Four years ago, it would have taken Peita Coote 10 minutes to run one kilometre.
Today - she can run 100km through the best of the Blue Mountains trails - up thousands of stairs and down cliff faces - in just over 15 hours.
Coote has just returned from her first ever ultra trail endurance run, and loved every moment of it.
She took on the Ultratrail Australia 100km just for that reason – she needed a challenge, and she doesn’t plan on stopping now.
She had never run 100km before, let alone through the Blue Mountains, but seven months of dedicated training and nutritional planning has paid off.
She ran over the finish line, after climbing almost 1000 steps to get there, fist pumping and on a high.
With a target of finishing the course in 16 hours, she well and truly smashed that, running in at 15 hours 21 minutes, 272nd out of the 1301 people who started.
“I’m really stoked with that, it was a really good run,” Coote said on Tuesday.
Her determination, physical and mental training meant that there was no option but to finish, and finish well.
“I did really hurt at the end, my hips, knees and legs were aching, but it was the desire to get to the end and push on, to just keep on chipping away at the kilometres,” she said.
“There was not any stage that I wanted to give up, that it was getting too tough. I knew all the way that I was going to finish.
“There are usually points when you are running that you get fatigued and don’t know if you can go on), but the way we had the nutrition worked out it seemed to work so well. I felt good within myself,” Coote said.
For the mother of three young children, and a teacher when she is not running, the sport is her “quiet time”, and the basis for challenging herself.
“I love the challenge, doing something that I didn’t think I would be able to do.
“It’s about the dedication and the commitment, I just really enjoy it.
“Anyone can do it if they put their mind to it – I have proven that.”
The only time she questioned her decision to run the 100 kilometre endurance trail was that first moment after submitting her payment. But from then on, she knew she was going to finish it. And enjoy doing it.
“Four years ago I had never run, it took me 10 minutes to run 1km.
“My first goal was to run around the lake, and when I did it I thought then I have started something really big here! Then I reckoned I could do 10km, and I met Kerri and we thought we could do a half marathon.”
And so it went on from there, graduating to marathons, the 50km in Canberra, then the ultra trail.
“I had always had in the back of my head that I could do the 100. It came up on Facebook, just as I was looking for that challenge, and that’s when I signed up.
“It wasn’t until after I pushed the button, paid my money, that I thought ‘oh my god, what have I signed myself up for, it’s a little bit out of my league’,” she said.
“Then I thought how hard could it be – I have done 50km!”
Coote loves the challenge of the trail run, where it is not about speed over a distance, but about strength and stamina - and the chance to see some beautiful scenery along the way.
“That’s the beauty of endurance running though, you are not running at maximum capacity – you can have a conversation, it is very social.”
Her approach? She has read a lot about running and believes that the role nutrition plays in preparation and on the day is key.
“Up until the ultra I was always doing my own own nutrition but not quite getting it right,” she said.
She was referred to nutritionist Jennifer Moulin by her coach Brendan Davies of Upcoaching.
Leading into the event, Coote was running 110km each week.
Just as an idea – running up the Edward Street hill to the old incinerator is approximately 300m elevation. Nangar is 700m elevation. On Saturday, Coote even got up to 3000m elevation.
Runners had to be prepared and take with them mandatory quantities of water, food portions, head lamps, rain gear, thermals, bandage, gloves, beanie, safety blanket, phone, compass.
Even with the just in case safety gear and running through the mountains at night time, Coote was never fearful. There was generally always people around or nearby and her focus was wholly and solely on getting to the end.
“When it got dark, I knew that I had done about 72km and I didn’t have that far to go,” she said.
Husband Gavan Coote was her crew, at each checkpoint for refuelling and support.
Her next challenge – to keep running, more marathons, more endurance trails, another 100km.
And the feeling when she finished on Saturday?
“It was the best ever, I was feeling psyched and full of energy. I sat and chatted for a while, went back to the motel and had dinner!”
“The day we had for it was perfect,” she said.
And so it was – perfect for setting and meeting a challenge of ultra proportions.
* 1201 people started the race, 949 finished. Of these 1201, only 285 were women.
* Coote finished 272nd
* She was the 47th woman to cross the finish line, which placed her amongst the top 23.7 per cent of female runners.
* Out of her age group (30-39), she was 24th out of 119 runners.
Peita Coote's training partner, Kerrie Hessel also competed in the 50km ultra trail.