Surf Coast Century 100km – 2018
The great Emil Zapotek is quoted as saying “If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon”. And quite possibly if you really want to find your inner self, run an ultra.
How I arrived at the start line of a 100k is probably a story in itself (and most likely told in increments through this blog), but here I was on a cold and cloudy morning standing on the beach at Anglesea with 250+ other solo runners and assorted relay runners. I was relatively calm and composed, I knew I’d done the training, knew I’d prepared as best as I could, and was happy to just see how the day panned out. But first, let us go back and fill in some details (like why was I really here…)
In the Spring of 2017, Rapid Ascents the event company behind Surf Coast Century (SCC) put up a post on their page asking for people to comment on whether it was okay to change the name of the page to Rapid Ascents Ultra. Previously it was just for SCC. A new event was planned in Western Australia’s Margaret River region, an 80k on the coastal walks and trails. Anybody who commented (yay or nay) was then eligible to be selected for free entries to both events. Somehow my name was drawn, and I’d be kidding myself if I said I never considered doing either. The only decision for SCC was which event? I’d done the 50k here twice, but in my mind, I’d slotted in another tilt at Melbourne marathon, and usually being 5 weeks after SCC, doing the 100 might be too much. In the end, after consultation with fellow ultra runners in the VUR forum, I decided the 100 it was going to be.
Margaret River was a blast. Tough, way more sand than I expected (RD Sam Maffet may have mentioned a bit of sand in his videos and race brief, maybe…), but as my longest run to date it was a good confidence booster for contemplating the 100. After racing Macedon 50 in May, I set my plan for September 15th, with the goal to finish, but run strong. I never contemplated a target time until a month out from the race. And as I worked 3 days a week in Melbourne, and commuting from regional Victoria, I tailored my training specifically to fit in with that. Gone were the big long runs every Sunday, now it was about running blocks of consecutive days. The idea that I would run continuously until I’d racked up 100k, then repeat but in fewer days. (eg, first 100k in 12 days, 2nd in 10, 3rd in 8 or 9 etc.). The outcome to replicate slow but increasing fatigue, with only minimal rest in between. I’ve never read if this is a legitimate training plan. Didn’t matter, it fitted in my programme just nicely.
A few late hiccups (a bout of gastro, and a minor cold), but come race week I was all set to go. Now, those of you who diligently read my blogs will remember the great ‘headlamp fiasco of MRU’ where I ended up running in the dark with only my phone flash-light app to guide me. Not wanting a repeat of this, I asked a couple of good friends, Chris and Caz if they would kindly crew for me. Thankfully both said yes. Some hastily arranged accommodation with a couple of fellow Dandenong Trail Runners (Davern and Helen), and with friend Megan from Traralgon also joining us, the 6 of us were set for a big weekend.
T Minus 1
Thursday and Friday of race week were brilliant blue sky days, slightly warmer than you’d wish to run (if Victorian), but gorgeous all the same. I’d started receiving well wishes from friends on Wednesday night, and all through the next two days. The excitement was building, social media was being whipped into a frenzy, and it could have been very easy to get carried away with everything. But I remained calm, composed. I was determined to stay grounded; I hadn’t run the race, all the talk would be for nothing if I failed to finish.
Nicky, Jordan and I were in Melbourne for the Friday. I was dragging my gear bag and suitcase around half the day in the warm sunshine. Not ideal prep, but it was such a lovely day it was easy to think of anything other than the race. I’ve mentioned the weather a few times, the forecast for race day was ugly, to say the least. Rain, hail, possible thunderstorms and snow down to 500 metres do not provide visions of board shorts and zinc cream that the Surf Coast tourism operators would have you believe! Around 3:30 I arrived at Chris’s work to get a lift down. Great to see Chris, one of my best friends and someone whom I could trust to crew me, especially if things started to go very bad.
We had a pretty good trip down, arriving around 5ish. Straight to rego for me to pick up my bib, catch up with a few friends, all of us bristling with nervous energy. In fact, I’d had a ‘shit got very real’ moment when I looked at the bib. My name and solo 100k runner printed on it, no denying what I’d got myself in for. Had messaged Caz and she came down to rego to catch Chris and me. Grabbed some groceries and beers, then we headed off to find our accommodation.
