Your Cart is Empty

Ultra Trail Australia 2019

July 12, 2019 11 min read

Ultra Trail Australia 2019
When running long distances, the slightest thing can mess with your head and divert your focus. If you are too busy thinking your top is riding up, your sock slipping, or if you're too hot or cold, your focus is gone and you struggle. We spoke to ioMerino Outsider, Sarah, about her experience running the infamous Ultra Trail Australia 50km and if her ioMerino held up against the long and cold conditions. 


By ioMerino Outsider Sarah.  


 "Even now as I think back about it, and watch the videos, I get a lump in my throat!  I can’t believe I actually did that!"


Sarah the day before the Ultra Trail Australia 50km. Blue Mountains Australia. Image Instagram 


My kit:

"If you know me, you know it was ioMerino
And in my pack.


After consulting with Emma at ioMerino, I added the extra headband & Ultra top – so glad I did too, as they were used.
I started the run and spent the daylight hours in my Ultra V Neck T-shirt and arm warmers with headband.  The arm warmers added just enough to keep me warm for the morning and for all the time we spent in the valleys, and on the rare occasion we ran out in the open, they protected my arms from getting sun burnt.  I can’t talk up the arm warmers enough.  I use size S/M and once on, they don’t budge.  The best thing (other than keeping me warm) is the compression component.  The last (and first) time I ran an ultra, my wings got so sore from all the jiggling of running up and down hills.  Not this time! My chicken wings were perfectly tucked in and there were no jiggle pains.  Absolutely everything else hurt though!!
Image supplied by Sarah, courtesy of https://www.sportograf.com


Once the sun went down and I got to the final checkpoint, I changed for a fresh dry headband [Altitude Neck Tube] and added my Altitude Zip up to keep me warm.  With 5km to go, I significantly slowed down ( I could barely walk, my feet were in a bad way).  The kilometres were up to 20 minutes each and I was getting really cold.  This is when I added the Ultra Zip.  It is a relaxed fit, so it sat well over the body fit of the Altitude without feeling bulky.  I kept this on right up to the Furber stairs where I warmed up a bit.
The best thing was that even though I was a bit sweaty by the time I finished, I could hug my crew with confidence knowing I didn’t stink.  Okay, to be honest – at that point in time, I couldn’t give shit how I smelled! The actual best thing was that I was comfortable all day. 


When running long distances, the slightest thing can mess with your head and divert your focus. So if you are too busy thinking your top is riding up, or your sock are slipping, or you are too hot/cold, your focus is gone from the run. And then you struggle.


Image supplied by Sarah, courtesy of https://www.sportograf.com


The Experience

We had amazing send off, so much cheering and cowbell dinging, and like any trail run, the first few metres were wonderful, until you turned the corner – and headed up the hill. 


The atmosphere was awesome, everyone had a lot of nervous energy and there were a lot of jokes and giggling and high-fiving the earlier start wave that was coming back from the initial out and back section. The first 7-8 kms you run on the road around the edge of the national park. Looking out toward the mountains was the most beautiful sea of white cloud filling the valley – I was itching to get out there and onto the trails.


They tease you with around a kilometre of fire track, then back onto the bitumen and back past Scenic World where we started. I was completely blown away by the amount of spectators already there cheering out my name – I must’ve looked a bit special from grinning so hard.  And then we hit the trails and of course, the stairs. 


Fun fact – there were 8,183 stairs in the 50km event. Apparently. Don’t know who the poor person was that had to count them all.


We had to wait around 10 minutes in line at the top of The Giant Staircase as you could only go down in single file.  It was a great time to have a quick snack and get a selfie.  I was under strict instructions from the run bestie that I wasn’t allowed to stop and take selfies cos I would waste too much time.  
The SA Mad Mountain Goats. Sarah and her friends in their bespoke ioMerino Altitude Zips printed specially for the UTA. 


