Coast to Kosciuszko Race Report – December 2016

I started writing this race report oblivious to the fact one of my beautiful crew members, Ann, was not going to be here to read it. Tragically, just over a week after crewing for C2K Ann passed away after being knocked off her bike on a training ride. I decided to finish it so that I can read back and relive some of our memories.

Me & Ann at the Start

Some info may not be totally accurate cause I have a terrible memory!

I wanted to do this race again purely because I enjoyed the experience so much last year. I wasn’t going back because I wasn’t happy with my time or cause I felt I had something to prove but I did think that I could do a better time. Last year I suffered really badly with blisters, something that always plays a part when I do these longer distance races. I had taken advise and prepared my feet better & had practiced taping them up on all my long runs so I thought I had done all possible to sort this issue or at least not have it affect my race so much. It’s hard to put into words what makes this race so special perhaps it’s the shared goal of everyone that is involved & everyone’s willingness to help others achieve that goal (whether it be other runners giving you advise, crews giving up their whole weekends for their runner with no real reward, crews helping other runners).

On the week of the race I had to fly to Melbourne for work, this led to some not ideal food choices cause I was out of routine but a few days before I read the blog of another ultra-runner on Facebook that said that for the really long races your body would use anything as fuel so that eased my mind a bit.

A week before the race one of my crew, Alan Wheat, pulled his hamstring so wouldn’t be able to join us L. After a quick panic I recruited Joe Ward to come on the adventure, having done the race & crewed it before, I felt lucky that he would be joining us at such short notice leaving his wife with their newborn baby (thanks Emma & baby Nia), he would meet us at Dalgety. James & Ann had crewed for me last year and knew what to expect & worked together like a dream team.

Crew Stop Plan – Every 5k for as long as possible, this worked well for most of the race, but we were flexible depending on how I was going

Food Plan – A GU Salted Caramel gel every hour(ish), then snacks on top of that (Fruit loaf was most popular, potatoes, snakes, soup, trail mix, peanut m&ms, crisps)

Drink Plan – Water & Powerade, when thirsty

Sleep Plan – Be flexible. I didn’t feel too tired this year, I few times I got tired but never enough that I felt I needed to sleep

Race Day:

We made our way to the beach & James showed me a quick video that Dad had sent to send good luck 🙂 – Turns out Ann & James had gathered messages from lots of friends and they showed these to me throughout the race. As I stood on the beach, I looked at my 2 gel packets, one said “do something epic today” – totes approps! I think the other one said ‘pain is temporary’ – whatever gel packet! We got lots of photos taken & after temporarily losing my shit cause I got my feet wet we were lined up and Paul was counting down & off we went 🙂

Team Chantelle at the start minus Joey (James, Ann, Chantelle)
NRG Starters @ the Start

Start to Crew Rendezvous Point @ Pericoe Rd 24k

Tim & I had planned to run together for as much as possible so we settled into a nice rhythm early on. It’s always so good to finally get running, I find the taper weeks before a race hard mentally cause I just want to get started and get it done. My plan was to do the first part of the race (up to Jindabyne at 184k) at a similar, if not slower, pace than last year. Not long after starting Tim & I started running with Pam Muston and her words of advice really fitted with this plan including telling us to walk all the hills especially early in the race. So that was our plan from then on. Luckily for me Tim was able to spot the hills a bit better and when I didn’t see them he gave me a gentle nudge to walk. Along this section we also ran with Shaun Kaesler who apologised in advance for his swearing, ha ha we quickly let him know I was Irish so I would give him a run for his money and I was later named gutter mouth 🙂 Coming to the rendezvous point we walked up the (tiny) hill and saw our crews for the first time. I grabbed a bottle of water and a gel and continued to run as Ann ran after me spraying me with sunscreen (every second counts – NOT :-)!).

