UTA: Part 1 – The Travel There

Go grab a drink, maybe something to eat, pull up a chair get comfy, cause this one is going to be a long one.  The story of my travels to UTA needs it’s own post because I’m sure you’ll laugh at how ridiculous it is.

It all began a week prior when I dropped Kayla off at dance and I went over to the library to print off my flight information and other bits and bobs.

After dinner, I decided to work out all the travel logistics.  Double checking the flight information, booking my Skybus transfers, along with corresponding train timetables.

That’s when I noticed the first problem.

The first bus/train Thursday morning leaving Stawell would get me to Southern Cross train station at 8:36 am.  It left too much of a tight transit to catch the Skybus to the airport. While travel to the airport takes approximately 20 minutes, I didn’t want to risk it and miss my flight.

A quick phone call to Virgin Australia to see if I could change my flight ruled that possibility out.  It was going to cost another $150 to change my flight, money I’d rather not spend.

My other option was taking the last bus/train on Wednesday afternoon/evening, and staying at my parent’s house, then traveling to the airport the next morning.

Looking that up, the last bus to leave Stawell was 4:10 pm.  Nothing later! Well, that was a problem, considering I didn’t finish work until 5 pm.

Contacting my manager I was able to swap shifts, to be able to finish at 3 pm.  That was one problem solved at least.

Packing my bag the Tuesday night things were tight.  I had about 1kg to play around with, as I made the decision early on that I was only going to take carry on luggage.  The limit for carry-on with Virgin Australia is 7kg. My reason behind this is that checked luggage would mean waiting around.  Time was already precious and I didn’t want to waste it, especially if something got lost.

Wednesday afternoon, I had lots of hugs and kisses with my family before they set me off on my first leg of my epic adventure.

Just outside of Ballan the train stopped.  We were initially advised it was due to a signal issue.  Later we were then informed that we would be further delayed for approximately 45 minutes due to a medical emergency that had occurred at Ballan.

Waiting sucks, and there was nothing else I could do but to continue knitting.  Yes, I brought my knitting along, it kept me occupied with all the waiting.  Now before you ask, no I have not finished my jumper, but I got a lot of it done. It’s coming along nicely.

Back to the story.

Swapping trains at Footscray, I caught my connecting train on the Werribee line.  I got as far as Altona before we were all told to disembark and catch a bus.  Annoyed, there was again nothing I could do about it. I was hungry, however, tired & hungry, not exactly a good combination, but I was just hoping that I would make it to the plaza before 9 pm so I could get something to eat.  My heart was set on a Guzman y Gomez burrito bowl.

Rolling in at 8:56 pm I knew that burrito bowl wasn’t going to happen.  There was no way I would get to their store in the 4 minutes, let alone them making me dinner.

Defeated I walk to my parent’s house and ate a pear and had a hot cup of tea instead.  Yep, I know, totally not the same, but it was nearly 9:30 pm at this stage and way too late to eat something bigger.  Having a shower, I changed into my pj’s set my alarm and went to bed.

The next morning I got dressed, recheck my gear, and set off to the bus station. My dad kindly offered to drive me back to the plaza to catch the Skybus.  We left at 6:50 am, got around the corner and were stuck.  A truck was reversing into the IGA and was blocking the road.  Clearly, a newish driver as they kept going back and forth, the queue of traffic getting longer and longer.  There was no other choice but to make a u-turn and travel the long way.  I made it with just minutes to spare.

The rest of my Melbourne travels went without a hitch.  I arrived at the airport, passed security, got myself a coffee and a muffin, and waited at my gate. I didn’t even have to check in, as I had done that online, and had my boarding pass on my phone. Win!

Arriving in Sydney I made way to the train terminal, purchased an Opal card, and caught the train to Central Station to change lines to get to the Blue Mountains.

Asking an NSWTransit worker, I was advised to get off at Parramatta or Penrith station to catch the train to Katoomba.

At Parramatta station, I got off, asked another NSWtransit worker what platform I would need to go to for my next leg, and funnily enough, it was the platform I just disembarked from.

Since I still had about 30 minutes until my connection I decided to get some lunch.  This particular station had a Woolies Metro, with other food court facility. Grabbing lunch, I could not believe that this Metro store didn’t have any Biopack Disposable cutlery! I ended up eating my couscous salad with a potato wedge.  Hey, it worked!  Sometimes you just got to go with it. Not too sure why they don’t sell those bio packs, they’d make a killing from them.

Once my train arrived, I found a seat got as comfortable as I could and continued knitting.

After stopping at Warrimoo station that’s when things decided to go pear shape, again.

Why can’t things ever be easy?

The train driver informed us that he was waiting on information from the signal, but also a freight train had broken down ahead.  He was unsure if we would have to get off and continue on via bus or if we would be able to travel on.

Annoyed, what else could I do.  It’s not like I could afford an Uber, as some other travelers had decided ($80 FYI). I’d get there when I got there.

So you would not be surprised that I had to get off that train and catch a bus.

Anyone traveling specifically to Lithgow or Katoomba got priority on the first bus.  I was one of the last people to get on that bus.  Lucky I know.  Someone was looking out for me that’s for sure.

I finally arrived at Katoomba station just before 3 pm.  Now I could finally relax a little.  All I had to do now as pick up my race kit.

Checking google maps, I walked down to the event hub to check in, then went to explore the expo.

The merchandise was fantastic, but I was devasted to find out there was no more women’s UTA22 gear.  It had all sold out earlier in the day (it was only 3 pm!), and with no more being supplied, I wasn’t the only one that was disappointed.  I did come across a men’s long sleeve in an M. I wasn’t sure if I wanted it or not, but hung onto it, because I knew as soon as I put it down, it would go and then I would have buyers regret.

Yes, I bought it along with an electric blue singlet.  I wanted to buy more, but knowing I had carry-on luggage restrictions, I had to restrain myself.

Wandering around the expo, I check out what was on offer.  I really wanted to try some trail shoes, as with my first ultra coming up in September, I know I will need replacement shoes.  Nothing in my size! Argh, yeah I know I wasn’t having much luck there either.

I did, however, donate my Smokey Paprika crisps for a Salomon hat.  These were going to be my treat after my run.  The lady at the van was like “are you sure, cause these are good”.  It was for a good cause, donate a non-perisable item for the food van for the homeless for a hat.  I could easily buy another pack. (Unfortunately, when I did go buy them again, they only had plain available.)

With a new hat and a hot cup of free chai, I was a little disappointed but content.

Strolling the stores, I bumped into Michelle another OpMover. We were staying in the same house, and while we had never met before, it was like catching up with an old friend.

Walking back to her car, we bumped into Sarah, another OpMover who was running the 50, she had just arrived and was checking in.

Saying goodbye (for now), we then went to the supermarket for some supplies, before heading up to the house in Wentworth Falls.

Once at the house, we did the mandatory house inspection, then proceeded to unpack and unwind, before the craziness of over the upcoming events.

Slowly one by one the others arrived at the house.  Leoni & Michelle, who had run the 11 that day (Thursday), then Kirsten (running the 100), Sarah (50) & her husband Luke (22) and then Emily (22).  Amber, our final OpMover would be arriving Friday night. She would be running the 50.

As none of us could be bothered to cook dinner we headed to over to the Polar Bear of Leura for pizza. I chose the Polar Bear, as it had everything I would normally put on a pizza, and I enjoyed every morsel.

And that my friend, is where this tale ends.

Tune in tomorrow for my race day story.