6:30 was race briefing, attended just to make sure there were no last minute surprises. Spent most of the night sorting through gear, eating and having a few beers, and going through details of the following day. I’d prepared a race plan for Chris and Caz, as well as a placing plan to help them judge how I’m going, and a plan for getting to crew points. I’d listed the placing plan for 3 different scenarios as best, realistic and worst. Or in the Les Corson lexicon of race outcomes as; Planets Aligned, Goldilocks and Train Wreck. By 10:30 it was off to bed.
Breakfast. The still calm phase (aka probably in denial phase)
Up early, breakfast of porridge, a slice of toast and a strong coffee. Get gear together as the house awakes, and we head to the finish area. Caz takes a video of me in the car just before I get out. Asked me if I was calm. I was, honestly. I knew I’d done the prep, knew the distance was not beyond me and was relaxed enough to know that I could pretty well handle everything that the day would throw my way.
Walk the kilometre and a bit to the start line on the beach, a nice easy way to warm up and ease the nerves (if any). By now anxious would best describe me, just wanted to get started. Met heaps of friends on the beach, lots of chat, nervous laughter, the standard for the start of an ultra. They say you shouldn’t be afraid to try something that scares you. This didn’t scare me, but it was way beyond where I’d expected my running to take me. For a guy reluctant to run marathons for about 20 years, I sure was diving head first into ultras!
Leg 1. Anglesea to Torquay. Road, trail shoes (or flippers)
The wind was whipping in from the south, buffeting the start chute, making it hard to hear Sam on the PA. I did hear “1 minute to go”. Checked that the watch was on, HR monitor connected, navigation ready to go if course became hard to read, and then waited patiently for the countdown.
3, 2, 1 and go, we were off. Squeeze under the chute and run down a tunnel of spectators towards the cliffs ahead. The first 4k is a loop south along the beach, up beside the surf club following the foreshore trail to caravan park off Point Roadknight Trail, and then back along the beach. Hit our first section of rocks. We bottlenecked as the mass of runners hit the slippery rocks. Someone said they were called Soapy Rocks. If so, they don’t do irony on the Surf Coast. Think of a spherical object, maybe like polished chrome, oiled and the size of half a house trying to be climbed. Keystone Cops stuff. We finally navigate this section and hit the beach to return to the start. I’ve been relaxed with pace here. Probably too relaxed as my crew panicked when the bulk of the field runs past, and I’m trailing towards the back. But I’d witnessed lots of runners busting themselves on that first section, puffing like steam trains. Shit, we still had 95+ k’s to go…
There was no chute to run through, just a line of spectators. Lots of people call my name, I could only recognise a few. Sorry if I didn’t acknowledge, was concentrating on getting into a groove along this section.
I’d been given good advice by a few friends who’ve run the 100 here not to go out hard on legs 1 and 2. although they seem runnable, you can smash legs early and end your race. Not one to constantly look at my watch, I’d set the view to HR and looked at it a bit early to make sure I wasn’t going beyond the high 140’s. The first section of the beach was nice, set the pace to comfortable and ran along, chatting with other runners. First sections of an ultra, once underway are almost a party mode, business mode kicks in later!
All going well until we hit the first big section of rocks. Green slime covered them. Trying to place the feet for maximum grip, I started to pick my way slowly over them. Some elected to run, but I figured the risk-reward was too high.
Climb over a headland at about 8k, then final section of beach to Point Addis and our first aid station. Mark and Kathy Swinkels are here, quick shout out and down the road I go. Lots of cars, busy road and I elect to head to the right-hand side, as this is where the path at the end heads off from. Megan is there taking photos, yelling out my name, great to see her there. Down the stairs, back onto another section of beach, and more constant slow-paced running.
