybe could’ve smashed our legs further to try & make the 2pm cutoff , but didn’t want to be constantly chasing cutoffs to the 70km layover point. Having made the decision, the pressure was off.
Leg 5- Bluff Hut- Lovicks Hut- 5.8km,217m acsent (37.5km cumulative,2266m ascent)
First comedic relief of the day came from an aid station vollie who told us “It’s a nice 5km descent into Lovicks, you could totally still make the cutoff!” Turn the corner…oh hey there steep 4wd track! The track undulated for the next 5km and all we could do was laugh! We arrived at the Lovicks Hut layover point at 2:25pm. Other teams were now trickling in and you could see we’d all had a tough day! 9 1/2hrs to do 38km…just insane. Time to rest up weary legs..after setting up tents that is! We then had an amazing dinner cooked for us by the aid station volunteers. I’d bought a change of running clothes so changed into them before turning in for the night about 8pm. We knew we’d probably not get much sleep so thought the earlier the better!
Leg 6-Lovicks Hut-Gantner Hut-12.5km,898m ascent (50km cumulative,3159m ascent)
Another 4am alarm (well, 3;30 really as someone amongst camp had set there’s for then!) Packing up tents & repacking sleeping bags in packs in the dark with only head torches is challenging! With that done, we quickly ate breakfast, which was again made for us by the aid station vollies, quick toilet stop, then we were off at the 5am start time. It took a good hour for our legs to wake up, which wasn’t helped by more undulating 4wd drive track! Off onto the Australian Alpine Walking Track, and up the first climb of the day. Here we got to see the most magic sunrise and more 360 degree views. Down a bit, up more, down, then up Mt Howitt with more stunning views. Down Mt Howitt heading towards Gantner Hut- the halfway mark! For me the halfway point of any event is a mental win, because you can start counting down kms!! Gantner Hut also had my running coach and some other friends on the aid station so I couldn’t wait to see them. Quick catch up, skulled my Ginger Beer that I’d requested from a friend, wolfed down some potato chips and we were off again.
Leg 7- Gantner Hut-Speculation Car park-9.1km,706m ascent (cumulative 59.2km,3865m ascent)
This was without doubt my favourite section- the Crosscut Saw. Trekking along the ridgeline-Mother Nature in all her glory. Views that are hard to describe really. Whilst it was beautiful, it was also very technical so we took it carefully. It also had two pretty intense climbs up Mt Buggery (yep aptly named!) and Mt Speculation. The acronym the race director had used at Race Briefing kept popping into my head “JAFC” (scuse the language..Just another fucking climb). Another technical descent to the aid station which I was thinking was the infamous Muesli Spur and glad to get over with. We had more friends at the next aid station so had a quick chat, me asking naively “Was that Muesli Spur?” my friend Ali gently advising that no, that was 7km further along!! Noooooo! Refilled water bottles, ate more chips and we were on our way.
Leg 8- Speculation CP-King Valley Hut-12.3km,67m ascent (cumulative 71.5km,3933m ascent)
We were now on probably the least scenic part of the course, along Speculation Road, which was undulating 4wd track. We tried to run small sections, but mostly hiked. We knew we had the infamous Muesli Spur ahead and that was in the forefront of our minds. When we finally got to the turnoff, we were thinking it didn’t look too bad…those thoughts didn’t last long! After a managable descent we hit the most technical descent I have ever done, 3.5 km that drops 600m! I was literally sliding down on my butt to avoid falling and injuring myself. Whilst this course had been tough I hadn’t felt fear of injury til now! It took us 56mins to get down! The relief of getting off this track and knowing the 70km checkpoint wasn’t far off was massive.
We were super keen to get to this checkpoint as a) Nick had run out of water, and b) we knew there was Coke!! Then, the best surprise ever, my Mum, stepdad, sister, brother-in-law and niece were there to see me!! What a mental boost! We stopped for a bit longer here, as we had come under the 6pm cutoff by a couple of hours (if you don’t make cutoff it’s an enforced layover). Had our Coke, chatted, ate Vegemite sandwiches and we were off again. I was feeling good as knew we were on our way back to Buller now and I was in known territory having swept the last section in 2017.
