UTA50 – Part 4 – But first…

Really not prepared for this

Bradley and Ralph
Dear old dad

The day before I took leave my dad had a fall at his home. We visited him in hospital in Newcastle on the Saturday – an 860 km, 9 hour round trip – and had a long conversation. On Sunday his numbers worsened so he was moved to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), but by Monday his tests were slightly more promising.

But by Tuesday his condition had worsened. He asked to move from ICU back to a ward. I asked my sister if this was because of improvement or comfort… it was the latter! So we bundled the dogs in the car and raced immediately to Newcastle, arriving at 20:30 Tuesday night.

Too late, as it happened. I went to the ward and into the room. Dad looked just like he was asleep. I walked over and kissed him on his forehead. His hair was so soft! Such a strange and unexpected thing.

I mentioned to the nurse that my wife was outside with the dogs so naturally (I thought) I would swap places with her. “Bring them in”, said the nurse. “If anyone complains they can talk to me.”

It was quite a scene. My sister with her husband and three kids; the youngest in a wheelchair and a full leg cast stuck out in front. My wife and I with our dogs in a stroller. And Dad resting so peacefully. We stayed with Dad for a few hours, never feeling like we had to go.

As we were leaving the hospital my sister told me that as she visited Dad every day he kept his memory and his strength until the end. That thought stuck with me.

Newcastle, Canberra, Blue Mountains

Drove to Sydney for a quick nap at my sister’s house, then a 04:00 Wednesday start to return to Canberra with my wife, two dogs and deliver my niece to the ANU. A brief stop at home to pack the dogs’ things and take them the kennel.

Finally at home for more then a few minutes and for the first time I could think about what I was packing and check everything off in my mind. I had laid out my gear since the weekend but my mental checklist hadn’t been working. While I could buy anything that I had missed at the UTA expo, I hate buying things I already own. By Wednesday afternoon we were back on the road to Leura in the Blue Mountains.

Over 2000 km driven in three days.

Just 50 km of running to go.

UTA 50 – Part 3 – Gearing up!

(To paraphrase Eddy Merckx, “Don’t buy upgrades; run up grades.” I followed that advice… to some extent.)

The vest pack, shoes and pole quiver for UTA50 2019
Sponsorship offers welcome (but highly unlikely)

Gear change

There was nothing wrong with my gear in 2018. Everything fitted in the 12 litre Kathmandu vest pack, everything worked. But over time and through experience and stuff wearing out I wanted to make some improvements.

The first two changes were easy to decide:

  • Garmin Forerunner 935. More features, more performance data, and running dynamics. But most importantly, it has more than twice the battery life of my 235 so I don’t have to run twice as quickly.
  • Black Mountain Distance FLZ poles from Mont, sold by Michael Milton himself!

No such thing as bad weather; just bad clothing

The next equipment consideration was clothing. By virtue of my height, my clothes are huge. Those YouTube stars have rain jackets no bigger than their thumb but they still meet the minimum standard. My Kathmandu Flinders ngx jacket folded to the size of a football. It’s a great jacket especially in moderately-heavy rain, but it’s big and heavy.

The UTA50 mandatory gear list describes a rain jacket thus: “A premium jacket would have a waterproof rating of over 15,000 mm hydrostatic head and a breathability MVTR rating of 20,000 g/m²/25 hrs [sic]…”. But I skipped the last part of the sentence that reads, “…however much lower ratings are completely acceptable.” So a ’10k/10k’ would be fine?

The Outdoor Research Helium II jacket reduced the weight from 385 g to about 130 g and the size of a football to a sandwich.

Even if I was hoping for a 10-hour time that would still be a long event and a night-time finish. So I packed extra clothes including spare socks and gloves, and thermal tights.

New Vest Pack

My 12 litre Kathmandu vest pack had space and some nice features and was inexpensive. I had to hack it with a velcro strap to attach the Salomon quiver for my poles. What I really wanted was a Salomon pack.

But could I find a Salomon 12 litre pack in XL? Nowhere in the world, it seemed. I checked with Mont and Find Your Feet and both were hoping for stock by April 2019… only for deliveries to be delayed until July! I went against my principle of supporting my LRS (Local Running Shop) and bought a Salomon ADV SKIN 12 Set from Wiggle for $150 in a fetching shade of Sulphur/Citronelle.

(At UTA Expo I bumped into Mike from Salomon Australia who gave me the S/Lab shoes [see below] and I told him that I felt a bit squalid buying online. He apologised for having none in stock in Australia.)

Shoes

I was very lucky to win a pair of Salomon S-Lab Ultra shoes as a lucky door prize at Mont‘s UTA information night. My first run with them was quite painful but a change of insole fixed that. They are lighter than my La Sportiva Akasha (most shoes are) and I’ll wear them in shorter races. For UTA50 I stuck with the superior comfort and tread (deeper than my other trail shoes even after 400 km of wear!) of the La Sportivas.