At about 12k the long sections of rocks appeared. Slowing us all up. Then a small rocky point, sticking out 4 metres into the water. As I approached, 3 runners in front of me ran through in ankle deep water. As I approached with a few other runners, a set of waves came in and we navigated around in thigh deep water, buffeting us as it rebounded from the wall face. This pattern repeated as we approached Torquay, and slowly time bled away as we slowed again and again.
Between here and the 17k mark it was a constant battle with the elements, mainly being the rocks and the encroaching swell. Even though we were running with low tide, the foul weather conditions, low barometric pressure made the sea higher and more active than would otherwise be. We spent more time in the water than imagined. Just as the shoes dried out a bit, they got wet again and filled with sand.
Head around a corner and there we are, running across the famed Bells Beach. Sure enough, surfers out riding the swell. Megan again taking video of me running along the beach, yelling out encouragement. Stairs over a headland, back down the other side, more stairs and onto a narrow beach.
Checked my HR and average pace along here, slower than expected pace, HR still sitting around high 130’s, but the average was 120 something. I might have been slower than I wanted, but I was conserving energy. Get to a rocky headland, 19k mark, and it’s a scramble to find a way through, get wet again and more sand in the shoes. Most of us are laughing here, what else can happen? Finally around the worst of it and I can see Torquay at the end of the beach. Runners are heading along the path in the opposite direction, I think to myself “that will be me in a little bit”. Off the beach, up the ramp, and enter the busiest aid station of the day.
Torquay aid station, 22k. Busier than Burke Street on a Friday afternoon.
Torquay, like a bustling busy train station. Bodies everywhere, upright, sitting, lying down. Wind blowing, everyone rugged up against the cold, the sky matching the sea for a shade of steel grey. Chris waiting at the top of the ramp, guided me to where Caz was. Empty my vest, sit down and change socks, eat some potatoes and fruitcake. Shoes on, vest on, stowing the rain jacket in the back, and off I go again. Megan and Helen are there giving me encouragement.
Leg 2, Torquay to Anglesea. 4 seasons in one day.
Westerly wind in our faces as we run down the path, cross a boardwalk section, then into a nice bush trail. The sky to the west looking ominous as we climb the foreshore trail. Relay runners zip pass, call out my name (race bib on the back, I’m not that popular..). My mind focuses on the task, assessing the body and legs as I push onwards. Climbing gentle climbs, my legs still going strong. Cross a road at Jan Juc, friend Louisa is a marshal, quick hug, stop and walk around the corner and down a gel. Cloud now looking very threatening. Decide it’s time to put the rain jacket back on, just as the first raindrops hit. Then it pisses down, 3 minutes tops, but enough to soak the shorts and shoes. So much for the dry socks…
Running along here, numbers have thinned out. Occasionally a runner will join you, run behind but not say anything. Just lost in our own thoughts, getting it done. Some will be chatty, spilling life’s little details, or big details at times.
26k, running through the carpark at Bells Beach, then into the bush again. Get warm, jacket off (this was going to be the theme for the next 4 hours, at least). 4 k’s of a mainly single trail, bush setting. Very serene, the sun is shining and I wind my way towards the aid station at Ironbark Basin Picnic Area. Even though I knew it was about 32 k in, it still came up quite quickly. On the way in, passed a friend Karen with her son Tim, walking in. He didn’t look great at that point. Quick stop, grab a banana and oat slice. Walk out eating the slice on the Point Addis Road as the sky darkens, once again.
Next section follows Anglesea Road, the first bit of muddy trail. Now entering the area known as Eumeralla. It twists and turns in here. In fact, the course state “Due to the complexity of the course in this area all runners are encouraged to remain ESPECIALLY ALERT FOR COURSE MARKINGS to ensure you do not lose the trail and go the wrong way.” Yep. I felt like I’d been blindfolded, turned around 3 times and asked to pin the tail on the donkey!
Bumped into fellow VUR, Thomas. Poles out, pushing along, I stopped for a chat. He was already slowing down and looking to hold it together.
