Since my trail running journey began I’ve always talked about how friendly and supportive the off-road running community is. They’re all so bloody nice! Well, at the Yurrebilla Ultra they took it to another level. It all began several weeks earlier when I flew to Adelaide to meet the committee, run with some of the competitors and have a look at part of the course. I was billeted with local trail legend Mick Keyte Who was an awesome host. Apart from feeding me well and taking me for a spin in his Porche 386, Mick also took the time to drive me around to see loads of the trail that I wasn’t going to have a chance to run on. It was a great introduction to the Adelaide running community, even if I was ridiculed for my tiny calves.
Leading into event day I had frequent chats to Barry, the Race Director. He’s an absolute freak…in a nice way. I mean, what sort of a person does 48 hour running races for fun? Barry also made sure everything I could possibly need or want was handled. I’m pretty simple, so basically a bed to sleep in the night before the race and some good company was all I required, and Barry delivered. Arriving in Adelaide the Saturday afternoon prior to kick-off, Dave Turnbull was at the airport to meet me. We headed back to his beautiful home in Glenelg where I met his lovely family before a dinner of pizza and a couple glasses of the local white wine. Yes, I know, alcoholic beverages before a race isn’t the typical behaviour of a runner. But I’m not the norm and take a pretty chilled approach to these things, particularly my diet which frequently includes McDonlads – They make the best chips on the planet!
The following morning I had the gentlemanly hour of an 8:30am race start. The event sets the slower people off earlier with the final wave commencing at 8:30am. Not only does this make for a later than normal wakeup, it also means you get loads of support throughout the event as you pass the backmarkers. The only downside is that you end up running during the hotter part of the day, which on this occasion reached about 25 degrees with a slight dry breeze. In 2014 they had extreme heat and wind. Not ideal for an ultra.
Setting sail the course starts with about 10km of twists, turns, single-track, road and trail. There are a few little ups and flat sections but for the most part it tends slightly downhill. I had company through this section but reaching the first climb I quickly found myself on my own at the front. From here the course heads steeply uphill at first before gradually levelling off to a somewhat undulating climb with sections of steep stuff, some flat trail and the occasional downhill. Basically it’s 15km of most very slight ascending.
From 27kmish there’s a steep descent that takes you to the bottom of Horsnell Gully. This section is quite technical and punishing on the quads. Through here I passed a few folks who all cheered me on as I squeezed passed on the narrow path. It’s here that I would say the race really begins. I’d been disciplined and didn’t head off too quickly, knowing that after the 30km point there are three steep but short climbs still to come. Plus of course still another 26km of running.
The terrain varied from open fire trail with the sun glaring down, to narrow single-track covered by towering eucalypts. One thing I was pretty excited about was seeing a koala! He was just doing as koala’s do, sitting in a tree eating leaves and probably thinking to himself “What are all these idiots doing? These people need to learn to relax!”
Reaching the base of Black Hill I knew I was on for a fast time. I’m not one to chase records so it was never a goal to get it, but knowing I was well under I rallied a little and figured I should push on. Now, if you’ve never done this race you’ll not be aware of the horrible climb that is Black Hill. It’s steep, comes at the end of the day, and thanks to varying degrees of slope, it’s a tough one to get into a rhythm. It was here I had my only rough patch of the day. At the bottom I felt great, but the moment the climbing began I felt terrible. My quads lacked power and my stomach just didn’t agree with what I’d been consuming. It made for an absolute grind and a bit of time loss, as did the final, very technical descent to the finish. I found myself wincing and groaning with every downward stride as the fatigue of the day started to set in. But that said, I kept it together to cross the line in 4:22:50 for 56 kilometers of running fun!
Greeting me at the end was the always smiling and positive Barry, as well as a cheering crowd. Barry informed me I had taken the record by 8 minutes and continued the tradition of the race winners lowering the previous year’s mark. That’s pretty cool I reckon and despite having a bloody good day out I’m thinking I might head back in 2016 and have another crack at it.