Summit Shoalhaven – 55km 2020 Report

  • Location: Kangaroo Valley, New South Wales, Australia
  • Time: 05:07:24
  • Overall Place: 2/138 (55 finishers)
  • Full Results

Finally, a real race! No more virtual races! Don’t get me wrong virtual races such as The Great Ocean Road Running Festival were great but nothing beats a real event. Located in Kangaroo Valley, New South Wales I’d be traveling interstate for this one. I was psyched to visit Kangaroo Valley and was curious to see how the area had recovered since the devastating bushfires which took place less than 12 months ago. Although it feels like an eternity ago after the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaking of COVID-19 unlike quite a few people who’s training was hindered by COVID-19 my training couldn’t have been better leading into the race. After struggling through a whole year of on and off knee and hip niggles which culminated in me taking a few weeks off running, I finally hit my stride. Getting in 5 solid weeks of 100+km weeks and 7+ consecutive weeks of running at least one long run for 40km’s+. Stretching and massage had greatly aided my recovery and I was feeling good.

The Summit Shoalhaven 55km ultramarathon is to be my first race of 3 ultramarathon races in back to back weeks. 28th of November – Summit Shoalhaven (55km), 05th of December – Surf Coast Century (100km) and 12th of December – Wilsons Prom 100 (100km). I’m using them as training races for my ultimate goal of completing the Delirious W.E.S.T 200 miler (350km) in February 2021. So with that being said although I’m a pretty competitive person I entered these races to be contempt with a finish and to keep the body feeling good. With that in mind I still ended going pretty hard in this one! I couldn’t help myself.

To get straight to the point I left Victoria on the 27th of November (a day before the race), flying by plane to Canberra. Leaving Melbourne early morning I got to Canberra around mid-morning and hired a car straight from the airport. From there I started making the 3 hour drive to Kangaroo Valley. It’s pretty devastating as you drive through, you can see acres upon acres of burnt trees from the bushfires, on a positive note you could see it was healing. My hotel was in Nowra (about a 20 minute drive from Kangaroo Valley), once I arrived I dumped my luggage and by mid-afternoon went out and got in a nice 10km run/scramble at Bomaderry Creek Walking Track. It was supposed to be an easy shake out run, 2 laps of a 5km walking track but I was a little shocked to discover the trail was quite technical. Rocks, roots and even ladders, quite a bit of scrambling going on, was fun though! Once I went for the “shake out” run I settled down at the hotel in Nowra and started preparing for the race! It was going to be a hot one, 39 degrees Celsius apparently, definitely added some nerves. I’d never run an ultramarathon in that kind of heat but I was also excited to give it a try, it would just make it more of an accomplishment once I finished. With that being said I made sure to add sunscreen and extra hydrolyte (electrolyte) tablets to the my gear for the race!

I woke up Saturday morning with that familiar mix of excitement and nervousness that I assume all runners go through. I already packed everything the night before so was good to go, this always helps with those nerves. I also wake up 2 hours earlier than the race to get in a solid breakfast and extra time for it to digest, so in that way everything was going to plan. Race start was 6am due to the expected heat, originally it was 7am, I prefer earlier starts it means less time being nervous so this suited me. So I was up at 4am, ate my breakfast, took care of “business” (you know) and by 5am I was out the door, making the 20 minute drive to the start line at Kangaroo Valley.

Event HQ, 30 Tallowa Dam Rd, Kangaroo Valley

I arrived at 30 Tallowa Dam Rd, Kangaroo Valley (start area/finish line/race registration/event HQ) a good 40 minutes before start time and was one of the first to arrive. On arrival I was directed to a parking spot, there was no established places to park so staff were directing racers to a makeshift parking area (a space of grass around 50-100 metres away from the finish line/event HQ). It was a nice place to start a race, a large space of grass surrounded by tall trees, right next to the road.

