12hrs 24mins and 3rd in my age category, 40-49. A very unexpected result.
The Surf Coast Century ended up being a very special race indeed. The lead up to this 100km was full of highs, lows, doubts and a few tears. Although I was excited, I still couldn’t believe I was doing another 100km.
I signed up to this race 4 days after my first 100km, The North Face 100 which I ran on 16th May. Still riding off the high of completing such an epic race, there was something about this distance that had me hooked. I felt comfortable out there, the solitude was welcomed and my ability to push my body into a zone that it had never yet been in before was exciting but also very daunting.
Leading up to the Surf Coast Century I knew what to expect from a 100km run. I knew I had to refuel regularly and I knew at around the 60km mark this was going to be the toughest of the race, not to mention the last 5km when the finish line seems as far away as when I was standing at the start line.
After completing TNF100, my body took a while to recover. Recovery went something like this:
2 weeks complete rest – no running, no cycling but did include rolling & Yin stretch classes
4 weeks – Half Marathon, one of the hardest I have ever done. Body just didn’t have the ‘get up and go’
5 weeks – Surf Coast Marathon – Hard. First 27km were mentally really hard; both body and mind were fighting each other and neither had the energy to move. From 27km, it did get better
9 weeks – Trail Plus You Yangs Trail Series, 30km. Hooray! I felt normal again, I felt like I could run without hurt and run physically and mentally strong, I was back
This now left me with 2 months of solid training and the question I kept asking myself was ‘am I going to be ready and strong enough to do another 100km?’ Time would be the only thing that could answer this not to mention my coach who believed I could do this.
Training was anything but easy. Sessions included fast hill repeats both up and down, weighted walks and sand running because this 100km was going to be different – not so many stairs and steps but sand, rock climbing and water – I was now coastal not in the mountains so the terrain in which I trained in now was slightly different.
My weighted walks with my vest weighting 16kg and then a backpack of supplies weighting up to 2kg meant in these sessions I was carrying a third of my body weight. The training days for these sessions were anywhere from 4-7hrs with either single or consecutive day training sessions. The body at times felt fatigued not to mention the soreness felt in my feet but this was nothing compared to what I would feel come race day.
As I drove down to Anglesea the day before the race, I was extremely nervous actually the whole week I had been more than nervous, I was anxious. I still couldn’t believe the day was here, what seemed like a dream only months ago was now a reality times 2, I was doing this all again. I can’t really put into words this feeling, all I know is I just had to get to the start line and run. Put one foot in front of the other and get to each checkpoint until eventually I made it to the finish line, 100km away. Like everything in life, days come and go and this day was not going to go on forever, there was going to be an end – I just didn’t know how long it was going to take me to get there.
Nature was certainly on our side come race day. I had been honing in on my weather skills days before and felt confident the conditions were going to be good, maybe a little warm. The forecast was minimum 8 maximum 16.
I woke up around 4:30am with the gun due to go off at 6:30am. I started the day with breakfast, well technically two as I need to feel satisfied when I get to the start line. I ate:
Now that I was topped up with real food, time to prepare the last of the race fuel before heading to the start line. My Tarian husband, Zac and I got there around 6:10am. Not too early as I didn’t want to be waiting around in the cool morning air but early enough so I could catch up with fellow runners and soak up the atmosphere. A few moments of peace with my thoughts is needed too to visualise the day ahead and talk positive to myself; no room for negative thoughts on a run such as this.
BANG! The race had started and we were heading along the beach for an out and back before the race really begun. The sand was hard, the tides were low and although I knew my feet were going to get wet, I felt confident the wet shoes and socks were going to be kind – no blisters, no rubbing, no issues.The advice I was given prior to starting the race was:
Don’t get ahead of yourself at the start and run fast; run within yourself at a slow and steady pace
Don’t get caught up & start racing the people doing the relay – they are only doing 1 leg, you are doing 4
Change your shoes at the 21km mark – the first check point. They will be wet and you will welcome dry socks and shoes
Advice worth listening too and I can’t tell you how good my feet felt when I ran off after the 21km check point with fresh socks and shoes. I felt like they were on a cloud wrapped up in a hot water bottle of comfort. This happiness filled my thoughts for about 3km. Its the small things that can make quite a difference to a race.
The next 28km was basically along the surf coast track and I was running well and at a pace I was happy with. I took a fall at around 33km and thank goodness it was on the flat with a tree there to help stabilize me. Just a few grazes on the knee and hand but nothing that was causing problems. I had said to myself before the race that if I can keep a 6:30 pace I would finish in the light. I was on plan and feeling surprising well. I was working my way to the 49km checkpoint and almost half way. When I got to the check point, I felt like a rock star, so much support from everyone which almost made me sprint to my support team in excitement – if you ever needed a lift, this was the place to get it.
This was one of the quickest transitions I have ever done and maybe even too long but with a refill of the water bladder, a swig of coke, a Gatorade in hand and a salad sandwich I was ready to see what the second half of the race had in store for me. I knew leg 3 was going to be the most challenging – with ‘Heartbreak Hill’ ahead of me, I kind of knew what I was going to face but I love hills, hills are my friends. I left transition with a friend, he was having a bit of a horror day due to injury but kept me honest and on my tail – he was one of the reasons I was so focused, thanks Dean.