39k in, having ground my way up a long slow climb came across friend Wendy stretching out a hammie. The view here also showed a large black cloud billowing on the horizon, put rain jacket back on again. 5 minutes later the rain pissed down, accompanied by hail. Small, but still stung, and very cold. And 4 of us running close together were drenched. Probably the one memorable low point of the day for me. If that was going to keep up, I rated my chances of finishing very low.
42k, turn left back into the Great Otway National Park, and a lovely section of ferns, sword grass, eucalyptus trees and full of birds, all chattering away after the rain. Indeed, the sun re-appears (farkin Victorian Spring) and the temperature rises just enough to tick into the comfort zone. Pass about 10 runners through here, mostly 100k solo runners or 50k teams runners. Has a 4 person relay runner sit on my shoulder as we traversed a winding section. Eventually, I felt she was inadvertently pushing me too fast, so I casually stepped off the trail and let her pass. “Shit, how do I know which way to go”, she joked as she kept on running. A long switchback where you glimpsed runners through the trees, heading in the opposite direction, then the long slow downhill back to Anglesea. Followed a runner with a very familiar purple rain jacket, and harlequin coloured headwear. Thought it was Kerry, and sure enough as I came up close behind her she turned around to say hello. A brief chat and I pushed on. Not sure if it was the proximity of Anglesea, or I’d just hit a good patch, but apart from the occasional walk section, I was running well, hitting a pace that was comfortable and maintainable.
Crossed onto a road, friend Belinda was there cheering us all on and spied a runner up ahead. Made a mental note to see if I could catch him as it appeared that I was faster climbing. Finally caught him 3k out from Anglesea. Steve, a friend from VUR was trying to overcome a fast start and get himself into the 49k aid station. We chatted as we descended the long rocky trail of the Surf Coast Walk. It was down here that I first started to get pain in my hip. It wasn’t bothering me much, but my worst fears were that it would get bad enough to have it affect my run.
Anglesea aid station 49k, effectively half way
Finally, after 5:55 of running, Steve and I made it back to Anglesea and food, crew, and a short break. Chris called out to me, told me where I needed to go. There were heaps of people in the compound, but my focus was solely on Caz and Chris, my super crew. Once again, Caz raises the issue of swearing (think the woman is fixated, just a bit). A quick bite to eat, restock the vest, and put the rain jacket back on, as more dark clouds are encompassing the horizon.
Leg 3, Anglesea to Moggs Creek.
The clay, 3 on a scale where Tarawera was 10 (11 according to Caz)
This section was a known quantity. But first I had to cross The Great Ocean Road. Usually, we crawl under the bridge, but with the inlet closed over, the water level was too high. So, a marshal was placed on the road. 1:30, crossing there and traffic spaced nicely so you can’t cross safely. A relay runner joins me. Suddenly a gap appears, “NOW!” I yell and we both spring across the road, laughing like idiots.
Having food and drink in the belly, and seeing Caz and Chris again, I felt good. Hip was feeling fine, and I was happy to find myself running the slight climb up the power line easement at the back of the built-up area. The first section out from here is predominately road, dirt road. Or clay, to be exact. Thick, sticky, slippery clay. The more you ran, the more that stuck to your shoes. Adding weight, and height, and losing grip on the soles, it became difficult to stay upright. It could stick to Teflon…
By now I’ve considered my finish time to be around 13 hours. Privy to a conversation where a runner said to his mates he was chasing 12 hours. Didn’t have the heart to tell him. The road, the sticky muddy clay road, finally ended after 9 ks. Turn right onto a single trail, glad to be off the clay. Well, sort of. The first kilometre is still clay where it has de-laminated off the runners’ shoes ahead of me. But I’m in a good place head. Body holding up, head still very positive.
