Great Ocean Road Virtual Running Festival – 60km 2020 Report

  • Location: Mount Martha, Victoria, Australia
  • Time: 04:42:03
  • Overall Place: 1st on Leaderboard (Virtual Run)
  • Full Results

This was a new experience, due to the COVID-19 pandemic ultra and trail races have been either postponed or cancelled everywhere, it’s left a gigantic whole in everyones ultra and trail running schedule. To help fill in that whole organisations and race directors have created “virtual runs”. It’s a simple but smart concept, runners pick a distance to run, record their run with a smart GPS watch and then post it online. Other runners do the same and get added to an online leaderboard where everyone competes against each other to see who can get the fastest time for their given distance. I’m not going to lie I was sceptical of the idea at first but after a few months of no races I needed something to scratch that racing itch. That’s when I entered the Great Ocean Road Virtual Running Festival for the 60km distance.

I had a terrible lead up to the the virtual run, plagued with overuse injuries that wouldn’t allow me to get in a solid week of pain free training. I’d also worked 6 long days of labouring in conjunction with my usual training regime, and I was only getting 5-6 hours sleep most days. I was sore and tired before I even began the run, with that being said it was all self imposed. I also hadn’t really planned how I was going to run either, I knew I was going to do my 18-20km training loop three times and then add in a few extra km’s to make it a 60km run. I also knew my little brother was going to be my support crew with drinks every time I passed my house which was at end and start of each loop, but other than that not much thought went into the run.

Sunday the 17th came (day of the run) and after a good breakfast (banana, Low fat no added sugar greek yoghurt, toast with cottage cheese and mixed nuts and two glasses of milk (one skim milk the other full cream)) and after I cleared out the bowels it was time to get the run started. I started at around 6am, it was a cold morning the temperature was around 5 degrees Celsius or 41 degrees Fahrenheit. The skies where clear and the air was crisp, the kind of crisp where you could see your breath as it left your lips. The first 5km was not fun at all, I was tired and to be quite honest couldn’t be bothered doing anything let alone run, but I knew eventually the endorphins would kick in and my mood would lift. I was also having soleus (the small muscle next to your calf muscle) issues, the past few weeks my soleus muscle on my right leg had been giving me some grief, to the point where two weeks prior I had to stop running all together. Good news was it wasn’t getting worse, so I kept running. It felt weird running a virtual race but I liked it, it made it easier to focus on myself and I didn’t feel any extrinsic factors that would take me out of my own race. The plan was simple try and run my comfortable 20km pace (4 mins 30 secs per km) for as long as possible, if I bonked who cares it wasn’t a legit race. After 5km’s of pretty dreadful running I eventually started to kick into gear and then the km’s started to fly by. 5km turned to 10km which turned to 15km. I started to feel especially good as I got to the best part of the route which included running along the coastal cliffs of the Mornington Peninsula. It was nice to take in views of the Mornington Peninsula beachfront. I should mention my 20km loop is mostly flat road running with the exception of some gravel running along the beachfront. To be 100% honest I chose this route because it was pretty flat, and I wanted to get the best time possible to see how high I could get on the virtual run leaderboard.

Once I made the turn that directed me off the beachfront cliffs I was nearly finished my first 20km loop. I was feeling good and was making time, subbing 1 hour 30 minutes. A couple km’s prior I’d rang my little brother so he could meet me outside our court and pass me my cordial filled drink bottle, I was not running with my hydration pack so getting in the cordial from my little brother was pretty important. As I ran towards my court (the start, aid station and finish line) I was looking forward to getting in some sweet cordial however my little brother wasn’t there. “Oh sh*t, were is he?” I thought, I was making good pace so didn’t want to stop and wait so I called him and kept pushing. Turns out even though I called him around 5 minutes prior he’d slept in, I couldn’t get angry at him though it was a Sunday morning and around 7:30am. Luckily although I was thirsty I was feeling good and even better my soleus pain had disappeared and my legs overall were feeling good, I was on that runners high. As I ran past the neighbourhoods houses, local schools and shops I was filled with gratitude to be feeling that good after 20km, the stress about having nothing to drink disappeared. At this stage people where starting to wake up and start their Sunday morning routines, quite a few walkers had hit the paths and with them the sun had risen. It was a beautiful day, it couldn’t of been any clearer, there wasn’t a cloud in site.

