That Damn Buckle. Ultra-Trail Australia 100km 2016

It’s been about two years since I’ve been bothered to write any form of race “report” (read reflection) because I simply stopped caring and analysing. I’m not necessarily analysing my race with this rambling *cough* bullshit *cough*, I am merely creating an account of things that happened so i never forget them. Because this was a pretty epic adventure that was over all too quickly. So, here we go, my not-an-analysis analysis.

It’s Friday afternoon, the day before the race. Most of the house is laughing at me. They’ve seen my drop bags and race pack and can’t believe the size of the things. I’m feeling a little self-conscience. Although a lot of what I’m currently feeling is pre-race nerves rather than the ribbing they’re giving me. They’ve just unplugged a lamp and are trying to shove it in my pack. Apparently it’s my mandatory Headlamp. Turco shouts something out from his room, he is currently going through his race plan with Emily. He is mentioning the size of his pack. The kid has my back in the house wide ribbing. Chur Bro.

Although, in my defence, I have never run 100km  before, these guys have all done 100 if not once, twice. I’ve only ever maxed out at 50km. Once in a race and once in training. So I don’t know what I’m going to need, when I’m going to need or if I’ll even need it. So my Drop bags for Checkpoint (CP) 3, 4 and 5 are large. With an abundance of fuel, salt tablets and dry gear. Including another pair of shoes with slightly more cushioning in my CP5 bag.. Just… in… case…

As for my race pack. At 6’3” and 95kg I’m not smallest runner kicking around town, I don’t have the luxury of being able to buy child size mandatory gear and squeeze it in to a bum bag like my Glen Haven (The name of the house) counterparts and I tend to drink more water to remain hydrated than most need to. So my pack.. is right for my size. Yes it’s heavy. Yes I’ve trained with it. I’ll be fine you pack of whimps. Or will I? I don’t know. So many unknowns about this race. It’s scary. I like it. I haven’t felt like this, that over-shadowing question of “shit. Will I even be able to finish this thing?”, since I first ever hit the half-marathon distance. With the first 42.2km and the first 50km, I went in over-confident, I was in a mental state where those distances.. just.. weren’t… scary (enough). Not so much for my first half back in 2012 and now, the hunge. I’m shitting the proverbial brick. And I will be right up until go time.


It’s 7:05am, Wave Seven. The last wave, the wave of runners that either, like myself, didn’t put a race time in to get some proper placement, or don’t really want to get in the way of others. Justin and I are off. Justin is going slow, or am I going too fast? If I think I’m going to fast then I probably am. Although my breathing is easy, my HR low. OK, lets just roll with it, hike if you spike. We’re passing people and I turn to Justin “Mate, some people are breathing far too heavy this early on”, he agrees. We proceed to listen to a woman behind us perform a superwoman flying re-enactment. She hits the deck. Hard. We turn. Check on her, she claims she is OK so we keep going. We get down the road, just prior to heading through the park for the first time to make our way down Furber. There is Malby, High five the coach and then down we go. Down. Down. Down. It’s slow going. Justin gets a few people ahead of me. Excuse me, can I pass? thanks.

I go to take my first sip of water, bladder seems blocked. Fuck, Is it connected or is it just not working? I stop at an open viewing area getting out of the way, pull the bladder out, test it, nope, working, double you tee eff mate, don’t fuck me around camelback, not now, not today. I use this time to remove my gloves and arm warmers. There goes Jo, you really can’t miss a runner in Duds. Saddle up, Off we go again, but I’ve now well and truly lost sight of Justin, this is a good thing, I won’t be  tempted to try keep up with a quicker runner. Now to slowly make my way through the landslide traffic jam. People are being very cautious. Please let me pass.

I need to pee, do I peel off towards the bush? Power-hiking up a hill. Whats that sign say? “PHOTO 20m”, quick lets make it look like we’re running this section. OK that pee? “300m to CP1” Sick! a portaloo, Shit, I broke the lock. Hold the door closed as you pee. This entire portaloo is wet, I hope it isn’t urine. Grab some hammer gels at the CP, refill some water, don’t bother with tailwind, I should have enough to get me through to CP2.

Off the fire trails, a right turn and we’re heading down now, not up. Things are getting technical and rocky, people are slowing down. Hey people are using ropes. Oh, shit, this must be Tarros ladders, Hmm, I’m not even worried. Thats a surprise. Hello Mr. Marshall. “There is going to be an 8-10min wait for the ladders, go around if you want”. I take the easy way out. I start heading around, get back on track, Hey look! thats Pete Suridge! Pete seems to be handling the rocky technical sections better than I am, I can’t quite close the gap. The course opens up on to some fire trail climbing again, music on and concentrating I start to close the gap. We Run/Hike together for a while, Pete tells me Justin passed him about 4km before Tarros Ladders. Man, Justin is hooking. A man jumps out of the bush post-pee, Oh man, it’s Sean Lampard! How ya travelling mate? Having to pee is a good sign.