The track winds gently down. Epacris, red through to pink, lilac bells, birdsong once again drifts through trees as the sun started to appear again. Stopped to take the jacket off, have a piece of Clif bar and continue down the path. I let my mind wander here. All morning and up to this point, I’d been monitoring myself, pace, heart rate, energy, leg fatigue, estimated time to next checkpoint. Finally decided I needed to take a break. I just concentrated on the moment, the now, just me, the trail, my footsteps. I started to think about family, close friends, those dearest to me. How lucky I was to be able to do this, many not even able to contemplate exercise, let alone do it. There is a condition/feeling known as The Flow, where it all clicks, synchronicity with one’s self. I’ve often wondered if I feel or experience it. And I have occasional episodes of temporal dislocation where I can run sections of a known path and not recall having done it. Even though I’d now be standing at the end of that path looking back at where I’d come from. And here, now, 60 odd k’s into my 100 I should experience one. Only a few k’s, but as my mind drifted, my thoughts jumbled into one; gratitude, with love. I came to, a small tear in the eye, then the moment was gone. I stopped again, having looked at my watch and realised the battery needed recharging. I’d picked up a battery pack and charging cable at Anglesea, hooked it up, battery pack into the vest, then continued along.
Hip started to play up again, but now the pain is emerging high up in the groin area. Felt around there and down onto my leg, the large adductor was tight. Massage, light stretch helped, but it was still there, persistent. Caught up with 2 guys, 100k solo runners, both having a bitch about the weather, the trail, life in general I think. Was with them for a few k’s before we started the climb on Currawong Falls Track. My climbing stronger, I’m able to run more and get ahead, happy with my own company again. No songs stuck in the head here, just the constant thoughts of pushing on, coping with the external stimuli, and processing the emotions still happening in my head.
Switch back, and the start of our biggest climb today really begins. The warmest part of the day (jacket off here), drinking lots, eating bits of Clif bars and having the occasional VFuel gel. Still picking up a few runners. Being passed, almost entirely by relay runners, only a few 100k runners around me at this point. I’m prepared for this climb, attack it in little sections. 66k in, top out at the peak of the climb, 8 hours 20. Clouds building in the west again, this time looking really ominous. A brief shower of rain (jacket back on, again), cross Loves Track and then the 3k descent into next checkpoint at Distillery Creek. Hip issues prevent me striding out on the way down. Meet another runner with glute tightness. He runs, stops to stretch, I pass, run about 500 metres, stop to stretch, he passes me back again. We play this tag game most of the way to Distillery, laughing at the absurdity of the 2 of us.
On the way in, run out of both water and electrolyte. Hadn’t filled the water at Anglesea. Not far, but realise I need to stop and fill up at Distillery. Did so in record time, grabbed a piece of oat slice (bloody sold on it) and headed off again. Sign for a photographer ahead. I had a bag of Clif bar pieces in my hand. Decide not to stow it away as I needed to eat a few pieces, so walk a bit, eating then run on. And on and on. Where the hell was this photographer? Kept running, and was just about to stop when he appeared, just around a corner. No smile, just head down, gritted teeth as I ran past.
Drop down to the dam, then another climb back out. Bump into Wendy again, she must have passed me at some point and I didn’t see her. We walk together on the climb out. A long low rumble of thunder echoes through the valleys. Oh shit, that’s just what we need. I try to kid myself it’s waves crashing against the shore under cliffs. But I know, the cloud out west is black and thick, and very high. A brief shower of rain (jacket still on from last one…), then sunlight again. The storm seems to be away from us.
By now, all I want to do is get to Moggs and see Chris and Caz. Just to see a familiar face, have a chat and a laugh. Smaller descent here than Distillery. Once again the hip and groin playing up. Still running, but ungainly in places, my left leg not as coordinated as it should be. Cross a small bridge, I know I’m close, traffic on the left and I can hear voices. Caz is waiting for me, enquiring over my welfare. I’m touched. She and Chris are out in this weather attending to me, waiting patiently at all the checkpoints. She films me running in as I hit the aid station, Chris on the left with all my gear.
Moggs Creek. 77K, an oasis in the late afternoon (10 hours)
Chicken noodle soup never tasted do good! Warm, not hot, it went down well. An antidote to the sweet food I’d consumed all day. Caz has a go at me that I’m not drinking enough, looking at my two thirds full flask. I explain that I refilled at Distillery. Re-stock again for the last time today, chat with a few friends (massive hug from Ali), and I’m away again
Leg 4, Moggs Creek to Anglesea. The ‘Successful’ head torch story.