At around 66km I took another superman dive into the trails this time landing on my hip but I just got up, dusted myself off and carried on. Falling is a strange thing. You hit the ground so hard and I guess its shock that gets you back up and running. I was aware my hip was bleeding but hey no pain, so no time to worry about it. Falling often means you are lacking concentration and lack of concentration is caused by lack of food. So here I ate more, a at One bar did the trick and I was running my way to the next transition point – 77km.
My support team were nothing short of amazing. Ensuring I left each station with adequate fuel, motivation and belief was there job and they did it so well. I cannot thank them enough. Endurance running is an individual sport but you can’t do it without those around you.
Before reaching the last check point, I had already had a few breakdowns – out loud crying with no tears, maybe I wasn’t hydrated enough??? Thankfully I was by myself quite a lot so other runners didn’t hear me whaling out loud – its important to release this not bottle it up. I don’t listen to music while I run, the trails & nature provide enough of a soundtrack to keep me occupied although the only song I can say I had in my head was Taylor Swift, Shake – who knows where that came from. I talked to myself out loud, gave myself words of encouragement to keep going and telling myself that I can ‘do this’. I was strong and I was going to finish. “Lets do this” was said a lot.
Along the way I came across my coach who kept telling me I was in a ‘good position’ and all I had to do was hunt down a few women in front of me and I might end up on the podium. WHAT! Was I really racing this well? From this point, game on. I was determined and determined that I was not going to put my headlamp on, I was going to finish this race in the light.
The worse part of the race was coming up to the unofficial check point of 86km. I knew I had to climb under a bridge and although I heard everyone say, its not as bad as the bridge climb at the 51km mark I didn’t think it was going to be as bad as it was. Maybe my mental state made a mountain out of a mull hill but this bridge/rock climb put me in a foul mood. By the time I saw my crew at 86km I think I had steam coming out of my ears. My quads were so sore and my downhill running was being greatly affected by this, my knees hurt and mentally I just felt tired.
They say ‘redbull gives you wings’ and although I NEVER drink this stuff, something told me to have a few sips to just to get me to the finish line. There is time and place for these drinks and this was the time and the place. So with my wings about to flutter, I went onto run the last 14km to home.
I felt I was running strong, well that is what I was telling myself. Focus. Run. Focus. Run. As I heard cars I knew I was close to Urquharts Bluff and as I did the rocky descent I came across volunteers who said ‘only 6km to go’. My support crew were once again here to give me some last words of encouragement, I didn’t expect to see them but was so happy I did. Zac decided to go above and beyond and run with me along with my sister in law for about 1km. At this point, I couldn’t turn my head to look at them, all I could do was look forward. We chanted ‘I am as strong as a buffalo and as fast as a cheetah’ and I tried to cry but couldn’t. I wanted to stop but not stop, it hurt, my body really hurt but I just had to keep moving forward, look for the arrows up the stairs and get to the finish line before the sun went down.
As I walked up the stairs, yep nothing left in the legs now I came across two supporters who said, only 2.5km to go – what, really, yippee! No it wasn’t this distance at all, that was too good to be true, in fact it was 4km to go so once again I just had to keep moving. I ran with a fellow 100km solo runner who if I could remember his name and number I would give him the biggest thank you. He said, lets just keep jogging and we will get there. And that we did. I lost him with about 1km to go, I just couldn’t run up those hills but the sun was setting and I needed to get to that finish line. I refused to turn on my headlamp, I had eaten my carrots I could see in the dark so with around 700m to go it got dark but I kept running. A small bit of sand, a turn of the corner and then the finish shoot – I was there, I had done it, I had completed my 2nd 100km in 2015.
I had given my all in this race, it took me a while to gather but myself but when I did the support of familiar and friendly faces was amazing. I was home. I had done it and they were saying my name over the PA system ‘ Amanda Meggison, provisional 3rd place in the 40-49 age group. My hunt was successful, I didn’t let anymore women pass me and I had made a podium for the first time in my life.
Endurance running is hard. I finally learnt that. I learnt how to dig deep, believe and race. It seemed to all come together for the Surf Coast Century and I don’t know what the magic formula was but I think part of it was believing in me and staying focused. The hardest part of the race was dealing with the pain and once I accepted that, I just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other. These words stayed with me for the race ‘pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.’
Having completed this race still seems so unreal. I keep saying I couldn’t do this without those around me but I know I have put in the hard yards to get here. My endurance journey has really only just begun and with such a positive race, I can see & feel the improvements – it only took me two days to not wince when I saw a set of stairs so that’s a positive.
No more 100km for this year but next year, who knows. Trail running has stolen my heart and its fare to say, I am now addicted to this sport. After Saturday’s race I am eager to see where this new found belief will take me and see if I can dig any further into my pain cave – I think I can, I just need to train for it.
I am a proud vegan endurance athlete who knows now the sky is not the limit.