AURA Australian Ultra Runners Trail National Championships Maroondah Dam

AURA Australian Ultra Runners Trail National Championships

by Shona Stephenson on February 22, 2013

I was asked by my sponsors Inov8 and Barefoot Inc to race in the Tarawera Ultramarathon Rotarura in New Zealand just 12 days before AURA Australian Ultra Runners National Trail Championships, Maroondah Dam. Being asked to race for your sponsor is a great honour and I did not want to let them down. It also meant that I had to pull out of the iconic 6 Foot Track 45km Trail Event scheduled the week before Tarawera Ultramarathon. I was bummed that I was not going to get a tough race in before Northburn and Tarawera. I then spotted the Maroondah Dam AURA Australian Ultra Trail Running Championships and I thought that it would serve as the perfect lead up to Tarawera Ultra Marathon and Northburn 100. I am to race Northburn 100 the week after Tarawera Ultramarathon. I am going to fly back to Australia in between the two events to see my husband and kids before racing in New Zealand again.

I booked flights, hired a car and posted on Facebook that I was running the Aura Australian Ultra Trail Running Championships and needed a place to stay in VIC near Maroondah Dam. I was contacted by Jill my maid of honour and one of my best friends for about 14 years. Jill who has just had a baby boy called Marshall was thrilled that I finally am running an event in VIC that is close to her house. Awesome. I get to visit my best friend from my pre-kids and pre-running days and hang out and relax before my AURA Australian Ultra Trail Running Championships big event.
It was going to be a great weekend. I could just tell. Firstly I worked out that my Hammer Bag passed the carry on luggage requirements so I could just walk on and off the plane without checking in luggage and when I arrived in Melbourne airport I was up-graded on my car hire to a bright canary yellow, sports SV6 Holden. Coooooool. Yellow bogan chariot that goes fast. Too much fun. I will stand out like dogs balls and scare a few locals. Just the way I like it.

I hung out with Jill and her family and cooked a risotto for her for dinner and froze my drinks preparing for the hot 34 degree day that was predicted for my ultra.

I arrived at the start of the AURA Australian Ultra Runners National Trail Championships, Maroondah Dam and signed in, collected my race bib, gave my drop bags to the event organizers and warmed up, before getting on the bus to the start line. This year the course had to be changed in the first 5km for various reasons.The route was made slightly longer to account for the change of course to make it even in the event organizers mind.
I warmed up again on the start line and readied myself for the race to come. I was going to have to fight to be named the AURA Australian Ultra Runners National Trail Champion. It was not going to be just given to me I had to work for it.
AURA Australian Ultra Runners National Trail Championships had minimal mandatory gear, only a Mobile phone, map, fluid 600ml was required. I was training for Tarawera Ultramarathon, Coastrek 50km and Northburn 100 so I decided to use the following kit;

  • inov8 Trailroc 245
  • injinji medium crew socks
  • inov8 Branded BSc Compression Shorts and Top
  • UltrAspire Spry Pack (only weighing 168 grams)
  • Mobile Phone
  • Hammer Cap
  • Snake Bite 10cm Bandage (not mandatory gear but I thought I should take it as snakes have been spotted regularly in the area. The locals were carrying them. I thought I’d better too. It would just ruin my day if I got bitten and did not have a bandage ).
  • 1.5L of fluid of Hammer Fizz
  • Hammer Gel Flask
  • Hammer Perpetuem Flask
  • Endurolyte’s

At the Aura Australian Ultra Trail Running Championships Dom Dom saddle start line we all counted down we were all off and running straight up a steep fire trail gaining 200m within 2km. I forgot to turn on my Sunnto Watch at Maroondah Dam, only after the first 2ks did the GPS start to work, so my distance may be out a bit on the GPS.

We branched off one by one following Mick Donges float up the ridge. A few guys got ahead of me but I did not mind. After a couple of ks I decided that I was carrying too much weight so I emptied out of of my water to lighten to load. I looked up and I could not believe the trail we were meant to follow if you could call it that.