So great seeing my crew, but I was a bit melancholy on the way out. It was all too brief. But I needed to get on. The first section from here climbs. Previously doing the 50 I’ve struggled up the climbs beyond Moggs. Today though, I just got myself into a groove and ran large sections of the climb, walk a bit to recover, run again. Bumped into Karen, running her first 50. Knees playing up, she is reduced to a walk. I’m impressed, I would have thrown in the towel at this point. The light is fading, I know I won’t make Aireys Inlet before dark, so I try and cover as much ground as I can whilst the light is still good. Get to the top, viewing platform over the coast, soft golden afternoon light, fluffy clouds fanned by a stiff breeze. Temperature is dropping again, more clouds building in the west and I wonder if the worst of the weather is still yet to come. Running down the trail to the residential area of Moggs Creek, the legs are a bit stiff and ungainly on the steps. Hoping not to go arse up down here, make it to the bottom in one piece and live to fight on. Right at the bottom, watch beeps kilometre 80. From here on, my longest ever run, training or racing having just eclipsed Margaret River Ultra.
A few streets, trail, bridge, street then start the climb on Old Coach Road. This is a gentle climb, but long and grinding. A last burst of light as the sun came out from behind a cloud before it sunk below the distant murky horizon. Passed a few more 50k runners along Old Coach, all in good spirits, all wishing me well as I passed. Turn off the road hard right, through a gate and up a gravel road/trail. Walk this, too steep to climb, and knowing I have still at least 18k to go, save the legs for the section beyond Aireys. Top of the hill, 2 runners have stopped to put on jackets and head torches. I think it’s too soon for a head torch, I can see the trail very well. Pass a 50k runner, tell him he’s doing well (despite his obviously stiff slow shuffle). I get zip in return. Turn around to look into his face, eyes set rigid straight ahead. He is at the end of his tether, yet somehow still going. “Keep it up champ” I tell him. I hope it registered for him.
A final muddy road to run down. I suddenly realise maybe I should have put my head torch on before as the light faded rapidly and I nearly tumble, tripping on a rock hidden in the mud. Light on, fire it up as I climbed up to the mobile and microwave towers overlooking Aireys Inlet. As I breast the hill, I can see the lighthouse, mood lifts somewhat, going to see my crew again. Never told them how happy that made me feel at the time. Wasn’t in a bad space, just needed to see them again, no reason.
Hit the road down to Narani Way. Bitumen, but it is covered in mud from prior runners. Slippery and my trail shoes feel decidedly unsafe. Narani Way, then hard left to get down to the trail that takes us under the bridge on The Great Ocean Road. And despite my previous thoughts about how I’d go here, I’m running more than I thought, more than walking. Get to the bridge, then contemplate having to crawl under it. Basically, you have to boulder it, as in crawling on all fours moving sideways. 86k into an ultra it looks and feels like a drunk, having lost the front door key, trying to navigate the tricky climb through a living room window. Make to the other side, only losing purchase once and thinking I may end up in the inlet. Run across the bridge down the path towards the bright light of the aid station.
Vollies point me to the food on the table, gets me a coke and an oat slice. Crew not there. I look around, swear to God they told me at Moggs they’d be there. Chris suddenly appears out of the dark, appears I’d surprised them with my early arrival. Ask me the usual, how am I, any issues, do I have enough food etc. I’m fine apart from the obvious fatigue and leg soreness. Another relay runner appears at Aireys, Andrew from PTR. He heads out, with me just behind.
It’s full on dark now, no faint twilight on the horizon, my torch illuminates a narrow elliptical presence in front of me, my universe for the next 14k (or just under 3 parkruns in the not so standard international ultra measure). Climb to the lighthouse, trail my hands along the surface as I run around the outside, down another nameless street then we turn off onto the foreshore walk that is our path to home for the next 5k (1 parkrun). The path, up and down here, is very runnable for most, and I attempt to run as much as I can. I do admit to myself that I’m struggling a bit here, so resort to walking for 50 steps, running for 100. Repeat continuously. At one point, the coke, oat slice and general good feeling I got from Aireys kicks in, and I ran continuously for well over 5 minutes. Catch a few more 50k runners along here, give them as much encouragement as I could muster and run on. The main aim here is to avoid the trip hazards on the trail, keep my little beam of light fixated on a spot 2 to 3 metres in front of me, concentrate like all buggery. A fall here would be catastrophic.
