Following Tarewara Ultramarathon in January of this year, we were sitting down at breakfast reflecting on the epic race that was. We were discussing the big guns at the front of the field; specifically Jim Walmsley and the strategies and tactics he spoke about at the Elite Q and A. I was amazed at how someone could run a long distance race like that and have a particular strategy to break others. It was cheeky, confident, and pretty damn impressive seeing him play it out.
I had never raced with a real strategy that considered others before. I just run, generally go out too hard, and then try to maintain for as long as possible! But that concept changed a little for the Buffalo Stampede marathon this year. Finally I had the chance to race against Lucy. I had only raced her once before, at the 2015 Trail World champs, when we were team mates. I had the upper hand by a couple of hours on that one, but she has grown so much since then. And so I was really excited about this race, because racing the best really brings out the best in yourself. You need to make the most of these opportunities in order to improve. And most of my race choice decisions for 2017 have been about just that. In this race, we both knew that we had different strengths and weaknesses, and needed to use these to our advantage.
Quite a few people have reflected on the tactics used in this race. It is such a great course for bringing out strengths and weaknesses at different points, resulting in a really exciting race. It is the perfect race for demonstrating a variety of skills; you really need to be a diverse runner to do well. There’s flat faster stuff, there’s technical downhill, and there’s a hell of a lot of climbing. I went in with a plan. I knew my weaknesses would be the technical downhill. I knew my strengths would be on the faster flatter stuff. So Buckland Valley is where I would make my move. From there I just had to stick with my motto to ‘hike the shit out of it’ and hope that I could hold on. The plan couldn’t have gone more perfectly.
I’ll break it down into sections.
The first, the galleries loop. I went out hard. I tried to maintain my position up front but there was a fair bit of leap frogging going on. I continued to go hard and make the most of some fresh legs while I had the chance. A long period of ankle rehab meant that I still lacked some agility and heard Lucy giggling behind me as I nearly ran straight off the cliff a few times! But I came through the Chalet ahead.
The chill left the air and it was ridiculoulsy humid. I was thankful that I had grabbed some salt tabs at the last minute.
The second section, the Buffalo descent. I was a little worried about the first few kilometres of this given my ankles and my choice not to tape them for the first time in 6 months. But I had planned for this and took my time, letting Lucy go ahead. I didn’t try to chase her down. She was looking really strong. I had forgotten how much focus is required for this sort of terrain; it’s exhausting! I was stoked to stay upright and avoid any ankle rolling. I came into Eurobin feeling ok, now in 2nd by 2-3 mins. The vibe at Eurobin was rockin’!
The third section. Keating’s ridge. I was a little spewing I hadn’t had the chance to come and recce the course this year. I knew most of it pretty well but I hadn’t thought this climb was as steep as it felt today. I was disappointed that I was hiking so much, and talked myself into the fact that I had probably lost a lot of time. But it was a relief to get to the top and cruise down. I caught up to Damon who had travelled over from Tassie with the crazy Ultrain crew. We stuck together for the next 4-5 kilometres with a bit of chit chat, but mostly just a comfortable presence. It was really nice to have some company for a while.
Then came Buckland Valley. This was my chance. But I had no idea where anyone else was. My crew offered some encouragement as I ran past, and I put my head down to focus. I just tried to maintain a steady running pace and tried to avoid walking until I really needed to. But I felt pretty strong and slowly started picking off runners one by one. I eventually saw Lucy in the distance and slowly gained on her. I caught up to Ash and Lucy, walked with them for a bit, then took off ready for the Duffus drop/Warner’s walls.
Warner’s walls/Clear Spot climb. Wow. I had really forgotten how steep the walls were!! That was a seriously intense climb. It didn’t help that we were now out in the open, the sun getting hotter and hotter. It was a relief to reach the top and head up Clear Spot. Yes a relief to head up Clear Spot! I got my power hike on and chose landmarks to aim for for some brief running sections. And I continued to pass people. I caught up to Aaron Knight who had a can of Red Bull in his hand. Oh my gosh I have never wanted Red Bull so bad!! Instead he dropped and crushed the empty can, my dreams shattered 😛 I then caught up to John Claridge, also another Ultrainer and someone I have spent a bit of time with on the trails. It was great to see some familiar faces, including fellow Australian team mate Amy Lamprecht, supporting him near the top. Finally my crew came into sight and I downed a glass of Coke like it was liquid gold. The last thing I remember is Simon shouting ‘confidence!!’ as I ran down Clear Spot.
The Clear Spot descent was great! My legs were starting to feel a little weak but in my fear of this descent I had thrown myself down some pretty similar hills in the Dandenongs during training. And confidence I had. I cruised down, stayed on my feet, and dipped my head in the creek at the bottom. So good.
Mystic. Mick’s track. Urgghhhh. That hurt. A lot. The sound of cow bells were the only sign that other people were behind. Who knew where they were. I slogged it out up Mick’s, trying to maintain some momentum and trying not to stop. I was so hot. I was overheating big time and didn’t know how to cool myself down. Splashing my face with water from my bottles was doing nothing at all. I had another salt tab and just. Kept. Moving. What a massive relief to be at the top. There were 6 water drums waiting at the take-off strip. They were all empty. So so devastated. Oh well, experience has taught me to cope with whatever is thrown at me. I knew I was close now and could make it back. My legs were seriously feeling all the descending now. They really felt like jelly and I don’t think I was moving very fast. But I got down and ran it home into the arms of my incredible crew: Tegz, Sarah, Lynda, Simon and Livvy. I couldn’t ask for better mates. I think they were more excited than I was! I don’t normally cramp but everything ceased up as I crossed the line, my feet and ITB going crazy! I see this as a good sign of giving everything I had. The river had never been so inviting!!
Totally stoked to take the win for a second year running against some really strong competition.
- 2XU XTRM top (2XU).
- 2XU MCS shorts (2XU).
- Moving Comfort Rebound Racer sports bra (She Science).
- 2XU thong (She Science).
- Hoka One One Speed Goats (Hoka One One Australia).
- Injinji socks.
- 2XU visor (2XU).
- VFuel drink (Ginger twist and lemon/lime) (VFuel Australia).
- VFuel gels x7 (VFuel Australia).
- 1xcup of coke.
- SaltStick FASTCHEWS (Wildplans/VFuel).
- SOS electroyltes (SOS rehydrate).
- She Science
- VFuel Australia
- SOS rehydrate
- Everything’s Connected Osteopathy
- Nunawading Soft Tissue Therapies
- Momentum Jewellry
- Flight Centre Sports and Events
1st Female, 7th Overall