2017 has been an amazing year with a lot of personal accomplishments. I started the year with the aim to tick off bucket list items – those things that I would find hard to do once we decided to start a family.
Making a return to running
My year started with a return to running. Finishing 2016 with stress fractures in both legs I was determined that I would hit the ground running in 2017 following the rehab program provided by my physio. Taking his advise – easy walk/runs, low intensity with a slow build, I was able to start training for my A race of 2017 – Ultra-trail Australia – UTA100. A 100km trail race held mid-May in the Blue Mountains.
With the help of a running program from Squadrun, I trained specifically for this race from February, listening to my body and taking the kms down when needed and visiting my physio often to be as proactive as possible. A simple touch test would indicate if I was pushing it too much but let’s face it – we are biased to our own bodies when we need to be and who wants to inflict pain on themselves?!?! So every couple of weeks I would check in and he would test the pain level and sometimes I would leave with a week of reduced kms/intensity and other weeks I would just be able to continue on track.
By the start of May I was in taper mode but also at the point where I knew I had to reassess my goals. I had friends aiming for the silver buckle (under 14hours) and it was hard not to set the same goal for myself. But there is no point setting yourself up for disappointment, knowing that the training they had been able to put it in – the time on feet, the weekly km build up was nearly twice as much of what I had been able to do. So with that in mind I set the goal of being happy with a finish – realistically running 100kms is an achievement in itself!
In the week leading up to UTA100 I prepared my support crew (hubby) for the race and how I would be during the race. Clear instructions were provided on how my bags were going to be labelled so he knew which one to bring to each checkpoint (trying to anticipate what I might at each food wise was hard, but making sure I had the right socks, change of clothes as required, mandatory night gear and required shoe changes was essential). I also had to prepare him for the not letting me give up speech. I knew I would get emotional with fatigue but I didn’t want that emotion to be mistaken for not being able to complete the run so I told him, if I’m upset – tell me I can do it and if I tell you I’m hurting – as long as it isn’t something that is going to be long term (ie return of stress fracture related pain) just tell me that it will be over soon. And with these instructions reiterated several times, check point bags packed, mandatory gear triple checked and one last proactive visit to the physio for a final check over I was as ready for the run as I would ever be.
The night before was the athlete briefing and it was nerve racking in itself. It was like being in the buzz of a startline 12 hours out. People conducting last minute check ins and check over of mandatory gear, trail runners in all forms from beginners to the elite milling around waiting for the briefing. The pre-briefing Q&A with the elites helped ease the nerves. Hearing some advise that some days are great days and you make it the finish line and other days aren’t and you only make it 20kms down the road was comforting (though at this point I was thinking I’ve come this far I’d better make it to 100km!). The briefing itself came with news and course changes. The expected bad weather that was going to hit meant a change to the course to allow the race itself to continue (so not being able to practice the course during training turned out not to be a bad thing). It also meant one less checkpoint for support crew so a change to bag packing/planning and knowing that I probably wouldn’t see Nath for 5-6hours after I started running. But being a first-timer meant I didn’t know what I didn’t know so these changes would impact me less than others (taking the positives out of the situation).
With the briefing over it was time to head home and complete final preps. Basically updating my checkpoint bags, rechecking my mandatory gear and having an easy to digest dinner before bed and setting the alarm (and double checking it /triple checking it to make sure I wouldn’t miss the race itself). At this point it was kinda surreal to think that the last 5 months of rehab and training were going to be over in roughly 24hours (hopefully – no time expectations but still!).
4am the next and the alarm was going off – time to have something to eat and start race day prep. The first part and an essential part of ultras is being sufficiently covered in chaffing cream. There is nothing pleasant about trying to run while your skin is bleeding from material / skin rubbing with friction. You basically cover the body like it moisturiser but then do a second or third layer on any of those spots that may be an issue – for me that means anywhere where any garment or my backpack would touch my skin.
The second (post being dressed) is food and water. Starting the morning right with what your body can handle is important. Prior to training for an ultra I used to always do my runs on an empty stomach – which is ok for 15-20kms. But I learnt during training that 20km plus and my body doesn’t perform well and fatigue/lack of food plays a big part on my mental state and emotions. So some peanut butter and jam wraps and a hydralyte and I was good to go (also had to wake up Nath – needed someone to drive me to the start line!)
Getting to the startline was a nerve racking experience. A 30 minute drive in some light rain from where we were staying at my mother-in-laws it gave me enough time to second guessing what I was wearing – do I put the rain jacket on or leave it off? Will the arm sleeves be enough to keep me warm or will I need a thermal layer? By the time we walked up to the startline I had decided to stay with the original plan – no point changing it now really.
At the startline was one of the Sqaudrun coaches (Ali) and another running friend Scott. It was good to see another nervous face but also a distraction. I was talking about the first wave when Ali mentioned that it was wave 2 counting down to starttime – my start time!!! A good way to clear the nerves! I ran to line up with the startline and then realising I hadn’t said bye to Nath I ran back, gave him a quick kiss and started the run.