Pericoe Rd 24k – CP1 Rocky Hall ~53k – Total Running Time: 5:47 (Time of Day: 11:17am Friday)

It’s pretty easy running along this section & because we’d agreed to meet our crews every 5k it was nicely broken up & all NRG crews would give us encouragement as they went past. We reached the first marathon mark at about 4:43 which I knew was 23 mins slower than last year – sticking to the plan so all good. I reminisced a lot and Tim was probably sick of me saying “I remember this point last year we did this/that”. At Rocky Hall I took the opportunity to use a proper loo & said a quick hi to Blue Dog.

CP1 Rocky Hall ~53k – CP2 Cathcart 70k – Total Running Time: 8:15 (Time of Day: 1:45pm Friday)

A couple of crew members were suspiciously tampering with the mannequins as we went past 🙂 We chatted to Pam again & Susan at points along here before coming to Big Jack (a 6k climb) where you are allowed a crew member to join you.

Arriving at Big Jack with Tim & Susan ~57k
Start of Big Jack with Ann

Again this year, it was Ann that joined me and we caught up on all that was going on in the crews day & how I was feeling. She said we were powering up the hill and smashing our pace from last year- yay! Once we go to the top I put on a quick spray of sunscreen and headed off towards Cathcart. Along this section the wind had started to pick up and it was getting cold, last year it was so hot on this section & my crew had prepared a lovely bowl of ice cold water with a cloth so that I could wash my face and cool myself down, this year I was running into Cathcart and worrying that the crew would have this ready and I wouldn’t use it, instead they had warm water ready – super! Tim & I had agreed that we would have a sit down at Cathcart but the length of the sit down wasn’t fully agreed, Susan was also thinking about stopping but then something happened with her crew and she ended up continuing on (we didn’t see her for the rest of the race). I sat down and the crew looked after me, I changed my shoes, socks & then Ann wiped my legs and arms cause they were really dusty. A quick spray of sunscreen and I started to get antsy that we were sitting too long so I shouted to Tim’s crew to see how long Tim would be & I think Rocco said another 5mins, I thought about it and said that was too long so I think Tim compromised and joined me, we both took the opportunity to go to an actual toilet (it was the last one we’d be seeing for a while) and off we headed.

CP2 Cathcart 70k – CP3 Snowy River Way 106k – Total Running Time: 12:50 (Time of Day: 6:20pm Friday)

Again it was very windy along here & pretty cold so I told the crew that I’d need a jacket, I’d packed my gear much better this year and had all my spare tops labelled in a large Ziploc bag, Ann held the bag out and I pointed out which jacket I wanted to wear, that worked well 🙂 I ran with Tim for nearly all of this section.

Me & Tim ~80k
Who said crewing is all hard work?

We both felt like it took ages to get to the Black Lake. At this stage other crews were starting to spread out & the hype was dissipating & we both went a bit quiet as we realised it was a long way ahead. Once we got to the Monaro Hwy we were greeted by very friendly volunteers including Kieron Blackmore & they cheered us on. Last year I stopped at the 100k mark, this year I decided not to and the crew met me at the Big Dead Tree (102k), I kissed the tree & then sat down for a while & had some soup and potatoes. Joey was there and it was a lovely boast to see him. I left before Tim & and ran on my own for a while before he caught up.

Big Dead Tree ~102k

CP3 Snowy River Way 106k – CP4 Dalgety 148k – Total Running Time: 18:20 (Time of Day: 11:50pm Friday)

We met our crews at Snowy River Way and put on our Hi-Viz’s. Not long after turning off the unsealed road and onto the asphalt I somehow tripped and fell to the ground in slow motion. I had cuts on my leg, elbows, hands & I’d ripped my racing shorts (NOOO!). Tim helped me up and moved me to the side of the road, Pam’s daughter was the first to come across us and she came over and put a plaster on my elbow, I told her it was all good that I’d get the rest of them sorted when my crew came along (Ann was a doctor). Thanks Pam’s daughter :-). Not long after my crew came along and quickly cleaned up the blood that had run down my leg (so hardcore!) I was on my way and chasing Tim down a hill. None of the cuts hurts which was awesome (the next day my chest was pretty sore – I think this was the reason). I caught up to Tim we ran with Brett Easton for a bit before he stopped to meet his crew. We also met up with Pam again & she shared lots of pearls of knowledge as well as telling me I wasn’t standing up straight. As we climbed up to the windmills I wondered how Robyn & I had run this part last year.

