Background to entering:
In July a group of us went to the RU Nation Film Festival and we watched a film about Rob Mason’s attempt at sub 30 hrs for Coast to Kosci, I remember thinking “I never want to do that race”. Fast forward 2 months and I was contemplating it. 2015 was a massive year for me which included giving triathlon a go & doing an Ironman, then Mount Solitary 45k (5th Lady – 30min PB), North Face 100k (11th Lady – 2hr PB), Centennial Park Ultra 50 (1st Lady), City to Surf 14k (2min PB on the back of a 90k training week & Centennial Park the week before), GNW 100mile (3rd Lady), Melbourne Marathon (7min PB). Robyn & I had pretty much decided we weren’t going to enter and I was happy with that decision as I thought it might be a bit much for my body given how huge the year had been and the thoughts of training for it on my own were not appealing. THEN with an hour to go before entries closed Rocco text to let us know he had entered, a flurry of crazy text between Robyn & I and we were on the laptops entering. Rubber arm engaged! Then reality hit, I was enjoying relaxing after GNW and came to the realisation that I would have to continue the massive training weeks with Melbourne Marathon in there too. I was excited about it being a road race though, I love trails but I also love the road cause its where I started out and I usually perform well on road because it involves consistency and consistency is my middle name!
About the Race:
For my non-running friends. This race offers the unique opportunity to run from the coast to the highest point in Australia. Only 50 runners are accepted and to be accepted is a privilege and means that the Race Directors are confident that you will finish. It is 240km’s and the weather varies hugely throughout the race & sometimes means runners will get the Charlotte’s Pass (222k) and not be able to go to the top of Mount Kosciuszko due to inclement weather. Each runner has a support crew and car that joins them from 24k’s to the end but pacers cannot join until 8.30pm (15hrs after the race starts) after this you can have one pacer at a time. There are only two exceptions to this, one is going up Big Jack Mountain during the day and the other is the section from Charlotte’s Pass to the top of Kosciuszko & back down to the finish (a 9k out and back – 18k altogether) when the whole crew is allowed to join their runner.
Race Day Pre Start:
A very early start, from 4am, for our crew (Myself, Ann, Laura & James). We had most of the gear packed into the car the night before but there was some last minute stuff to do. Luckily the crew looked after all that and all I had to do was dress myself & eat. We made our way to Boydtown beach and watched the sun come up. After a million photos & touching the water with Robyn & Rocco we headed to the start line for a million more photos.
The Race (Start to Pericoe Road 24k – Crew Rendezvous Point)
We stood shoulder to shoulder with some of the best ultra runners there are, no pressure! Then we heard 5,4,3,2,1 and we were off. A slow waddle off the beach, with Rocco sticking to his plan to walk off the beach. It wasn’t long before he caught up to Robyn & I. We settled into a nice rhythm and then we hit the first big incline… time to walk, woohoo. There was a nice trail section and we chatted to a few other runners along the way. Our plan was that we would run together until at least 24k (the crew rendezvous point). There was a water stop and we all grabbed a quick drink of water. On the downhill sections Susan Keith would fly past us and we leapfrogged for a good while. We passed the iconic Red Barn, which i’d seen in so many C2K videos and gave a wave to the camera. The weather was cool & foggy, perfect. At one of the aid stations Paul & Diane (the Race Directors) aptly named us “Rocco’s Harem” because every time they drove by he was surrounded by ladies. At the Rendezvous Point I had to make a pit stop at the scariest looking long drop! Cobwebs everywhere and, after giving my crew a roasting (sorry crew!) for not reading my mind and having toilet roll at the ready, we were off again.
Pericoe Road 24k – CP1 Rocky Hall 50k
I caught up with Robyn & Rocco & we decided that we’d see how the running panned out in terms of running together. At times I probably felt we were going a bit quick for my liking but when I balanced that against running on my own I felt it was the right decision to just keep up. Around this time (~35k) I could feel my runners starting to hurt my baby toes, luckily the crew would be meeting us at 5k intervals along the way so I made the decision to swap my runners, it was a difficult decision cause I was changing into the runners that gave me blisters at GNW and didn’t have the cushioning of the Hoka’s. Once I made the change though I knew it was a good choice, soo much more comfy and roomy. Rocco was also having some shoe issues and changed his insoles at the same time. At the marathon mark Robyn was just in front of me so I yelled out “1 marathon down”, yikes, another 5 to go!. There was nice running along this section. It was starting to get hot though and there was plenty of flies hanging around. We ran into Rocky Hall together.
