Preamble: I will be running my second 50 this year. I am a back of pack runner and I run for enlightenment, mostly. I have not really shared my story in full. Today seemed to be the best time to remind myself why I run!
My first ultra story, UTA50 2018.
It was an incredibly stunning sunshiny day at the Blue Mountains. I had significantly more friends doing the UTA this year than last. In a strange way, you want to do good not just for yourself but also for them. Maybe this is what they call accountability.
My only goal was to finish the 50 regardless of time (as long as it was under 10 hours haha), and to enjoy every minute of it. I made sure to look up and around me from time to time and photograph the magnificent outdoors.
I knew the course pretty much from start to finish having trained there. This knowledge held me in good stead. I knew exactly where the toilets were (quite important this), when to use my poles, what to do at each checkpoint and even when to eat. What else do you really do for 10 hours?
In a word, my first 50KM Ultra was remarkable. Of course, it was bloody hard up a million stairs (I am not exaggerating this). And it was a hard slog the last 22kms as you can see in the course’s elevation chart. But I already expected that and accepted the suffering. Just dig deep! I am grateful that none of my niggles flared (left shin, left knee, right glutes).
I am relieved that everything went according to plan. The salt tablets worked its magic of keeping any cramping at bay. Walking backwards on some parts of Furbers Stairs has become a habit of mine. I could probably use less of my 5 toilet breaks, less fumbling with my hiking poles, and less of my overpacking. I must remember that less is more. Manh, my shoulders are still sore from lugging extra water and other just-in-case ‘stuff’ for 10 hours and 26 minutes.
One highlight for me was meeting Lynelle at KM25 with whom I had a photo with. We were pretty much at pace the whole way. She called me her “50 friend” as we grunted and groaned down valleys and up hills. She recognised me in the dark (about 6pm) at the top of Furber Stairs. She exclaimed – “Oh, it is my 50 friend, we should finish together!” How could I say no to that?? So my plan to finish with an almighty fist pump went out the window. Instead, I held hands with a wonderful stranger as we sprinted (yes we sprinted because surprise surprise – we still had legs!) the last 100 meters to the finish line!
UTA50 was my best finish ever. I was screaming madly along with the amazing crowd down the finish chute. Seeing friends at the finish line was fantastic. I am forever grateful to all of YOU (you know who you are) for waiting for me (sorry I took awhile). This memory I will cherish forever.
Trail running is not an individual sport at all. It is a tribe sport!
Postscript: I am back this year and running the 50 with deep intention. Three weeks ago, my best friend suffered a stroke from a ruptured aneurysm. This shook me to my very core and left me deeply aware of how much I love her and how frail we truly are. Every step I take will be a celebration of my friend’s second life.
My first UTA50 was an adventure into myself, of finding out what I can do. This year, my second UTA50 will be a moving prayer of gratitude from start to finish!
Thank you for reading and happy trails!