Event: Surf Coast Century
Date: 21-22 September 2019
Type: Off-Road, Trail
Distance: (Saturday)100km, 100km Relay, 50km, (Sunday)23km, 15km, 9km
Where: Anglesea, Surf Coast, Victoria
Event Partners/Sponsors: Clif Bar, Tailwind, Steigen, Surf Coast Shire, Great Ocean Road Real Estate, Bogong Equipment
- 16 weeks
- 800+ training kilometres
- 100+ training hours
- 12,000+ meters of elevation
Two years in the making, but on the 21st of September 2019, I became an ultra runner.
Having never run a marathon before (except in training), running an ultra was a big scary goal that was first planted after completing leg 3 of the Surf Coast Century as a team in 2017.
I spent 2018 building up my base, increasing the amount of time on my feet over distance and days. This meant when I started my training I wouldn’t be in for a complete shock.
One thing for certain, running an ultra is all mental. Your mind will give up well before your legs will.
These last few months have been a huge mental struggle for me. With the build-up of big training weeks and stresses at work, sometimes things burst at the seams. Tears were shed, but with the help of family, friends, work colleagues I got the support and understanding I needed to get through.
If you do decide to tackle an ultra, set yourself up with a good support network. You will need them more than you realise.
The time had come, the training was done, race day arrived, and I was quite frankly FREAKING OUT!
A late start (11:50 am) meant that I could get a reasonable sleep in, have breakfast, check all my gear, before bundling up the family into the car for the trip down to Angelsea.
Stalking the weather app, I knew that rain was forecasted at the start of the 50km event. I strategically packed my bag so it would be the first thing I could get to.
Arriving at Angelsea I picked up my race pack, dropped off my drop bag and picked up some Steigen socks, and triple checked what time I would need to be back for the race briefing (11:20). Then I raced to the loo for a nervous wee, thank god there was no queue.
Back at the car, I fumbled my way getting my race number onto my belt and then pinning smaller race big onto the back of my bag. I had to get Tom to help me put the GPS tracker on properly as my nerves were so bad I felt sick.
Before leaving the car, I ate a danish, a few sips of water, and gave the kids and Tom hugs and kisses before they wished me on my merry way. I would see them again at Moggs creek in a few hours.
It was cold, and it was starting to rain, putting on my rain jacket I made my way back to the event hub. Once I got to the first aid station, the heavens opened. I decided I would hold back and hide under their shelter letting the rain ease off. I wasn’t the only one that had this idea, there were other runners, and spectators doing the same.
While it would have been nice to just stay there, I knew it was time to move on. Two ladies (Coriena & De-Ana) were walking towards me and I asked if they were also running the 50k. When they said yes, I ask if I could walk with them. I needed the company. I told them I was quietly freaking out. Luckily we were all in the same boat. This was all our first Ultra and we all had the same intention, to finish and be uninjured.
On our walk down to the beach, I saw Lucy Bartholomew, and yes I fangirled (again), she wished us all luck, and to have fun.
At the beach, the rain had stopped and the sky was clearing. I felt a bit more settled now, with more people arriving and congregating together.
Soon it was time. I headed towards the back, as that’s where the cool people hang. I knew that if I kept at the front of the pack, I would go out too hard. Having never run 50k before I knew that I had to keep it easy at the start or I would blow up later.
At exactly 11:50 the horn sounded and we were off. Starting on the beach meant that we had a wide berth and it wasn’t congested. The crowd of family support cheering us all on and wishing us luck was quite humbling.
One advantage of running the 50k, I got to cross over the Great Ocean Road, and not under it (that would come later).
Running along the Anglesea river for about 500m you then take a turn to cross the bridges to get you to the other side. Passing the pirate playground I thought “my kids would have loved playing there when they were younger”.
By now we all shuffling along a single track. I knew that walking early was important if I wanted to finish in one piece. In my head, I was like yeah I could do this in 6h30. But realistically I knew that wasn’t going to happen.
Three kilometres in and we were in amongst the rolling hills of 4WD tracks (Gilbert St). Hiking the hills I fell in line with another runner Kristen, from Canberra. She too had run UTA22 and this was also her first ultra having (also) never run a marathon (yay! I’m not the only one to go straight to ultra).
Lucy B flew past us on one ascent, she really did make it look easy. She was running leg 3 as part of the relay.
In 2017 there was a course modification due to part of the track being too muddy. It wasn’t until I compared the maps of the two runs afterwards to see how much of a detour it actually was.
The 2017 course detour was: Mt Ingoldsby Road, followed by Distellery Creek Road before taking Whites track, back onto Gilbert Street. To be honest I don’t remember much of what the detour track was like. I do however remember noting how ripped up the track was. The erosion combined with the wheel ruts made it not the most elegant part of the trail.