After what only felt like 2-5km but in reality was much longer I finally came out of my runners high and looked down at my watch, I was at the 32km mark! And had just started running along the beachfront again! I noticed my old triathlon coaches van parked at the carpark along the walking/running path. “That’s right” I remembered this is where the triathlon team runs every Sunday. This motivated to keep pushing, I was looking forward to hopefully running into my coach and the team, it’d been too long. We did get to pass and it was great seeing them, I looked down at my watch again I’d run 37km “wow” I thought, only 23km to go. At this point I was thirsty and hungry though, I’d brought one snack with me, one oat bar. I grabbed it out of my pocket and started eating on the run, it’s crazy how quickly you notice the energy you get from food when your depleted. It felt like an instant sugar high even though the bar was mainly a complex, slower digesting carbohydrate source. I also remembered to give the little brother a call to make sure this time he’d be outside the court with something to drink. The plan was for him to ride to the shops to get me a Monster energy drink and a Powerade. I made the call and he gave me the “all good, I’ll be there this time”. I was still feeling good at this stage but I really needed something to drink.

After 3 hours and some change I arrived just outside my court for the second time to finally get in something to drink. I was so excited to get something to drink especially the sugar filled Monster Energy drink the little brother should’ve bought. I never let myself have a Monster Energy Drink with sugar unless I’m running a marathon or longer, so this was a real treat. I ran past the court but to my absolute shock there was no little brother, “oh shit this really isn’t good, how could he miss me again!?” I felt pretty tired and thirsty at this point and knew that if I didn’t get something to drink in the next 5 km I was going to bonk. I called my brother to ask were he was, he was still at the shops getting the drinks. I tried organising ways he could get me the drinks by riding to me but we couldn’t get it to work. Eventually I thought “F*ck it” if I can 60km with nothing to drink and only a small oat bar that’s an achievement in itself, I was gonna finish this with no assistance. This was a nice thought until I reached the 40km mark, it felt like the beginning of the end, I was dehydrated and tired, my mood plummeted. Luckily a few km’s later my dad called me. My little brother had organised with my dad to meet me at The Mornington Peer which for me would be the 50km mark. I was relived to hear I’d only have to run another 8-10km before getting something to drink. All I had to do was to endure the next 30-50 minutes. Time definitely slowed down along with my pace, I started running a few 5 minute per km km’s which wasn’t to bad considering the circumstances but was still slower than anticipated. On the bright side it was a fantastic day, the sun was out and the temperature was perfect for running

After some soul crushing km’s I finally reached the Mornington peer where I was meeting my little brother and dad to get something to drink. I couldn’t see them though, they rang to say they were here but I couldn’t see them. I should probably mention we weren’t meeting at the peer itself, right before the peer was a park with a diameter of around 500 metres and there was lots of people, so not being able to see them in hindsight shouldn’t of surprised me. I started running around the park, looking for them whilst also adding in some extra km’s which was needed due to my running route being just short of 20km. This was painful though, I was getting a little dizzy and was starting to get a little dopey due to being dehydrated and fatigued. Luckily after 3 loops of the park I finally found them, “thank god” I said to myself, there they were with my Monster Energy Drink and Powerade. When my little brother handed me the Monster Energy Drink it was like I went straight to heaven, I instantly felt energised just by taking a sip! I started walking so I could get it down quickly, in about a minute I guzzled down the whole 500ml can. The combination of the liquid, the sugar and the stimulants gave me huge boost of energy, “alright it’s back on” I thought. I thanked my dad and little brother and asked them to meet me at my grandmas which was around 5km away, there I’d get down the Powerade before finishing the 60km. The next 5km felt good, my legs where getting a little sore at this point but I was managing a 4 minute 40 second pace per km, so I was in a good place. The km’s continued to pass me by as I ran along the beachfront for the last time. I was passing walkers and even some runners, the track was full of people! After around 3-4km I started to get really thirsty again, lucky I was only 1-2km away from the little brother, dad and the Powerade.

I arrived at my grandmas at around the 57km mark and my little brother handed me the Powerade, again I downed it almost instantly. 600ml has never gone down so fast, off I went, I was heading home. I pushed the last km’s to see how fast I could go but I couldn’t get under 4 minutes 40 seconds per km, it felt like I was going much faster but I guess thats what happens when your fatigued and dehydrated. I reached my house and fell just short of 60km so I had to run around the neighbourhood for a little bit before turning back. It felt so god coming back, 500m left, 400m left, 300m left, 200m left, 100m left I was counting down the distance and then I done!! I’d finished and with a decent time too, 4 hours 42 minutes and 3 seconds. It was nearly a disaster but after a few hiccups my amazing little brother and dad came through with the save!! I should also mention I was surprised to see I’d actually got the fastest time on the 60km leaderboard. My route only had around 450m ascent though so I don’t really pay it much attention because I’m sure most of the runners would’ve had much more difficult routes.

The Great Ocean Road Virtual Running Festival was a cool experiment to be part of, sure you lacked the atmosphere of an actual race but it was nice to run when you wanted, where you wanted. Overall I was happy with my run too, it’s crazy how quickly you can improve your times in ultramarathons as subbing 5 hours was a massive surprise to me. Thank you to the people at IMG for organising the virtual event and thank you to my little brother and dad for being my crew.

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