Arriving at the Windmills with Tim & Pam ~120k

Our crews had set themselves up at the top of the hill (120k) and we sat down and I had soup, re-did the taping on my feet, changed my socks and t-shirt, put on my thermal top, and then started to get agitated at how long we were spending here. When we were leaving we knew it wouldn’t be long until we were joined by our pacers (you are allowed to have a crew member run with you once the sun sets). I was joined by Ann, Tim was joined by Adrian. Along this section we bumped into Shaun Kaesler again & had a bit of banter. We also came across Pam again. There was a very funny moment when we were running along and I saw Adrian standing on the side of the road which was strange & then noticed Tim down in the ditch on the side of the road with his high vis vest on (but light off) taking a ‘comfort stop’, he’d decided this would be a good idea after overtaking a bunch of us who all then ran past with head torches on which reflected off his vest, LOL. My Garmin says I had a stop at 140k, I can’t remember this & can only assume it was a blister stop. Ann & I ran into Dalgety and I got weighed (57kg – 0.3kg difference from the day before). Last year I went into Dalgety Hall this year Joey waited at the car outside and said there was no need for me to go in so I had some soup at the car and applied some anti-chafe cream and we were ready to go.

 CP4 Dalgety 148k – CP5 Jindabyne 184k – Total Running Time: 23:51 (Time of Day: 5:21am Saturday)

Joey was rearing to go & full of chat, I couldn’t get a word in edgeways, he was very positive and encouraging. Joey and I met briefly on a GNW training run and then ended up running about 50k of the race together, we had such a good time that I had no hesitations about heading off into the night with someone I’ve only met twice, runners eh :-)! We ran for most of the night section with our head torches turned off (except when we heard crew cars), I cannot describe how amazing it was to be running under the stars, once the moon disappeared over the Beloka Ranges we could see the milky way and millions more stars appeared. At one stage I was having a pee on the side of the road (this is a regular occurrence when the sun goes down and the temperature drops) and I looked up and the sky was alive with stars, I shouted to Joey that it was the best view I’d seen from a toilet. Later in the night I nearly scared the life out of Joey when he was mid-sentence & I screamed and pointed at the sky, I’d seen a shooting star but maybe I should have thought of another way to break the news! Again, my Garmin says I had a break @ 153k for 13mins– can only assume it was a another blister stop. We had another funny moment when out of nowhere I said “I just saw a Storm trooper”, yip I honestly thought I’d seen a storm trooper on the side of the road, what’s worse Joey turned around to look for it – I’d been running for almost 24hrs I had reasons to be hallucinating I’m a bit worried that he ACTUALLY thought I had, lol. Joey had his phone with him so we turned on lots of tunes and actually danced our way through the night, apart from when got to the hills cause I was still sticking to the plan of walking them. We were still yo-yoing with Tim & his crew, at one stage we tried to scare Adrian & Robyn cause we thought they couldn’t see us cause we had no lights but we failed to realise how loud we were and they had heard us coming! The Beloka climb was harder than I remembered – longer and steeper! Once we got to the top @ 166k I had another long blister stop where Ann stuck needles into my blisters and re-taped my feet & Joey told me to take a Panadol so I did (I’ve never used any painkillers before and they really helped). I definitely did a lot more running in this section than last year so I was happy about that. I used the loo’s at the entrance to Jindabyne car park and danced our way along the bike path where Pam came into view. We ran along behind her and her pacer and said a quick hello before she headed off & I stopped for a rest.

CP5 Jindabyne 184k – CP6 Perisher 219k – Total Running Time: 28:50 (Time of Day: 10:20am Saturday)

James showed me Lexi’s video message and that cheered me up. When I hopped up out of the chair the pain in my feet was unreal and I had major fears for the rest of the race, I could barely walk & I still had more than a marathon to go! Ann calmed me down and after hobbling for a while she got me running again.