The route looked like it was a 20m wide fire break cut into the ridge line of the mountain range by giant lawn mowers. 30cm grassy toughs made up the route. I had to just hope that were I was putting my foot there was not an ankle killing hole waiting to break my dodgy ankle. Sticks, stringy bark littered the ground, providing great tripping hazards if you were not light on your feet. I can see why the locals were carrying a snake bite bandage. Oh well, if this is what it is meant to be then so be it I thought. I relish the tough technical trails.
I worked hard up to the first Aura Australian Ultra Trail Running Championships aid station at the 5.5km mark and gaining another 150m elevation. I looked up and I was greeted by Mick and a few of the guys as they hooned back out the hill on the out and back. It was my turn to fly back down the descent and I spotted South Australian Stephanie Gaskell climbing nicely behind me, followed by QLD runner and friend the lovely Mandy-Lee Noble, ACT running mate from way back in 2010 Bryony Mc Connell, and the gutsy Isobel Bespalov who was clearly injured when she started the 50km Ultra.
I was happy with the precious few hundred meters I’d gained on Stephanie Gaskell, and rolled with the hill towards the 10km mark. The descents through the grassy fire breaks are hairy. I was not skilled at descending them. I did not have local knowledge of how the ground moves, which is the safe place to put your foot, what happens if you get caught in the ribbons of eucalyptus bark. I had to learn fast or fall over. I ran to stay on my feet and to keep my lead.

As soon as I worked out the safe way to attack the terrain the fire break ended and I was running on dusty fast trail again. I hooned into the 10km Aid station in around 50 minutes. I ran past the 10km station and blasted off down the track keeping an eye on the guys ahead of me. After 1 hour of running I swapped my fluid over and slowed down for a walk for a few seconds while I organized myself. Made sure I had my Endurolyte’s regularly. It was a hot day and I was not going to be forced to walk due to dehydration like I did at the 30/50 Challenge

I was passed by two guys. Bugger. This stop cost you two positions. Let’s get that back now I thought. I was off and running, along the wide fire trail. I’m use to technical single man track, rocky cliffs, bush stairs, ruggered terrain. I found this 10km section a breeze. All I had to do was pick my line, work on my running technique, hold my form and fuel and hydrate for the next 10ks.

At the check point I caught the two guys. I swapped my frozen water bottles, Hammer Gel flasks and Perpetuem over and reorganized myself and ran out of there. I was confronted with another fire break section where here was no clear line to follow. I caught a few guys on the climb and I was impressed that I think I finally have built some climbing legs. At last I can climb. The climb was so steep that running was stupid. I pushed on my quads, stayed down low and lunged up the climb. All those walking lunges that I do as my job as a personal trainer have come in handy. All those times I’ve run up and down Nellies Glen, Mt Solitary, Evan’s Lookout, The Grand Canyon, Kedumba, Megalong Mega, Mt Tennant, Mt Ginini. All those countless stairs and hills that I climb with clients every day for my 35 plus sessions a week have built a great base fitness.

Visions of my up coming Mountain Races, Northburn, Mt Fuji and the UTMB came into my head. I am developing the correct body to handle the steep climbs. Cool at last all my hard effort is paying off.

What is more important to me is that I am no longer suffering from asthma like I was at the end of 2012. I have changed my diet in the last 2 months and it seems to be working for me. I’ve cut out Gluten, Peanuts all Dairy expect for A2 Dairy Jalna Yogurt and skim milk in my latte’s. I still notice my asthma if I don’t take my serotide preventive. I still need ventolin, but not like I use to. This is a huge improvement in only 2 months. I have my lungs back!
I made it to the top of the climb at the 25km check point and all I wanted was water to pour over me to keep me cool. There was none available in cups. Bugger. I ran straight through this check point and I was caught by two guys while we climbed to the 27km mark. We chatted asked them where the next female was.
“Not far behind, only a few minutes” One replied.”She’s wearing red”.
Game on. With this I put the hammer down and I was off. I worked on my technique, drove my knees forward and worked hard. I was greeted with a fantastic descent managing a 2:15k and I rolled past the two guys and vowed to not let another runner past me.