I slowly start to peel away from Sean and Pete. Music back on. Focus on maintaining a good HR. Not too high, not too low.

CP2 is just ahead, climb over a step over, no cramping, this is good! I pull in to Dunphys Camp. 30km. Justin is here stretching out. He is cramping. I offer him some salt tablets, he tells me he has some. Tailwind and water refilled, I eat some salty tasty potato chips. That handfull was so good. Dammit lets be greedy, another handful on my way out. Justin and I start to exit while eating. CP1 to CP2 was the section that was playing on my mind on the lead up to this race. It was a 20km stretch that I had no idea how long it would take me, and whether I would have enough fuel or water. Turns out I was OK.

Running across a field. Check it out, a dam, man I could go for a swim.

Whoa, look up there. Runners, man that looks like a nasty climb. Yeah, breathing picks up, legs start feeling it. Up we go. Oh! This is Ironpot ridge! Didge music is ringing out, the thought of an out and back section was mentally screwing me, but this is a damn cool out and back! What a course highlight! Now down we go, it’s a bit slippery, come on people, quick steps, put your foot down and get it straight back up, limit your contact time and you limit your chance of slipping. DAMMIT DON’T SLOW/STOP. “Excuse me! Coming through on your right! THANK YOU!”

Justin has dropped off, must be suffering more cramp. PANG. Oh man, cramp! SALT! NOW! Two minutes down the road. Awesome, that’s worked. I’m with Pete again. We’re going up. A guy with his pack off is sitting down. He is done. Pete asks if he needs a hand out of here. You’re a champion of the people Pete, offering to sacrifice your race. He declines Pete’s offer. Pete offers to carry his pack “I think he might need that for the walk out Pete!” “Yeah well, I was hoping he would follow!”

I lose Pete, he is behind me now, I’m not entirely sure where/why he has dropped off my tail.

I’m travelling up, I am hiking well. I am passing people, a lot of people. I am travelling strongly up hill. This is good. My HR is within my limits. What are those Japanese runners looking at? Oh man, a dead roo. Eh? What are they looking at now? Is that a burnt out car? Holy crap no, It’s a dead wombat. Man that thing was massive. Poor little fella.


I think it’s around the 40km, I think, my GPS has been about a kilometre short all morning, it is all a bit hazy now. I feel a bit dizzy/woozy and light headed. I’m out of tailwind, and running low on water, I still need fuel. That’s right! I grabbed gels at CP1, Pull a gel out, it’s a yellow one, oh man that’s putrid (apparently it is banana flavour and not putrid flavour). And now I’m BINGO on water too. It’s hot. Keep the HR on the lower end of your limits and you should be OK to CP3.

I’m at CP3, A gear check. Headlamp and Waterproof Jacket. YES, the two items I had easily accessible, because out of all my gear, I’d hoped these were the only two items I’d need to use, preferably not the waterproof jacket though, I’ve passed gear check, I instantly get some watermelon and coke. I eat and drink these while entering the tent to get my drop bag. The awesome volunteers read off my number and run to the back of the tent to fetch it. This is cool, I feel like royalty. What champions.

I kneel down at a chair to remove my right contact lens and give it a clean, the dryer, cold air and the fact that I am not blinking much in order to concentrate on my foot falls means my eyes are drying out and I struggle to see out of my contact lenses, this whole legally blind thing is fucked, but you’re cool, you can see again. I am suddenly aware and extremely glad I made that final executive decision to pack my contact lens cleaning and removal kit in my race kit and carry it with me. I sit on the chair while I shovel more tailwind in to my already pre-filled bottles that I’d left in my CP3 drop bag. Now I’ll have 3 hours of fuel rather than the two hours in the bottles. Hopefully I won’t run out over the next stretch. I grab more salt tablets and my beef jerky stash then head off to the water station. put a litre in my bladder so I’d have fluid other than tailwind and start to walk out of the check point while eating the jerky. <I’d spent a total of 15mins at this checkpoint>

I’ve travelled no more than 50m out of CP3, *Light-bulb Moment* I’ve taken my electrolyte tablets out, but where did I put them? I have time, go back, double back, check my drop bag. Open the drop bag, Oh Look! I’ve left my entire stash of electrolytes there. You’re a lucky bloke Truman.


