Mt Solitary 2016

A dark place… Thats where my head went for a good chunk of the first half of the Mt Solitary Ultra as I negotiated my way through the rainforest below Narrowneck. My plan was always to bag some pain an push on through but this was ridiculous. But eventually I came back out.

Just like last year (this post is eerily similar!) I was running the Mt Solitary Ultra the weekend after the Buffalo Stampede. Why? Well, despite resolving last year not to repeat the suffering:

  1. I love both events and the organisation by both Mountain Sports at Buffalo and Running Wild at Mt Sol
  2. I have convinced myself that part of my good result at last years TNF100 was due to the hardening up process of completing both events back to back.  I have a formula now so I must replicate it!

After my good result at Buffalo I was feeling positive however my recovery was especially tough. My legs felt like rubbish the whole week leading into Mt Sol.  Without Six Foot Track this year, Buffalo was my first good quad smash and I was really paying the price.

This rattled my confidence a little but I had resolved that I was doing the event to enjoy myself an results didn’t matter.

So come 4:30 Sunday morning I hit the road, checked in and waited at the start line, the lower half of my body still aching.  The pre start Welcome to Country once again set a new high standard (checkin was also outstandingly smooth).

Photo by Running Wild

Right before the start I noticed my water bladder wasn’t working.  With my 2 bottles filled with Perpetuem this was a slight issue as they would need to last the full 45k. I figured it must have been a kink in the hose and it would sort itself out once I got going.

Photo by Running Wild

Once the race started I settled into a reasonable rhythm.  The race starts with the big descent of Kedumba.  With my quads already shattered it was very much a case of preservation.  At times I was  faster than I wanted to avoid excessive braking and other times my stride was more of a choppy shuffle to reduce landing impact.  It seemed to work OK.

About halfway down I met a twitter pal RunGeoff Run, we had a good chat and before long we were onto the single track.  At this point my feet felt like they were wearing bowling balls, my steps lacked accuracy and my foot placement wasn’t confident. Almost immediately I rolled my ankle.  I thought it was game over but decided to push on to the river. After a few hundred meters the pain cleared but my feet were still just as clunky. Sure enough I rolled my ankle again!

After the river crossing the climb of Mt Solitary begins.  I grabbed my poles and got down to business. Using my strategy from Mt Buffalo of not burning matches on the first climb of the day worked well but I dropped from a strategically good position to be more in the main bulk of the field.  This perhaps wasn’t ideal as I ended up moving a bit slower than a normal, purposeful, forwards pace at times. Strava tells me I hit the top 2:46 slower than last year but in my mind it felt I was miles behind.  I was feeling physically good (in relative terms) however and the views were great.  By the top though, I really needed a break from the Perpetuum, so I had to stop to fix my water bladder.

I didn’t have any recollection from last year of the contours atop Mt Solitary and pretty soon I was feeling like I was never going to get off the mountain. My left knee had also started clicking. With UTA100 and Ultratrail Lavaredo on the horizon self presevation at this stage was vital.  Mentally a DNF would certainly have been even more scarring.  Pretty soon my head was in a very bad place fighting itself and by the time I had descended Mt Solitary all motivation was gone and I was ready to pack up for the day. I always commit myself to continuous forward progress but there was just no drive.


Out and back sections on trail races can have some amazing effects.  At the Buffalo Stampede, the final 7k section has a big chunk of out and back, and it becomes a kind of runners own celebration.  The Mt Solitary Ultra has the up and down of Furber steps and mentally it has a similar effect.  As you ascend you see the runners smiling coming down and it lifts you – a lot.

I ascended Furber Steps 1:22 FASTER than last year, and from the aid station I only had 20 or so km to go… an easy training run really!

After Furber steps comes Leura Forest. Man I hate Leura Forest. Dark, wet and cold. You do eventually emerge however to the most amazing scene surrounded by cliffs. With the single track all behind me now I could finally settle into a more normal stride on the fire trail that would take me all the way home. My legs hurt all the way to the bottom of the Jamison Valley.

After crossing the river it was time to climb.  But first there was a chance to refuel at an aid station.

I was expecting a basic water service.  What I got was tinsel, Red Bull and Coke.  How good is that! Thanks guys!

Poles out and down to business. I wouldn’t say I was charging up Kedumba, at all, but I was picking off runners one by one and by the top I had completed the climb 4:08 faster than last year. My final time 6:45:26. Frustratingly this was 2:28 slower than last year… less than the time I dropped up Mt Solitary.

I definitely hurt more than I have ever before. Yep – I was dead!

Reflecting on the race, while a new PB on the course would have been nice I really achieved all my goals for the race and more:

  1. I bagged a whole lot of pain.  Being able to push on for 6hrs with pretty tired everything will be incredibly valuable in my longer efforts to come.
  2. I improved my climbing and I am getting to grips with using poles well and when they are a negative.
  3. I toughened up my legs and especially my quads. 3 days after Mt Solitary and my legs feel almost normal.  The week prior I was still hobbling around.
  4. Across the back to back races I succeeded in being more “back-end” focussed, developing the discipline to preserve myself in the front half will undoubtably pay dividends. Maybe this is my biggest learning from my Hounslow DNF.

My Buffalo Stampede, Mt Solitary double header sums up as follows:

Buffalo Stampede
Mystic       -1:09
Clear Spot   -1:27
Big Walk     -8:51
Mt Solitary Ultra
Mt Solitary  +2:46
Furber Steps -1:22
Kedumba      -4:08
Net         -14:11
Overall Times
        Buffalo Stampede Mt Solitary Ultra
2015        6:21:57         6:42:58
2016        6:10:03         6:45:26
             -11:54           +2:28
Net           -9:26


Right now I am feeling pretty confident that another Silver Buckle is within reach at UTA100 (dare I say sub 13???) and I should hit my best for Ultratrail Lavaredo 🙂


Gear for the day:

Basically the same as Buffalo Stampede but:

  • UD SJ pack instead of AK (Mandatory gear would have fit into the AK but I will need SJ for UTA100’s long gear list!).
  • Cool DIY loops to hold my poles on the front.
  • Salomon water bladder to make min 2l mandatory gear requirement.


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