Now having been back in Wellington for a few days I can start to reflect on what has been a great experience for me. Having the opportunity to learn more about myself, visit some cool places and have lots of fun while doing it is something I am grateful for.
Meeting so many new people and at times putting yourself in new surroundings out of your comfort zone I think is really important for personal development and growth.
Running has provided me with an opportunity to do this and I hope this continues to be the case. One day I may be able to think of myself as a wily old traveller having discovered the world through running and it is that connection with the land and the outdoors that I truly love and the opportunity to explore is something that I crave everyday.
Ultra Trail Australia provided all this and more for me and I really hope that I will be able to attend the event again and capture the magic of the blue mountains sometime in the near future.
On the racing front, to be delighted with my result is a modest understatement. I put my heart and soul into the process of getting myself in the best physical and mental shape possible and it all came together, as one could only envisage before race day, when the gun fired.
I had faith in the process of what works right for me and what I respond best to and it worked well for me so I will continue to do this in the future.
There was a stacked field and I had nothing to lose so I went off from the gun and made sure that I tracked anyones moves at the front while not exerting any more effort than necessary.
I was sitting in 4th place for the majority of the 8km downhill section where I quickly settled into my rhythm and tried to let gravity do the work for me.
Soon after hitting the Jamieson Creek Crossing, Vlad and Blake took off and I knew that I would be working to catch them. I focused on my own pace and continued to keep my cadence going up the hills fast.
Before the aid station at 12.8km I caught a few glimpses of Blake in 2nd place and it was just the motivation I needed to crank the pace up a gear to try catch him. By the 15km point I had drawn level with him and decided that I needed to try get a big buffer before the brutal Furber steps.
After this we hit some single track was where I felt most comfortable with the terrain and I started to quicken further with less gradient to tackle than the wide and often steep 4WD tracks beforehand. Fortunately there were km markers counting down 5km from the finish so by now I was just running for them and trying not to think about those darned steps.
Vlad had 2 min 30 on me at the bottom of the steps according to the guy with the go pro (sorry I don’t know your name!) and I had 2 min on Blake so I was really digging deep wanting to hold on for dear life.
Nothing could have prepared me for those steps. I had to give everything I had and I was reduced to walking up some of the steps and soon lost count of how many steps I had come up as I was gasping for air to get some O’s to the legs which felt like bricks by this point.
When finally someone said that I was at the last set of steps I was refilled with some optimism as if I had any breath left I would have been cursing the stairs!!
It was definitely a moment I will never forget seeing all the people lining the finishing strait. The euphoria that rushed through my veins got me to that finish line in 1:46:04, a time which I was very happy with, 3 min behind Vlad and 1 min in front of Blake.
Receiving the finishers medal and getting put in front of the mic is a very cool feeling and one that I truly savoured. The result didn’t sink in for quite a while but the content of knowing that I achieved both my goals, (podium finish and run 1:45-1:50) is something that I take pride in.
On reflection it left me with very happy memories of the Ultra-Trail Australia, Katoomba and the Blue Mountains.
I was quite surprised about the amount of people who congratulated me afterward and the praise that I have received motivates me to want to better myself everyday. It makes me appreciate the sport that I love and all the people who make this possible. The volunteers, officials, sponsors, marshalls, race committee and anyone else who helps make it all happen should be applauded, without your dedication and sacrifice you would not be able to change people’s lives, much like I feel UTA has for me.
On the trail front, I will not be racing again for another 5 months. This is going allow me to have a comprehensive build up to my next main race. Trail Running Nationals in Waihi. After not being able to run in 2016 due to injury, I have some unfinished business and I would dearly love to upgrade that 2nd to a 1st!
For now, stay healthy, eat well and happy running.