As the pain of the past weekends endeavours starts to fade, those runners lucky enough to complete the 2011 Coast to Kosciuszko 240km ultra marathon have started to reflect on their race.
One such runner who has had a lot to celebrate is NSW ultra runner and race winner Ewan Horsburgh, who on his first attempt took the race out in style with his trademark elegant running style and faultless preparation.
I caught up with Ewan for a post race interview and here is his account of the race from the very front of the field.
When do you decide to run C2K ?
I have wanted to run it for a few years after Blue Dog (Wayne Gregory) took me aside at the Sydney Striders
Awards night and said it would be right up my alley. Having a young family and moving to the mountains meant it was a few years for me to act upon the advice. I’m glad I waited, as each year I have learnt more about training, nutrition and running ultras in general.
Did you consult with anyone when deciding ?
Just my wife!
What was your weekly mileage leading up to the race?
It varied from 90km to 145kms. I was still racing shorter trail events like Running Wild
, Willy 2 Billy and Fitzroy Falls. I never felt fresh for the shorter races, but they were all just training for the big event.
How long was your training block ?
I didn’t train to a traditional block but I’ve been running injury free for a while. This year is the first time I’ve been able to backup from races quickly, and these have been mostly been on the trails.
Did you have any injuries during your prep?
I rolled my ankle a few weeks prior to pacing Andrew Vize in GNW
. I got some treatment on it to make sure it was ok and took a few days rest to play it safe. I think all the trail running this year has strengthened my legs and core – helping me to cope with all the training.
Living in the mountains, did you train on road or trail predominantly ?
Having some amazing trails on my doorstep it’s hard to avoid them. Sean Greenhill, one of the original C2K runners and planners, recommended some specific training on roads. We looked at the roads around Lithgow and Oberon, but the traffic free M7 bikepath proved to be the best option. There’s a 20km section from the operations centre to Camden Valley Way. It meant I could park the car at the operations centre (near the old Australia’s Wonderland) then run out to Camden Valley Way. At the service station I could refill my water bottle, then return back to the car where I had more supplies, then repeat. There weren’t many bikes or people on the path so it was easy to train on, and the all night lighting meant it could be run at any time.
Other regular runs were a 12km loop around Cliff Drive Katoomba, a rep of Kedumba (Queen Victoria Hospital to Jamison Creek), The Rooster Run (Covering Leura Forest, Furber Steps and the Cliff Track) and Friday morning coffee runs with the Leura Icebergs.
What was your longest run ?
80kms on the M7 Bike path 7 weeks out from the race was my longest run, then the 70km GNW Pacing 4 weeks out. My last long run was 6 Hours on Mt Hay Road, 3 weeks out from the race. It’s mainly fire trails and pretty flat for the Blue Mountains. Other runs of note were 70kms from Dalgety to Charlotte Pass 8 weeks out, and training on the GNW with the Ultra168 guys. These runs ranged from 60-70kms.
What was your taper?
I had a 2.5 week taper moving from 93kms 3 weeks out to 45kms 2 weeks out and then just 2 x 30 minute jogs during race week.
I usually do a marathon carbo load for ultras during the taper, but this time I just ate normal amounts of healthy food, kept on top of my hydration and avoided alcohol and caffeine. The night before I just ate till I was full and avoided the desserts. The morning of the race I slept in until 4am, had a coffee, skipped breakfast and had 2 gels just 15 minutes before the start. So I was on the start line feeling fit, fresh and ready to go.
What did you do mentally to prepare?
Mentally I knew I had done the training and was prepared, so I just had to be positive. I was unsure how I would go running through the night and how the body would cope with the distance, but everyone is in the same boat. The night before I visualised the start and running strong along the course.
What do you find appealing about C2K ?
The iconic nature of running from the beach to the highest mountain in Australia and just the whole distance.
What do you see is the difference to this race when compared to other ultras?