CP1 (Rocky Hall 50k)— CP2 (Cathcart 70k)
We had a nice sit down & I put some TooToms (blister powder) in my socks. The toes were still hurting but not majorly. Robyn was just ahead as we got to the bottom of Big Jack Mountain where we were able to pick up a crew member to join us for the walk up the mountain. I had a quick pit stop then Ann & I followed Robyn & Tim up the mountain with Rocco & Sally just behind. We had been down to see the course for a recce run a few weeks before which was great cause we knew what was ahead, at least this time we didnt have to run it. It was great to catch up with Ann and find out how the crew were going. It was here she introduced me to the “invisible walking poles”, basically its a technique where you pretend you have poles and it keeps you a bit straighter (i tend to hunch so this was a great tip which I used countless times throughout the race). We powered our way to the top and I was delighted that it was done, although I was a bit worried about having to run. A very quick sunscreen stop & a hello to Jess Siegle and I was off again. This was the first section I ran on my own and I really enjoyed it, it’s a nice long flat run into Cathcart. At Cathcart the crew had an amazing set up, a chair with an umbrella (well done crew). They also had a cloth in a bowl of iced water, absolute bliss, it cooled me down a treat.
CP2 (Cathcart 70k) – CP3 (Snowy River Way 106k)
Not long after leaving the checkpoint my blisters were starting to annoy me again so I stopped and put on a blister plaster. Rocco waited and we ran together. It got very hot and the wind was really picking up, at some times it felt like I was battling against the wind and making no progress. This was starting to affect Rocco and just after the Black Lake (~77k) I ended up pushing ahead. (I wouldn’t see him again until ~234k’s). I ran along for a long time on my own and then at one stage the road doubled back on itself and I seen Robyn, this was a great boost for me cause I thought she would have been long gone. I kept her within distance but wasn’t in any rush to catch her. I chatted to a few other runners that I passed along this section. I decided i’d sit down at the 100k mark cause that was a good milestone so the crew set up there. The next marker was the Big Dead Tree at 102k, I gave the tree a quick kiss and continued up the hill. It was then that Laura told me that Roybn was just behind, she had stopped at 102k. She caught up and we ran together.
CP3 (Snowy River Way 106k) – CP4 (Dalgety 146k/148k)
We met our crews at 106k & we put on your hi viz vests. We spent the next 14k having an absolute ball, chatting and loving the scenery, one of the highlights of the race for me despite the massive hill we were on. HALFWAY 120k – woohoo. Both crews were parked up under the massive wind turbines. Robyn changed into her long pants and I enjoyed an amazing cup of soup, mmmm. There was a great buzz around cause our first pacers were getting ready to join us at 8.30pm. We set off again and it wasn’t long after this that Sabina Hamaty (the eventual ladies winner) joined us, we had a nice chat with her along the way and then our first pacers joined us. Gillian joined Robyn & Laura joined me. We ran together with Robyn & Gillian setting the pace. It was great having the chats. My blisters started to really hurt here and in a timely fashion the medic drove by. He asked how we were going, I was determined to learn from GNW where I ignored my blisters, so I said I had some blisters and he said he’d meet us up the road. We told Robyn & Gillian we’d meet them at Dalgety. I hopped into the back of the medic’s car (he had it all set up with a sleeping bag, thanks Billy) and he checked out the blister on my right foot. He said he could syringe it, tape it then relook at it once we got to Dalgety. So I said go for it. The next 20 mins consisted of me nearly breaking poor Laura’s hand, lots of expletives and a lot of pain, especially when I told him to do the other foot too. We were so cold once we started running again, Billy had given me a hoodie which was awesome, Laura’s 4 layers were having to work hard to keep her warm. At 146k Ann & James were parked and told us it was another 2k to the CP. We made it to Dalgety & I got weighed (58kg down from 60kg the night before). I went into the hall & had a sit down & some soup. I was surprised to see Robyn was still there, given our long blister stop. Next minute I knew the colour drained from her face & she fainted and I got the fright of my life. Luckily she was in good hands. After a little while, I gave her a quick kiss and set off in an emotional state with my new pacer, Ann.
