Now that the big guns have given their thoughts, I thought I’d pen a few thoughts on the race from my perspective and how it went in the lead-up to GNW in a few weeks time – please excuse the self-indulgence 🙂 The plan wasn’t to actually do this race given how close it is to GNW, however a few things changed here and there and when it came to the crunch I really fancied toeing the start-line to give it a crack.
I’d missed out on the Glasshouse 100km because of a slight injury to the lower right calf, and knowing how wonderfully scenic this race is, I managed to get a spot and find myself lining up with the big guns on Saturday morning just gone. In my head, I rationalised this by virtue of the fact that this is 4 weeks out from GNW, which would act as a good peak, with a slightly shorter longer run this weekend as my final long run. I didn’t taper for this race at all, and went into it off the back of a quality week prior, with just a few days of shorter slower runs in the 2-3 days leading up to it. Friday the day before the race was my only rest day really, and I was looking forward to seeing how the legs would cope.
The start was frantic and quick, and to be honest a lot quicker than I thought it would be. Julian, Chris, Dave, Oli and a few others shot off into the distance at what would have been sub 4 minute kms. Gordi was in my line of sight as a lone runner chasing the leading pack, and I fell into a nice 4:40km pace with a few others, but knowing this wouldn’t be sustainable once we hit the trails. Indeed, things did settle down quite a bit, and I found myself on my own once on the trails and this is the way it stayed for much of the first section.
The mud in this first section was as Andy had said in the briefing, ‘full-on’. There were places where it was knee-deep, and in one puddle, my shoe stayed in the mud whilst my legs carried on running. Nice. A mud filled shoe only 5kms in, but it didn’t matter to be honest, it was to set the tone for the day, with plenty of mud and water throughout the course. In this first section, I played leapfrog with quite a few people, Bry McConnell, Darren Mooney and female winner, Nikki Wynd. It was towards the end of the first section that I’d caught Gordi. I tried to hold his hand, but he wouldn’t have it and after a quick changeover, I started to drop him on the climb out of Blanket Bay. This was weird I thought because the big kiwi is pretty strong on the hills. Still on I went towards the sandy ridges near Cape Otway, running pretty much most of this section on my own again. As I approached CP2, the grin of the running mad kiwi greeted me which means he had dropped out shortly after the climb from CP – big shame. I was looking forward to a good old-fashioned ding-dong with him.
It was here I had my first and only encounters with some of the wildlife on offer down in this neck of the woods. First up my big size 12’s nearly landed on a tiny little baby brown-coloured snake, although its identity remains a mystery. I don’t know who was more scared, me or him! But he certainly looked keen to get away from me, and I didn’t want to argue, especially if his Mum was around too. Next up was some big black thing near the side of the trail. To be honest I didn’t want to hang around and have a look given the rather large nature of the ‘thing’ and the way it moved into the bushes with a whipping sound. My pace quickened slightly after that.
As I began my descent to Aire River, the heavens opened so I spent a minute or two getting my rain jacket out of the bag, which in hindsight was probably something that cost me some time towards a sub 13 effort. It was here I was passed my Bry, Nikki and Darren again, and shortly after leaving Aire River checkpoint the rain stopped. This is the problem with the weather down here. You can often see massive storms on the horizons, but when they hit they last barely 5-10 minutes. Still, I pulled out of the checkpoint ahead of them all and cracked on. Looking at the watch, I was well up on my proposed splits, by something like 20 minutes or so. I still felt good, but I was a little worried by the fact that I was traveling quicker than I thought I should be.
The next section is pretty short, only 14kms or so, but it involves a long hike on Johanna Beach, which for the most part has to be walked, especially when you have a rather large headwind smashing into you. Again, Bry caught me here and we walked it in together, but towards the end of the beach, Nikki and Darren crept up on us again to overtake, jogging the rest of the way into the checkpoint. I wasn’t too worried here, at the time I thought it was a little crazy to be running this section, but it proved to be the last point I would see them until the finish line – they executed a plan perfectly and credit to them.
Johanna Beach (55kms) was where I had my first sit down of the day and I knew I was feeling the pinch somewhat. In 2009, I’d hit this point in 7hrs 59mins… a quick glance of the watch showed 6hrs 35mins – so I was moving pretty quickly, but still felt within myself, and upon leaving the checkpoint again felt strong, even jogging parts of the uphill section, which sees a long climb from the beach into some bushland and onto some dirt roads for 6-7kms.
It’s here some issues started to come to the surface, and my stomach began to get a stitch. I put this down to maybe a little too much caffeine, or maybe too many gels in a short space of time. Who knows, but I knew I had to sort it out quick. I let Bry carry on and pulled the pace back, stopping the eating and only taking in small sips of water for 30 minutes or so. This seemed to do the trick, although it never really went away completely, but it was manageable.
The next section towards The Gables checkpoint however is the mother of the course. After a steep uphill climb, the trail goes in and out of the cliff with some very steep up and downhills. At 65kms, it’s a bugger to say the least, but you just have to get your head down and crack on. Once done you hit Moonlight Head, the location of the checkpoint for the last two years, but which has now been moved to a place called The Gables. I couldn’t quite remember how far it was to The Gables, but a sign at the end of the trail here informed me it was 4kms. Bugger. Still this was a new part of the track that we were to race and to be honest, it was a lovely single-file track that I actually enjoyed. I also caught someone else here which gave me a big lift – Dani Andres.
He’d been mixing it with the top guys at the front, so it was clear that he’d blown up. I took heart from this, not because of his misfortune, but because I thought I was shifting along pretty badly, so it made me realise that I wasn’t moving too badly. We pulled into the last checkpoint pretty much together, and I knew a quick turnaround was needed. Gordi, my makeshift crew for the day, filled the bladder and the bottles and within minutes I was off again.
This year instead of running along the 4WD dirt track for the best part of 15kms, we were taken onto some newly opened single file track which was a pure delight to run upon. It wasn’t as quick as the 4WD track, but it made for some lovely running and its here that I pretty much forgotten about racing and was just enjoying the new track. After around 10kms, we were brought out onto the 4WD track again for just under a kilometre, before rejoining the single file track again for the last 6.5kms to the 12 Apostles. I was hurting now, and the weather was turning again. A quick glance of the watch and I knew sub 13 was going to be close. I tried hard, but the legs were shot, I got passed here by a few people (one a pair I think), and as I hit the road, it was just 1.5kms to go.
I tried to run, but it was hard – I got passed again, I tried to respond, but couldn’t quite do it and finished in 13hrs 4mins. Overall pretty happy, but sub 13 was there for the taking. I want to come back and give it another shot, and knowing the course a little better, I think I’d plan things a little better too in terms of pacing. But still it is what it is. Next stop GNW.