A small section of beach, which means a fecking horrible section of stairs to climb back up to the trail. Watch ticks 90k, I barely register. I just want to get to Urquharts Beach, the final long stretch, then home. The last section is windy, drops down then up again through melaleuca and sword grass. Plenty of trip hazards here, I manage to dodge them all. Car traffic noise gets closer as the trail approaches The Great Ocean Road again. A series of stones placed in the path, presumably to allow walking through here in wet conditions. I stumble on one, misjudging height, length, whatever. I curse it, not now, don’t fall here. This marks the descent to Urquharts Beach, 92 k, 8 from home, but this last beach section the final test of resolve before finishing.
Urquharts is approximately 3 and half k’s of sand (Cue MRU flashbacks), but it is now low tide and there is a very wide portion of flat, relatively level, hard sand to run on. It is the closest to a road we will get on a beach. I’ve run this section twice before, once in the dark. My preference is the dark. A. it’s usually low tide, B. you can’t see the end (which does my head in, no end). Once on the beach, a quick sip of electrolyte (first and last time this leg), then start getting it done. I look down at my feet, admiring the gentle rhythm of my feet as they flit in and out of the circle of light. Slapping sound as they hit the wet, hard sand, left, right, left, right. Slightly hypnotic, I travel a fair way up the beach before I lift my head up and make sure I’m not navigating a path direct to sea or dunes, and admire the sporadic dots of head torches in front of me. A runner passes me, relay on the last leg. I pass a runner, then approach another. The beam weaves in front, either looking side to side, or in trouble, or drunk. I opt for options 1 and 2. catch up and find out it’s a friend Deb, doing the 50 on minimal training (minimal being code for bugger all). I stop to chat, she urges me to keep running, but I’m grateful for a distraction here.
Most times along here it was serene, taking in the sound of the surf, the lights in front and behind me, and far off to the right, lightening behind a cloud; the storm that never was on leg 3.
Final kilometre on the beach seem to take forever, then suddenly the stairs appear that mark the turn back to the road and final 5k to home. Climb the stairs and see a person approaching with a head torch. Turns out to be a mate, Matt Veenstra from BBR. Couldn’t be happier to see him, someone who has helped me no end to realise what I was about to achieve. Big hug, get off the stairs and onto Melba Parade. We run whilst Matt does a live stream to BBR, and chat about my day. With about 3k to go, Matt runs off towards the finish, leaving me to do it on my own.
Time to collect the thoughts, process what I was about to achieve (barring accidents), and climb the final section passed the surf lifesaving club.
On the section down, stumble and trip on a section graded to funnel water off the path. And seriously nearly go down in a shitheap on the path. Only just managed to stay upright, but the jarring through my legs threatens all manner of cramps, aches and everything else. Final little section of beach at the inlet at Anglesea, the bright light of the finish line is still over a kilometre away as my watch beeped the 99k mark.
Grit the teeth, keep running on the boardwalk. I can hear the PA at the finish. People walking on the path yell encouragement, my pace picks up and I turn the last corner to home. Traffic cones provide a path to the finish chute, my name called out as I cross the first timing pad 50 metres out. Crew and friends there yell out my name and I cross the line feeling like a bloody rock star. Stop the watch (probably the most single-minded thought I had at this point!), then hug Caz and Chris. Video of the finish shows controlled emotion, but inside I was a jumble of emotions; relief, elation, gratitude, surprise and most of all, pure joy and happiness.
13:25, but more importantly a strong run all day, despite the conditions, despite the trail conditions. A friend and fellow ultrarunner Michael Cardiff drapes a medal around my neck, huge hug from him and then I receive my beer stein for a sub 16-hour result. Friends come to congratulate me, hugs aplenty, photo in front of the SCC banner, and then share a small bottle of bubbly with Caz Derby who’d run her own 50, then come back down to the finish to celebrate with me.
