Thursday, 19 May 2016

UltraGiles UltraTrail

Helping Sara, Moira and Anita crew for Giles at the Ultratrail Ultramarathon was an eye-opener, confirming that there are whole other worlds of crazy out there to explore.  The event was impressive on numerous levels; the brutal course, the volume of runners whom partake (~1000 do the 100 km option, which sells out in hours) and the organisational logistics that must go into the hosting of the event.  Imagine a 3peaks-Scott24 fusion, but without bikes to complicate proceedings.  Add another couple of thousand who crew into mix and you get a feel for the scale of the circus. And as Sara pointed out, for an event that ostensibly only requires running shoes, there is an awful lot of paraphernalia that adorns not only the runner, but also the kit and kaboodle brought by each crew to the checkpoint pit areas.  In this case it was crammed into two large plastic tubs and an esky, accompanied by a few chairs.  Much of it mirrored what is found in the pit of a 24solo, but it has to be transportable, from one transition point to the next.  At each of the 3 crewed checkpoints once Giles arrived he was on a clock; clothing is changed, lube applied, noodles, tea, chips and watermelon consumed, depleted hydration and food supplies in the running pack exchanged for new, each in its correct place, light sets swapped, and all those other little points hopefully addressed before they are forgotten, only to be remembered once the mayhem of the checkpoint has been left behind.

I love the sheer romance of the event; the spectators cheering as the runners come through, even if reduced to walking late in the piece, or even early in the piece.  Bloodymindedness is perhaps the most important quality.  Makes you just want to throw on a set of sneakers and run back to Sydney the next day.  Of course, the reality is a tad more sobering, away from the adoring crowds, strobes and trance-disco soundtrack....100 kms of snakes-and-ladders bush running that pummels romance into survival.

Giles ran a solid race despite have food bounce (= throwing up) for the first 7 hrs.  Damned heat.  A little behind schedule he also managed to leave the first pit area sans poles, which would have been helpful tackling the thousands of steps to the next checkpoint.  But he ran a strong second half to finish close to his original schedule, approx 40 minutes quicker than last year.  Chapeau!  And not too damaged the next morning either. I've dabbled in a few half marathons previously and experienced sufficient knee pain to know I'm probably not a runner.  But bearing witness makes me want to be one nonetheless.

Sunday proper afforded a titanic sleep in.  Come the afternoon we departed palatial Cascade digs and headed off to try to twitch a couple of choice birds on the way home.  Destination Woodford had us ditch the car and embark on our own trail walk of 6 km with bins in tow.  In short, we ticked one of them, a bird we've only seen once about 8 years ago.  Hello again and thanks for great views....Beautiful firetail.

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