Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Finally a decent run

Having had some glimpses of decent racing form (as opposed to just running to finish) in Tassie, i was looking forward to backing up for the Waterworld Red Rocks to Coffs Harbour Ultra .
After all the steep hills and technical tracks of Tassie in theory nothing could be easier than a nice flat run along a beach, all i was hoping was that the weather was better than lasy years "45K's all the way into a gale", my first shot at this run.
Unlike last year, where i had to drive 1,200Ks from Melbourne after finishing Trailwalker, this year would find me with an easy, relaxing 3 1/2 hour drive south so left just before lunch with the intention of getting down for the recce of the headlands, typically forgetting daylight saving realised that wasn't going to happen once i got 5K's down the road and over the border and found it to be an hour later.
Lovely sunny day and one of my favourite stretches of highway, not often i can really claim to be happy to behind the wheel but this was one of those rare days. Picked up my post office box mail on the way through meaning i even had a CD to listen to (Shari's newly released second album "Down the Road" ) - i tend to wander off track enough in this blog without doing album reviews but will admit that despite being a little less "Blues" and more "Southern Rock" orientated on this release than either live or on her previous album found my drive passed rapidly as i got into the music and enjoyed her memorably soulful, crystal clear voice with its incredibly versatile vocal range as well as very good, sometimes quirky, lyrics.
By Grafton thought i'd better take my mind of the music and think about petrol as i'd noticed the rising prices as i went further south but thankfully, with petrol warning light flashing, i had enough to make it to my usual cheap servo half way between Grafton & Coffs, and then to find a motel at Woolgoolga and bit of a walk around the beach when i arrived (the picture is Woolgoolga Back Beach a point somewhere in the first half of the race), seeing i'd already done a dozen K's earlier that morning a run definitely wasn't needed.
By 6 headed off to the Pasta Party only to find a Angie Grattan and a group of Queenslanders heading the other way and to be told this was now at the Caravan Park where a busload of runners were staying but that Steel would be down to check in runners at 6:30.
Wandered past the pasta place a couple of times and no sign of anyone and then i see Brisbane runner Michael Schultz turn up (last year we had been the first two to arrive at Red Rock and had looked around in the dark trying to find the start which unbeknown to us was just around the corner).
6:30 Steel arrived and by then Geelong Ultra legend Peter Gray and some other runners had turned up (not realising one, Sean Williams, was to be the winner the next day), so we checked in and had our numbers written on our arms (just thankful we don't have to hand our numbers in after for spot prizes) and a description of the course and any pitfalls that may have been awaiting us gone through.
Us smaller group had the all you can eat pasta, pizza and dessert, great feed and good company as we swapped running yarns and by 8:30 it was time to head back and have a good nights sleep.
No need for headlamps this time for our start on the beach as dawn was breaking, but it also meant that i could see just how little beach there was with three hours to low tide possibly the stormy summer had washed some of the course away.
Started slowly as i struggled to stay out of the water as i tended to run too close to get away from the very soft sand. The leaders had well and truly slipped out of view and i'd have been pushing to be in the top 15, managed to time one wave so that i had a head high sea bath and this was only a few K's in, really didn't look like being my day.
The first section would be around 10K's and whilst very soft and not great running it did at least mean i got into some sort of rhythm and by the first drink stop was feeling more like racing than i had the year so far. Once the waist deep creek was crossed was glad to find firmer sand and a beautiful sunrise and found i was starting to put some distance between myself and runners that had been around me and ultimately found myself a target to chase in the form of a fellow in red shorts who i was to find out later was Andi Aman.
The next few k's were essentially spent chasing him and eventually i passed him, at this point really enjoying the beach running, and now had local legend Jim Bennington (Course record holder as well as record holder for number of starts here) in my sights. What i was finding by now was i'd make up ground on the beach and then lose it as i clumsily got over the headlands and this was my undoing, after one such occurence i was back behind Andi with Jim behind us and we appeared to have a choice of a treachorous rock climb or an ocean swim of unknown distance. I followed Andi up the rocks but he turned back as we appeared to dead end but fortunately with Jim knowing every inch of this course he told us to follow him.
Best thing i can say is we did follow, i often felt i was going to lose grip and be washed out to sea or plunge of a cliff face but the fact there were three of us (although both rapidly getting away from me, i'm definitely no mountain goat) was reassuring that we were doing the right thing.
I don't reckon i have ever been so happy to see a stretch of sand as when we finally reached the end of the headland and hit beach (the leaders had swum the headland ironman style i found out later, but also heard that many of the later runners had a very exciting time here), but by now was a good K or so behind the other 2 and could see them in the distance. Again my superior beach running meant i caught up with them, but Andi's daredevil approach to running down thin, steep headlands meant each time they were back in front of me post Headland.
Made sure i followed the course correctly at Sapphire (did miss a ribbon but for the last time Andi was behind me and pointed it out, after that a couple of trails and he was away not to be seen till the end).
Once we hit Diggers Beach i could see Jim in front but looking out of reach, but still chasing is what i do best, ultimately ended up in sixth place in 3:53:02 35 seconds behind him (a massive PB, admittedly in much better conditions than last years windswept 4:13:12) and 2:54 behind Andi, with Sean and defending champion Steve Sayers having a great battle way in front (Sean 3:26:21, Steve 3:27:46 with Armidale runner Michael Smart 10 minutes behind). Basically the perfect way to finish a run was straight off into the sea and have a swim, beautiful sunny day and already lots of people on the beach, certainly idyllic and enough to erase memories of last years cold, wet & windy event !!.
A hot shower followed by coffee, cakes and sandwiches and lots of chat sums up the rest of the afternoon as the remainder field of 64 slowly made their way in.
Peter Gray, with an early start, did as planned as beat his 7 hours by 58 seconds and our last runners (also with early starts) were in before 10 hours were up.
Great food and great hospitality really make this one of those little "must do at least once" races and i know i'll be back again, big thanks to Steel and Lyn for organising.
By 4 Steel gave me a lift back to the start, meaning i was home by 7 (QLD time), end of a really good day (although to find Richmond had lost to North Melbourne was not ideal when turning on the tv news !).
Now for a taper until Canberra Marathon, certainly my speed on the flat gives me new hope of a sub 3 Marathon there, two longish runs later in the week (24K and 33K's, made necessary as by Tuesday was feeling the sciatic nerve problem a little so really felt i needed to test it - thankfully came through with flying colours) but now with one week to go it'll be no booze and no running of a serious nature until Sunday


Tesso said...

Red Rock - what a race! Now I know why I don't do it :)

See you in Canberra. I'm trying the no booze thing too, I do like a glass of red or two with dinner. But so far so good (though its only been one night).

Ian said...

Nice report Kelvin but are you scared of a swim in the ocean. Luckily no water in Death Valley but plenty of sand.