Ann brought speaker so we listened to some tunes as we watched a beautiful sunrise over Lake Jindabyne. Along here Ann told me that when she was in Coles getting supplies she noticed they had a UK section & had brought along some Club Orange (a fizzy drink from Ireland), yay! Despite Ann’s amazing company my mind was becoming consumed with blister pain so we stopped at 189k to sort them out again, we met Kieron Blackmore here again and he stopped and took the picture below.

Blister Stop – Why am I smiling?

Joey had brought his walking poles so when he offered them I decided to try them again (I tried using them last year at about the same stage in the race last year when I was ‘running’ with Laura and my brain couldn’t coordinate them so I gave up). This time I used them to take the pressure off my feet and tried to focus my mind on the noise of the poles hitting the ground. This seemed to work and I felt I was moving ok. We could see Tim & Rocco again in front of us on the climb and Ann used this to as an incentive to get me moving a bit faster, we passed them out but then I felt another blister and when the medic Matt drove past we stopped to see if he had any suggestions. He put tape between my toes and taped me up again. Ann decided this was an awesome time to have a chat to Matt, I had other ideas and told them we needed to hurry up, oops. When we started moving again I could still feel the pain but I knew I just had to put up with it and there was nothing more that could be done with them. Ann tried her voodoo mind tricks and was trying to convince me to focus my mind on my body from the waist up and ignore my feet, I tried really hard and it helped sometimes.

 

Me & Ann ~206k

At one point I needed to pee and used the car as my shield but then had a moment of clarity about what I was doing and shouted to the crew “I’m pissing beside the driver’s door. Sorry to whoever’s driving!!”. James joined me on the downhill section at about 206k and we tackled the long uphill to Smiggin Holes where he showed me my friend Karen’s message & I had some of the Club Orange that Ann had bought. Then Joey joined me to Perisher.

 CP6 Perisher 219k – Finish Charlotte Pass 240k – Total Running Time: 33:15 (Time of Day: 2:45pm Saturday)

At Perisher I saw John Doughty, from NRG, and I was really happy that he seen me smiling and I was happy that I was moving much better than I was at this point last year. Joey put the music back on & James had added some music to a playlist which included some Dubliner’s songs that made me totes emotional. I explained to Joey that one of Ann’s methods of distraction last year was to pick out shapes in the rocks along the side of the mountain. Joey was all-in & we started spotting shapes all over the place, so much fun.  Joey was also trying to figure out how I was walking so fast up the hills, this is another technique I learned from Ann & it involves using “invisible poles” in reality it just means standing up more than my usual hunched-ness & using your arms more. Not long after we left Perisher I got a shooting pain in the front of my right foot (where the foot meets the leg) and I was having real issues moving it, even walking was hard.  I could feel that area of my foot hurting from ages before (I think it might have been from crunching my toes to try and reduce the pain of the blisters and I might have stressed that area). When James & Ann came past we said there was a bit of pain and that we’d meet them at the bottom on the hill, Joey & I meant the hill around the corner but James & Ann thought we meant the bottom of the hill – 3k away! This was made worse by the fact that we could see the car getting further and further away and there was no phone reception (we tried) to call them to tell them to come back).

Running with Joey ~217k

I hadn’t realised that we’d passed Tim at Perisher so it was a surprise when he came past with Adrian but there was nothing they could do so Joe & I watched as they disappeared into the distance too. We tried a few strategies (walking backwards, walking in a limp-like fashion, squatting while holding onto the railings at the side of the road) but nothing worked and we had to continue trudging until we got to James & Ann where I took a Panadol & Ann rubbed voltaren gel on the offending area. We continued plugging away and before long we were at Charlotte Pass. I got weighed here again, I think I was the same weight again. My hands were fairly swollen (they had been like that for most of the race!) so the medic told me that I was only to sip water from now on and not to gulp it. I headed off towards the trail as the rest of the crew got their mandatory gear checked. I was joined by Eddie, one of the volunteers, that was joining us cause he hadn’t been to the top of Kosci and wanted to join a crew, we’d agreed to this earlier in the race. I chatted to him and then Ann caught up to us. James & Joey were pretty far behind but Ann said not to worry that they’d catch us eventually. I remembered how endless this trek was last year but this year I was moving much better and something had happened & I had been able to switch my brain off from thinking about the blisters, this was an incredible feeling and I’ve not had it before so I was taking advantage of it while it lasted (it lasted til the end!). Eddie was very encouraging and it was nice to watch him taking in the scenery and it made me appreciate it more. Joey & James caught up to us and we were motoring along. It wasn’t as hateful as it was last year. I took the opportunity to go for a pee at Rawson’s Pass and we carried on, we Pam & her crew coming down. I love how all teams are so encouraging of other teams on this out and back, it’s a great reflection of ultra running people. We hit the snowy patch (evidence below):

