Surf Coast Century Relay 2017: Race Report
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There is so much to love about this race. I’ve only missed one year since the inaugural Surf Coast Century in 2012. I plan to keep coming back.
If you are looking to try out trail running or an ultra marathon this would be an event to get to. The atmosphere is huge. The course is spectacular. It is a challenge whether you are doing a 21km leg or the full 100km, but there is so much support this event lifts you to achieve more than you thought you could.
It’s becoming an annual event for me with some awesome work colleagues. Our numbers seem to be growing. Fielding 3 teams this year. Two as 4 person relays. My team was 3. Andrew taking out the first 21km leg. Mick for 28km in leg 2. Myself given the job of two people and covering the 52km of legs 3 and 4.
Racing this year was an important benchmark. After injury at Wilsons’s Promontory 100km in May it is my first event back. Still no where near what I consider race fit, it was a challenge to get up to cover 50km of trails. If I can do this, then I can start thinking big for next year.
Anglesea to Torquay to Anglesea: (0-49km)
Having others run makes the first 49km a lot easier. It’s one of the advantages being part of a relay. It’s still an early, predawn start. Andrew trained well. Despite some injury issues got himself into great shape to smash out the 21km of Leg 1 across the beaches.
Mick took over at Torquay. Putting his hyperactivity to good use, set out and gained many spots over Leg 2. Face planting into a puddle didn’t seem to slow him down much. He ran hard and fast over the 28km of trails, hills and hinterland.
Anglesea to Moggs Creek: 0-28km (49-77km)
Half way through the race (or near enough) for the team. One difficulty in ultra length relays is timing being ready for your leg. It was a mixture of trying to relax and keep moving. A balance that would be more difficult if I was aiming for a fast time. The pressure was off on my speed. The challenge was to see if I was able to cover the distance. Recent rains resulted in a minor course change. Bringing the distance up to 52km for the two legs I was about to run. We’ll just ignore the extra distance. I just wondered if I could make it.
Mick returned looking like he had run it hard. Passed over the first aid kit which was operating as our relay baton. Over the timing mats I went. My test had started.
The first few steps felt great. My body felt smooth and relaxed. My mind was a different story. A flood of what if scenarios smashed through my thoughts. None of them particularly positive. I knew the stretch between where I had trained versus what I was attempting was big. Thinking about all the possible reasons of failing wasn’t going to help. I distracted my brain by attempting to count my breaths per every 10 steps. Trying to count different breathes and steps at the same time fills brain space. Using numbers often overrides my subjective thoughts. It worked.
The trail takes us under the bridge of the Great Ocean Road. It is a narrow space to crawl through. A solo 100km runner in front of me was cramping through this crawl. I had an appreciation for doing this move fresh.
Into the hills. Nothing technical for the next few kilometres. Just lots of up and down. Not putting time pressures on myself allowed me to really enjoy this section. Mostly wide fire trail here. When focussing on the few steps in front it has felt a bit bland in previous years. Now I had the head space to look around more. The views into the Otways are spectacular. I’m surprised I haven’t appreciated this before.
Venturing off the fire trails it gets a little more interesting under foot. A few more turns. A little extra concentration on where you land. I started feeling pleasantly lost in the bush. No longer thinking about how much further I had to run. Instead I was looking forward to the journey.
The sound of cheering seeped through the trees. Indicating I was almost at Distillery Creek Road. This was exciting. The trail beyond the road crossing is some of the best single track in the country for running. I was excited. So was the small crowd at the road. My sis and bro-in-law were there giving me a boost. As was a girl dressed up as a strawberry!
Off the road… “it’s swim time!” I announced as I took the straight line through a knee deep puddle that others were taking the long and muddy way around. My shoes were already wet, and the dip seemed to clean off some of the mud I’d previously accumulated. A slippery, muddy and flowing single track led down into bush paradise. There was a lot of variety in speeds of runners through this section. Some were doing the 100km solo, others the 50km option and the remainder one leg of the relay. It was an interesting mix up. Quite social.
In trail running what goes down must come up. In this case it was 6km of moving against gravity. Not too steep. In my frame of mind it was very enjoyable. I also knew better was yet to come. Over the top and the trail travels with gravity for my favourite 3km of the whole 100km Surf Coast Century course.
These 3km is steep enough you can allow gravity to do almost all the work. It is just technical enough you need some agility and skill. It is a combination that hits my sweet spot in trail running. Because there is a risk to my ankle from going hard down hill I modified my stride a little. I made an effort to shorten the stride length and avoid any big step downs. Taking multiple steps down any drops where I normally just would have just jumped down. This worked. My legs spun. The impact seemed light. My ego was boosted as I passed a lot of other runners. It felt perfect. This is why I run.
Moggs Creek to Anglesea 28-51km (77-100km)
The checkpoint was full. So many people to support all the runners. It’s amazing as it is the most difficult one to get into. So it is an effort for spectators and supporters to be here. It was crowded.
I’d absolutely loved the previous 28km. Some warning signs of fatigue were showing up in my ankle. There was also some pain in a risky spot. Maybe I’d taken that 3km down hill a bit too fast. Part of me wished I had a relay runner to swap over to. Turns out my head wasn’t working very well. Having attempted to calculate a finishing time I asked my team to make sure they got my head torch to me later. They had to explain to me I could walk the remainder and be in before dark. Not sure what was going on there. Mick gave me an espresso, I ate some food and my mind cleared. Eventually I left the checkpoint. It was only 6 minutes, but I felt like I’d kicked back for an hour.
Fueled and refreshed. Climbing up the single track. My ankle was hurting. This made me worry , so I walked a lot of the next couple of kilometres. Gradually I added in more running. A process of trial and error revealed what hurt and what seemed to allow me to keep running.
With a careful style I ran slowly. I really wanted to go faster. Instead I erred on the side of caution. I didn’t want to take another month off running. This race was meant to be my springboard into more. In a lot of ways it didn’t feel right to hold back. It created a lot of conflict in my thinking. It was much harder than I realised to be in a race and not racing.
The battle in brain distracted me until the trail spat me out at the Great Ocean Road. Another bridge to go under. My mind clearly wasn’t working well. This bridge is much easier than the first, but not for me at this time. With no ability to focus or decide where to put my hands and feet I was embarrassed in my efforts. Jane from one of other teams caught me here. She was polite enough not to openly laugh at me.
On the other side it was good to run with her into the checkpoint. Only 14km left. I stopped and smashed down a Red Bull and Clif Bar. Jane ran off ahead. There were no doubts now. I knew I was going to finish. On and up towards the Airey’s Inlet Lighthouse. The trail was easier here and allowed for some better running. I got into a disconnected zone and soon had over 7km covered.
This brought me out to the beach. Sis and bro-in-law were nailing the supporter roles big time. The muscles of my feet and lower leg were cramping and basically failing to do their job now. Sand didn’t help. Luckily I was caught by a blast from the past of my triathlon days. We had about 6km to the finish. It was good having Christian to run with. Catching up and reminiscing helped distract the mind and we pushed each other to cover the final kilometres faster. My technique wasn’t the prettiest, but it got me through. This the was first race I’ve ever run where I didn’t try to beat those around me in the closing stages. I finally understood why many cross the finish together. It is a different feeling, but it is a good feeling. There is more to racing than just racing.
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Also check out the race site itself at Surf Coast Century.
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