Surf Coast Century 2016 – Race Report
In my body I trust
This race was the toughest race of my life both mentally and physically. A race that almost broke me but a few words helped me keep it together ‘in my body I trust’. I never knew words could be so powerful but these words were said over and over in my head and out loud and helped change the course of the run, which soon turned into a race.
Not all races go to plan
6 weeks before race day my training turned pear shape. Over a course of a few days I noticed a sharp pain in my lower back and buttock region, which I felt standing, walking even lying down. Eventually this pain got so bad I was unable to run (let alone walk) as I lost all power in my quad unable to fire anything up on my right side. After seeing a few health professionals 3 weeks into the injury it was diagnosed as Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction resulting in a twisted pelvis. This was not good for someone about to embark on her forth 100km race in what was then, 3 weeks time.
It all comes together on the day
Fast-forward to the day before race day and after hours of rehabilitation, sports massage, thoracic spine treatment, dry needling, body taping, foot raises, tears and frustration I actually believed I might be able to run 100km. Having lost 6 weeks of running which included 3 or more key long runs the lead up to this race was powered by clinical pilates, personal training sessions, run technique sessions and tailored exercises which included a theraband, foam roller, trigger point balls, wooden stick and golf balls. And here I was thinking running was the least expensive sport!
The race started at 5:30am due to the tides; this was a run after all along the surf coast so we didn’t want to be swimming around the heads. I was up at 3:45am for breakfast, which consisted of 3 crumpets with jam, and vegemite and a cup of earl grey tea before jumping on the bike for an indoor wind trainer session to help warm the legs up. One of the lessons I learnt during the lead up to the race was the importance of a warm up, after all my issues I was not starting this race with a cold body.
Lining up at the start arch on the Anglesea beach I had a good sense of calm about me, I felt relaxed and as I said before the race ‘what will be will be’. All I heard was the count down from 8minutes, 2 minutes and then 10seconds – we were off, it was show time. My body felt good, my mind felt relaxed and most of all I felt well rested which resulted in me feeling strong. OK so we were only a few metres in the race but this was a promising sign.
Leg 1, 0 to 21km – Anglesea to Point Danger, Torquay
This is the longest stretch of the race along the beach, thankfully hard sand until you clammer over the Red Rocks at Point Addis and trudge to the stairs up and over to the other side for more sand running and rock clammering. What a difference a year makes, this year I felt strong over the rocks more stable and certainly more agile my hard work and patience in clinical pilates was paying off – it was all coming together.
I caught up to a few friends who were running the 50km and suddenly panicked ‘was I going out too fast?’ I kept thinking, I feel good so just keep doing what you are doing and see what happens. After all this race was like going into the unknown so what did I have to loose?
Check Point 1 – After getting a little wet around the heads, a quick sock and shoe change was in order. As much as I love the injinji socks to put on with slightly damp feet and time pressures they have their downfalls – why do we have so many toes? In and out in less than 5 minutes, I was feeling ready to make my way back to Anglesea and the next checkpoint.
Leg 2, 21 – 49km Torquay to Anglesea
This is a beautiful part of the course, along the surf coast trails through Bells Beach and up Ironbark – just a few small inclines to keep you honest. My body was holding up well at this point but around the 40km mark I started to feel a sudden tenderness of the body which was only going to get worse as the race went on. The saying is your body never feels any worse at 20km than it does at 100km and in past races I have agreed with this but this race was different.
Check Point 2 – The rockstar checkpoint. This is the finish of the 50km and the half way point for the 100km runners. Always an amazing checkpoint to run into and if you were feeling at all down this is the place to be to help cheer you up. A refill of the water bladder, restocking of gels and a salad sandwich to see me on my way, no hanging around time to get running again before my body starts to seize up.
Leg 3, 49km – 77km Anglesea to Moggs Creek
Everything was going well I successfully made it under the troll bridge (under the road to avoid traffic) and was running strong to Heartbreak Hill. In training I tested a theory – run or powerwalk. To run it I got to the top out of breath and a little exhausted and to powerwalk meant I lost a mere 20 seconds and felt fresh at the top – no question, I was power walking up this hill avoiding any heartbreak.
My race started to fall apart soon after the hill. The track surface in this leg is either really hard or muddy clay depending on how much rain the region has had. This year, not much rain well not in the week leading up to the race so the track was so hard. This is when my body hurt like hell, hurt like a bus or even worse, a 2 tonne truck had hit me. With one of the longest descents in the race I feared how I would get down this single track but having a relay competitor behind me keeping me honest and giving me encouragement suddenly I felt strong, I felt fast and I felt determined. Then the descent finished and when running on the flats I felt a sharp pain in my right ankle which stopped me in my tracks, suddenly I couldn’t run or walk. So now what? I needed to get to the unofficial 70km checkpoint where I knew Zac (my husband and support team) would be.