I picked up my race bib/timing chip, pinned it to my shirt and got ready to go. It wasn’t long before it was 5:50am and the pre-race briefing began. Most of the pre-race briefing was about the heat and the safety precautions taken due to the heat, as mentioned above it was expected to reach 39 degree celsius and this was a safety concern. Other than that the briefing welcomed us all to the new Summit Shoalhaven. This was a restart for Summit Sholahaven and came with a new course, so in this way it was the inaugural Summit Shoalhaven (55km). Originally dated for October 2020 the race was postponed to November due to COVID-19, so 2020 nearly wasn’t the inaugural Summit Shoalhaven. Once the briefing was complete we made the 2 minute walk to the start line. We started on a pavement road known as Mount Scanzi Road, the road eventually became a dirt road and winded up the Mount Scanzi sadde and down to Duffy’s Corner.

So 6am hit and we head off, taking off I was shocked to discover no one was running past me, I found myself in equal second spot to Australian ultra-running legend, Brendan Davies. The hill we were running up was runnable by keeping the legs spinning however looking back I noticed half of the 130 odd who started were already walking. The hill lasted a good couple km’s before we reached the top, it was your typical winding saddle road, anyone who’s driven up and around mountains would know what I’m talking about. As I said above I was equal second place and was running alongside a bloke named Michael, all the way up the saddle, Michael seemed a good bloke. We chatted a little as we made our way up, however I took off once it was time to go down the other side of the saddle. Coming down I was surprised how fast I was going in comparison to the other competitors, I was taking it easy, going my own pace but found myself running sub 3:30kms! I even ended up passing Brendan Davies going down. It made me a little nervous, was I heading out too fast? I shouldn’t be leading, what’s going on here? But I wasn’t pushing, I was taking it pretty easy, so reminded myself to calm down and stay in my head and stop focusing on others. Once we made our way to the bottom of the saddle Brendan Davies eventually took first place back, which was to be expected. Even though we were running on road we were surrounded by tall trees and mountains, it was quite beautiful although a little sad as you could see the damage from the fires. I couldn’t of imagined how beautiful the area would’ve been before the fires. Once up and down Mount Scanzi Road we passed an aid station and made our way onto Bugong Road, the course got pretty repetitive from here, it was mostly gradual, undulating up and downs, all run-able. The views also stayed pretty similar, lots of burned down trees. However at around the 8-10km mark, the road changed to dirt road and the trees became more dense and greener. After just over an hour at around the 13km mark we made a turn off from Bugong Road onto some single track trail, coincidently this is when I really started noticing the heat. The single track trail winded through tall trees and bush for around 2-3km, after the 2-3km of single track trail we found ourselves back onto a road called Hughes Road. At this point the sun was out and the heat glazing down on us, it still would’ve only been around 7-8am but it was bloody hot, we were definitely in for a hot one. Also at this point I was well behind Brendan Davies but also a significant amount in front of third place, so I’d say I was comfortably in second place. Once off the single track we ran along Hughes Road for a solid 4-5km, running on a slight decline. The views from here were spectacular, looking down on our left was quite a site. I’m not sure if it was Kangaroo Valley that I was looking down upon but it was a beautiful valley, with plenty of green trees and a great view of Shoalhaven River. Once at the bottom we made our way off Hughes Road, across Bugong Creek and made our way back onto some single track and 4WD fire trail for a good 5km. It was very dry and there was a few steep climbs here, but again some amazing views of Shoalhaven River and the valley down below.