The Giant Staircase was insane, it was so steep in parts and there was someone on the step directly in front of you and directly behind you. We were like Lemmings. UTA call this the 'Train of Goodness'. There were many times after this I had to get on the 'Train of Goodness.'  Once you are on the stairs, you have to keep going, you can’t overtake and you don’t want to lose your position because if you pulled over to the side for a break, 20 plus people would march straight past you before you could get back on the “train”.


A lot of the stairs were in the most beautiful settings.  Some were up alongside of waterfalls or climbing up to go over a bridge over cascades and creeks.  It made it all the more bearable.


Image courtesy of Sputnik 


The Leura Forest areas were definitely some of the most beautiful scenery of the day.  We ran in the dappled sunlight up and down stairs, under overhanging cliffs, past tree ferns and moss and waterfalls and creeks – it was pretty serene.  All the natural beauty helped to disguise the pain that was starting to kick in. I was so grateful to find my friends waiting for me at around the 14km mark. I was already in a pretty positive mood, but seeing them just upped it even more.  A kilometre or so later we popped out of the bush onto a road and we followed this to the first checkpoint.  As I was running to the checkpoint a young lad yelled out to me “pink hair will get you there”. I thought damn strait kid, I got this!



Checkpoint 1 at the 17km mark was just water and potato chips. I had discovered one of my soft flasks had the most foul plastic taste, and was unusable, so a volunteer helped me to rinse it to get rid of the “new plastic” taste. As soon as I had refilled the water, I was on my way. I did not want to waste any time – although I was quite ahead of cut off.  As I was setting off, I passed a runner munching on a massive hot dog and a coffee – apparently you could buy this at the BBQ there? Personally, I couldn’t think of anything worse than eating all that food in one hit whilst running.  Absolutely no issue at all smashing a hot dog if I wasn’t running an Ultra. 


My next task was to get to checkpoint 2 and get through the next lot of stairs.  


There was a supporter (one man cheer squad) in a valley going bananas with his cowbell. It took me about 15 mins to reach him, and when I did, I wanted to shove that cow bell up his... so anyway, I was working on my positivity, so I smiled and high-fived him and listened to that f-ing cowbell all the way back up the hill and onto the next valley. How’s the serenity!


In all honesty, I was doing really well with keeping my mind on task and keeping the good vibes going.  Even when I reached into my pack to grab a gel and my hand came out covered in gel and Nutella. Okay rookie error bringing Nutella in my pack when I hadn’t trained with it, but it was a good excuse to eat Nutella guilt free.  Except it was now all on my hand, and on my face and up my arm from trying to consume the gel.  So I was walking along trying to eat the gel and get out my rubbish bag and a tissue to clean up and I look up and there was the photographer – hell no – I was not getting my photo looking like this – and it was in a really cool spot with the waterfall behind me, so I quickly retreated back around the corner, cleaned myself up and then ran on toward them as if nothing had happened.  (remember, I am not taking selfies, so I need the photographers to get good pics of me).  


Images supplied by Sarah, courtesy of https://www.sportograf.com


I got to checkpoint 2 in good time, had a quick bathroom break and got some watermelon.  I even had a cup of coke which I don’t ever drink – or even like – unless I am trail running.  I refilled my water and had another attempt to rinse the soft flask, but it still was nasty!  I was at the 28km mark, and the next 8km were all downhill.  I had been looking forward to this, this is where I would make up time before the final 8km uphill to the finish.  Except my legs were so gassed from the stairs and my feet were really sore.  I was doing some weird run shuffle thing.  I certainly wasn’t making up time.  My goal was to get to checkpoint 3 before it was dark.  I didn’t want to have to get my pack off and get my headlamp and jumper until I got to that final checkpoint.  


The run between checkpoint 2 & 3 was during a pretty magical time of day.  The sun was going down and there was a beautiful orange glow on the faces of the cliffs behind me and behind those cliffs, the almost-full moon was rising.  It was really something to watch the sun dip behind the Three Sisters and run in the warm glow of sunset.


