21 May 2018

Ultra-Trail Australia 2018

The dust has settled on the hard dry trails,
Many of us are counting our damaged toe nails,

The wind has cooled down the warm autumn air,
Each one of the 1000’s of runners never want to see another stair,

But they will all return,
As their desires continue to burn,

Ultra-Trail Australia is a great event,
But it is a shame how quickly the weekend went,

We have run the race, showed our game face,
And everyone has walked away with a wonderful Blue Mountains grace.

UTA 22 Start

I am in my 6th instalment of the Ultra-Trail Australia event and once again I have walked away truly humbled, inspired and determined to return fit, focused and ready to take on the mighty Blue Mountains trails in the best way possible, a running race.

Kellie took part in her first UTA event as a competitor, racing the 22 event in what has been a long and challenging journey over the course of many years. She has had high points and many low points dealing with the demons of bad health, all the time remaining steely in her determination to find her way back. She ran the race on her terms, after a careful and calculated preparation in the months leading up to the event, following Hanny Allston’s Find Your Feet 22 program. It meant the world to me to see her run so well and to share the finish line with her is indescribable and a moment I will never ever forget. On a side note Kellie ran the house down coming in 64th female and finishing in the top 10% of the entire field of 1900 runners and top 5% of female runners and all with a big smile on her face!

David King
Dave King is truly a great mountains man, he shares his proud culture, passion and love for country with each runner, always telling a story or two along the way. This is why he gets along with Tom Landon Smith so well, they love a story and love the chance to tell their stories. And for many a runner, both of these men are a part of their UTA story in some way or another. Another reason why UTA is such a great event, it brings a unique story for every single runner that takes the start line.

When Gina and Amanda crossed the line together late on Friday afternoon after sharing 22km of trails, tests and challenges with each other I could not be more proud. They placed their trust in me during the lead up to their UTA journey and knowing that they had achieved what they set out to do is humbling as a coach. I get as much from seeing them complete the 22 as I did from watching another client, James, gritting his teeth and pushing on into the twilight after 70km of running already done. Why I coach is simple, to give back for what I was given, to help where needed and to share the journey with those who join me on the ride.

Scotty!!! Legend.
The boys ran across the line smiling and puffing after their 3rd successive 1km dash around Scenic World. Charley and Beau arrived on Saturday and well they had 2 things on their minds, racing the Kid’s race and playing with our good friend Scott’s daughter Chloe. Scott, in his third attempt at UTA, successfully navigated the 100km course in tick over 14hrs, smashing a huge PB and inspiring me to run the 100 again (well maybe anyway), all the way he was followed by Chloe, his wife and his mother. This optimises the UTA journey, it takes families, friends and training buddies to finish, these people offer support, motivation and comfort for the tired runner. Without them, UTA would not be such an important part our community. And for the record, both the boys and Chloe enjoyed quite a good playtime while we shared a beer after Scotty finished back at Scenic World.

My mates were there too, both racing and supporting. Dave Byrne is “Mr. Everywhere” at UTA, from the cocktail party to the finishing shute, Dave always offers an honest and supportive chat when I see him. Blair Hurst tackled the 50 and while he didn’t quite break a smile I know he deep down inside enjoyed the weekend with his family and a nice quick break from the tools. It is being able to share moments with people like this that add to the experience of a UTA trip, you always have someone to chat with, a story to hear and a memory to remember.

The Saint
From Ben absolutely obliterating the 22 course to Brendan doing what only Brendan can do, the individual performances across the weekend were unbelievable and each year we seemed to be wowed just that little bit more. The funny thing about running is months, weeks and hours of training lead up to one chance, one opportunity to run the race of your life. It can be a cruel beast indeed, I know this first hand after a 100km DNF in 2015 and 2 lacklustre runs in the 50 in 2016 and 2017. I felt I came close to the form I showed in the 50 back in 2013 this year in the 22 finishing in 2:00:20 coming in 15th overall, 13th male and more or less on my goal of a sub 2. In 6 races I have gone from top of my game, to rock bottom and back again, every step and every trail a different path towards the same finish line feeling, one of satisfaction and contentment in knowing I had given my all on the day.