CP4 (Dalgety 146k/148k) – CP5 (Jindabyne 184k)
Not long after we started running Ann & I stopped, turned off our lights and took at good look at the stars, the sky was full of them and they were amazing. We also seen lots of shooting stars as we ran. We were shuffling along and knew the climb up the Beloka ranges was coming up. We seen Tim and he told me it was the 100 mile mark, yay. For some reason I thought I remembered the map saying that it was a 12k climb so I was prepared for that, in reality it was “only” a 5k climb. We passed a runner on the way up the ranges and it looked like the tiredness was hitting him hard. We seen his support crew who said we were at the top, we had a little cheer. It was somewhere along here where I had a major diva moment when my crew gave me soup (which they made at ~3am) and the noodles in it were crunchy! Not a happy runner (sorry again crew 🙁 ) Now it was mostly downhill into Jindabyne. It was also in this section that a tree looked like Yorkshire terrier, we seen a “‘UFO”/car lights coming across a crest in the road and lit up the sky, Ann felt roadkill/animal graze her leg – we found out later it was my soloman soft flask that had fallen out of her pack he he. Robyn also passed us, I was glad to see she was moving well and we had a little hug as she passed by. We got some incredible views as the sun came up. As we got to the roundabout in Jindabyne it was lucky that there was another runners support crew to point us in the right direction cause we would have definitely added some extra km’s. The run along the bike path was torture and seemed to go on forever. I was glad to get to the car where the crew put my in the front seat and told me to sleep for 5 minutes, I didn’t sleep but it was nice to be warm and relax for a few minutes. Ann had the unenviable task of patching up my feet again. I opted for another shoe change into my New Balance road runners, they were pretty much the only thing my feet would fit in.
CP5 (Jindabyne 184k) – CP6 (Perisher Valley 212k)
Laura joined me for this section and we made a very slow start trying to get comfortable in the runners, I knew it was never going to not hurt but it was about finding a happy medium. We had some laughs when I tried to use the poles for the first time, we tried lengthening them, shortening them, in the end my lack of coordination won and we gave up on them. Getting to Thredbo River meant I was back on a part of the course I was familiar with, having also run this on the recce weekend. I knew it was a long climb (13k – avg gradient of 5%) but I was ok with that cause it meant I would be able to walk & walking up hills wasn’t as sore on my feet. Laura attempted to get me to do a shuffle on a flat part, this resulted in me having a mini panic attack and crying… back to walking it is! James & Ann were now meeting us at 3k intervals, at one stage when we got to the car it resembled a car boot sale with all Ann’s clothes drying on the ground in the sun. I was getting frustrated that it was taking so long to get to the car every 3k, but wasn’t in a position to change it, I was also panicking about how the hell I was going to be able to continue on my wrecked feet for another 50k. The week before the race I sent a list of “reasons why I am doing this race” to my crew and Laura reminded me of these during one of the tough patches, it helped a lot to be reminded. Dougie drove past on his way to Charlotte’s Pass, unfortunately I was having a little cry. He offered us a meat pie, we declined and said we’d see him at the top. James & Ann met us just after the Guthega Road Turn off. I asked James if he wanted to join me for the next 3k so he got himself ready and we headed off. It was a long uphill slog but I was so excited that he joined me. Trevor Allen had just passed and was flying up the hill ahead of us. After 3k Ann was ready to go for her next pacing gig, everything was starting to get a bit much and making decisions was increasing difficult. The frustration of going so slow was really upsetting me so Ann completely took the reins and somehow put my into a trance like state and got me running (/shuffling) again from one pole to the next, she split it up into tiny bitesize sections and told me not to think about anything else only getting to the next pole, thank you Ann you were amazing and just what I needed. Oh and picking out shapes in the rocks on the side of the road is also fun to take your mind off your feet when you’re delirious with tiredness (although may attract suspicious looks from the rest of the crew when you tell them you are seeing a rock that looks like the front of a jumbo jet with lips! Lol).