I ran into checkpoint 3 just as they turned all their lights on.  Here I put on a dry, fresh headband [Altitude Neck Tube], my long sleeve zip up [Ultra Zip] and headlamp.


It was all uphill from here – but the good thing was that I couldn’t see it.  I could only see 5 to 10 meters ahead of me.  I was still in a good mood, I was down to 8km to go.  That’s less than 2 Parkruns – totally doable.


It was pretty hard from here on in.  My feet were giving me grief and my kilometre times were blowing out, but I wasn’t stressed about cut off, even though I knew it would be close.  I just kept plodding along and chatting to the 100km runners as they ran past.  It was the day before full moon, so the moon was huge.  At one point, I turned my headlamp off and just stood there looking out to the valley and the moonlight glistening on all the leaves of the trees.  I could’ve been the only person on the planet at that moment in time, I felt so calm and in awe of everything around me, and then because my headlamp was still off, I scared the shit out of another runner as they ran past – and the moment was lost.  No more distractions, just get to that freaking finish line.


I was starting to get a bit delusional.  I found a stick to help take some of the load off my feet – and then I named the stick Sammy. And I spoke to her. Yup, totally losing it!


Finally, after 13 or so hours, I came to the bottom of the Furber Stairs.  I had 1km to go.  You could already hear the finish line cheers and the f-ing cowbells. So onward & upward.  I passed a few people who were having to stop after each set of stairs, but by this point, I just wanted to finish, so I was not stopping and I don’t believe they are nearly as bad as people were making them out to be before the run.  Compared to the stairs we had faced in the first half of the run,  these were great – they had rails so you could pull (okay – more like drag) yourself up them and they were all uniform size. 


Halfway up the stairs, I saw two of my crew waiting for me. I was bursting with happiness to see them.  They had done the 22km race the day before, and had gone up these stairs during their run – and even though they were sore, they still came to find me and walk up the last half.  



There were a few overly enthusiastic cheer squads near the top of the stairs – but again – channelled my positivity and didn’t smack them.  But seriously, don’t yell at me to keep going.  I have been going for 13 ½ hours and haven’t stopped yet – do you think I am really going to stop with 500 metres to go?


No – the answer is no. 


Okay, back to positive Sarah again – give them a smile and a thumbs up.  I had pretty much used up all my good vibes by this point and just wanted to finish.  


That finish line chute! I will never forget it.  It’s probably 50 metres long with people at least 3 deep, all screaming and cheering for you – and somehow – I managed to spot the rest of my crew.  It really was a rockstar finish and the only time I had run in the last 5km.


And then it was done – 13 hours and 41 minutes.  I had a mandatory gear check and got my finishers medal and buff and made my way out of the corrals to my crew.  I got a gazillion pics with the medal at the finish line then returned Sammy the stick to her natural environment and headed home. 


 Sarah at the finish line of the UTA 50km with her new friend Sammy the stick. Picture supplied by Sarah, courtesy of https://www.sportograf.com


UTA 2019 was such a fantastic experience.  The whole lead up to the run with the expo and check in, then 4 of our crew running the 22km the day before really built up the excitement for the run.  I was able to keep my positivity up all day and was smiling a lot. 
The course was beautiful, the Blue Mountains are spectacular and I feel so lucky to have got to experience them in this way with an absolutely awesome bunch of friends. 
The support and advice I received from Emma at ioMerino before the event was so good and gave me confidence going into the run.  And I had so much support back home – I had my trainers and run coach, RIOT Runners and my hubby all following me throughout the day and every time I crossed a checkpoint, I knew they would see it pop up on their notifications – then they would have to wait another few hours as the suspense builds before I cross the next timing point.



I definitely recommend this run.  It really was awesome and I am quite chuffed with myself for taking it on and getting it done.
Oh, and most of the piccys from the course photographers turned out okay!"




Picture supplied by Sarah, courtesy of https://www.sportograf.com
Follow Sarah on Instagram