Most ultras around Australia based in our bushland are up to 100miles. They involve some navigation and encourage you to carry survival gear, your water and nutrition. This time, having a support car allowed a different style of running free of a backpack.
Going into the race who did you see as your main threats ?
The Ultra168 competitor review came in handy as I just had to print that out for my crew and then match up race numbers with names. I knew Andrew was the fastest he has ever been, was very experienced having raced the course twice before and had the drive to get there first. I hadn’t met Dave Eadie before but was seriously impressed by his times – running everything from 10km to 100km. There were also multiple mentions of Australian representatives and some experienced overseas runners that had a good chance of winning.
What was the highlight and low light of the run ?
It is hard to choose a highlight of a race that covered so many kms and so much time. I really enjoyed the running in the morning through the misty farms in Towamba, running alongside horses, sheep and cows – all trying to work out what was going on! The low light would have to be the mental struggle from Jindabyne to Smiggins in the early morning trying to keep the legs moving and staying awake. I had a big case of the sleep monsters at this point but once the sun came up I felt refreshed.
What did you do to motivate yourself during the run eg iPods, stories, mind games?
My iPod shuffle was good at times but I also enjoyed being in touch with my running and surroundings. It really helped when I ran the last 10km section into Dalgety just as it was getting dark. My mental checkpoints I aimed for in the race were Dalgetty and then the top of Big Jack as I knew it was downhill into Jindy.
You didnt use a dedicated pacer compared to Andrew and Dave Eadie, do you see this as beneficial ?
I was paced for about half the race with Moh and Craig taking turns. During the day I felt very in control of my pacing and enjoyed running on my own. I was concerned they would be spending too much time in the heat during the day and I would need them more during the night and then for the climb up to Charlotte Pass.
Did you get updates on the chasing pack ? How ?
We were constantly monitoring the competition by asking the support crews and race director. As I was in the lead from 80kms I didn’t get the chance to see everyones checkpoint times so we would log onto the live site when we could get coverage and see the gaps. Vize and Eadies’ crew became very familiar through the day with lots of jokes and offers of food and water. We were really keeping an eye on each other, but in a friendly way. The live site this year was amazing and reading back over the comments and updates after the race painted a vivid picture of the race.
What gear did you wear ?
I ran through the day and most of the night in just shorts and a t-shirt. My Salomon XR Crossmax were perfect for the whole 240kms and performed well on the sealed and unsealed roads. I had planned for a wet race so had 3 changes of running gear to get me through the day, night and next day! The first day was unexpectedly hot so my crew made a desert hat for me out of things found in the car. Craig from my support crew generously sacrificed his running shirt to make a lightweight flap which did the trick. The crafty crew also made an ice bandanna with a ziplock bag containing a row of ice wrapped in a tea towel which was attached around my neck by a peg found in the back of the car. This was key during the day to keep cool and was used until it got windy in the evening.
What if anything did you change in your gear set up, eg shoes, socks, hats etc ?
My gear was pretty much perfect and having a lot there just in case kept my mind at ease. Possibly a real desert hat though!
What is your next race/goal ?
Do you aspirations to run overseas ?
There are many races I would like to do overseas. The marathon majors would be exciting and London is one I would love to run. For the Ultras, UTMB, Hardrock and Western States are very appealing but difficult to plan your year around as they are hard to get into.
Would you like to have a crack at 24hrs and Aussie selection?
Running a 24 hour next year would be one of my major goals. I would like to run the 12hour event at Stromlo to get my head around the nutrition, planning and the pacing needed for one of these races.
What was your nutrition strategy ?
My strategy was to consume 250 calories per hour – 1 Endurolyte tablet and 500mls of water. I planned to follow a liquid diet during the run, with a 2 hour Hammer Perpetuem bottle containing 2.5 scoops mixed with 400ml of water and a Gel every hour to round out the calories.
