So Stirling and I attend the mandatory race briefing the night before our 3rd Ultra-Trail Australia 100 only to hear that the course had to be modified due to previous heavy rains. I bemused that what is it with 10th Anniversary runs as Yurrebilla 56km Trail Ultra’s 10th also had to be modified. Oh well, there goes our chances or trying to beat last year’s time but as it was a new course, we’ll get PBs no matter what time we take and with the cool drizzly conditions forecast for the run, it was Win-Win situation in my mind.
Just before 7am track side the following morning, in the gorgeous drizzle and cool temps, Stirling and I say our goodbyes and best wishes to each other and we individually set off at our own speeds. In no time at all Stirling was out of my site and I said to myself that I hope that the next time I see him, he’ll be waiting for me, having already completed the run, at the top of Furber stairs as he has done for the last 2 years.
Well for me about the 9km mark came the first bottle neck allowing me to catch up to runners that had passed me about 20minutes earlier, then about the 20 km mark is another bottle neck to get down the Tarros laders. After waiting in a huge line for near 30 mins, I set off again.
As in these long events, when I see a stopped runner on the side I ask if they are OK, well during these first 20kms I had 2 runners passing me asking me the same question. I thought it a bit weird as I was still running and hadn’t stopped. So the next person that asked me that question I replied sure, why do you ask. She looked over her shoulder and said that it looked as if I was running with a limp. She must have thought that was a negative thought to leave with me so she looks over again and says rephrases her words to ‘limping but strong’, giving me two thumbs up.
Well I had been limping a bit but thought I concealed it well, but obviously not enough. You see, I had trimmed my nails on 4 of my toes on one foot to make double sure they had no chance of hitting the end of my shoe box but as it was really a bit of an over-kill, I left my shortish big toe nail alone. Who knew that inside the roof of the shoe, through my sock, that my nail was just long enough to get caught on a seam of material and every so often my nail would lift off from its bed. Yep ouch and then I would jiggle my foot in my shoe to unhook my nail. Thus after the next 80kms I now have a shiny black toe nail on its way to heaven ….
So all things considered, I was going well as I passed cp2 and cp3 and then I meet Stirling and cp4, the Katoomba Aquatic Centre, the 57.4km mark. He had cramped badly in Nellie's Glen – we all agree with Emma Barlow's comment from a couple of years earlier, that we should Bitch slap Nellie – but thanks to the amazing vollies, Stirling had received a 15min massage at this check point. It was here that he and I decided that since we weren’t running the normal trail thus and not going to acheive our planned PBs, lets run the remaining 40 plus kms together. So we did.
It was great to share the long night ahead of us together. Sometimes Stirling and I talked and when things were tougher we were silent and focused. OMG all those stairs that were added to the change give us the 4km elevation, what a challenge indeed! I mentioned to Stirling that I didn’t think a race director, in this case Tom Landon-Smith, should make a course that he is not prepared to run and Stirling thought it was a fair call, eh Barry MrBride ;)
In the closing km, Stirling and I reach the top of Fuber stairs, the final 940 stair case, and these felt easy stairs in comparison to all the stairs we had just completed. We start running again, this time hand in hand over the board walk and we hear the finish line commentator on the load speaker - obviously had a hidden spotting camera somewhere - say that Jen and Stirling Greeneklee are on their way in. Realising that we are a husband and wife team, he adds that what an amazing experience to share and after a million of stairs and steps that we are still holing hands!
Yay, thank goodness that run is done. But wow, another amazing epic journey and accomplishment of gem filled memories that we can add to our expanding repertoire. To be honest, around the 91km mark we decided that this was our last UTA100 but with showers, sleeps, real food and a day or so separating us from this ‘venture, in our minds we pretty much know that we will return to the Blue Mountains again next year for the start line. But hey, no surprise there ... such is the mind set of an Ultra runner.