How to run Ultra Trail Kosciuszko
It’s important we get to know what is within our capabilities and how we can push beyond them safely with the intention of growth. Ultra Trail Kosciuszko wasn’t originally on my 2022 radar, I had made plans back in 2021 for my December race to be a Miler (180km) at The Wild, New Zealand.
Seeing in the new year of 2022, the first few months I tapped into how my body was performing and after a few unplanned injuries in 2021 I wished for the new year to be different – I wished to be strong and free of any debilitating injuries that were going to impede my running goals. As we moved into the new year it became obvious that I hadn’t yet gained the trust of my body that I so wanted, so the decision was made in March to transfer my entry for The Wild to the following year and run the inaugural race of Ultra Trail Kosciuszko instead; the 100km distance not a miler. I felt more at ease with this decision.
Little did I know then that in September, The Wild race would be cancelled altogether due to the business going into administration and the planned 100km race would not happen despite being so close to the start line.
The Selfish Runner
As runners we can become a little selfish. Selfish in an insightful way which is different from being selfish without any conscious thought of our actions. We carve out time to run for hours during the week and mainly on the weekends but struggle to make the same time for family or friends. We are early to bed because we are early to rise. We sacrifice our time to prepare for a race knowing upon completion of that goal, time will open up and time soon will be found and not necessarily spent the way we have spent it while training for the goal.
When working towards a [selfish] goal it takes time, not days or weeks but months even years. Everything we work towards we have sacrificed something; the commitment is enormous. We need to get to the goal to navigate our way through to the other side. So, what happens when the goal post move?
The changing of the goal posts
There are two types of race disappointments – DNF (did not finish) which most people are familiar with and DNS (did not start) which although common you don’t hear much about it because you always expect to get to the start line. Ultra Trail Kosciuszko for me was a DNS.
I hadn’t planned for it to be this way, I had various scenarios when it came to how I would get to the start line – a plan A and B but this was not planned for so let’s call this plan D. I guess D for disappointment.
I had high hopes for this race, I was running the best I have for years; I’d found pace and passion again and I was super excited and somewhat anxious to execute it out on this so called “runable” course. I felt like I was peaking at the right time, I was at my pointy end – almost and although exhausted from moving house I know what I wanted to unleash was ready.
The ups and downs
As you move through ultra endurance training you have moments of high motivation and moments where the thoughts of a 40km training run have you waking up in an anxious sweat. This is only normal. As much as I love running, I also have moments of dreading it and I am comfortable with that. However I never regret a run even if getting out the door is a struggle.
I move through all training sessions with an inner mindfulness that puts up a fight every now and then with constant questioning. I see my training plan weeks in advantage and must resist the mind fight to become anxious about a session before it has even happened – why do we do this to ourselves? I remind myself to be present. I run each session at the time of the session not create a story about how I will feel and run the session before it has even happened.
I navigate my way through the ups and downs and some weeks are more successful than others. This is the format of life; take the good with the bad and the ups with the downs – this is how you find balance.
The race plan
Admittedly there was a lot going on in my life in the months leading up to Ultra Trail Kosciuszko; in September a large tree fell on my uninsured car writing it off, my rental agreement was not being renewed and we were like many others, house hunting to buy our first home. Not to mention some uncertainly surrounding my part-time work status. All the things that are reported to cause the most stress in your life were all happening to me at once; this was a lot to take on.
When I plan for a race I look at the profile and previous entrants results to help give me a base of where I should position myself. I had put together my race plan 6 weeks out after a successful Heysen 70km debut where I came equal second female and third overall.
I was conservative with my timings and my coach helped build confidence by readjusting the times to see myself finishing slightly quicker than I had predicted. This was encouraging, I was where I thought I was and a little bit more. Would this race have been as ideal as I had hoped? Who knows but I was excited to give it a bloody good crack.
Plan all you want but things do change
The race was on the Friday in NSW. We left the Adelaide Hills on the Tuesday to drive the 1100km to NSW stopping via Swan Hill to limit fatigue from driving and keep the body in flow. We were due to arrive at our accommodation on the Wednesday to settle, relax and soak up the race atmosphere.
Late Tuesday night we were informed of a family emergency in Portland; technically we were still in Victoria and literally could have one foot in both VIC and NSW; this is unfortunately the closest we got to getting to NSW.
Family always comes first and after about an hour of ‘trying to make things work’ the decision was made to abandon the race and drive the next day to Portland.
Not much was said on the drive from Swan Hill to Portland, I think my husband and I were both processing what was happening. We were doing not thinking. In a way I still am ‘just doing’. This was one of the hardest decisions I have had to make abandoning a race I had worked so hard for, sacrifycing not only my goals but my emotional and financial investment too.
I learnt earlier this year to not focus or ask the “what if” question as you will never find an answer. It’s a nice thought but ‘what ifs’ don’t change the present situation. Asking this kind of question just stops you from moving forward as it keeps you in the past going through scenarios that you have no control over changing.
Less than one month on and I haven’t stopped thinking about the race despite my best efforts to do so. So much for not focusing on the ‘what if’s’. Despite all this thinking, I’ve also found peace. Peace with being adaptable, peace with grappling with going from all to nothing and being OK with that.
So how do you run Ultra Trail Kosciuszko? For starters you need to be there to run it. You see, despite best efforts to plan and create the story line before the event has taken place it is only something you can talk about once it has happened. I didn’t get to experience this event in 2022 and I can’t talk about it like I did. It didn’t happen but it’s not to say it won’t happen.
As the saying goes ‘It’s not how we fall. It’s how we get back up again that counts.’
The trail running community of growing, the list of events are also growing at a rate which makes choosing which event to do just as challenging as running the event itself. There will always be another event, this is something that is guaranteed. However precious time with family when they are in need is something that needs to be tended too as the situation arises; you have no control over that.
My disappointment was valid, its heartbreaking when something you have worked so hard for by no choice of your own is no longer viable. It’s been a hard pill to swallow however I would not change the situation at all. I offered a selfless act to be there for family who needed me more than I needed this race. Running plays a key part in my life but it is not my life; you must learn to adapt from selfish to selfless when the time arises.
I haven’t as yet planned my 2023 calendar but what I do know, when it does come together it will be full of adventure, new experiences and a greater appreciation for choice.