To be brutally honest, I never thought I would describe a 100km trail run as a magic experience. The mere thought of running that far had far more doubt buzzing around my head than Worlds Toughest Mudder [WTM12] ever did. I am not a runner but have been force-fed the idea for two reasons:
- To avoid the post-race crippling I suffered in the wake of WTM12, which was partly due to a lack of mileage in the legs. I had done masses of lifting and interval work as I tried to simulate the run/work cycle of the event…but no long distance work. Solution: RUN MORE, RUN FAR
- Major shoulder surgery in December 2012 meant I wasn’t permitted to lift much more than a bottle of water for more than three months but, on the upside, my legs were still capable of forward propulsion. Solution: RUN MORE
With a successful shoulder rehabilitation in the forefront of my mind, I still wanted an event milestone for 2013. Limited to running (and preferably trails to keep it interesting and protect my joints) my options were few until I caught wind of the 100km Surf Coast Century. With 122km of WTM12 behind me, “this is do-able”, I thought to myself. However, after being appointed as a Race Ambassador and gathering support from new sponsors (look right and give them all a click), the closer the event date approached the more nervous I became. This was a long way…whichever way you looked at it.
Bottom line: DON’T F^CK IT UP
We arrived at Anglesea in good time to set up camp at the Anglesea Family Caravan Park. We’re a fan of camping and I love it as a getaway and a chance to chill out. This place was a little more populated than our usual trips as we normally head for the Wilsons Promontory National Park….more remote = a little quieter. For distraction, we did have a couple of small dramas to deal with:
- I opened up my luggage to get my race drop-bags sorted for drop-off at Race Registration to find that nearly a litre of pre-mixed Perpetuem had leaked through my race kit. While I made a very poor attempt at keeping my colourful language to a minimum, Marcelle soothed the savage beast and took my kit off for a quick wash cycle while I tidied the rest of my gear up. Not a happy camper.
- Our double lilo – which we nearly replaced before we left home but bailed at the last minute – had a puncture. It was 5.30pm on a Friday night in Anglesea and not many options up for grabs. Marcelle dropped Gus and I off at Race Registration and high-tailed it to Torquay for the one-hour round trip to hit up Anaconda for a replacement.
Not a boring start, that’s for sure….but by the time I had registered, received my race show-bag and handed over my drop-bags I was feeling better. My pre-race nerves and general fluffing about seem to be my subconscious ritual and I just had to roll with it. The Competitors’ Briefing didn’t have any surprises and pretty much covered the Race Handbook I had already read at least four or five times. It was now time to head back to the campsite and aimlessly pace around for an hour or two before going to bed.
I was up at 0420 the next morning, wanting to sleep but wishing I was up earlier all at the same time. Gus slept while Marcelle dressed as I went through all the pre-race taping, rubbing, gear checking and range-of-motion warm-ups. The morning was cold but still with a clear sky. I felt good.
Arriving at the starting area at 0515 for the 0530 start, I quickly found my run buddy, Isaac. Both with obstacle racing backgrounds, similar long distance capacities and race goals we had agreed to run together as mutual moral support for as long as our own bodies allowed. If one was ready to push off ahead, no problem. It was a good arrangment as the humour, conversation and banter would keep our minds busy as the kilometres ticked by.
The start was electric. People were cheering and whistling….the PA was bellowing….cowbells were ringing loudly. It was pitch black, with the exception of hundreds of headlamps…itching to get underway. Before we new it, the countdown passed and the race kicked off.
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STAGE 1 | ANGLESEA to TORQUAY | 21KM
This was magic. By the time we finished a quick 4km loop to take us back past the start line and on our way to Torquay we were treated to an amazing, pink sunrise….illuminating the enormous 70 metre cliffs that followed us along the coastline (see top pic). I loved this. Not a breath of wind….just the sound of runners and a gentle wave or two. The occasional water crossing was refreshing (thigh deep in parts) and the surface was firm but forgiving as we floated through the first stage. The Asics Sky Speed3’s were perfect for this terrain. At the busy checkpoint, I was greeted by my first drop-bag containing a much appreciated dry change of shoes and socks. I refilled my Salomon hydration kit with Perpetuem and was ready to go.
STAGE 2 | TORQUAY to ANGLESEA RIVERBANK | 49KM
WEARING: Salomon Adv Skin S-Lab 12-Set Hydropack, Salomon EXO S-Lap Zip Tee, Salomon EXO S-Lab Twin Skin shorts, 2XU Run Cap, 2XU Compression Perfomance Run socks, Asics Sleek Stride socks, Salomon Speedcross3
With more aggressive trail terrain ahead, I needed the extra teeth of the Salomon Speedcross3’s. This was the return-to-base loop of our giant figure-8 course…designed to provide as many spectator points as possible…a touch much appreciated by Marcelle and Gus as they traveled from one checkpoint to another, only missing two of the seven through the course….a massive effort on their part. This was a nice run through undulating elevations and the single track wonderland of Eumeralla. This area was riddled with some awesome trails (mountain biking was on my mind at this point!) so you had to keep a watchful eye out for the course markings. At about the 40km mark, I picked up a decent blister on my big toe (despite taping it prior to starting)….without Isaac’s help this would have been a major issue to deal with. Sharing his roll of all-purpose-all-healing duct tape (thanks, buddy), the blister was history (and my circulation to a degree)….on a positive note, my achilles tendon had gone completely silent by this point….ahhhhh…very nice.
