The Mind Alpine Skyrun Ultra Marathon is a new 100 miler located in Alpine National Park and the Bogong High plains. It is one of those beautiful places where a trail runner could easily stay and enjoy for a week or more. It also has an amazing hut system and you could fastpack and stay with a roof over your head every night. Judging by my experience, late March or early April is a great time of year to visit. The weather was perfect and best of all, we had the whole place to ourselves.
We knew the race was going to be just a little bit different as they bill themselves as "a group supported run" instead of a "self-supported race". Nice. The Mind Alpine Skyrun was also unique in that the course was NOT marked and all of the runners were required to navigate the course. This was going to be Norma's biggest challenge as her navigation skills were limited. We were hoping she would hook up with another runner and stay on track.
Getting to run with Norma was awesome, I enjoyed getting to know her a little bit better. I have a huge admiration for people who go and pursue their dream and don't take "no" for an answer. The woman is simply amazing and has lived more in 42 years than most! She has some incredible stories to share and lights up when she talks about her two boys. Her race report is here.
At 2:00 in the morning, after 21 hours on her feet she made camp on top of a mountain near the end of stage 3. Team Elmtree and Norma weren't going to make the cutoff, so at this junction the race director decided that there was going to be a new 120 km event so that Norma and Team Elmtree could continue their race. How cool is that? After a good sleep of 4 hours, she awoke refreshed and rejuvenated and took off running with a new fire under her butt. When she rolled into stage 4 transition with Paul, she was looking stronger than she had in the entire day previous. Paul encouraged me to run the next 30km stage with Norma, so I threw on my Camelback and headed out for a full day in the sun. The day was beautiful, Norma was moving strong and the scenery was inspirational. We ran with Paul for the first 7k before re-joining Team Elmtree for the remainder of the day.
They are wild, I swear!
All smiles on the Bogong High Plains
The day heated up quickly and by mid afternoon it was about 25c. We hadn't crossed any water crossings in many hours and at the bottom of a huge descent there was a very rewarding small river which we re-filled from. We also enjoyed a glorious soak of our shirts, hats and heads to help us cool off before heading off on a big ascent in full sun. Norma let out a squeal when she put on her soaked shirt and shouted "Wet T-shirt contest!" but I was definitely out-gunned, if you know what I'm sayin'!! Norma continued to move strong and I marvelled that her pace on Day 2 was significantly faster than it had been on Day 1. She just needed a few hours of good sleep to rejuvenate. We got to enjoy the company of Craig and Luke, who were again a great distraction for Norma and fun company for us.
Luke and Norma as they near the Mount Hotham Alpine Resort
We were rewarded with some glorious views and could also see the transition zone off teasing us off in the distance. Jason was there waiting for us with the rest of the Elmtree crew and he had enjoyed spending some quality time with these fun folks. When we reached the final transition, Norma had only 18km to go! This 18k was mostly technical downhill and in the dark all the way to the finish line. She finished strong and had loved the last stage in the dark. With motivition to find the finish line, they ran most of the final stage. With the help of the Elmtree boys, Norma and friends reached the finish line around 10:30PM with big smiles, happy and tired!
Paul, Master of the GPS and great company!
Overall, this race was a unique and fantastic experience in an incredibly beautiful place. Norma herself said that this has been the race that she enjoyed the most. After running a few ultras and frequently running alone for many hours, she appreciated the company and the support of her fellow runners in this event. It was awesome! This was most definitely a "group supported run" in every sense and we couldn't have done it without Team Elmtree and Paul Ashton. We were truly blown away with the Aussie hospitality and encouraging vibe of this race. So again, a big Thank-You to Paul Ashton and Team Elmtree for making this a great experience.
An even bigger thanks to Norma for making me a part of her support crew and this unique experience! Thank you so much.
So a small sidebar.
What's a girl today after 19 hours of travel and rolling off a bus into Banff on a sunny spring day? Go for a run, of course! O.K, it was a leisurely walk. Up Sulphur Mountain! While travelling and seeing new places is one of my favorite things, it sure is great to come home to a place like Banff.