RADjournals: Joe Hujs

August 08, 2021

“Why would you do this?” 

A valid and fair question.  

In the lead up to the Snowies Ultra Race, I was asked this by a few folk who got wind of my entry. 

For those of us runners out there who have made the step up to an ultra, there are undoubtedly a  range of drivers, for me it was simple, you don’t know what tomorrow brings, embrace new  challenges and live life to the fullest. I started with a 5km Parkrun, then a 10km Sri Chimnoy, this led  to a few Half Marathon events, then the 30km Stromlo event in Nov 2020, resulting in a Six Foot  Track Qualifying time, this was the catalyst to stepping up to the Ultra, besides, how cool is the word  Ultra ☺ 

“Remember – Get It Done” 

This was my focus and mindset for the entire race, maintaining positivity and visualising the finish line, which in this case happened to be my very first Ultra Trail Running Race. To put this all into  some context, “Get It Done” was the mindset I also applied following Anterior Lumbar Interbody  

Spine Fusion surgery a few years back. Re-learning to do day to day tasks, inclusive of walking, was a  collection of mini races, each with their own finish lines, each success enabled me to move on to the  next challenge and accomplishment…….long term I wanted to be able to run again as I’d previously  enjoyed running as part of cross training associated with team sports participation. 

Fast forward following successful rehabilitation, I partook in a few Park Run events and found them to be fun, this is where my local Canberra Runners Club Sunday Runners and Half Marathon Groups  respectively provided the initial platforms for me to re-engage in running, bit by bit. 

The training groups also facilitated new friendships and the ability for each running groups to  informally have an informal sweeper for each session, with my running style more Clydesdalesque in  nature (high level of endurance, moderate levels of speed, or so I keep telling myself ). 

“Race Day” 

Hot. One of many descriptive words used during race day. 

In the days leading up to the race, I placed extra attention to hydration, nutrition, stretching and  pilates routine work. I wanted to make sure I put my best foot forward, figuratively and literally! 

Waking up at the joyous time of 3:30am, my pre-race routine kicked into gear, this included, but  wasn’t limited to a sanity check of mandatory gear, strapping of ankles, obligatory glide and liniment  application. Note: I was very happy to have applied the correct product to correlating body area, I 

didn’t want another Tiger Balm situation, especially pre-race!!! I finalised putting on my race day kit,  all prep work was done, race time, off to the race hub at Lake Crackenback resort! 

Upon arrival there was great anticipation, excitement and a level of unknown. Bag drops were done,  one for the 20km and one for the 35km points, mandatory briefing undertaken (lots of snakes about  apparently) and then on to the chartered bus for the ride to Gaden Trout Hatchery @ Jindabyne and  the Snowies Ultra race start line. 

Making it to the start line with 2 minutes to spare was the moment things picked up a gear and that this was actually happening, I was about to start my first ultra-race, no turning back now…eeeeeeeek (Note: not what was actually said by me at this point in time)!!!! 

“Have Fun” 

Most importantly, my only rule was to stay positive and have fun, not matter how hard, easy, cold or  hot (did I mention the heat?) the race would be. 

- Race Start to 21km – First Bag Drop  

The start of the ultra-race saw all competitors traverse some amazing scenery, of which I took  measured glances of, with my primary visual focus being the couple of meters of trail in front of me  and ensuring cadence and feet were safe and sound (application of lessons learnt from not taking  this approach during my participation in the 2020 Kowen New Year’s Resolution Trail Run were  definitely put in place…..I am still surprised that Geoscience Australia did not record any seismic  activity that morning). The audible notes of the rivers and streams were amazing and definitely a  great way to start a Sunday morning.  

There were multiple instances of having spontaneous chats with a number of fellow ultra-race  competitors, Ron being the standout on this leg, a softly spoken Coogee local, he mentioned that he  was keen to not die during the event, all jokes aside, I agreed with Ron as he was a good bloke, that  and I really didn’t need the extra paperwork. 