It was all going well until Cathcart, where the liquid just wouldn’t settle in my stomach, so I switched to solids. Luckily I had packed a wide selection of solid foods, like salt and vinegar chips and Coke! My crew were giving me 125 ml of water each 15 minutes but I’m sure I was drinking more during the hotter parts of the day.
What advice would you give to other runners both elite and “Back Of the Packers” in order to finish this race well?
Walk the hills. I walked all of Big Jack, Beloka and the climb from Jindabyne.
We saw a class athlete in Julia and Christian Fatton do well on debut, do you expect to see a non Aussie win this race some day ?
Sure. There is a world full of amazing athletes who love a scenic course and a challenging distance. As the ultra running increases in popularity and entries into the classic events became harder to come across, people will start discovering the hidden gems like this race.
Will you be back ?
When I finished I felt I had such a good race on debut that I didn’t need to come back. But as the days have gone by I have already thought about ways to run faster and where I can pick up some time here and there. If I do I won’t be able to fly under the radar so much!
What would you need to do to break Joe Blakes record ?
His 26:01 is an amazing time that would take everything going right to even come close. The weather would need to be perfect all day and night, I would need to run the whole thing and a tow rope attached to the car would come in handy.
Does the weather play a part in this race ?
Seeing the extremes of previous years, I think the weather plays a massive part. The variety of weather systems that cover the full race distance have a great impact on the runner. Even the expectation of rain days before that never came played a big part in preparation.
In one word/sentence describe C2K ?
What did Sean Williams say to you during and before the race ?
Sean gave me some advice to aim higher and if I ran like I did in 12 foot track this year, then I had a chance of winning. I had planned to run a 30 hour target but he said I should stick with Andrew and not let him get more than 1km ahead. This was good advice and I stuck with him till the 60km point where he took a while with his support crew. I moved ahead and applied the formula to Dave Eadie – trailing him until he stopped a while with his crew at 80km. Sean’s advice was also to walk Beloka Range as to be in good shape for the run into Jindy, and also take the final hills easy and not raise the heart levels too high.
What could Paul and Diane do to make the race better?
The race was perfect the way it was. As a runner I only had to focus on myself as everything from the briefing, start line, checkpoints, course navigation and breakfast all went smoothly. Seeing how much effort and love they put into the race rubs off onto the competitors and helps us to dig deep all the way to the Kosciusko.
What else would you like to add ?
I think the main things that attributed to my win and time were
• Agreeing to Pace Andrew Vize for GNW and in the process learning how to train hard and prepare for a race
• The long 6-8 hour runs 2 to 3 times a month that strengthened the legs
• Eating well while training hard helped the recovery and getting down to my lightest race weight ever
• Getting on the course with Andrew with a big Dalgetty to Charlotte Pass session
• Having a great support crew with my super wife Bec driving and DJ-ing, Craig on logistics, nutrition and pacing, and Moh “The Enforcer” on nutrition and pacing.
• Shoes – I wore Salomon XR Crossmax
the whole way which performed well on the unsealed as well as sealed sections. I had a backup pair of Nike Lunarfly that I did a lot of the road training in.
• Socks – Nike Dri-Fit socks that lasted the whole way to the finish.
• Middle – I wore a pair of nike Dri-Fit shorts that are breathable and light and under them Nike Pro compression shorts
• Top – Light and breathable short sleeved nike Dri-Fit run top
• Hat – White Adidas Clima Cool run hat with custom made (by my crew) desert flap.
• Watch – Trusty Nike Triax Speed 100 Regular Watch that is ready for retirement
Early Saturday morning I added
• Long Top – New Balance long sleeved top which was a hand-me-down from Australian 10,000m record holder Ben St Lawrence.
• Wind Jacket – Nike Vapour Running Jacket
• Head Torch – Black Diamond Icon
• Beanie – Adidas ClimaWarm
• Gloves – Nike Dri-Fit gloves that just fitted on my swollen hands
For the Summit
• Hat – North face GTD Endurance
• Wind Jacket – Montane 2011 Lite-speed