Kristen and I chatted on an off for about 15km. I told her whatever I could remember of the course until the aid station, from more rolling hills to single tracks. I could tell she was enjoying it as the landscape was very different from what she had been training on back in the ACT.
One thing is for certain, two years is long enough for you to forget what an event is like, but also long enough to make everything feel new again.
Coming down into a gully you could hear the magical sounds of the banjo frogs (aka pobblebonks), it made me truly feel special to be in amongst nature.
It was now hot, and with the recent rain, it was humid. I instantly realised that I did not put on any sunscreen. A mistake I will have to live with. Now before you ask, yes I had packed it, but in my frazzled state getting my gear together in the car it didn’t even occur to me to put it on.
At least I had my hat and my sunnies.
When it comes to fuelling, I have my watch is set up so the first screen tells me my heart rate, and duration. This helps me to keep track of when to take nutrition. I wasn’t too worried about knowing about my distance. My training has been based on time, and knowing the distance you have travelled or yet to travel can be a real mental struggle, so it was just easier to remove that from the equation. Keeping an eye on the time meant that I could keep my nutrition up. My goal was to eat every 45 minutes.
During that leg of the run I ate/drank:
- Goulburn Valley fruit pouch
- Huck Nutrition
- A small amount of trail mix
Passing the first water station we would now start the ascent along Currawong Falls track. I lost Kristen by this time. She was behind me and then suddenly she wasn’t.
Unpacking my poles that were attached to my pack I used them to start my climb. I remember from 2017 that I would have been grateful to use poles for these sections. Yes, I could have gone without them this year, as I feel like I’m a much stronger trail runner than I was back in 2017, but at the same time, by using the poles I became a much more efficient hiker, and I when it came to the hills I powered up them strongly.
The track to Currawong falls bought back memories of entering Leura Forest. Just not as dense. Unfortunately, Currawong Falls was not flowing this year.
The weather was now turning, I could feel a drop in the temperature as a light drizzle occurred. Soon that drizzle got harder. Making the decision to stop to put on my jacket was more so for warmth than for protection against the rain.
When it came to the weather, we really did have 4 seasons in one day. It wouldn’t be long before the jacket was back in bag.
Arriving at the refuelling station, I grabbed some chips and lollies, took out my phone and sent Tom a message that I arrived and I would see him in about an hours time at the Moggs Creek checkpoint.
Travelling along the apt name Dam Walk track to the Painkalac Dam reservoir, I again was brought back to UTA. I knew that I was more than ready to do this and that I would be seeing my family soon.
By now it occurred me that I had not seen 1 photographer yet, which I thought was quite strange. Then in a space of I kid you not 1km, I came across 3!Moggs creek was a hive of activity, from relay members changing over, to family and loved ones supporting those out on course.
Arriving at Moggs Creek in a time of 3h57m41s, I took the time to refilled my tailwind bottle and my hydration bladder. Then I asked for directions for the bathroom, as I knew I should go, or I would be ducking into the bush within the hour.
While looking for my drop bag, my family found me. Tom told me I was looking well and asked what I needed, the kids were just excited to see me. First thing was first. Find the toilet.
After making a detour to the loo, I went back to the drop bag to stock up. I dropped my poles into my bag knowing I would most likely not need them. Dumped my rubbish, grabbed more food for my pack, a buff but most importantly my headlamp. Having not done the next part of the course I had no idea what to expect. Giving hugs and kisses to the kids and Tom, I was off but first I took in a cup of chicken noodle soup. It was amazing. Grabbing a baked potato and of course more chips (yes I do love my potatoes). I was ready.
Total time spent at Moggs Creek aid station: 9m11s.
This next leg would be make or break. This was the leg that would make me an Ultra Runner.
The afternoon light was streaming through the foliage of the forest and is was just enchanting. I soaked up all its beauty.
My watch did not like the forest, and I lost the GPS signal. The first time was along Currawong Falls track when the rains started, the 2nd time was along Ocean Views track. Now I had no idea that the track was called this. It wasn’t until I was looking at the topographical map on google maps of the area that I discovered this.
Could you imagine my delight when we came across this lookout!
Due to the loss of GPS signal I had no idea how far I had actually covered. Upon passing another runner I asked, and she said roughly 32k.
Reaching into my pack, I remembered I had a baked potato, so decided to eat that over another gel, it was AMAZEBALLS. It had butter and salt and hit the spot.
This leg of the course is known as “Lookouts and Lighthouses”. Lookouts √, I could see Split Point Lighthouse in Lorne and knew I still had a long way to go.
I had assumed we would be running along the beach, but I was sadly mistaken, we were taken back up into the countryside, running back roads, and walking tracks.