The next 10ks were pretty flat running with a slight incline. I worked on my straight line speed and just turned my legs over and picked off a few blokes along the way. The track was a wide fire trail, so I just picked my line, work on my leg speed and run all the way to Mt St Leonards. Too easy.
My inov8 Trailroc’s were the perfect shoe for the conditions, flexible to allow me to run freely yet with enough protection against the Australian ruggered fire trails.

At 30km I was out of fuel. I miss calculated the distance. I think the course was made a bit longer and a few of the check points were a bit later than expected. I picked up a yummy Raspberry Hammer Gel and filled up my water bottle with Hammer Heed. Both of these went down like a dream.
I was feeling fresh at 40km, so fresh I decided that I did not need to pick up Perpetuem, I just needed my Gel flask and to swap one frozen water bottle over for the 10-12km to the finish. In my haste I picked up Perpetuem Flask, but after running for 10m or so I decided that I was in total cruise mode and I did not need any gels for the last 10ks. I had one small flask of Perpetuem, about 70 Cals only to last me until the finish. I was not too concerned. It did mean that I was only consuming about 200 calories for 2 hours of running. I was under my anaerobic threshold I decided to run the last 10ks as a LDS and use my fat stores.

I could not see Steph chasing me down. I had the lead. Descending is my speciality. I rolled down the Mt St Leonards Ridge passing a couple of guys, hooned down the fire trail in auto pilot. I have a massive month coming up and there was no reason for me to push unnecessarily.
Finally on some tricky single man track I descended off Mt St Leanards and the heat hit me. It was 34.5 degrees and I was hot. I could feel my bloody pumping hard to keep myself cool. With about 5 ks to go I crossed the creek and wet my Hammer Visor in the cool creek and placed it on my head. My head was so hot that the water that had soaked my visor evaporated immediately. Far out it was hot.
After a few kilometers of running a few 30km Event guys caught up with me. I again asked them if they’d seen a female and I looked back and I could not see Steph. I pushed on now wishing I’d picked up the right gel flask as I was running out of energy. It was also nice to know that I could hold my form and run fast even though I was low on fuel.

I found the final aid station and I was bummed that they did not have Hammer Heed on offer. I took a swig of another brand sports drink and 5 minutes later felt sick. It had way too much sugar in it. Foul.

I pushed on up the Aura Australian Ultra Trail Running Championships final climb, descended the final descent and I had to stop in my tracks as I hit a fork in the road and I did not know which way the course went as there was no markers. I waited for the 30km Racers to catch me and I asked them where to go.

We all veered to the right and rolled down the footpath, across the dam and down the hill into the Maroondah Dam Park and across the finish line. I had become the AURA Australian Ultra Runner Trail National Champion.
“Job done. I need a massage, I have to start work tomorrow at morning 6am as a Personal Trainer with a 7 session day booked”. Was the first words that came out of my mouth to my good friend Jill who’d made it to the finish line with her 15 week old baby. This only made Jill laugh. It was pretty funny. I felt fresh as.

“I can’t believe you’ve just run 50ks. You look like you’ve just gone for a little jog”. She replied.
Jill and I chatted together while I got a quick massage before the St Johns Ambulance First Aid Officer was bombarded with over heated runners. I had such a nice time hanging at the finish line under the trees with my old friend. I then jumped into the creek for some cold therapy and a wash for 10 min before presentation.

The top 3 results for the female and males were

Female’s

  1. Shona Stephenson 4:52:40
  2. Stephanie Gaskell 4:55:56
  3. Mandy-lee Noble 5:15:26

Males

  1. Mick Donges 4:13:49
  2. Kev Mannix 4:24:47
  3. Toby Wiadrowski 4:28:33