When I saw Zac I had a panic, I cried a little and I feared the worst. ‘Just keep moving’ he said and with that my first taste of red bull and I was off only 7.6km to the next checkpoint. Within 200m I was in pain, it was too much to think about to go back for help and I didn’t know how I was going to move forward. I was stuck, giddy and a little panicked.
Toughen up princess I said to myself and off I went, hobbling for basically the next 4km uphill. A lot of concern and support from other runners but as I know, this is an individual sport so what could they do but encourage me to continue. With 2km to go until Moggs Creek I suddenly felt better, maybe this was because race number 60 passed me and I had a feeling she was in my age group. It was at this moment, I thought – podium.
Distressed coming into checkpoint 3, Zac helped me pull myself together and lift me out of my black hole. For the first time ever in a race, I thought about seriously pulling out, I just couldn’t image getting to the end it was too far. The solution? Painkillers, red bull and coke.
Leg 4 – 77km – 100km Moggs Creek to Anglesea
My body hurt. My feet hurt. My mind hurt. I felt broken. But the trails were calling me and I just had to run into them. One foot in front of the other and eventually I would get to the end. I had trained this leg with the Rapid Ascent crew only weeks earlier and mapped it out well in my head, I knew how long the single track went on for and I knew the view when you came out of the forest – this is what drove me to keep running. Suddenly I was feeling strong, I trusted my body and I believe the end was near. As I neared the Ocean Views Ridge this lookout sees you 100m above the water with panoramic views from Lorne to the finish line, I screamed with excitement – I was doing this, I was almost home.
I was growing red bull wings and I was on a high only sugar and caffeine can give me. I didn’t want this feeling to go away, well not until I crossed the finish line. I didn’t want to go back to that black hole from 65km to 80km, I didn’t like that place. At the 85km mark you cross under another bridge, last year my race basically feel apart at this point but this year – I powered under it up and over the top and screamed again with excitement – ‘I freakin owned that bridge’ I yelled and with that I saw competitor 60 again, she was who I was secretly chasing to make a podium spot.
Support on course is mammoth when you are down, they help dig you out of your hole and give you the much needed love and support you need to keep going. At Aireys Inlet I saw three people who had supported me along the way; Ailie, her partner Ben and my love Zac. I practically flew to them with the biggest smile; I was on my way to the finish line. After noticing competitor 60 duck into the toilet, I now had to get my skates on this was a race to the finish.
A few kilometers later a rock star support team of close friends Kate, Marty, Barb and Scott along with Mark and Veronica and crew were enjoying post 50km race celebrations sitting on beanbags and drinking beer. After a little tear with Kate, I suddenly felt super excited again and ran off along the coast and one step closer to….beer. I didn’t give up on this leg; this leg was fuelled by grit and determination.
At 94km I saw Ailie, Ben and Zac again and it was now onto the slog of Urquhart Beach, a 3.4km run along the sand. Zac ran with me for a short time having me chant my mantra of 2015 ‘I am as strong as an Ox’. All I could muster was a grunt or two. Like last year, I had to keep moving on this beach run, I did not walk – look forward, keep moving and don’t stop. Only at one point did I turn my head to the right to see a rainbow, I knew then I was going to finish.
Making my way along the surf coast walk to the finish line was a feeling I wish I could bottle. I smiled, I congratulated myself and I told other runners to hang in there, we were doing this. I think my enthusiasm and pace at this stage of the race was of an annoyance to some runners but I didn’t want to slow down, I kept thinking race number 60 was on my tail. Coming around the corner onto the beach and up along the path to the finishers shoot was the best moment of the day. I was mentally shattered but physically OK. I had enough in me to cry for a few minutes letting out some of the relief of having the finish line finally come into vision. I had done it; I had run 100km in a time of 12hrs 10mins with a PB of 14mins and to make the day even sweeter 2nd in my age group (40-49).
There is nothing like a 100km to have you learn more about yourself. I realised I am competitive, I don’t give up easy and I am strong. I realised I want to keep improving, I want to be stronger and most of all I want to be faster. This race hurt. It hurt a lot. But at the end of the day I survived, I finished and that makes me happy.
My fuel for this 100km race
- 3 crumpets (2 x blueberry jam, 1 x vegemite)
- 2 cups earl grey tea
- 1 At One Banana Pecan bar
- ½ vegemite sandwich
- ½ salad sandwich (mayonnaise, alfalfa sprouts, cucumber and lettuce)
- 2.5L Vitargo
- 10 Cola Shotz gels
- 2 Cirtus Lemon VFuel gels
- 3 Red Bulls
- 3 Cokes
- 5L water
A BIG thanks goes to my coaches and physicians who got me to the start line
- Craig Percival – No Limits Endurance, Coach
- Tim Ballintine – No Limits Endurance, Coach II
- Adam Martin – TrewExPhys
- Kate O’Connell – South Melbourne Physio
- Mitch Anderson – Shinbone Medical
- Toby Gleeson – SportsMyo
- Rohan Armstrong – St K Osteo
- Pep Karalus and Joshua Ioane – Kinematics Health and Performance Clinic