How Tracy and I took on the Oscars 100 Hut 2 Hut challenge
For those who don't know it, Hut2Hut is one of the hardest ultramarathon events in Australia, it's completed over 55 hours, 100km and 5700m of ascending including 10 summit climbs around the alpine region of Mount Buller; and it is a charity fundraiser for Oscars 100 which supports children with Autism. Early in 2017, I was seeing a client Tracy for some hip, back and shin pain that was stopping her ability to run. Tracy came in wanting to be able to run comfortably and do some 5km park runs, she had done a bit of running in the past and had been building up again for 6 months after having 3 kids. (Supermum!)
Soon enough Tracy was back feeling good running, and by May her goals had changed, Tracy had decided she wanted to challenge herself and train for the Hut 2 Hut event. Apparently doing it over 3 days wasn't challenging enough though, she wanted to do it over just 2! With roughly 9 months to train we set up a full training program for every session over this time consisting of a lot of running and some other strengthening work to help prevent injury. Every 4-6 weeks we did a massage appointment and a review and a fine-tune.
After 3 months everything was going well for Tracy except for 1 big problem, she didn't have anyone to compete with, and you had to enter the event in pairs….so I asked for some more information on it. Fortunately for Tracy I had taken the year off footy and put on some weight. I needed a goal/event to get me back into some training. Knowing how determined Tracy was to do this and the dedication she had had to her rehab and training so far I couldn't let her not compete just because no one else was willing (or stupid enough) to do it with her. I was on board!
It's hard to train for something like this with no prior experience and without getting out to the bush/mountains to train in the same environment as the event. Over the next few months, we both had our setbacks as we were starting to up the anti. Every time a setback happened, we would re-think our strategy for how much running vs walking we would be doing. In reality, running is impossible for large sections of the course as it is just too steep and uneven. We planned to train a few parts of the course, but due to Christmas and the holidays, life was too busy. We did just one big day on the course to practice. We completed a 55 km day, and I think mentally that day just scared us more. On the flip side, it definitely helped iron out some kinks - like the massive chaffage I got after about 35km I could now be prepared for!
Our plan going into the event was to get to 71 km on day 1 then do the next 29 km the following day. There were 2 designated overnight points where they delivered your tent for you, everything else you had to carry (my pack was about 9kg). We went against the advice of sleeping at the 40 km stop and said we would be going to the second point. The night before the race we found out the cut off times were at every aid station (roughly every 10km) when we thought they were only at the overnight points, so our initial plan which was to work hard and get past 40km then take it easy and cruise to 71km was out the window. We had to power on through the whole time.
We set off at 5am and only had about a 15-minute 'lunch' stop at the 40 km mark, in the end, we missed our day 1 goal by 1 station as we were cut off for the night at about 8.15pm. The problem with this was our tent had been delivered to the next point, luckily they had a spare tent there which we could use otherwise we were sleeping under the stars! The next day we got up bright and early and continued on our merry way. We finished at around 3.30pm the second day and still managed to run the last bit home despite some small niggles along the way.
Overall the event was as much mentally as it was physically demanding and was a massive achievement for both Tracy and I!
Since then I have competed in Hut 2 Hut in 2018 and have qualified to go solo in 2020. I am aiming to do the course in under 22 hours, even though I made a video to myself about 75km in this year telling myself to never do this again!