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

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