Surf Coast Century – 100km 2020 Report

  • Location: Australian Surf Coast, Victoria, Australia
  • Time: 10:07:17
  • Overall Place: 8/182 (168 Finishers)
  • Full Results

It happened, it actually happened! After months and months of lockdown and uncertainty on December the 5th 2020 Victoria finally held their first ultramarathon since the COVID-19 outbreak. Although the race was originally supposed to take place in September Rapid Ascent (the event organisers) remained hopeful, took their chances and pushed the race back to December the 5th in the hope that the COVID-19 outbreak would have improved and restrictions eased in Victoria by the new date. It was close, the event only got the green light a few weeks before race day.

I’d just come back from New South Wales after participating and placing second in my first ultramarathon race since COVID-19, Summit Shoalhaven (55km). The Surf Coast Century was to be my second ultramarathon race in three consecutive weeks. Summit Shoalhaven (55km) – 28th of November 2020, Surf Coast Century (100km) – 5th of December 2020 & Wilsons Prom 100 (100km) – 12th of December 2020. I pulled up really well post Summit Shoalhaven so was looking forward to The Surf Coast Century. My goal was to sub 10 hours but I was happy with anything less than 12:22:52, my Surf Coast Century 2019 (100km) time. The Surf Coast Century 2019 was my first ultramarathon and completely killed me, but I was underprepared then and since then I’ve been training hard and have finished numerous ultramarathons so if I didn’t beat 12:22:52 this year I would have been pretty disappointed.

The race took place on a Saturday, starting at Anglesea and running along and amongst Great Otway National Park & The Great Ocean Road (approx. 2-3 hour drive from my house) at 7:30am. To make my life easier and so I could get some decent sleep I booked a hotel for the Friday and Saturday night at a hotel in Torquay (15 minute drive from Anglesea start line). My family was coming along as-well so the race was turning out to be a whole weekend affair. I drove to Anglesea Friday night by myself and picked up my race registration kit. Rapid Ascent do a great job with their race registration kits. Inside you have all the normal bits an pieces eg. race bib, timing chip, etc however they also included La Sportiva sunglasses and custom Surf Coast Century Steigen socks! Once at the hotel I made dinner which was just a microwaved instant Muscle Chef meal and salad, an hour or so later my family arrived. Lastly before heading to bed I organised my gear, making a last minute change, changing my cheap Target ankle socks for the new Steigen Surf Coast Century socks.