Compared to 2018…

Wearing

  • Nike Pro 3/4 ‘semi-thermal’ tights
  • CompresSport calf compression sleeves
  • Injinji mid-weight short socks Le Bent Le Sock Outdoor Light Crew
  • Uniqlo Dry shorts Kathmandu Zeolite Men’s Active Shorts
  • Uniqlo Airism base layer
  • Nike running shirt
  • Castrelli arm warmers – Strava-branded, Strava-orange coloured
  • Sugoi beanie – map motif Several Buffs (which was one of the mystery mandatory gear
  • Nike Aero cap
  • Oakley prescription glasses with transition lenses
  • Turbine up the nose
  • La Sportiva Akasha shoes (size 14 1/2!)
  • Kathmandu gel cycling gloves Fluoro orange polypropylene gloves – protection from rocks and railings
  • Salomon soft flasks with Osprey straws (The new Salomon soft flasks have a narrow opening, which apart from being difficult to fill, won’t fit Salomon straws!)
  • Bib belt

Carrying

  • Kathmandu Zeolite running vest Salomon ADV Skin 12 running vest with Salomon Quiver
  • Kathmandu UltraCore thermal shirt
  • Kathmandu Flinders ngx Rain Jacket 20k/20k Outdoor Research Helium II rain jacket 10k/10k
  • Endura gels, Clif bars, Carman bar (But I forgot the Kyoto Marathon amino and salt pills!) Shotz gels (caffeinated and non-caffeinated); Amino acid and salt pills; Peanut butter and jam burritos (real food!)
  • Spare BCAA and Creatine
  • Wildo fold-a-cup coffee cup and Sea and Summit folding cups
  • First aid kit: compression bandage, band-aids, spare Aussie Butt Cream, Hisamitsu pads, space blanket, spare food.
  • Kathmandu Raven 200 headlight and spare AA batteries
  • Battery pack and cables for iPhone and Garmin 235 935
  • Not taken:  Black Diamond Distance FLZ trekking poles; Kathmandu thermal tights; spare socks; Sugoi gloves
Bradley in full gear ready for UTA50 2019
I’m ready! (I’ll take off the fleece and leave it in my drop bag at the finish.)

Now, to wait for the bus to the start.

UTA50 Part 2 Training… somewhat underdone

(Part 1 was https://templeblot.wordpress.com/2018/09/26/uta50-entered-achievement-unlocked/)

Apart from the odd high-volume weekend, this was the program I followed

Best of intentions

I had plenty of time to prepare for UTA50 since entering September 2018. Among bouts of running I finished Fitz’s Classic 165 km with relative ease and l’etape 170 km (story to come).

Then this thing happened

l’etape took a lot out of me. I climbed col de Beloka without stopping for the second time and climbed col de Perisher stopping only for water, a rider in agony from cramp and my mate abandoning 3 km from the summit. I wasn’t in too much pain but I was fatigued for almost a month. I did some light rides and runs in December to get back into it.

I managed a 30:09 PB at Gungahlin ParkRun on 1 January, which was a surprise on the new course made slower by the new U-turn, but fell apart at the Tuggeranong ParkRun a few hours later, which was unsurprising.

The heat. Canberra’s weather was so hot for so long. It was even hot at night, which is unusual in Canberra, which compromised my sleep.

And my new and very important job was stressful and required some after hours work.

But I did train on Mt Stromlo and Black Mountain to be ready for the Kowen Trail New Year’s Resolution 12k on 20 January. On that day the heat was kept at bay by the overcast conditions. Lovely course and event. I’ll be back.

Got sick?

Then I was hit by a chest infection and asthma. The rule of thumb is that illness from the neck up need not affect training, and many’s the time I’ve started a long ride with a sore throat that disappeared after 10 minutes. But illnesses below the neck can become much worse through exertion and add weeks to recovery time.

And 4 weeks of recovery later I was left with just over 2 months to train.

Training as-planned vs. as-is

According to my coach’s plan, by March 2019 I should have been running 50-70 km each week with 150 km of cycling. And Bikram yoga. Instead my training which sparse to say the least. My Strava training calendar looks like a real training calendar with the week days removed. (It’s actually shocking to see how little I did!)

I did less sessions, slower, longer, almost all on dirt, climbing and descending steep things, walking up and down stairs, using my equipment including trekking poles, and running at night with a headlight. I figured that becoming familiar with the edge cases of trail running would save time and mental anguish in the field.

And then, after a 28 km hilly session my left calf was popping. Dr Google said that it was an Achilles tendon about to rupture. I have never had a problem with my Achilles tendon and I didn’t have time for one now. RICE and heel lifts would have to work a miracle.

My chances of completing UTA50 in 10 hours were now zero. Were my chances of finishing only 50/50?