The Surf Coast Century – “Imagine running at the foot of some of Australia’s tallest coastal cliffs, while the low tide of the Southern Ocean laps the sand at your feet. Ahead lies a magical 100km trail run along Victoria’s wild surf coast and wildflower hinterland. This is a unique run with a promise that no two steps will be the same” The event page sums it up really well. The journey sounds majestic, completing it is brutal and awe inspiring too.
Taking a fall 3 days before a race is hardly the ideal final preparation but sometimes these things happen, one second I was turning a corner the next I was lying face down in the mud. You know you fall fast when your chest breaks your fall. I had landed heavily on the left arm, knee and my chest. An hour or two later the neck was throbbing, hard to turn and I am taking Anti Inflammatories.
Some Physio treatment Thursday settled the neck down but by that evening the left knee was very irritated as was my left arm. To top it off Late Friday I realise I have broken my Suunto Ambit watch when I fell on Wednesday. Thankfully Les the Legend, head of my support crew had his Suunto with him.
Upon arrival in Anglesea we head down to register, have a quick bite to eat before the race de brief. Back at the house Andrea, Les and myself, had a long discussion about Anti Inflamamatories and the risks of racing on them. I never intended on doing this, the risk especially over 100km is not worth it as far as I am concerned. So I went to bed praying I wouldn’t wake up sore.
The alarm goes off and I started making my breakfast, thought it was strange that no one else was getting up only to realise my phone had somehow switched to the Tongan time zone. So back to bed I went, good thing was, I wasn’t sore. Fingers crossed I fell back to sleep. At 5am everyone’s alarms went off, we all laughed about my early alarm, had breakfast and headed for the start line.
It was cool but not cold or I didn’t think it was anyway. There was nervous energy all around, the sun was coming up and before you had time to think we were lining up and on our way.
Leg 1: 0–21km (Anglesea to Torquay)
Spectacular doesn’t do this part of the course any justice. Sand running isn’t high on my favourites list but I would run along here any time. There was rock hopping, running through tidal rivers, stairs, some soft sand and lots of hard sand too. I could have run along here all day. I felt strong, my pace easy. The plan here was easy enough a light breakfast with a Vespa, start slow and easy get the blood flowing and start taking on a little bit of fuel around the 1.5 hour mark.
I came into the first main checkpoint and can I just say my support crew led by Les were amazing. Before I knew it my shoes were off feet were washed dried and new socks and inner soles in. I was literally covered in Sunscreen, bottles filled, quick bite to eat and I was on my feet and away again. Knowing that would be the last time I would sit down till I crossed the finish line.
Leg 2: 21 – 49km (Torquay to Anglesea)
Leaving the checkpoint, the dry feet felt awesome however my left knee/ITB had stiffened from sitting. This is why in Ultras people say avoid the Chair of Death sit too long and your race could all be over. I dropped my pace, found my easy rhythm and slowly ran my way back into the race. Leg 2 although not as awe inspiring as leg one still had it all, fantastic views, flowing single tracks. It was undulating rather than hilly, had some mountain bike trails and easy runnable sections too.
For the best part of this sections Nick Cimdins (Dandenongs Trail Runners) and I past each other a few times. Around the 43km mark Nick pulled up alongside me for the final time before he too, took off like a bat out of hell. I would only see Nick briefly at Anglesea after this, as I arrived and he headed out.
Somewhere late in this leg I became very aware of pain in the front of the left ankle joint and as I continued the left knee pain also returned. Till this point my pace had been steady and I was running really strong. I again throttled back trying to find an easy rhythm, as I progressed I found it would settle if I walked but would return gradually as I ran.
I came into Anglesea just over the 5 hour mark, right where I wanted to be time wise. Mentally I felt great, physically everything was fine except for the left ankle and knee joints. Again my crew were amazing. I poured some bone broth in a cup, it was a welcome taste after having a bit of dark chocolate and tailwind for the best part of the last 35km. Threw down some salt tablets, swig of both salt and fresh water. Told Les the knee and ankle weren’t great and realistically I was probably going to be chasing the Sub 12 now despite my strong first half, and headed out once again.
Leg 3: 49 -77km (Anglesea to Moggs Creek)
As I ran along the path alongside the Anglesea river. I felt strong and the pace was easy again. I knuckled down and kept moving then I hit the bridge. My knee didn’t appreciate this, crawling on your hands and knees is less than ideal after 50km of running especially on a grumpy knee. I was determined I would not break and so I pushed on. It was becoming quite clear that I could run for a while till the pressure built up in the ankle and knee and then had to walk it out. Sub 12 hour was always one of my goals and I knew I was well on target as long as I kept moving forward, there could be no rests, I would have to run when I could and walk hard and fast for the rest to make it.
Everyone says Leg 3 is the toughest leg and it really is tough not because the hills are brutal or massively steep but for those running the 100km you already have 50km of running in your legs when you start it and for those running the 2 or 4 person relay it’s a case of start strong and hold on till it’s over.