Leg 9-King Valley Hut-Craigs Hut-6.6km,736m ascent (cumulative 78.1km,4668m ascent)
Just 200m after the checkpoint we had another river crossing. No slips this time! Straight after the river we hit another long climb, pretty steep 4wd track with rocks the size of your head! This was just about putting your head down & grinding away. My calves were really screaming by now. Off the 4wd track & onto a really pretty but really steep single track, then back on more undulating 4wd track to Craigs Hut. Quick stop at Craigs Hut (the famous one from The Man From Snowy River) to fill up with water and more chips of course! My energy levels were starting to wane now, which should’ve been a warning sign…
Leg 10-Craigs Hut-Mt Stirling-5km,462m ascent (83.1km cumulative,4845 ascent)
This was another real grind along steep 4wd tracks again. My legs started to feel really heavy, which is normal when you’re doing multiple climbs of course, but then I started feeling quite nauseas. I tried to push the feeling away and concentrate on getting to Mt Sterling. Looking back, I honestly only remember what this part looked like from sweeping it last year! By the time we got to the checkpoint I wasn’t feeling good at all. I had a toilet stop at the aid station, and when I came out Nick commented on the lack of colour in my face. I had to admit then that I was feeling quite average. Nick asked when the last time I had taken on any decent amount of fuel…stupidly, it had been that long I couldn’t remember. Knowing we still had a small but steep climb to the summit of Mt Stirling, he strongly suggested I pop another gel before heading up. I did, and also had a bit of apple, which seemed to help. I got to the summit with the deal Nick was going to make me have a gel every 1/2hr from now on. I actually couldn’t believe I’d failed with my nutrition, I’d never done this in an ultra before. Lesson learnt!
Leg 11-Mt Stirling-Howqua Gap Hut- 4.2km,23m ascent (cumulative 87.3km,5150m ascent)
Coming off Mt Stirling, I started to feel better, with my energy levels picking up and nausea subsiding. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much left in my legs so it was all about trying to keep a steady hiking pace. We were on 4wd track again which luckily was a bit too dangerous to run down anyway on tired legs. We ran a few small sections but then decided it wasn’t worth it, it was all about getting to the finish line in one piece now. Yep, you guessed it, I stacked again! Not a bad one this time thankfully. We got to the Howqua Hut aid station, had more Coke, I popped another gel, a quick chat with friends that were manning the aid station then we were off. Next stop Mt Buller!
Leg 12- Howqua Gap Hut-Mt Buller Summit-Finish-12.3km,596m ascent (cumulative 100km,5748m ascent)
Head down, let’s get this done! We now had a steady, winding climb along single track with a few wider tracks to the outskirts of the Buller Village. In theory, I should’ve been able to run this section, but, it just wasn’t going to happen. A friend of Nick’s Franc had joined us for a bit and we all just chatted as the kms ticked slowly by. When we got to the village outskirts my mate Matt who I’d run UTA 50 with was there & walked with us to the village. Seeing people you know at the tail end of these events is such a boost. We were then cheered on by race owner (and my very good mate) Andy & race director Chris a bit before we had to again climb the Mt Buller summit. Head torches on, we grinded out that summit, tore the pages corresponding with our race numbers from the book and started the climb down. 2.5km would normally seem such a short distance, but it felt like forever! We finally could see lights and heard a few familiar voices, more of our friends had come to meet us to run the last 500m!
I was determined to run this last bit (it was on downhill sealed road after all!) So we took off towards that finish line chute. No more nausea, no more tired legs, just sheer elation that I was going to finish the most epically tough thing I’d ever started. Cowbells ringing, amazing people who had waited til 10:30 at night to see us finish cheering…we ran into that chute hand in hand. I was spent, but just so bloody happy I almost cried. Hugs from some of my closest friends including Andy & Shell who set up the Oscars100 charity…40 odd hours after starting, that awesome belt buckle was put in my hand! WE WERE HUT2HUT FINISHERS!!!