Rolling into the first drop-bag checkpoint, event volunteers were full of encouraging words, this  helped maintain a positive focus, I replenished my hydration and nutrition and went back on my way again…or so I thought. 

- 21km to 30km 

“oleeeee….oleeeee…oleeeee….oleeeee….feeling hot, hot hot” 

This essentially sums up my experience of this segment of the ultra, and where running alongside a  few fellow competitors really came into its own, having a chat to other participants got me  refocussed. Whilst on the go I consumed more gels, salts and amino acid infused hydration and a  banana, thankfully I found my groove again once I’d exited the open trail areas with no shade and  an abundance of direct sun and heat!!!  

An additional lesson learnt, transition faster at the bag drop point!!!!!!!!!! 

- 30km to 35km – Final Bag Drop Point 

Approaching the final bag drop point, it was encouraging to see that overall pace was within time  allowance for 50km participants, this was a pleasant surprise, as was the encouragement from a 

portion of half marathon entrants tackling parts of the trails that the 50km participants were also  on, all having words of support was a terrific representation of the sub culture within the trail  running community.  

Arriving at the bag drop point, a couple of the race volunteers offered shade under a marquee whist I again replenished supplies. 

I eagerly opened my drop bag, and there was my friendly reminder I’d written down on a bit of  Paper Towel and placed in my drop bag the night before, in case I needed it, so prior to getting into  some dried fruit, fresh fruit, nuts, hydration, the message was perfectly timed, pertinent and to the  point, “Remember – Get It Done”. 

A quick turn around and we were away, with an additional participant asking if he could tag along,  being a 19 year old gap year race participant from the Hunter Hinterland named Alec. He was at the  bag drop point when I’d arrived and wasn’t having a great experience. Alec’s hydration and general  luck out on the course wasn’t on his side, this cumulated with him being stuck in a negative  headspace at the bag drop point. I suggested to Alec that he could most definitely tag along, but on  one condition, that he start a new race from the 35km mark until the finish line, focussing on  positivity and not dwelling on what could have been achieved during the race to date, I made it  clear that we were on the home stretch and that he had the decision to make of being in control of  his next decision and getting to the finish line, Alec took on the opportunity and showed great  maturity moving on and accepting to embrace the challenge presented to him. 

The end of the race was now in sight, cadence picked up, I made sure to celebrate the small wins,  each kilometre cheered on by the crew and spectators, so much so that at the 43km point Alec  found a new level of inspiration and pulled away to the finish line well ahead of myself, that was  awesome, he was about to pack it in at the 35km mark, I was very happy for him. 

As I approached the Crackenback resort, at the 45km mark, I was re-invigorated, all thanks to the  Big (Biggggggggggg) Black Snake just chillaxing a good 20 – 30 cm away from where I had just  planted my foot en-route to the finishing line, a subtle reminder to stay alert, luckily for me the  Blake Snake had no interest…phewwwwww. 

At the 48km mark, fast approaching the finishing line, the unimaginable took place, being the offer  of a cold beer from a Crackenback patron enjoying a late lunch (which smelled amazing buy the  way) and cold beer from the luxury of his accommodation. As tempting as the offer was, I declined  (upon reflection I knew I was spent, who turns down a free cold beer in the middle of an Australian  Summer!) and the turn to the finishing line was in sight. 

Up and over the final crest, bells being rung by family, friends and total strangers, there it was, the  finish line, all I could think was, thank goodness (Note: Not actual words used), I crossed the line, for  myself a very surreal moment, one that I never thought could be achieved, but I am proof that if you  really want something and put your mind to it and keep chipping away, good things happen. 

So with ice bags in hand and a Snowies Ultra Race Finisher Medal draped around my neck, I thought,  “Wow, how cool is this, I got it done”.

“Photo Time” 

Photo 1 – Finishing Line Pic 1

 

Photo 2 – Joey @ 38km  

Side Note: I’m going through pairs of running shoes at an alarming rate!!!

 

Photo 3 – Final Bag Drop Point – Friendly Reminder

 





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