This section of the course sees you move inland away from the Surf Coast and into the hinterland and wildflowers of the Otway’s and is beautiful. The day was really warming up by the time I was in the midst of this leg so the unmanned water station at 60km was a welcome relief. It was a chance to drink some plain water, pour some over my head and also dilute my mix of tailwind. Shortly after this I heard a familiar voice in Andrea Valvo my training partner on some of my long runs and part of my support crew for the first 50km. I tried to go with her but her legs were too fresh and pace was too strong.
In my head I kept rechecking how I was travelling. I never lost focus on my goal and nor did I think I would not make the sub 12. To get through the aid stations quicker I had been eating as I walked enabling me to just top up my fluids at then grab more snacks for the next leg and keep moving. At the 70km I knew I had about 4 hours till the 12 hour cut off. I needed to make the 77km checkpoint with 3 or more hours up my sleeve to pull this off, it was only 7km and I could do this with my eyes closed normally. That 7km is a blur of movement. I just got on with moving forward, walking, shuffling jogging as long as I was going forward I knew I would be fine.
I arrived at Moggs creek, Les grabbed my water bottle filled it up, someone handed me my salt tablets and I washed them down with salt water, polished off the last of my bone broth and Josie grabbed me some Chicken noodle soup. Think she thought I was crazy when I threw the noodles on the ground and just drank the liquid, couldn’t think of anything worse than trying to stomach noodles after 76km but the salty liquid was heaven. Josie offered me my light perhaps she was using some reverse psychcology on me but this really helped lock me in to my goal of the sub 12. I made it very clear to everyone I would be done and see them all before 6:30pm and headed out once again.
Leg 4: 77- 100km (Moggs creek to Anglesea via Aireys inlet)
Leg 4 the final leg, the homestretch. This section saw you starting in the bush and some final hills before tackling the second bridge and a flatter finish. Running along the cliff tops and a couple beautiful stretches along the beach with a few stairs just to make it interesting.
I was a man on a mission I had just on or over 3 hours to cover 23km. 5km into this leg the watch dies all I am left with is the time of day. I found out later I chose the wrong setting when I set it up that morning. Watch or no watch I just had to keep moving forward. The ankle by this stage was shot downhill was no better than uphill. On the flats I would try to push to stay ahead of the clock. I had visions of the second bridge being like a rock climbing expedition, it was nowhere near that bad, but it’s fair to say the first bridge suits the shorter runners and the second is easier for the taller runners.
I was tired but still very alert. I knew this as I had given Les three simple questions for me to answer at the main checkpoints, I guess you could call it his white towel. If I couldn’t answer them then my fight was over no matter what I said. At the 77km checkpoint I rattled off all three questions and answers before he finished the first one. The knee and ankle wanted out, the rest of the body and mind were far from done and fighting strong. By this stage I was playing cat and mouse with two runners we were all taking it in turns to drag each other along. One girl was running the second 50 and had a solid pace going. I knew if I could keep her in my sights or even better stay with her I could make it home. I think at one point I frustrated her because she commented that my walking pace was as quick as her running pace and no matter how hard she had tried she couldn’t shake me. We passed the light house and found ourselves heading down some stairs shortly after to the beach.
Many people probably hated this section I personally loved it. The sand took the pressure of the ankle joint so this time when I got the legs going the ankle didn’t jam up. The legs were still strong and I passed many runners in this final section. Another set of stairs, organisers love throwing these sort of challenges in late in a run. A little bit further on Les comes round a corner, and that’s a welcome relief as I know the finish line is just around the corner, we run down a few more tracks and hit the final beach. I turn back up to follow the Anglesea River, spectators are everywhere clapping cheering and then you can see it the finish chute. The crowd spurs you on as you run through the chute and across the finish line and celebrate the achievement. The roar from the crowd was enormous. With a quick shake of race organiser Sam Maffets hand the 1 litre beer stein was mine. Pretty comical as I had just raced 100km for a beer stein when I almost never drink beer, a brilliant memento all the same. A couple of finish line photos then my awesome crew found me a chair and some warm clothes. They wanted to get me home, I just wanted a coffee.
Taking on a challenge like the SCC you really need a great support crew, an event like this is pretty tough and stressful on them too and it’s very important to have the right people in your corner. My achievement was only possible because of Les Corson, Andrea Valvo, Josie Salahoras, Susie Viete and Sasha Oo and for that I will be forever grateful.
So for the big questions
Will I do it again?
Sub 12 hours, 11:43:35 to be precise in my first 100km ultra marathon only 7 months after running my first ever Ultra marathon which was a little less than half this distance is a fantastic achievement. However I am still a youngster when it comes to Ultra marathons and have much to learn, so Yes I will definitely consider having another crack.
Did my Fat adapted Low carb approach work?
I haven’t spoken much about it in this race report, I will leave for a separate blog but Yes it worked for me. I estimate my in race calorie consumption was between 800 and 900 calories. I never mentally crashed, physically I had no cramping issues just an inflamed knee and ankle which could easily have been caused by the fall a few days earlier. My energy levels were stable and I was able to handle the heat really well. All of this said I would make some changes for next time too.
For those Interested in learning more about the Low Carb High Fat – OFM Approach to sporting performance you might be interested in the two links below.
Low Carb High Fat – High Performance