Back on the road. PING. Oh man, Cramp. SALT! NOW! (this was the last I would ever have to deal with cramp as it was starting to cool down now).

I’ve been out of CP3 for about 4km now, I’m travelling up a fire trail. (It wasn’t long before the 50km marker post), I’m all alone what’s that noise? *MUSIC OFF* what the hell, a young girl, perhaps no older than 6, she’s just randomly appeared out of that bush, Her lips are moving. Sorry? but what did you just say? “I can hear music!” This is all a little surreal, aren’t I miles from any civilisation (apart from CP3). Perhaps my iPod was louder than it seemed? Couldn’t have been, I heard her rustling. “Oh, That must just be my iPod”. I keep plugging along at an OK click, but I’m questioning my sanity, was she really there? Had that really happened? Was the dizziness I felt earlier affecting me more than I realised? Am I really just ass up in the dirt and unconscious?

Wait, 200m up the road, a concealed dirt driveway with a mailbox, dumped scooter and a helmet, her home. I’m not crazy, the music she had heard, was that just the party going on back at checkpoint 3? Of course it was!. See, the dirt roads at home are generally fire breaks, and don’t get travelled on much, except by runners, hikers and rangers, and it is generally few and far between. The dirt roads I am on here, are actual, in use, roads. I climb Nellies Glen, I pass a lot of struggling runners. I am still feeling good, I feel strong.

I get to the Aquatic Centre. CP4. I look around for anyone I know while refilling tailwind and bladder. I grab my beef jerky stash in my drop bag. Return the bag and walk out the door while eating it. My contact lens is good, no need to clean it. <I’d spent a total of 7 minutes at this check point>

<Initially I thought CP4 to CP5 was all fairly uneventful, until i remembered my stomach> I run through Echo Point (60.6km) at about 5pm and love all the cheering coming from the crowd of supporters and tourists. They all move out of the way down the giant staircase, man these people are great. In to Leura forest, I’m now running with a woman from NZ who lives here and has a south african husband, he lost his accent though, and she is glad. She hated that accent. We plug along talking about doggies. It’s getting dark, I’d been looking forward to running in the dark! Headlamp on. . I ditch her as she is taking too long fumbling with her “Sun-attached-to-the-forehead” Ayup. There are back-end-of-the-race 50km runners coming towards me, about to do their final push up Furber, I feel sorry for them. Hang on, what’s this? oh man this is steep. Stairs? oh man this is getting tough. I’m passing people, I’m still climbing strong. Awesome. I’m moving up without stopping to rest while others are throwing up and pulling off to the side. This is a damn good mental boost.

We’re heading through town now, we’re on the road. My stomach feels a little upset. I kinda need to fart. Better not. Man, running on this road really isn’t doing my stomach too much good. Isn’t there an aid station at the 68km mark? Whats my watch say? 70km? ah fuck. I Fart. It’s warm. “Oh no, oh god please no. This is going to be a very messy race from here on out” Feeling self-conscious I shove my hand down the back of my crack to check on things (Yes, I really did this), I come out clean. “Thank fuck, that could have been a smelly embarrassing 30ish km home, but who cares? Ultras aren’t pretty” Now, come on, where is that aid station?. Lights! Noise! Marshall! “You’re doing well! Turn right and head down to the aid station!”. I come flying in “HI! TOILETS PLEASE!?” “In there!” I enter in to a… hotel? it’s warm and clean, I go right like they say, Now I’m a sweaty bloke standing amongst a hundred or so diners in a restuarant, whoops, wrong way. Back outside “Sorry, I couldn’t find it?” “Ok follow me” “Thank you” *Male toilets Closed for Cleaning* “ohh fuck offffff”. Turn around, Disabled? Yeah that describes my current situation. I walk in, close the door, drop trou. explosion and sweet relief. My stomach no longer hurts. I flush, I stand up. *PLOP* what was that? hahahaha oh man, that’s my iPod in the loo. Earphones are still attached to my pack, I reel it out like I’m reeling in a fish. I don’t care about toilet iPod, it works and I’m enjoying the distraction it’s providing, lucky I’d managed to flush huh?

Off I go towards CP5, Watch says im at 72km, only 6km? awesome. 13km later, oh thats right, my watch is way out now.

I don’t want anything, I’ve had some coke and a clif bar while here at CP5, again I’ve had to clean my contact lens, I saddle up, walk outside the nice warm tent where other runners are taking a nap, changing in to fresh gear or some, even getting a massage! I grab one last coke from the aid station, the lovely volunteer states “I bet that is the best coke you’ve ever had right?” “you know it love! Thank You” I yell back as I start to head up the road and out of CP5 party town.