Full Crew at the Snow ~230k

It was pretty slow going over this part, everyone was being hyper aware given that we were all working on limited sleep. As we got off the snowy patch we could see Tim standing on top of the monument :-). That meant we were close too and after hugging them as they made their way down then it was our moment on the top, I climbed up and lifted the Irish flag, then James told me it was the wrong way round and it was an Ivory Coast flag that way, after fixing that I lifted the flag again :-). A few photos and it was time to get this race finished.

One of my fave photos ever!
Irish Contingent at the Top of Kosci

We tackled the snow again & Ann went in front of me & made footprints for me to use to walk down cause it was quite steep and the drop of the side was not worth thinking about (being Canadian she was clearly in her element & knew what she was doing). My team had said that after we went across the snow again I could have another panadol, it was now at least 3 minutes since we had left the snow and there was no sign of this happening so I shouted out “ Give me the drugs” apparently this gave the crew & Eddie a good laugh. Joey loved telling all the tourists just how far we had run and where we had come from. Again, we were moving at a much faster pace and I was running down the mountain which didn’t happen last year, this was making it hard for James who isn’t a runner (and also not used to carrying gear) and Ann who was carrying lots of my mandatory gear as well as loads of water. Joey was very encouraging and was giving me updates of possible finish times based on the pace I was running at, this was great cause while I was happy that I was going to get a PB it planted the seed that I could get a faster time than I was imagining. It meant, however, that James probably wouldn’t finish with us which seemed quite harsh to me 🙁 but I’d spoken to him on the descent and he said to just go. We also dropped Eddie who kept up with us for a while despite wearing a pair of jeans! So once we go to the flatter section I started running faster, it felt so amazing to be able to run properly, I felt so proud of my body to be able to do that after 30+ hrs. I kept asking how far it was to go and Joey was telling me to turn off the scientist mind (the one that focuses on numbers) but I just really wanted to know so that I could prepare for it. Once I heard 1k I was very happy so I pushed on (my last 3k’s were 5:53m/km, 5:42m/km, 5:32m/km – pretty stoked about that), all of a sudden the finish line came into view and I was crossing the finish line. I got massive hugs from Paul & Diane and Tim & his crew. WHAT A RACE! I’ll be back for more…

Podium Ladies – Chantelle, Pam & Susan
Obligatory Akubra Photo
NRG C2K Finishers 2016

Things I did better this year/Things to remember for next time-

  • I was a lot more relaxed about the race (mostly because I knew I could do the distance, I was still aware that it was going to be bloody hard)
  • I focused less on looking my watch – which led to less stress in the crew cause I wasn’t annoyed if they were a km or two away from where they said they were going to be
  • Having experienced crew – they were super organised – knew my needs/how to deal with me, knew what to expect
  • Spray sunscreen is still great
  • Panadol rocks!
  • Bepanthen Cream is awesome chafe cream & the glove was a great idea (thanks Adam Connor)
  • My gear was much more organised this year so it made it easier for the crew to find it. Photos below:
  • Very Handy – My Essentials Bag – The Crew had to have this at all times
    Spare Gear – Neatly Packed and Labelled
    Spare Gear Box – List of Contents

    Fishing Tackle Box mascarading as a medical kit – A bigger one would have been ideal but this did the job