4am Saturday morning hit, I leapt out of bed and got straight into my routine. Breakfast, get changed, double check my gear and lastly chill out an hour, listening to music visualising the race whilst I digest my breakfast. Before I knew it 6:30am hit and we took off for the start line, we as in me and my dad. Dad was driving me to the start line, I love having my family come out to these races, it helps ease the anxiety of the painful day ahead. We arrived at Anglesea parked the car and made out way to the start line. By the time we got there it was around 7:10am which meant I had 20 minutes to chill out. The start line started on the beach, in fact the first 20km or leg 1 of 4 had us running on the beach with a few exceptions. Luckily the sand was firm so running along the beach didn’t make the first 20km any harder than running on pavement or trail. Anyway after taking a few photos and chatting to my dad along with some other competitors it was time to get going. Due to COVID-19 the race format had to be slightly altered, for example the number of entrants had been restricted to no more than 200, we ended up having 182 competitors which is half of the usual total. We also were separated into 4 waves, each wave had a maximum of 50 people and were separated by 2 minutes. Wave 1 was considered the fastest group of runners, wave 2 was considered the second fastest group of runners, wave 3 was considered the third fastest group of runners and wave 4 was considered the slowest group of runners. We were all allocated our wave by our own estimated finish time by which we had to submit prior to the race. I submitted 10 hours which put me in wave 1. 7:30am hit and the race began, there wasn’t much of a crowd as each competitor was only allowed 1 support person. As a result the atmosphere wasn’t the usual rush of excitement but it was just good to be out there after the whole COVID-19 mess. Once the start horn sounded I quickly found myself comfortability sitting in a top 10 spot which surprised me, the top 5 took off never to be seen again but the next 5-7 spots were all pretty close. The first 2km had us running away from the direction of the first checkpoint, running off the beach and along a cliff path above the sand. At around the 2km mark we made a U-turn back onto the beach, running back towards the starting line along the sand. After 4km and a few scrambles on some costal rocks we run past the start line and continued tackling Leg 1, the beach leg of the course. There was a slight course change this year due to some collapsing cliffs along the beach, so instead of continuing to run along the sand at around the 5km mark we exited the beach and made our way onto The Surf Coast Walk Trail. We ran along this trail and off the traditional course for a good 4km, which added a nice hill we had to run up. However after running back down, at around the 9km mark we made our way off The Surf Coast Trail and back onto the beach (the traditional course). After a couple kms along the beach we once again exited the beach by running up some stairs. Once up the stairs and off the beach we passed the first checkpoint and had a quick road running stint before making our way back down onto the beach. The last 10km of leg 1 was all run along the beach and on the sand, no exits, however there was a good amount of time were whilst on the beach you had to run along some rocks on wave-cut platforms. The rock surface was slippery, wet and sharp so a high level of attention was required to move along the rocks at a good pace. Falling over could lead to a potentially nasty cut that could set you up for a DNF. There was also a few times you had no choice but to jump in waist high water due to rock-pools and some turns along the wave-cut platforms. However time passed quickly whilst manoeuvring along the rocks and running on the sand and before I knew it I was at the 18km mark, passing Jun-Juc lifesaving club (one of numerous lifesaving clubs along the course) and was only a couple km’s away from making my way up the beach towards Torquay Lifesaving Club, where the end of leg 1 was marked with a major aid station. I’d run the first 21km and felt good the whole time, I was feeling great, had downed 2 gels and had been drinking. I was making good time too, 1 hour and 45 minutes, mind you I was hoping to do the first 20km a little faster. If I was to finish in less than 10 hours I needed as much buffer time as possible because I knew after 40-50km my pace would be slower than the pace required for a sub 10 hour finish. So my goal was to finish the first 50-60km well ahead of the minimum pace for a sub 10 hour finish.

I ran straight past the aid station marking the end of leg 1, quite a few people stopped at this aid station to change their shoes however I’m used to running with wet feet and the race wasn’t a multi-day affair so I didn’t see much point in changing my shoes. Once off the beach, past the lifesaving club and the checkpoint I made my way onto a boardwalk crossing a creek known as Spring Creek which gets you back onto the The Surf Coast Walk Trail. Running along the Surf Coast Walk Trail atop the cliffs in the opposite direction you just came from you can look down onto the beach you just ran on. Looking down I could see other runners making their way across the beach in the opposite direction as they made there way to the 20km checkpoint. The views from the Surf Coast Walk track are pretty spectacular, massive cliffs and of course the beach. At some point whilst running along the Surf Coast Walk track I started running with another runner, Liam. We struck up a conversation and ran with each other for a good 10 km. At around the 26km mark the course took Liam and I off the Surf Coast Walk track and onto a track known as Jarosite Track, quite quickly views of the beach and coastal cliffs changed to winding mountain bike trails, shrubs and trees. I should mention the whole time running from the 20km to 30km marks the course was undulating, both along the cliffs and whilst on the mountain bike trails. To be honest the undulating terrain in combination with the humidity was taking it out of me. Although I was enjoying chatting with Liam whilst running I was starting to feel it, and noticed my mood dropping. At around the 28km mark I got in another gel and drank some extra water to try and counteract what felt like a future bonk, but it didn’t work. By around the 30km mark we hit a checkpoint where I stopped for the first time to refill my camelback, I’d drunk just under 2L of water and eaten 3 gels for the first 30km, I’d also tried to eat a cliff bar but due to the humidity and exhaustion I struggled to eat so only got halfway through. This is also were Liam and I parted ways as he took off whilst I refilled my camelback. Filling up the Camelback is starting to get frustrating to be honest, I’m thinking I may change to 2x 1L water bottles in the future. Leaving the aid station I started feeling worse and worse, it wasn’t bad I just wasn’t enjoying myself anymore. I tried to remind myself how good it was to be running along some great trails again, and to be back running at the Surf Coast Century after the whole COVID-19 ordeal, I also reminded myself that feeling s**t is part of ultramarathons and it’s why finishing them is a great challenge. You always have lows and highs and at that moment I was just going through a low moment, it wouldn’t last forever. So I did what you have to do, I kept running and made myself numb to the negative voices in my head. Km’s 30-46km were all pretty similar, some single track mountain bike trail, a few fire trails and road crossings. Eventually at around the 47km mark I made my way back onto the Surf Coast Walk Trail and was only a couple km’s away from the start line on the beach. However of course we wouldn’t be finishing yet, this was an 100km race. Instead of making our way back onto the beach start line you take a right turn, heading towards the Anglesea shopping centre and running along Anglesea River on the same path I walked on to get to the start line at the start of the day. At around the 48km mark we finished the “second leg” of the race and was at the future finishing line, however at this stage the 48km mark was just a checkpoint. This was the first time I saw my family since the start of the day, originally I wasn’t supposed to meet up with my family until the 68km mark, at checkpoint 5 however at around the 40km mark I’d called my dad to ask if he could get me a cold gatorade. I was getting pretty hot and was struggling to eat food so needed to get in some extra sugars and cool myself down. Luckily my family are legends and got me the Gatorade and met me at the 48km mark, Checkpoint 4. So as I made my way to the finish line/Checkpoint 4 I was met by with my little brother who handed me the Gatorade, and my parents who where on the sideline cheering me on. It’s always great having that emotional support when your not feeling so great. However its also a little mentally challenging because I feel I have to hide the pain I’m in so they don’t get worried. So after skulling down the 600ML Gatorade and thanking my little brother and parents I left Checkpoint 4, marking the end of leg 2 of 4 and made my way on the back half of the course, legs 3 & 4.

