This was originally posted to my personal Facebook page but it was such an awesome event and I want as many people as possible to know about it! It’s been edited slightly to read better in this context but is otherwise posted here as-is
I was going to sit down and write this on a laptop, a big long epic post, but that’s just an invitation for me to ramble on so I’ll write on my phone and hopefully KISS.
Hopefully the photos and videos (posted on Instagram @VFuelAustralia) gave you a bit of an idea but, as I said, km for km Hut2Hut was definitely the hardest race I’ve ever run. 19hrs 14mins or thereabouts for 100km is brutal. As an indication, my UTA time from 2016 with 30-45 mins lost to cramping was 12:45. Hut2Hut has only 1700m more elevation gain than UTA but that alone doesn’t come close to explaining an extra 6hrs 30! The elevation was tough but the difficulty came down to the fact that the terrain underfoot was just so loose and unforgiving. When the trail was smooth it was narrow, generally it was just rubble or debris and of course, it was never flat. The team at Tour de Trails and the whole Oscars team have done an incredible job [mapping, marking and machete-ing].
I had a great day out. After hitting the summit of Buller in about 8th brought it back to 2nd by the bottom of 4mile Spur. As soon as the running started I fell back, watching Mick Keyte fly off after Chip with Mike M, Steve Rennick, John and Damien chasing after them. I spent most of the day in 7th, running (ie hiking) my own race and staying smart. Fueling, drinking and generally not having much concern for the competitive side of the event. I watched with an ironic smile as my times slipped from what I’d thought were overly conservative splits; It was too brutal to get caught up in “racing” and I said to a few people that the day had long since ceased to be a race.
Coming in to Speculation, where Kel was crewing with her family, was awesome. They stocked me up with Cold Brew coffee, ginger beer, a handful of VFuel and a fresh set of socks. It gave the morale a nice boost and then Kel paced me for 6km toward Muesli Spur. Mike M and Ultra Chef (his Pacer) pushed out of the CP a few minutes in front of us and we leapfrogged all the way to Muesli Spur. I passed Mike and Damien coming down Muesli and, expecting Damien to catch me on the climb out of King Valley, set off up the steep “road” on the final big climb of the course. I set a fast hiking rhythm and worked to sustain it, passing Chip just as we came into Craig’s. I had my second hit of Pure Blonde here (new race fuel???) and pushed on to Stirling feeling great.
By now I thought I had a solid gap and was surprised to see head lamps chasing me out of the Howqua Gap CP with only 10 or 12km to go. Shit. In spite of what I said earlier about not feeling competitive, I’d grown accustomed to being in 4th and so started power hiking whatever I couldn’t run and gave the Heart Rate a solid spike. I’m a decent (read: reckless) downhill runner and knew that if I could stay in front of whoever it was behind me until I hit the summit or Buller I’d almost certainly have it in the bag.
Focused as I was on being chased I didn’t expect to see a head light climbing up Buller ahead of me. John came off Buller a couple of minutes ahead of me but the legs still felt fresh and so I put the speed on and bombed down after him, moving into 3rd about 700m before the finish. Sorry John 🙁
Going into the race I was nervous about the lack of climbing and descending I’d been doing in training. Most of my sessions include some variation of hill reps or undulating terrain but currently only one session per week includes extended climbs and my weekly metres gained have been pretty low. While my climbing speed is definitely poor at the moment, the fact that I felt as fresh as I did toward the end and that I was able to run and push as I did is a credit to my coaches Katee Gray of Holistic Endurance and David Lipman. Katee has worked tirelessly to build my base and has reached well outside of her Triathlon comfort zone to work with a trail runner, proving that an understanding of conditioning and sound training principles is more relevant than personal, sport-specific athletic performances.
Kellie Emmerson, my partner in life and this silly sport, thanks for your support. We often have very different training styles and it’s frustrating but we generally get each other 🙂
Finally, and most importantly, thank you to all the volunteers. Volunteering for Park Run or a local trail Run is awesome and commendable, but this is a whole other level of commitment. Out all day (and in many cases out for multiple days) and well into the night, remote and with a lot of “independence” due to the difficulty of access, and even tasked with hiking water Kms into an aid station; without you and the months of effort from Jarad and Deb, Chris and Andy, this event would still be a dream.
VFuel Australia were very glad to contribute what we could to the Oscars 100 Hut2Hut and can’t wait for the 2018 event!