Wednesday, 22 April 2009
Having run from Currumbin Creek to Surfers Paradise and back via the beach on the Thursday (approx 30K's ?, with Burleigh & North Burleigh Headlands the only non sand sections), i reckoned i was in pretty good shape for Red Rocks to Coffs.
Having successfully completed the training run in my old Nike Free 3.0's reckon i had the shoe issue pretty sorted although a couple of holes in them meant that i was sure to let some sand in.
Come Friday night there was plenty of lightning and thunder on the Coast but barely any rain had no idea what it may have been 300K's further south, but on wakening the next day to find a very windy day (with a wind from the south) had the feeling i'd be experiencing similar the next day, unfortunately that did prove to be the case.
With an April event this year (a little later than usual and out of daylight saving), it meant we got daylight for the start, very pleasant but with the headwind as predicted it just meant we could see the sand being blown about further ahead.
A still largish field of 43 surprised me somewhat as this was really one of those weekends for Ultra runners, with a choice of this or the Coburg 24 Hours or the Canberra Marathon and 50K events, having done all 3 last year not exactly an option this time so i'd chosen the easiest to get to.
Many familiar faces including Steve Sayers who would certainly have to be favourite having won twice here before (and second his other start), but looking around was not really sure if there were any i'd be able to pace off of.
This became evident early on with Steve in the distance and then essentially two lots of two runners in front of me and then a gap after, this could well be a solo run i feared (interesting thought considering my navigational ability on some of those headlands).
Early on i was trying to keep my feet dry, but the camber of the beach and the unpredictable nature of the waves meant that i'd soon given that idea up, salt water was hardly going to kill me.
Couple of beaches solo, but made a mess of the the headland before Woolgoolga Beach as i found Bomber Hutchison coming towards the next beach entry from the other direction, saying he'd made up 500 metres on me. Talked for a little but was soon by myself again, was now starting to catch the early starters unfortunately only whilst on the beach.
Was certainly begin to feel the affect of the soft sand on the calves and hips and also cramping a little so had a couple of Succeed Capsules, was glad to see coke at the next aid station and had a couple of cups of it as the sportsdrink didn't seem to be quite doing the job.
Was beginning to see people out on the beach now so knew it was more civilised hours now but if i was honest really wasn't sure which beach and headland was which.
Even had the odd dog join me (note to self people don't have a problem with me calling dark coloured dogs "Snowball" but get less than happy looks when i call light coloured ones "Blackie").
Not sure which headland it was but after following bunting for a while had no idea where to head so followed a track thinking it would lead down, only problem being that i seemed to be getting higher above the beach, ultimately reaching an exposed cliff face with plaques in memorial to people who had died there, evidently this wasn't the way to go !!, so backward turn and more wasted time.
I'd love to know just how much time i wasted on headlands but i suppose this is one of the challenges of this race, certainly finding a set of steps boarded off from pedestrians (at Sapphire?) meant i was thoroughly confused, i had vague ideas that i'd experienced the same last year and had simply climbed over and used them, but seemed much more tired and proned to cramping this time and had thoughts of being just stuck on top, so with a seemingly fresh landslide fenced off nearby decided i'd find another way around. Interesting sums it up, muddy trail and then a little swim (at least i picked up a golf ball) and i'd reached the base of those steps.
Frustration had got me a bit fired up by that point so took off with new determination, by the time i reached Park Beach was busy avoiding casual strollers but was finally getting my best pace up with the finish in sight.
What more can i say finally made it in 4:31:37 for sixth place, my slowest performance in three starts there (4:13:12 for sixth in 2007 and 3:53:02 for 6th last year), only consistency being the placing as the weather conditions and state of the beaches meant every race was virtually totally different to the other, so honestly not unhappy with the time except for the fact it looks bad for that short distance.
Was glad for the warmish water at sea although my tired body struggled with a strong undertow so wasn't quite as carefree in the post race swim !!!.
Long time till the next runner and then over the next few hours the rest of the field made it in, coffee and great homemade sandwiches and cakes making the wait very easy to bear as well as good conversation with runners i don't often see.
Big thanks to Steel and all the aid station people, this run is definitely one of those little gems.