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STAGE 3 | ANGLESEA RIVERBANK to MOGGS CREEK | 77KM
WEARING: Salomon Adv Skin S-Lab 12-Set Hydropack, Salomon EXO S-Lap Zip Tee, Salomon EXO S-Lab Twin Skin shorts, 2XU cap, 2XU Elite Compression Race socks, Asics Sleek Stride socks, Salomon Speedcross3
This was undoubtedly the toughest leg of the course but included some very scenic trail running through some simply beautiful sections of bush. As you can see by the Suunto GPS map below, the coast was miles away as we headed inland but the bush landscape made for some lovely running as we twisted through tight switchbacks and flowing single tracks. At 760m of elevation gain, this stage provided some generous hill work and proved to be the breaking point of a few runners. Clean socks were a blessing at this point. With my various niggles to manage, I deliberately had a slightly tighter pair waiting for me here, and again at Checkpoint #6. My blister was still manageable but my toe had a persistent burning feeling which didn’t disappear until about the 80km mark.
Not long after leaving the 50km mark, Isaac and I made a few new friends….Gerard, Ray and Bernie. This collective group enjoyed each other’s company and made a big difference to the whole race experience. Bernie had significant trail ultra-marathon experience in Europe (UTMB) and was our voice of reason and sensibility on many occasions, keeping our pace in check to ensure we finished well. Whenever my gels kicked in, I was pulling on the leash a bit….itching to take it up a gear. I’ve no doubt that unrestrained I would have either hit the wall or injured myself. Instead, we held a consistent pace and finished in great shape.
STAGE 4 | MOGGS CREEK to ANGLESEA RIVERBANK | 100KM
The switch to my Asics GEL Fuji Sensors was intended to refresh my feet and have something better suited to the hard-packed tracks ahead without sacrificing traction. This stage was mentally very tough….so close to home, but still more than a half-marathon to run. I had also picked up a “dark passenger” which didn’t help much either. You know things are rough when a group of four (we had lost Gerard by this point) can run for an extended period without so much as uttering a word. It was getting dark and we were each struggling with our own limitations and desperation to finish. I was hungry too…the consequence of having a mental hissy fit at the thought of so much as touching another drop of my Hammer Perpetuem. I mean SERIOUSLY (!), who the f^ck comes up with a flavour like “orange-vanilla”?? This was more than your typical flavour-fatigue….it was a messy divorce. Take your defectively flavoured (yet highly effective) carbohydrate and shove it up your arse.
As we came off the coastline tracks towards the beach, there they were….facilities🙂 Although we were only about 3km from the finish, my dark passenger had to go…I told the others to run on…”I’ll catch up”. A short time later, the transformation from disgruntled divorcee to flighty gazelle was complete and I literally sprinted down the beach at sub-5min/km pace (not super fast normally, but still not shabby after just clocking up 97km). I caught the guys in no time and we set auto-pilot for the finish line.
Staring at the spot of my headlamp and thinking of nothing but that 700ml beer stein finisher trophy (for sub-16hr runners) and cooling off the legs in the river, I literally ran straight past Marcelle and Gus as they followed me in for the last 100m. Job done. Very, very happy camper.
I was totally blessed with my gear. No chaffing, a happy achilles, a great recovery and all the race data I could ever need. Evidenced by the fact I was riding pedal cars and playing soccer with Gus the next day! I would not hesitate to recommend the kit I used to anyone….expectations were well and truly exceeded.
There can never be enough thanks for the amazing people behind me. My gorgeous wife for her humour and support while I fluff about and stress, Gus for just being there, friends and family for their encouragement and banter, and sponsors for their belief. Isaac and Bernie….special thanks for great company…had an awesome day out with you guys. I’ll be back to crack the 12hr mark next year if you’re keen.
The video below was kindly compiled by Isaac…whipping his GoPro out at random locations to give us both a great memento of the event. I hope you enjoy some of the scenery as much as we did.
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For those looking for diversified, well organised events I urge you to click the Rapid Ascent logo to your right. They are down to earth people who want nothing more than to provide you with a challenging, rewarding race experience….regardless of your physical capacity, it’s all about participation. Their event preparation and participant communication is thorough and consistent, while the locations are special. A big thank you to Sam and his team for their support leading into this race. It was an honour to represent this spectacular event as a Race Ambassador and I hope that I was able to provide some assistance to those that reached out to me for advice and encouragement.
With this milestone out of the way, it is on to the next big gigs….take a browse through my events wish-list on the menu at the top-left of screen if you’re interested. My shoulder is great, I have adopted running as a new friend (but one you only like catching up with now and then) and am pumped at the thought of what gnarly, nasty races may still be waiting.