The way I look at UTA has continued to evolve over time;

I enjoy expo, but always spend way too much time there;

I love chatting to other runners, yet seem to let time get away from me when I should be resting;

I try not to overdo things, but social media would say otherwise;

I try to relax, but I sure am hyped up too!

With another year behind me I cannot wait until 2019 – As a competitor to see if I can improve and strive for more – As a husband to see if I can continue to support Kellie in her running goals – As a Dad to see if I can continue to inspire and make my boys proud – As a coach to share my knowledge, experience and skills with runners approaching UTA in their own unique way – As a spectator to encourage those who are doing what they dare dream of.

And this is why I will keep coming back year after year.

BD with Tom
Future UTA stars Charley and Beau
Dave Byrne, Michael Milton and I

Photo Credit
Marceau Photography
Scott O'Neill
Kellie Gibson
Kurt Matthews Photography
Ultra-Trail Australia Facebook
Blue Mountains Gazette

7 July 2017

Heading North


Time to have a break, relax, recharge and allow the body, mind and soul to re-balance. I have many plans ahead, starting with some half marathons in August before a tilt at the Edgell Jog and marathon distance again in September. So with this in mind I am aiming at building some control at pace, speeding up my long run and getting back into the high end aerobic training. I won't be forgetting my trails or hills during this time, rather I'll be using them to my advantage, hopefully!

I'll also be having a break from posting (crap) online, Facebook and Instagram also require some time off too over the next little while. During this time I'll be hard at work training, trying to be a teacher, enjoying being a husband and relishing being a father. Live life for the moment.

I'm trying to get many things into a positive and constructive light. My coaching is one. I love coaching, sharing knowledge and playing a role (big or small) in someone's journey towards achieving a goal. I'm looking at further emphasising this aspect of my life, through offering more ways to assist in this process. I genuinely enjoying the questions, queries and feedback I get from runners and am more than happy to pass on my knowledge and experience to give a new light or thought on your running journey. For more info:

That's all for now. Enjoy your running and see you out there somewhere perhaps.

28 May 2017

Reflection: It's just one point of view - my UTA story

UTA 2017 has come and gone in what seemed like a blink of an eye, the flash of a camera or an explosion of fireworks. It was an intense few days in the beautiful Blue Mountains and a fitting curtain call on what was an epic 6 month build up to race day. 

With Beau and Charley just before their UTA race - Aurora
Ultra-running is a funny sport as often best laid plans can go to waste and with so many variables inevitably encountered, what is expected doesn’t always play out. This year was certainly no different for me both as an athlete and as a coach.

Being prepared and fit to go was always a goal of mine since I crossed the line in 2016 where I was well off my best but well aware of what needed to be done in the lead up to my 5th outing in this event. My coaching goal was simple, have my athletes prepared to achieve their individual goals and learn and grow from the experience as a coach.

Slippery board walks early on - Aurora
The week leading into the race I felt great, my training had been great post pneumonia in early February and I felt I had finally got back to my best form through consistent and effective training. I was approaching the race in my best shape physically, mentally and emotionally since 2013. In short I was good to go.

My clients were ready too. I had athletes in both the UTA100 and UTA50 and expected them all to run to their potential. I pride myself on preparing my athletes for their events in the best way for their goals and ability. Smart training for rewarding racing had me feeling good about holding onto my 100% finish rate from 3 years of coaching.

"Landslide" an addition to the 50 for 2017
"Sometimes you have to let go of what's gone, appreciate what remains and look forward to what comes next" (Unknown)

This is true of the 10th anniversary year for all involved. Weather had its way but thankfully the event remained a go, a modified go, but still a go! I was quite unsettled on the Friday as rumours were flying around of impending course changes, I found it hard to get my head around the changes until it was officially confirmed later in the day.

For the record - Tom, Alina and crew managed to pull it off and keep the race on which is testament to their organisation and the relationships they have formed with authorities, I'm not sure anyone else could have done this given the position of the race on Friday.

