The Ultra-Trail Australia 100 and 50 are both well-established events, so we thought we’d take a look at the new additions to the biggest weekend of trail running in Australia, and first cab off the rank is the U-TA Pace 22, named so thanks to the support of Pace Athletic (The best trail running stores in Sydney and online!) as well as the distance of 22km. The length is just long enough to be a serious challenge, but it’s the downs, ups and stairs that will really test you.
The idea behind it is to create a steppingstone event that leads runners to eventually tackling the longer options, also to provide something that the support crews and spectators might want to try in the lead up to the big dance of the 100 or 50 where they’ll be taking care of their competing friends or family.
The course starts at the Queen Victoria Hospital, which is also the 78km mark and Checkpoint 5 in the 100. From here it plunges down the Kedumba Pass for about 8km, reaching Jamison Creek after descending 800m in altitude. It’s a fast, wide fire-trail, that’s mostly gravel underfoot. This can easily be the section that makes or breaks you. Go too fast and not be conditioned to long descents and your quads will be destroyed. It’s best to know your limits and have practised some big downhills before race day.
From here the course rises steeply for a kilometre as you begin the climb over Federal Pass. There’s a brief saddle prior to another 1km of up. From about the 11km point to 12km it’s a steep down that will once again put pressure on your pins. By this stage you’ll be feeling the pinch so it’s a good opportunity to consolidate and try to recover a little, because after this it start to get ugly!
From 12km to 15km you have loads of climbing to do. As you make your way out of the valley floor. It’s very steep at first and becomes a little less inclined after the first kilometre. The fire-trail flattens out after this as you reach a plateau at the base of the escarpment. The views are stunning as you emerge from the towering gumtrees and look up at sheer cliff faces. The downside is knowing you have to somehow get to the top.
From 16km to 17km you climb again until reaching the beautiful Leura Forest. The stretch from here to the Furber Steps is undulating single-track, with occasional muddy spots, pretty streams and lush forest….then the joy ends. Just prior to the 21km point is the biggest challenge of all, the mighty Furber Steps. This steep trudge to the finish is tough no matter how fit you are. It’s a real test of the mind and body particularly after the running you’ve already endured. The stairs come in sections, with uneven, wooden ones between sections of metal staircases that hug the cliff. It might be tough, but rest assured the feeling of crossing the finish line beneath the massive arch at Scenic World is something you’ll never forget. The fatigue disappears with the feelings of relief and accomplishment, only to return again the next day when you hobble to breakfast!
There’s a facebook group setup for those considering the event. Here you’ll find plenty of conversation about the course, training tips and even folks to run with!
The pretty forest photo was stolen from Lyndon Marceau – the best shooter in the business!