Do not be mistaken, downhills are a b*tch on tired legs, and my legs were burning. To be honest, at this stage I would have rather gone uphill than down.
Now back at the Great Ocean Road, it was time to go under the bridge. Being cautious, I didn’t want to cramp up, but I also didn’t want to fall into the water. Luckily that I would have to do that again.
I was grateful to be coming into the Aireys Inlet skate park aid station. The volunteer asked me if needed to refill anything, or if I wanted a coke. Coke! Yes, that’s exactly what I wanted, the fizz, the sweetness along with a caffeine hit, gave me a second wind.
Taking in some fruit, I powered on.
To be honest, I was slightly disappointed with what offered at the stations. If I could eat them (sadly no more), I would have happily had a Cliff bar or two. Me and oats, however, broke up last year, when I discovered they were one of the reasons I was having major digestive issues. A banana it was then. No watermelon, berries, carrots or any other type of organic matter. I could have seriously hoed into some pineapple or a frittata. Alas no, I couldn’t even grab a sandwich, as yep, you guessed it, bread isn’t my friend either. It would be fantastic if organisers could cater to those with dietary issues (yes there was GF cake, but I wasn’t in the mood for that). This is why I packed so much food.
Eating the rest of my trail mix, I was now familiar with the rest of the course. We were now travelling along the Surf Coast Walk, which is featured in SCTM.
Hiking up the hill towards the lighthouse it was getting cold. There was also could feel a sprinkle of rain, or it could have just been ocean spray. Either way, the jacket came out, along with the buff and the headlamp. Strapping my hat to the back of the pack, I put the buff on to keep my ears warm. The headphones were in, I needed music to help keep me motivated. Yes, I sang, and I didn’t care if I sounded horrible or if anyone heard me. It helped me stay focus and to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
At Urquarts Bluff (a 3km stretch of beach), I sent a message to Tom to let him know I was on the beach. My fingers and head couldn’t type Urquarts, so I just went with the beach. I wonder if I Siri’d it if she would have gotten it right. Either way, he thought I was close to finishing. I didn’t realise this until of course, I finished.
A setting sun now setting behind us it was time to turn on the headlamp. There was still plenty of light, but I figured do it now and you won’t have to worry about it later. The jacket also came off, as surprisingly it was warmer on the beach than it was running along the cliff face.
With the tide out, it was nice to run along the hard sand.
To get off the beach you have to climb a set of stairs. Yeah not a problem, or so I thought until I got a cramp 1/3 of the way up them. Now when you think cramp, you think calf right? Well, of course, my body likes to do things differently. It decided, “Nah, not calf cramp, let’s go with rectus formis!” (quad). I was at a standstill. Applying pressure to the two points on my left leg to help relieve the pain build-up but also to prevent a full-blown muscle spasm, I climbed those stairs sideways, backwards, and one step at a time.
At the top, a passing relay runner asked if I was ok. I was hurting. Giving him a brief recap he asked if I had any electrolytes. Bingo! I did tailwind. I sucked that sucker down and ate more food to help me get the rest of the way. I had no more cramping after than.
By now my emotions were all over the place. My thoughts went to my running coach Kirsten at Opmove. I told myself if she can do hard things, and ugly cry, I can too.
Rounding a corner I could see the lights of Anglesea, this was it and it all became too much. I cried. Passing runners asked if I was okay, I told them I was. I was tired, I was hurting and I just wanted it to be over.
Back on the beach, I sent another message to Tom. I had no idea how much further. My watch was telling me 44k, I knew that was a lie.
Switching off my glee music, I opened up the playlist with all my favourite running songs and just hit shuffle. The first song was Me! by Taylor Swift. It was exactly what I needed to hear. My cadence naturally fell in line with the beat of the music.
Then I saw them. The flashing lights of a path to direct you off the beach. This was it. This was the end of my journey. My pace picked up and I focused on the lyrics of the songs I was listening to Panic! at the Disco “High Hopes” couldn’t have been a more perfect song.
I did it!
FIFTY KILOMETERS! Wholly Guacamole! I AM AN ULTRA RUNNER!
The volunteer who presented me with my medal asked if I was ok and if I wanted a hug. Now normally I’m not a hugger, but I took up her offer of a hug. I’m forever grateful for this hug, and she will have no idea how much this small gesture meant to me.
Top: 2017 SCC relay top
Bottoms: DHB shorts
Bra: Sports Skirts
Undies: Kmart sports undies
Socks: Pro Compression
Shoes: New Balance Hierro
Headlamp: Led Lenser HR8
Fuel: Water, Tailwind, homemade trail mix, Goulburn Valley fruit pouches, VFuel, Huck nutrition