At around the 28km mark we made our way back onto Bugong Road. It was here when the heat started to get to me, I struggled to eat the cliff bars I brought and my gels were just a warm/hot sludge that were sickly and not pleasant getting down. I’d already drunk 3-4L also, refilling my 2L camelback back at an aid station right before the Bugong Creek Crossing. As someone who often runs marathons for training with no water 3-4L is a lot after only 28kms! My estimate is at this point it was around 32 degrees Celsius. Making it back to Bugong Road meant the looped part of the 55km course was complete. The loop was a 17km loop that started and ended at an intersection on Bugong Road. So once we made it back to Bugong Road from the single track trail and 4WD trail I was back to the same place I was running when I was at the 11km mark, however this time I was running in the opposite direction towards the start/finish line and was around 28kms in. After 8km of running along Bugong Road once again, I was back at Mount Scanzi Road/Duffys Corner intersection. Those 8km were miserable, I was starting to run out of water and felt like I was bonking, the sun was zapping the energy out of me, both physically and mentally. There was an aid station at the bottom of Mount Scanzi road at the intersection, here I re-filled my camelback and downed 2 cups of coke and 2 cups of gatorade in an attempt to quench my thirst, still didn’t do much good. It could be all over in a couple km’s if I went back up Mount Scanzi road, the start and finish line was right there! However I was running a 55km and was only 36km in which meant I still had 19km left, which whilst writing this doesn’t seem very far but on the day it felt like I still had to run a marathon!! Instead of running back up Mount Scanzi Road I ran straight ahead from Bugong Road to Duffys Lane, to make the 55km distance we had run an 8km out and back along Duffy’s Lane, the road was completely exposed to the heat and had a few decent climbs, this was definitely my least favourite part of the course! Probably because I was feeling pretty sh**y at this point. There wasn’t much to look at besides the dry road and trees along the side of the road either. But I plodded along taking sips from my camelback every 3-5 minutes in an attempt to stay hydrated, my guess at this point was it had reached 38 Degrees Celsius. I began to overheat so actually walked some flats to cool myself down, there was also a muddy stream that ran across the road. I took off my cap and drenched it in the water and slapped it straight onto my head, it felt amazing!! I also should mention throughout the race I’d been taking my cap off and using it to wipe my face, it was drenched in sweat but was cool and very refreshing. This helped me big time to cool down throughout the race! So I plodded along km after km, I had about 1km to go before turning around and there was Brendan Davies making his return from the out and back part of the course. I couldn’t believe I was this close to him, I assumed I was the one slowing down and everyone else would’ve started catching me, I also assumed Brendan Davies would of been extending his lead on me however it seemed everyone else was feeling the heat too! We were all slowing down, I yelled out well done to Brendan and went on my way. About 5 minutes later I was at the turn around point where there was another aid station and once again I refilled my camelback, downed some coke and some Gatorade and then went on my way. I’d now drunken over 6km of water and and had only run 44km! Coming back on the return I passed a lot of other runners, they all looked miserable, just like me!! I was relived to discover I was pretty safe with second place unless something really bad happened. As I passed the other 55km competitors on the return from the out and back I put on that fake smile and cheered each of them on as we crossed paths. And finally, eventually as I made my way along Duffys Lane in the blistering heat I finally made my way back to the aid station at Mount Scanzi’s intersection. This time I just had 2 cups of gatorade as all the coke was gone!! Then I made my way back up Mount Scanzi Road. It was the 52km mark so I had 3km left, I walked at least half of that 3km, dragging my sorry a** up Mount Scanzi Road. However what goes up must come down and once at the top I turned on the gas and ran the downhill, running a 4 minute km, my quads ached with every step but the excitement of the finishing line and to stop the suffering was strong, and as a result I finished strong. my time, 05:07:24, my place, 2nd overall. I was stoked. Once finishing I checked google to see the temperature, 39 degree Celsius! And I felt every bit of it. I’d drunk around 8L, consumed 6 hydrolyte tablets and was still de-hydrated!

Thank you Elite Energy, all staff and volunteers for Summit Shoalhaven 2020, it was a a great event to restart my 2020 ultramarathon season! Great location, nice course and lovely atmosphere. Also thank you to the smiley competitors who I got to share the course with, I had a few good chats and met some cool people. Shout out to Michael and Michael you both know who you are.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s