Not 10 steps out of the CP, a guy walking to my left, holding what looks like a cup of soup, starts to keel over and all of a sudden everything he had consumed at CP5 ended up all over the dirt road. I’m sorry mate, You’re only 10 steps out of the CP and my energy is low, I’m going to keep going and not bother see if you’re ok. Gee, a lot people are having spews today, must be something in the water…… I pull out my beef jerky, I take a bite. Meh. I don’t want it.

For the most part I run down Kedumba, my quads aren’t totally fried so I am not entirely sure why i’m taking short walk breaks. I spot runners ahead and do what I can to catch and pass them. But once I pass I break in to a walk. My breathing isn’t totally hard, I guess i’m just not dealing with this mentally now, I’m tired, I’m over this. No, you’ve got a job to do. Push you loser. Go. Narp. Walk. Oh well, I am still moving forward right!? Who cares if I walk the rest of the way… I do. No. No I don’t. Or Do I? I dont know, I just know I dont want to deal with Furber in 15 odd km. Bah, can some pirate ninja just jump out and kill me now please?

I’ve passed the last aid station, 91km-ish, I think, my watch is now reading 105km so I am not paying attention to it. I am sick of tailwind, I’m not hungry, I know I should be fueling but I really can’t be bothered. My world is reduced to the 10m radius of light that my head lamp is omitting, how’s my world?, it is fucking hurting.

I’m heading up a fire trail, constantly up. I’m stewing over this now. There are two guys behind me making me angry. Not only is their negative chatter not what I need right now, I had seen them sitting in front of a fire at the very last aid station. I had run past them, they were sitting with a woman who I had assumed was another runner. They stand up to get moving and one says “Thank you, and I’ll also thank you for all the rude runners that pass through without offering thanks” I turn my head around and blind him with my lamp, yeah I heard you dickhead, but did you ever think that I was running along thinking she was another broken runner like yourself? I’m not exaclty thinking clearly after 91km bro, and I’m tired.

I try to convince myself to lose the anger, it’s not needed, you’re hurting, they’re hurting, he didn’t know that you didn’t know. Pick up the pace, turn up the music and shake them and their negative chatter. Keep climbing, with purpose. Wait. purpose? whats that? I’m holding on for dear life here, purpose is not something I care about any more. I look up, bad idea. I can see 4 or 5 headlamps winding up far far above me. Dammit. I gotta get up there?

Oh look! stairs! I must be getting close “3km to go”, oh baby, keep going. “Furber Steps” YES, wait, I can’t deal with this right now, although even though I can’t seem to deal with it my feet keep moving forward, my legs keep lifting me up, step after step. I’m feeling dizzy. “oh shit man, I’m going to collapse. There is no way I’m going to be able to ‘run’ those last few hundred metres, I’m just going to have to walk it in. Just hold on. You’re almost there.

Wait, there is that magenta glow. Tim told me about this. Is that? It is! It’s the sound of the crowd cheering, it’s the sound of cow bells. Look at that. It’s the last step. “Looking good mate!” I cannot see where that came from, but thank you man in the dark. I’m running, I feel OK.. Hey! There is Tim, Tom, Ange and Ky! A smile breaks. I cross the line. What now? I dunno. I think I’m just going to stand here like an idiot for a while. I’m now surrounded by the awesome foursome. They’re tending to my every need. I don’t know what I want, I don’t know what I feel, aside from pain, I feel nothing. I’m just going to continue to stand like an idiot.

An idiot with some warm soup and a bronze belt buckle.

This report has been written with the intention of it being an adventure rather than an actual race report. I did have a rough race plan to pass as many people as I could while remaining in my MAF zone for the first 60km and then just hold on from there on out. I had done that. I started at the back of a field of 1201 runners (that is the official start number), hit CP1 in around the 854th position and crossed the line in 449th. I had managed to run down over half the field and while I am not overly happy with my time I am pretty happy with the amount of passing I did through each CP. These can be seen below. And check it out. I’m in the middle of all finishers 449th/ 959/1201 (my position/finishers/starters) and almost the middle of my category 136/250/301 (30-39 male my position/finishers/starters). A real Mid-packer, or just slightly better than mid-pack.

A massive Shout out to my Coach, Ben Malby, His constant name calling mixed in with faith in my ability and words of encouragement (and of course the smart coaching and fatigue management) are what got me to the line feeling fresh and then through the race, along with maybe just a little bit of guts on my end. And a big shout out to my family and friends who watched along cheering me on at home.

Oh And you know what? They were right, The Glen Haven crew. I used near nothing out of my drop bags. Except for that tasty tasty beef jerky.

Race Splits and Placings through each checkpoint



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