Another tick on the old scoreboard as I have now completed my first ultra. All 56 or 54 (length is debatable) kilometers of the Yurrebilla Trail. Despite soaring Spring temperatures of 34°C in the City on Saturday the forecast for Sunday remained 19°C with early showers. Beautiful running weather. C group starters (being the first to leave) gathered at Belair trail head at 7am munching down the fruit provided. I must admit that when I got out of bed at 5:15am my first thoughts were “you’re a bloody idiot!” but standing at the top of the stairs down into the park I was itching to get going and was mentally ready for the long day ahead.
The first 5km was a gentle run on nice tracks through open woodland, with the hardest part being ducking low for the 30m dash through a tunnel. Before too long we popped out at the first support stop to be greeted with the announcement that the B group start had begun 7mins ago. 5k down, no problem, and now we were being chased.
The next section along Pony Ridge and Brown Hill Creek was probably the fastest of the day and included a small section of 20 or so switchbacks 10m apart…very fun running. The leaders set a cracking pace along Brown Hill Creek and before too long we made the sharp climb up to the McElliot’s Quarry Reserve (9.5km) to the second support stop and a misty view of the city. After downing more fruit, PowerAde and water we set off up Carrick Hill at a walk.
Once at the top the running though grasslands behind Waite Campus was some of the best of the day with magnificent views of the city and a few friendly cows and sheep. I ran a lot more of the uphill’s throughout this whole opening section then I was planning (I was planning on walking anything that even remotely looked like an incline) and we were making pretty good time. We soon popped out onto Old Mount Barker rd and ran most of the way up to Eagle On The Hill where the support crew greeted us again…but this time group B’s support vehicle was also there and after keeping an eye out across the landscape I spied the first Group B runner sprinting up Old Mt Barker Rd.
No sooner had I spied him and we were off. For this section I dropped back to the back of the group to see how they were going, but all through the Mt Lofty track to Cleland there wasn’t any running despite easy downhill sections and it was decided at Cleland to split the group with the leader taking the back markers and his deputy leading the front group. By the time we left Cleland…after chowing down on donuts and pastries…mmm donuts…half of group B had arrived at the support stop.
After another, rather long stop, we ran most of the Wine Shanty track section to Greenhill rd, where the first B group runner finally passed us, and then up to the Support stop on Green Hill…half way. OK that was the easiest half of the trail done…luckily it was as “easy” as I had imagined it would be so mentally I was still looking strong.
The back half of our group were a fair way behind now as the B group started to flood in. From this stop the run turned into a free for all as a group of 6 Bs left at the same time as us and the support crews worked out a schedule to cover the now spreading field.
From Green Hill the trail starts to get interesting…a long technical downhill into Horsnell Gully, followed by a long uphill section to the support stop. The uphill out of Horsnell Gully section just kept going and going but we were now running (I mean walking) with CR Chilliman who had past us down into the Gully and this seemed to make the climb go a lot faster. Chilliman stayed with our bunch of 6 C groupers until the lunch stop at Morialta Cottage. The run from Horsnell Gully through Norton Summit to Morialta Cottage was the second nicest part of the trail and we expected a lot of people to pass us in this section, but surprisingly we seemed to remain ahead of all group A and B runners behind us.
The lunch stop was catered with Pizza, sandwiches, fruit and pastries and I think we overstayed our welcome as all the A and B group runners left ahead of us. Morialta was narrow and rocky in places, but we had started to run into a lot of other walkers coming the other way and absailers down the cliffs. We picked up one of the B group runners through the technical sections and then wound our way up to Deep View lookout (40.5km). At the look out we were met by a silver service support crew who had walked in bottles of coke and lollies dressed in bow ties and all. It was the best stop of the day, but a little exposed so we didn’t hang around for too long.
The climb up to the top of Morialta was thankfully short and when we reached the top I knew the only thing standing between me and the finish was Black Hill. I belted down most of the downhill’s to Montacute rd stretching out the legs, constantly aware of the Quarry track visible on the opposite hill side. Running down Montacute Rd to the start of the Black Hill ascent, the bottom of my feet were starting to hurt, otherwise my legs were feeling fine.
I gathered my strength at the support stop, after being greeted by the bell, grabbed a water bottle from my bag and started the long march up the Quarry track to the top of Black Hill. I had to tell myself the whole way, “just think about the finish”. The climb destroyed my legs and we managed to break into a shuffle through various parts across the top of the hill only rarely. That is until we reached the final 1.5km and the Sugar Loaves track.
Suddenly downhill’s had become very hard and the only thing I was thankful for was that the track was dry. Sunny1 and I took our time down this final stretch just enjoying the last kilometer of a magnificent day. Once we reached the fire trail with 200m to go we could hear Queen blasting from the finish line as we broke into a run around the corner and down the finish chute to raucous cheers.
Phew…we were done in about 10hr15mins. Surprisingly I think I hurt more during the final 10k of my first marathon and I think we could have finished 30-60 minutes earlier if we didn’t hang around support stops for as long as we did. Back at the football club I showered and donned my race t-shirt…finally I could wear it…I had earned it.