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Ultra Trail Australia 2016 50km Race Review

Ultra Trail Australia 2016 50km Race Review

By Coach Sam Burridge
Image © Functional Running / Sam Burridge

The newly renamed Ultra Trail Australia 50/100 (previously known as the Northface 50/100) is one of, if not the biggest, trail race in Australia each year. This year along with the renaming the team over at UTA added a 22km and the UTA951 races to the schedule, and threw in a multi-day expo that consisted of a plethora great brands and stores showcasing their products (for some sweet prices too). This was my third UTA50km event and it was another unmissable event.

I was super keen for this year’s event as my fellow Functional Running Coach Will Lind and I had both registered. The camaraderie would be nice, but I was looking forward to a coach versus coach showdown. Unfortunately for me Coach Will’s nerves got the best of him and he pulled out. At some point I think he mumbled something about an Achilles injury but I’m not sure if he wasn’t more concerned about the impeding epic showdown that was going to take place once the start gun went off.

Something regrettable with the UTA events for the past coupe of years is the nightmare of the initial registration process. The underlying cause is actually the immense popularity of these events, and they sell out within hours. The moment registration opens everyone jumps online and this overwhelms the website. After a fair few hours of frustration and nail biting, I eventually successfully registered. Thankfully that was the only issue that I encountered as the race weekend itself ran super smoothly.

Coming off my race at Buffalo Stampede a month back I didn’t know how I’d go in the UTA 50km event. I had taken a fair while to recover from the Stampede and I wasn’t sure if I’d have endurance in the legs to hold out in the later stages of the race. My plan going into the UTA weekend was to set a strong pace up until the 28km checkpoint and then if I was still feeling good I’d work my strengths and push the hills to bring it home hard.

Start – The first wave of the UTA50 started at 7.17am and it all kicks of with about 6kms of undulating road. I ran fairly hard on this section with the plan to hit the stairs near the front of the pack to avoid any hold ups or congestion.

The 10k to around 24km mark involves single track with some technical sections and heaps of stairs. During this section I was running with a mate who kept me honest and we pushed fairly hard through this part too. At this stage I knew I was in the top 10 but wasn’t sure of my exact position.

We both hit the 28km checkpoint at the same time. While I started to feel really good my mate went the other way and we lost touch. This section of the race consisted of about 7km of downhill fire trails then straight into about 10km of uphill fire trails. I raced the downhills then employed a fair bit of strategic hiking on the ups. On the hills I passed one runner who was hurting with leg cramps but was still trying to push on – I hope you finished strong!

Only stopping to refill my water bottles at the 41km checkpoint, I was still feeling pretty good. At around the 44km mark I climbed back onto the single track near Leura Forrest, which is one of the most beautiful parts of the run.

Hitting the infamous Fuber Stairs I was still feeling good and thinking that I was in about 8th place. The 951 stairs hurt and I was dragging myself up on any available handrail, started feeling sick but as I knew I was so close I just kept on moving.

Once you reach the top of the stairs there is around a 200m path before you enter the finishers shoot.

The finishers shoot at UTA is awesome! Hundreds of people line the way cheering for you, the announcer is calling your name and it’s an unbeatable atmosphere. I crossed the line in 5 hours 1 minute and was told I was the 6th finisher; a result I’m stoked with!

I want to thank the organisers, AROC Sport, for another great event and I especially want to thank all the 450 odd volunteers who were out on course helping out, without them this event could not go ahead. Everyone I passed was super helpful and were always encouraging. Finally a big congratulations to everyone who ran over the weekend whether you entered the UTA951, 22km, 50km or 100km they were all super tough races!

Now, I’m looking forward to a few easy weeks to recover!

For anyone who is interested, here’s my Strava link for the race:

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