I hope this new Ambit 3 is vomit proof….was my thought as I wiped the slimy green bile from the face of my brand new (and expensive) Suunto GPS. I was 25km into the Yurrebilla Ultra Marathon (56km) and things where rapidly going pear shaped!!
The Yurrebilla Ultra is South Australia’s flagship event, it combines exceptional community atmosphere with great food, wine and perhaps most importantly a beautiful point to point course. The race itself is held entirely on the Yurrebilla Trail (a marked walking trail) and winds its way through the Adelaide hills never more than 12km from the city centre. It offers stunning views of the city along with some very sweet technical single-track.
It was no secret that I had come to Yurrebilla to race, and race hard. The competition while not exceptionally deep was extremely talented and consisted of the unbeaten flying Scotsman Stu Gibson (2014 Bogong to Hotham and TNF 100 winner) and Mr nice guy Andy Lee (2009, 2010 TNF100 winner). It was going to be one hectic race!
My day had started off well for Yurrebilla. Due to the wave start format I enjoyed a relaxed starting time of 8:30am, had the chance to get a good breakfast in, some coffee and all my other morning rituals at an unusually relaxed pace for a race morning.
The day itself was unseasonably hot for Adelaide at this time of year and by the time I got the starting line I was already sweating. I found some familiar faces, chatted a bit and before long we were off and racing down the stairs and into the Belair national park.
The pace from the gun was pretty honest 3:45-4min pace with a myself Andy and Stu all running in bunch. By the time we had reached the tunnel crawl (yeah that’s right) 2km in we had already gapped the field a little and now on our own. I was smiling and loving life as I led Stu and Andy through the single track, however once the trail opened up to fire road the serious racing began.
Stu pointed his nose down the trail and accelerated, what followed was a barrage of 3.30min/km splits over the rolling trail. I was working hard, Andy dropped off the back, Stu was gunning it! I knew that even for Stu this pace was unsustainable for the whole race but the question was could I hold on to him until we got the real hills?
We came across the first semi technical downhill with switch backs and I surprisingly floated right by Stu on the technical descent. Right I thought, this is it just hold on until the hills and I might have a chance, but while I bounded, twisted and turned down the switchbacks something just didn’t feel right in my stomach, I thought nothing of it and pushed on.
We spat back out onto the flat and I had a small gap on Stu that was quickly gobbled up by his consistent 3:30min/km pace on the flat. I settled in again behind Stu right on his heels as the pace quickened but my stomach was starting to complain and I could tell something just wasn’t right. At about 10-11km with my stomach cramps only getting worse I made the call and dropped off the back of Stu who continued on with the fast pace no doubt spurred on my slowing down.
I was now in second but couldn’t relax as I knew somewhere back there Andy Lee would be hunting for me. I tried to keep a more sustainable but honest pace of 3:50s but things were going from bad to worse in my stomach, forcing me to hike most of the hills and tip toe the descents as any extra effort expended would result in horrendous cramping in my gut!!.
By 20km Andy had caught me, I was moving slow and must have looked pretty rough as he enquired to my health. There was a decent descent just ahead and I thought I would give it one last shot in the hope that my gut would magically come good.
I hit the descent with some speed and gapped Andy again quickly but less than 60sec into the pounding down hill and I started to feel things bubble up from my stomach! I slowed as I tried to hold the vomit down and navigate the descent but as soon as I hit the bottom it was all over. I vomited….. Andy stopped to see if I was okay standing bent over on the side of the trail but I encouraged him to continue on.
From here it was a battle of mind over body as I on nearly every accent or descent I vomited up what I had taken in, and then eventually just acid burning bile. I was forced to a walk on most hills and a slow painful tip toe downhill. The sun was starting to beat down and I wasn’t able to drink any water.
I stopped at the 33km aid station, disappointed, distressed and starting to dehydrate. I sat down and contemplated my next move, how was I going to get from here to the finish line some 23km away? I sipped some water that soothed my now burning throat and fanaticised of waiting until Tymeka, my wife, came along and finishing with her. The water came back up.
After about 5min I made the decision to continue on, I was still in third and owed it to the other runners, the volunteers and myself to not let the race beat me. I walked out of the check point stopping a few times to look back and consider my decision, but I sucked it up and pressed on.
The kilometres continued to tick by as I played my game of drink some water – vomit it back up – drink some coke – vomit it back up. However I continued to pass other runners from earlier waves and each time they mentioned how strong I looked and how fast I was running. I was thankful for their encouragement even though most of the time I was too delirious to answer with anything half comprehendible.
Somewhere along the trail, I am not sure where, a massive kangaroo popped out onto the fire road about 10m in front of me. He stopped dead, looked right at me….. and must have thought I looked to slow and weary to pose any threat as he turned and proceeded to slowly hop down the trail in front of me, not fast enough to get away but not slow enough that I caught him ….at this point I was certain I was now hallucinating from dehydration.
Eventually I made it to the bottom of Black hill and after a face melting hike up the climb in the searing midday heat with hot gusty Northerly winds, I somehow made it to the top without collapsing. I now knew that there were only a few kilometres of downhill to go before I could stop and provided I didn’t fall I was home and hosed.
The final descent was far from the fast and fun experience I had imagined it would be, stumbling with legs and arms flailing in all directions I crashed my way towards the finish line, as I approached the finish shoot my body knew it was done and started to shut down, my vision narrowed, my legs turned to jelly and I collapsed across the line in a spectacular fashion.
As I lay there in the dirt exhausted, delirious and severely dehydrated I was thankful I was done. Many thanks to the volunteers who assisted me at the finish line and provided many buckets of water to cool me down. Congrats to Stu Gibson who went on to run a new record in 4:31 and Andy Lee who ran a smart and consistent race for 4:49. Me? well in all my suffering I still, and proudly, managed to break the 5hr barrier for 3rd place with 4:59:59sec.
The Yurrebilla race really is a great event, it has a beautiful and rare point to point course with wave starts and a generous cut off time gearing itself towards allowing any runner to finish. Even though I couldn’t eat afterwards the finish line food provided by Yurrebilla looks to be the best I have seen yet with pizza, sweat treats, buns, fruit and homemade treats on offer it truly is the Gourmet Ultra.
Until next time (and hopefully a better time)
P.s Yes as it turns out the Suunto Ambit 3 is vomit proof!!
Shoes: La Sportiva Helios
Bottom: Ron Hill Advanced Racer shorts
Compression: Compressport R2 Calf Sleeves
Nutrition: Nothing in the end but the plan was for 1x Endura Gel every 20min.
Watch: Suunto Ambit 3 (now vomit proof)