The Surf Coast Trail Marathon has a tagline:
‘Hardest or hilliest? NO. Just one of the most BEAUTIFUL coastal trails runs going’
and Saturday 27th June did not disappoint.
Over 220 runners – only 72 of whom were women, including me – turned out for the solo marathon and we were treated to the sight of some gorgeous rays of sunshine breaking through the clouds as the race briefing took place.
Was it some sort of sign???
Expecting freezing cold and/or rain and wind it was a pleasant surprise to be able to take my thermal top off before I’d even started running. In Victoria. In winter! Who would have thought it?
My number one supporter: ULUR daughter (as long as she doesn’t have to do it!)
Looking more confident than I felt, that’s for sure!
I’d come to the race as refreshed as I could be considering I’d just got over a very bad cold and some terrible sinusitis that had threatened to derail all my training. I had literally only just started to feel better about 2 days before hand, and had spent the 10 days before THAT desperately flushing out my sinuses, sleeping as much as possible and resting when that wasn’t possible.
I was a bit apprehensive about the final 10k, as my longest training run of 34km had started with a wonderfully even 27km in 3 hours followed up by 7km in the last hour at a death walk/run. And I still had to run another 9k after that in the race. Was I going to make it?
Everyone has worries and anxiety before race day, and this was really no different. So instead of wasting precious energy lying awake and rehashing where I’d gone wrong I just crossed my fingers and hoped all the hard work I’d done would pay off. And nothing would hurt too much. And I wouldn’t fall over and die. Or embarrass myself by coming last. Yeah, I haven’t really figured out this positive thinking during taper thing…
It was a case of ‘spot the chicks’ in this race.
At 8:30am on the dot the gun went off, and we all trotted up Torquay beach. About 2km of sand running to warm up the calves then it’s back round to the flat boulevard that runs along the beachfront and past all the yummy smelling café’s and coffee shops.
The sun had finally started to break through the clouds and the view of the ocean looked magnificent.
I don’t remember thinking much at all for the first hour other than noting twinges in my calves from the beginning section on the beach and a few other weak spots as various muscles settled in for the day. But as I thundered over the boardwalk that crosses Spring Creek near the Torquay Surf Lifesaving Club it was as though my legs finally remembered what to do. I stopped feeling like a wooden mannequin and started to feel as though I could run forever.
The next hour was good.
Trot trot trot. Like clockwork I was ticking off the k’s and as I passed the halfway mark my time was sitting around 2:50. Not bad at all. And even better, I felt great.
Some views of beautiful Bells Beach
Some people didn’t though, that’s for sure. I passed this one guy, I’d seen him earlier. He was always just ahead of me. All the right gear; small, thin, looked like he could run for days…but as we headed up the hill to the Point Addis carpark at the halfway aid station he just sort of stopped and lay his head against a nearby telephone pole and…stood there, in defeat. As I crested the hill to the aid station he was still there, leaning against the pole.
I wonder if he finished the race?
Focus René, focus! A refill of my water bottles, helped along by a speedy volunteer and I was on my way again. This is where it got hard.
The second half of the course is actually longer than the first and much more technical AND hilly. Just what you want when you have already been running for nearly 3 hours.
But it is also extremely beautiful.
There’s the awesome downhill bomb into the Jarosite Mine on Ironside Track, some quite technical single track through Anglesea and another couple of almost deserted beach sections.
This was my view after exiting Point Addis
My first and only meet up with family during the race was to be at Urquart’s Bluff, the 34.5km point, right after a 3.5km stretch of beach.
I was dreading it.
Last year due to the King tide I’d had to run this section on a very narrow, very soft stretch of sand right up against the cliff face. As the tidal surges threatened to cut off even that tiny path I also had to jump from rock to rock and sprint sections between waves (not as much fun as it sounds when it’s 5 degrees and you’re wet and tired).
It took me nearly an hour.
So you can imagine my relief when I realised that a) the beach section seemed to be significantly shorter this year, and b) the tide was out so I could run on the hard-packed sand. Bliss. What I had estimated would take at least 50 mins took 30. Yay.
You may not be able to read the sign, but it says “You can win!” Haha, always makes me laugh that the kiddies think that’s even possible, what faith they have in me!
P.S. you know that Coke was gone in about 30 seconds!
Nevertheless, after almost 6k of beach running up to this point it had taken its toll on me.
I was getting very tired and I still had about 8k to go.
Lucky for me ULUR sister had decided she wanted in on this course and was going to run the last section with me.
One more beachy section to go though with hidden stairs to kill me…more
As we headed into the final stretch I was beginning to have to walk any hill, and the trail was getting more and more technical – something ULUR sister found out for herself when she attempted to end it all then and there by tripping over a rock about 10 minutes in.
After assuring me she was fine – ‘I did a drop roll, like Bruce Willis’, she told me, sounding very impressed with herself – we continued on in a more upright fashion.
I did feel a bit like I was going to Die Hard by this point but there was no way I was going to stop now.
I’d seen a few people doing it even harder than me actually.
Halfway point telephone pole guy of course, and then a girl at the 30k mark who had twisted her knee and was limping, worrying about the pain spreading up her thigh. I walked with her for long enough to check she was in good spirits, didn’t need a spare gel or water or me to call someone, then left her after she protested she was fine. I knew she’d be at the next aid station shortly so I didn’t worry too much.
About 5k from the finish line though, we came upon an older woman who was having so much trouble with a calf cramp she couldn’t continue.
She’d fallen, got up to keep running and then cramped up. It’s happened to me too, something about tripping always sets it off. But we were SO close.
I was due to have my last gel but I figured it wouldn’t make any difference to my final time, so I gave it to her instead. She was all out and I don’t know of anything else that might have helped.
I wish I could tell you she finished, but I was so tired and dopey by this point I don’t remember her name or her race number. I hope both women made it, they sure had enough guts to.
Anyway, after that ULUR sister and I put our heads down and got on with it.
The end section of the course is what race directors would term ‘rolling hills’ and what look more like mountains to tired legs.
See that end section, with the red arrow? Just follow the orange line up and down and up and down…
It’s hard, not gonna lie, and having my sister there to chat with me and distract me made it hurt a lot less than it would have otherwise. I can’t say it was enjoyable, exactly, but there’s definitely a certain grim satisfaction to be had in the final k’s of a marathon, when you know that barring a piano falling on your head you are going to finish.
Of course we eventually came to the end, and as I trudged through the last beach section and up the four flights of stairs – yes four, at the finish, there’s a reason people say trail runners are mad – to the Fairhaven Surf lifesaving Club finish line I could see my family and friends there waiting for me and the clock sitting at 5:57.
No, I don’t know why I am holding up my cup of thermos tea instead of my medal…
I’d PB’d by a whole 32 minutes. Almost a minute per k off last years’ time.
And I wasn’t last. Although no one would have cared if I was.
You gotta be happy with that.
P.S. Congratulations to the amazing actual winners of what is a harder than it looks race:
1st male – Damien Angus, from Brighton, Victoria, in a time of 3:10:04
1st female- another Victorian, Kellie Emmerson in 3:38:31, a new course record!