At the start of the year did you think you’d be heading to Spain to race at the World Champs?
Definitely not. At the start of the year the most I had run was 60km with a goal to do 100km at the end of January. To think that I could be competitive at that level was not even in contemplation.
What was training like in the lead up?
Looking at the profile and the race completion times I could tell that the Buff Epic was going to be a lot harder than anything I had done previously. I reassessed what I was currently doing and switched up some sessions to try and build leg strength (specific gym sessions and including loops with solid climbs where possible).
I had an idea of the type of training I wanted to do before the race and had a loose plan marked out. Unfortunately, I had some ITB issues around 5 weeks before the race, just when I had planned to be getting in the thick of it, so to speak. I was pretty gutted and the focus switched to maintenance and getting myself in a position to complete the race, rather than trying to continue building.
I had some good help from physios and managed to get in the best position I could before the race. Even before the start I wasn’t sure how the leg was going to perform on the day and I suppose I was lucky that it held up for long enough to get me through.
How would you describe the course?
Brutal but beautiful.
There are large parts of the course that are runnable, which I like. But there are also parts that are incredibly technical, and then parts that are steep.
The race covers quite a broad landscape that you end up running through grass paddocks, up rocky ridges and along mountain lakes; it is really diverse which keeps it interesting.
The course is incredibly well marked out (with the exception of the portion through the National Park where you are not technically allowed to ‘race’) and it is quite different having people around you for a large portion of the race.
It was also nice to have a loop so you are seeing new terrain for the entire 105km.
What was the Boi Valley like?
I would probably describe it as quaint. The whole valley is dotted with small mountain villages, each with a café, a restaurant and a supermarket. The people are passionate Catalans. The drive in there actually reminded me a lot of New Zealand mountains.
Definitely worth a visit if you have never been there.
How did the race pan out? What was the highlight?
The race started out alright, for the first two hills my ITB was holding up well and I was feeling alright. At this time there was cloud cover and temperatures were pretty manageable.
After the second hill is where I began to feel it. At the top of the third big climb you are hiking up boulders in the cloud and it can get pretty tough going at times. At this point you enter the National Park and start running beside the most amazing lakes. It is all downhill on mostly 4WD track into Espot and I managed to get going at a good clip.
After Espot there is one long climb and then you head along the range before dropping into the Boi valley. Up the top of this climb I found myself in some places. My stomach wasn’t liking all the sugar I was throwing at it and I couldn’t keep anything down. At the end of the range I was just plodding along and I was possibly a bit lucky to get up the last climb. The medic at the top was quite keen for me to sit down and chill for a while but managed to reassure him that I was fine.
The final 15km are downhill and the last 7km are through towns. By this stage it is great having the support.
The final bit I was looking at my watch and thinking I could possibly get around 15 hours. Then one of the greatest feelings was running around to the finish line with all the officials eating their dinner cheering.
What ANZ races do you think you might do in 2017?
The plan is still really coming together but at this stage I definitely have Buffalo on the list and also considering a shorter one at The Hillary. There is likely to be some more added; Hounslow had great reviews this year and would be great to get back to Bannockburn for another slog up Mt Difficulty, so will see.
What’s your number one tip for someone thinking of doing a Skyrace?
Number 1 tip is commit, the sooner you do that then the sooner you can get excited and prepare. A close second would be to look at the course and plan.