When news broke officially it was first important that I accepted the decision so that I could then ensure my clients had someone to fall back onto if they had any questions or concerns. Obviously there was some anxiousness around the course changes, primarily around timing and so forth but the general feeling was still positive and as a coach I was able to feel at ease that all would be well. Personally before the official announcement of the course change I was hoping for an out and back along the cliff tops to Queen Vic and back to Scenic World as I felt it would have played more to my strengths and what I had trained for but I was still feeling good and had run sections of the new course in the past so I was somewhat familiar with it.
Bring on the finish arch - K. Gibson

My race plan was to start with purpose and settle into the run taking advantage of the good spots and conserving in the tough ones. By the top of the Golden Stairs I was aware that my body was not too keen to play ball, my legs were not clearing the lactic acid accrued, and I was hoping that after some more time settling in I would feel better. I didn’t have the leg speed needed on the fire trail often finding myself hiking sections that I should have been running and at around 19km I was starting to cramp.

I was mentally very strong and found myself having to run according to how I felt but this meant I was at too low an output and by the Megalong Rd CP I had to stop for food because I was hungry, an issue that was made worse by a later start and not adjusting my pre-race nutrition accordingly and a reduction in my heart rate due to my lower output in the last hour or so.

Post break and ready to get it done - B. Duffus
I regathered myself here, taking 5min to refuel and readjust ready for the climb up to Nellies and over to the finish. I again battled cramps just out of the CP but once they cleared I was able to consistently shuffle along to the single track where I managed a strong and steady hike to the top of the stairs. I was feeling good and closing in on the finish maintaining a fairly good effort and this allowed me to push into Katoomba with some purpose.

I managed to get moving reasonably well again and when I approached the finish arch I was feeling content and satisfied that I had done my best on the day, a time of 5:17:42 and 37th overall. My body didn’t want to come to the party on the day, I had prepared very well for this race and while this aspect is slightly disappointing I was also happy that I had dug in and battled to the end salvaging a reasonable performance. I can only feel as though I definitely had more to give but on the day I just could not get things flowing in the manner I had prepared for, as frustrating as this was it just means I have more to learn and implement in the future.

Ultra-running is always tough, some days you run fast and others you do not, UTA was somewhere in the middle this time around.

As a coach I was basically blind of what was unfolding until shortly after I finished. Kellie had been keeping an eye on things during my race and informed me that my clients were all moving along well at that point in the afternoon. With runners in both the 50 and 100 ranging from the front to towards the end of the field I was hoping that they were all having a good day out and most of all backing themselves and their ability to complete the challenge they had taken on.
Finish with purpose - M. Reeves
With some variables being thrown their way before the start it was always going to affect some differently than others. With my original start time I had planned on getting across the various CP’s to support them but with the delayed start after I had showered an eaten I based myself at the finish to ensure I could see them cross the line. All in all, I was extremely proud of each individual performance, another 100% finish rate with 5 PB times. This is both a testament to their preparation and trust in my coaching to ensure they had what it took to meet their goals for UTA.

In the wash up and upon reflection I was very fortunate at UTA in 2017. I was able to share the experience with Kellie, although she couldn’t get out on course she was still right by my side across the entire weekend. I made big steps forward in my running and while I didn’t hit the bulls eye my shot was definitely much closer than in my last 3 previous efforts. As a coach I shared a journey from sign up to finish line with many amazing and determined athletes, a privilege I take very seriously. And finally once again I was blown away by the weekend, the atmosphere, the encouragement, this event is unique and like no other sporting event I had seen nor participated in.

On the home stretch - B. Berriman
Where else would you see the first place runner take the time to genuinely talk to the runner who came across the line in the final position? Only in ultra-running.

With this in mind, recover well, be kind to yourself and take the time to restore your body and mind. I am not sure what will be next on my radar, there are some penciled plans but I have definitely taken plenty away from this event that I intend on building upon. One thing is certain in 2018 I will be lining up in an Ultra Trail Australia event, once again chasing that elusive day out in the mountains.

Photo Credits

Meg Reeves - legend mountain crusher
Ben Berriman - legend BMMC man
Kellie Gibson - legend wife
Ben Duffus - legend ultra runner
Aurora Images - official photo supplier