Smithton’s Judi Leale set out to complete Scottsdale’s 54 kilometre Rail Trail Run and Ride in eight hours.
Donning race number 123, the long distance extraordinaire blitzed the scenic circuit in five hours and 10 minutes to win the women’s title on Saturday August 17.
Hosted by the Rotary Club of Scottsdale with Ultrain, the second annual event featured two days of competition. The first offering up two, seven, 14, 27 and 54 kilometre trail runs and the second day featuring seven, 18 and 54 kilometre cycle challenges.
Taking on the toughest of the trail runs, Leale said she couldn’t have completed the cycle challenge if she had wanted to. “I could barely walk the next day,” she laughed.
This being her first ultramarathon, Leale’s goal was simply to finish. “I had only done 35 kilometres before,” she said. “So I was determined to get through it.”
Enlisting Circular Head’s tough terrain as her training grounds, Leale spent time at Balfour running 35 kilometres through the mountains and completing the distance in five hours.
While she was stuck down with bronchitis a month out from the event, her existing stamina and strength from training with Dwayne Everett Fitness Training, allowed the champion to take the title with ease. With a two per cent downward gradient at the start of the race, followed by a four per cent increase for 16 kilometres, Leale said she expected to lose her race lead on the uphill climb. “But because of Balfour, it felt like a flat road the whole trip,” she said.
“At the halfway mark I thought, I think I’ve got this. I knew the next person was one or two kilometres behind me and I knew I was in front. So I thought, I might try to keep this.”
To the tune of Cake’s 1996 song ‘The Distance’, Leale did just that. Then as that track started spinning around in her head for too long, she moved on to a modified version of Finding Nemo’s ‘Just Keep Swimming’.
Fuelling her body with electrolytes every kilometre and a mouthful of nut butter every half an hour was enough to keep Leale going.
“I started seizing up at the 35 kilometre mark but before then I was keeping up with the men,” she said.
Ultimately, Leale finished the challenge a full hour ahead of the runner up to take the women’s title. She was fifth over the line overall.
“Ultra running is a mental game,” she said. “I was very proud of myself.
“I normally think of the finish line but this time I wanted to be in the moment, to enjoy the run and a fun day out on the road. So I just kept trundling along.”
Leale’s 10-year-old son Naite Marthick also followed in her footsteps in Scottsdale, completing the seven kilometre event in 42 minutes and finishing eighth from 28 entrants – ahead of mostly adults.
An experienced trail runner, Leale has competed in the Freycinet National Park circuits and Triple Top Mountain Run in the past. Next she has her sights set on the Gone Nuts 101 Adventure Run in Stanley in February.