CP6 (Perisher Valley 212k) – Finish (Charlotte’s Pass 240k)
A quick stop at Perisher and we were making slow but steady progress to Charlotte’s Pass. The trance like state resumed all the way to Charlotte’s Pass. Once we got there, I had a sit down but was eager to get this thing done. James had sorted a set of mandatory gear thanks to Gillian (thanks Gillian) so would be able to join us for the climb to the top. We got the gear checked off, I got weighed (59kg) and got an obligatory photo at the summit sign. We set out and still couldn’t work out which mountain was Kosciuszko so we asked Meredith, who was cycling by, she said to be prepared as it was around lots of bends and we would have to do a few loops around the mountain before reaching the top. I am so glad we met her along the way cause for some reason I had discounted this 9k out and back as going to be ok, it was a loooooong slow hike and our poor team resembled the walking dead but we kept slogging away. We got to see lots of friendly teams along the way, including Robyn’s team who were running down the mountain (WTF?!). Every time we turned a corner and seen another long uphill my reaction went a little something like this “no f*cking way, you motherf$%ker!”. Team Walking Dead would chuckle, I think if we didn’t chuckle we would all be crying and I had used up a fair share of the team tears. Andy Hewitt was a friendly face at Rawson’s Hut before the final push. Getting to the top, and seeing the iconic Strezleki Monument, was so exciting and I savoured the moment like Paul had said to do as we went through Charlotte’s Pass. The views were panoramic and superb. We shared the summit with Kevin Byrne and his crew.
Then it was time to turn around and navigate the tricky descent. My feet were hurting a little less, or more than likely adrenaline had kicked in so we were moving at a better pace. We met Susan Keith & her crew on her way up as we were descending, she was on the lookout for some No Doze! Susan is a tough cookie and has a way of pushing towards the end of these races that is admirable and I wasn’t in the least bit surprised when she ran past me further down the mountain, great effort Susan, I was so jealous that you were getting there quicker than me. We seen a bit of snow at the mountain side so I jumped in for a quick photo and another snap with Laura at Seaman’s Hut. We met Rocco & his crew as we made our way down, I was so happy to see him still going and gave them all teary hugs, I am so proud that Rocco kept going, you really are a superstar. Seeing Susan making progress made me speed up a bit, not to catch her, just to get there quicker so I upped the pace to something halfway between a shuffle and a skip. All of the other teams we met were so supportive of each other, you really got the feeling that everyone just wanted everyone else to succeed. As we approached the finish line we could hear the cheering, there is nothing that could describe crossing that finish line and seeing Paul, Diane and the NRGer’s. “Wow” wouldn’t even suffice.
Having looked at the course and runners of similar times to mine in other races I thought a time of ~34hrs was a good goal for me, with 32hrs in the realms of possibility if I had a REALLY good day. I reckon experience of this race (either by crewing or running it before) is a definite asset. I am very happy with my time of 36:36:08. Don’t worry it sounds weird to me too to say that i’ve run for 36hrs! Thank you body, you are amazing.
Frequently asked questions:
What did you eat?
I had GU Salted Caramel gels every hour. Banana’s, snakes, trail mix, soup, lots of water and powerade. Lemon cake was quickly discarded.
Where do you go to the toilet?
On the side of the road! At the start of the race I would find a suitable place to hunker down behind a tree/in the bush, at the end of the race it was right by the side of the road with the crew keeping “sketch”. Leave your dignity at the door, thank you!
Did you run for all that time?
Where possible on the flats and downhills yes. On the uphills, generally no. This is what makes ultra running so awesome!
Did you sleep?
Some people do, I didn’t/couldn’t.
Thanks to my wonderfully awesome crew, I COULD NOT have done it without you. I apologise for my antics and appreciate that you didn’t hold it against me. Your personal achievements on the weekend were admirable.
Thanks to Adam Connor for opening my eyes to these races, you always seem to be one of the first to sign up to these crazy races. Thank you also for being so forthcoming with information & tips it is SO appreciated.
Thanks to ThermaTech for our t-shirts, and Laura for organising them at such short notice.
Thanks to NRG (in particular Robyn & Rocco – and their crews) for all your support and well wishes on FaceBook and in person.
Thanks to the Race Directors, Paul & Diane for allowing me to participate in the race, for your personal touch at the Race Presentation and for my Akubra.
Over and out!