Leg 3 is where most of the steep climbs occur, with plenty of fire trail. However to start off you continue to run along Anglesea River and alongside the town of Anglesea itself, theres something comforting being close to people and the towns. However this comfort was short lived as after 2km we crossed the river and started making our way back onto the trail. This is about where I ran into another solid bloke who I ended up crossing paths with for pretty much the rest of the run, shout out Dylan! It was Dylan’s first ultramarathon and he was crushing it!! We chatted a little before he took off, then I caught up and took off, then he caught up and took off, we were constantly going back and fourth. Most of the changeovers happened when I started walking and he caught up with his constant steady jog or I caught up whilst there was a solid segment of flat and downhill where I was able to run a faster pace. It was great having the company and friendly rivalry! The next 25km was pretty much up and down 4WD and 2WD tracks as we ran through the coastal bushland of The Great Otway National Park. I was feeling a little better at this stage which was good but was still struggling to eat, I managed to get down a whole cliff bar at this stage and 4-5 gels but when you’ve ran over 60+km and still have 40km left it’d be better to have consumed more calories and carbs at that stage.

By checkpoint 5 (68km) I’d been running for 6 hours and 40 minutes and wasn’t feeling horrible but also wasn’t feeling great. I’d came to the conclusion that my goal of subbing 10 hours was looking pretty ambitious at this stage. That buffer I created at the 40km mark had been slowly shrinking the past 30km. With that being said I hadn’t lost complete hope, I knew I was still in for a chance but I also starting accepting and coming to terms that I may not reach that goal. I’m not one for giving up on goals but I also don’t want to lose respect of the achievement of completing an 100km ultramarathon, just finishing one of these things is an achievement! So with that in mind I stayed positive as I made my way through checkpoint 5, even though I’d fallen over three times on some tree stumps all within 10 minutes before reaching the checkpoint. Funnily enough theres something about falling over that motivates me, that feeling of picking yourself up and saying to yourself “f**k that, this is what its about, nothings gonna stop me crossing that line, f**ken nothing”. It was great seeing the family once again at Checkpoint 5, I’m so appreciative for all the support they gave me throughout the race. Having my family support me during these races always brings about a huge feeing of appreciation, and love for them. Anyway after refilling my camelback for the third time and eating a couple pieces of banana at the checkpoint I said goodbye to the family once again and head off to tackle the last 30km.