Huddled around a gas heater, jumper on, drinking my bubbly, not letting go of that stein, I chatted with others who’d run on the day. Relay or solo, it didn’t matter. All of us set out to achieve a goal, and most of us achieved that goal. Time to celebrate the win. Finally, time to go home, one final video from Caz of me squeezing into her car, grimacing and swearing! Crew, ey?
Back at the accommodation, Davern, and Helen give me a rousing reception, feed me give me alcohol and we all celebrate a great day had by all.
I’m wired, no sleep till 1:00am.
That was the emotion, now the stats
I achieved the result I set out to do. Run a 100k race well, and finish strongly. I had a race plan, it was simple (and therefore easy to remember and prosecute) and I had the best support on the day. I’ll keep this next bit brief.
My Planets Aligned/Goldilocks/Trainwreck estimated times were 12:10, 13:21 and 15:05. I never try to measure myself against others, my race is purely one against myself. But my progression through my age group and general categories told the story of my race. In my age group; 28th at Torquay, 9th at Anglesea, 8th at Moggs, 11th overall. Race plan was to start conservatively, and that I did. Witnessing many runners on leg 2 struggling after going out too hard early. I moved my gender position from 199 to 107. 155th overall.
Probably a bit more flukey was my split times. Listed below are the separate legs with timing info, and the difference between my estimation and actual (red means under time).
Pt Addis – 00:07:53
Torquay – 00:00:15
Ironbark Basin Picnic Area – 00:05:28
Anglesea – 00:02:49
Distillery Ck – 00:02:56
Moggs Ck – 00:10:19
Aireys inlet – 00:00:23
Finish – 00:07:49
Hydration and nutrition wise, no issues. Probably guilty of under-eating, but that is a preference to overdoing it and getting GI issues. For the record;
6 VFuel gels,
2 and a half Clif Bars,
2.5 litres of VFuel drink,
2 small salted potatoes,
Half a cup of cold risotto,
4 oat slices,
1 fruitcake slice, and
1 cup of Chicken Noodle soup.
It was Solo, but really a team effort
It would be horrendously wrong of me to acknowledge so many people, and groups who have helped me get here. In no particular order;
Running groups. Victorian Ultra Runners (VUR), Dandenong Trail Runners (DTR), Lysterfield Trail Runners (LTR), and mostly importantly Baw Baw Runners (BBR).
I may not have run with LTR at all this year, but continuing support leading up and on the day greatly appreciated. DTR always welcoming on my brief returns, and a number of DTR’s ran and/or supported on the day. VUR has been a great support, full of advice and helped many of us who debuted our 100 on the day. And lastly, my local group BBR who have been a constant source of support and friendship.
Nicky, my wife, for putting up with my faint obsession with running. Thanks honey xx
Some close friends;
Chrissy, Michelle Acorn, Belle, Carolyn Gilchrist, Cheryl and Andre (and I’m sure I’ve missed a few) for the constant support and positive vibes.
Matt Veenstra for the training runs, the information and advice (most of it invaluable on the day), and as much for surprising the shit out of me on the stairs leading from Urquharts!
To anyone on the day who was there, called out my name, just told me I was going well; thank you. It’s the people, not the event that make it so enjoyable.
And finally, my awesome crew Caz an Chris. You made me feel so welcome, made me feel I was in great hands, made me laugh, swear, and generally helped turn the day into the success it was. I gave you both shit at times, you gave it back, but never ever did I feel you weren’t there for me 100%. I owe you both spectacularly. As I watched some of the videos I have posted here to sort them out, I was overcome with emotion (and laughed at the fucking beer and pizza) 😁 You are 2 of a kind.
And now, a bit of rest. I will still run a bit (I love it so much), but the body needs rest. A rough plan is being sketched out for next year, but I’m taking my time to formulate it.
You can read the original version on Les’s blog and indulge in a few more of his stories.