There is something extra special about the Surf Coast Century 2018. This race has become an annual trip. It is more than just a run. If you want to experience some of the best the running community has to offer, then try out the Surf Coast Century.
Now an annual trip with some mates from work. This year we had two teams in the relay. We hardly even talked about work. That’s a good thing.
Friday was a beautiful sunny Spring day.
Race day was Saturday.
Cold, wet…. let me correct that…. very wet. Windy, hail with a little sunshine and blue sky mixed in.
Start time is dictated by the tides. Unless it’s low tide, some sections on the first leg are impassible. Good news was the race started after the sun had gotten out of bed. A relative sleep in. Bad news for those running the first leg, they didn’t get to experience the amazing sunrise that has made this leg phenomenal in previous years.
Running along the iconic beaches of the surf coast is amazing. Rory got to enjoy this leg. He showed his fitness and running pedigree by smashing through the first 10km nice and quick. The slippery and sharp rock beds in the remaining 11km presented him a new challenge. I was impressed he stayed upright. Rory closed down the first leg at Point Danger looking like he pushed it hard.
The changeover was fast. Paul took on the 28km of Leg 2. Returning back to the start across the cliff tops. Straight into the wind. He took off at speed. I wondered if he would hold it or crash and burn.
The weather went from unpleasant to disgusting. At the half way mark I waited for Paul to arrive. A short warm up didn’t warm me up. I hid amongst the people hiding under the shelter. It helped me go from freezing to cold.
Paul came running in. He was saturated. A fist bump and it was my turn.
Wearing only a light spray jacket I wondered if it was a mistake. As the rain fell harder and harder I was wet through. For the first time we didn’t have to crawl under The Great Ocean Road. The river was too high. Finding gaps between the cars instead. After crossing the rain turned to hail. It was at this moment I wished I had worn a cap.
In these conditions there was only one way to stay warm…
… run hard
That First Bit
On starting the first main climb the rain eased. Still cold, but I was happy little bits of ice were no longer bouncing off my face. Soon enough I was feeling a bit warm. I walked a few steps while I took off the jacket up the steep climb. Then it was on.
Mud, clay, water and more mud. The trail so slippery. Up and down, over and over. Staying upright was harder than usual. The clay slid and slipped like crazy. Confidence and technique kept my speed high on the descent. Leaning forward what felt way too far kept my feet from skidding out in front of me. In some sections you could ski on the mud for a few metres.
The more I ran the better I felt. My legs were responding well. First time in a while I felt good going uphill. An extra boost came from passing many of the 50km runners who had start about 25 minutes before me. Surprisingly social while racing so hard.
After the hills and clay it was time for some flowing single track through The Otways. Some protection was given from the icy winds by the trees and hills here. A mild downhill brings you to the start of a steady 6km climb. It is runnable, especially if you are only doing one leg of race. What got me over this climb was the anticipation of the 3km descent over the other side.
Definitely my favourite part of the course. The terrain isn’t super steep or crazy technical, but it requires concentration and confidence. Lean forward, open up, pick your line and fast feet. Down and down in a controlled fall. Weaving through the bush with the twists and turns. I found my flow. This is why I love trail running.
That Next Bit
Check point time. 21km covered of leaving only 7km for me. It wasn’t so much of a check point for me, more of a boost from the amazingly enthusiastic volunteers and supporters who had made their way out. Extra spring in my legs and into the last section.
Each year I forget just how hard this section is. Why don’t remember how steep and long the hills are?
Over the climbs I was sucking air. Heading down my legs threated to cramp. Despite this I was able to hold my speed into the check point to hand over to Mick. The hardest part of this was trying to coordinate my fingers to pass over the mandatory first aid kit. They were frozen.
Next challenge was trying not to bring up my breakfast.
I was successful…. just.
Mick smashed out the final leg. After an almost sunny start to his run the weather came back with a vengeance and threw hail down at him. He returned with stories of runners missing turns and a high tide forcing everyone into the softest of sand. Another solid run.
There is something extra to running when it is a team event. It brings out something extra in everyone.
The Surf Coast Century is probably the most social of trail ultra marathons out there. Way too many people to mention everyone I met, chatted too, cheered, was cheered by or otherwise had some positive vibes. Still some shout outs are needed. To our other team, Jane, Jerome who were the solid rock of the team. Thank you to Jason who filled in at the last moment. Kudos to Rory from Leg 1 who jumped across and ran Leg 4 for so the others could record a finish due to an extra late withdraw. Extra thanks to my understanding family who tolerate and support me in this running thing.
Well done to all those who braved the conditions at Surf Coast Century 2018.