Leg 4: Approx. 80km, Views of the coast whilst running downhill

The last 30km had a little bit of everything, some steep climbs, coastal bushland single tracks, 4WD & 2WD tracks, steep descents, a little bit of road running, a precarious crawl/scramble underneath a bridge and lastly another stretch of running along the coastal cliffs and beach. This also where I finally started feeling better, a cool change and some rain came that cooled me right down and freshened me up. This in combination with a few nice steep descents (although my quads ached!!) with spectacular views of the coast picked up my physical and mental state. It also helped that I smelt the end of the race, I was close!! It’s funny this is also where I started feeling better the previous year. Before I knew it I was nearly at the 77km checkpoint (checkpoint 6) which meant I was nearly out of the bush and back onto the coastal cliffs. I hardly stopped at checkpoint 6, quickly thanking my parents and grabbing a few more pieces of banana I was quick to head off and get going. Around 3km’s later I was running downhill with amazing views of the coastal beaches, it was overcast and you could tell some heavy rainfall was coming but as I looked out along the coast I could see surfers hanging for some waves, a nice distraction from the running. Feeling it in my legs but otherwise feeling pretty good I kept pushing, 1km turned to 2km which turned to 5km and as I made my way out of the bush and onto some stretches of road I could feel the end nearing. At 86km and after crawling/scrambling underneath a bridge which had a drop that’d see me going for a swim I reached the last checkpoint, Aireys Inlet, I felt great, happy to nearly be done. I made a quick stop at the checkpoint, grabbing a muffin which although tasted great was quite difficult to get down as it turned to large lumps of flour in my mouth. Being the last checkpoint this was also the last time I saw my family before finishing. They cheered me on along with the cheery volunteers, quick shout out to all volunteers and staff at the aid stations who had being working selflessly for us runners all day! These volunteers are the heart and soul of these races, always helpful and cheery, thank you guys!! I didn’t spend long at the last checkpoint, so after a quick bite to eat I head off for the final stretch. The last stretch was pretty much solely along the coastal cliffs and beach, super runnable and good for picking up the pace, although at times it was quite undulating. The other great part was running along the sand again, it took some of the pain off the quads but wasn’t too soft. I was able to get back to a 5:30 min/km pace. I was in pain but was also getting excited as I could nearly smell the finishing line. Before I knew it I was running on some familiar track, at around the 97km I was back running along the same coastal cliff I’d ran along for the first 2km of the race before we made that U-turn. However this time I was b-lining for the finish line and the legs had 97km on them. Before I knew it I found myself running back on the beach past the spot where the starting line was (it had been taken down at this stage), and then I found myself back running along the same boardwalk I ran along at around the 47km and also walked on when making my way to the start line. This is when it hit me that I finished, the pain was nearly over and unlike last year it was still daytime!! I made sure for this last km to take in the accomplishment and to appreciate the feeling of finishing the race. That feeling of finishing an ultramarathon is amazing and I wanted to take it in for as long as possible. Then before I knew it there it was the finishing line, with lots of people and more importantly my family. I mustered up some energy and made a quick dash (quick is subjective at this stage of a race) for the finish line. 10:07:17, I’d finished 7 minutes over 10 hours so was just short of my goal which stung a little, I also finished 8th overall and 4th in the 20-39 age group which also stung a little but not enough to take away the feeling of what I just accomplished. I was given my finisher medal and large sub 12 hour stein, had a quick chat with Sam from Rapid Ascent on the microphone pretty much just thanking him for keeping the race going amongst the COVID-19 pandemic and then took off and hugged and thanked my family. The feeling was great!! After a couple minutes I walked over to the shops across the road from the finisher line and entered an ice-cream shop, it was time to go to town. I wasn’t super hungry but the thought of a large vanilla thick shake and a gelato was pretty good, so thats what I got and consumed every last gram of sugar. This is how life should be lived. As I got in the car to leave its started pouring down, storm like rain! Perfect timing! A couple hours later after a clean up and lots and lots of rain my appetite picked up and the family and I went out to get fish & chips. What a day!!

Quick thank you to all the volunteers and staff who were fantastic, super helpful and positive. A huge thank you to Rapid Ascent for not giving up and allowing this race to happen in 2020 after the disastrous year it was. Thank you to all my friends for the positive messages and support before and then of course, lastly thank you to my family for taking time away from their weekend to support me.

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