Wilsons Prom 100 – 100km 2020 Report

  • Location: Wilsons Promotory, Victoria, Australia
  • Time: 11:00:30
  • Date: 12/12/20
  • Overall Place: 1/22 (13 Finishers)
  • Full Results

Last but not least, the Wilsons Prom 100 marked the end of a 3 week back to back ultramarathon training block/challenge. On November the 28th 2020 I completed Summit Shoalhven, a 55km ultramarathon in Kangaroo Valley, New South Wales, on December the 5th 2020 I completed The Surf Coast Century, a 100km ultramarathon at Anglesea, Victoria and now on the 12th of December I was giving The Wilsons Prom 100, a 100km ultramarathon at Wilsons Promontory a crack. To be honest I was getting sick of the travel each weekend and was looking forward to a weekend at home. Figuring out logistics was also getting tiring, and expensive. However the body was holding up well, I felt a little off like something wasn’t right (I’m assuming taxed Central Nervous System (CNS)) but other than that I wasn’t sore or having any physical issues. I’m not going to lie though I considered pulling the plug on the Wilsons Prom 100, I was pretty contempt with what I’d done over the past 2 weeks. However a mentor of mine encouraged me to continue with the Wilson Prom 100, and after so many people discouraging me from doing it having someone actually encourage me gave me that extra boost. Obviously I entered as otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this race report.

On Friday, November the 27th after a days work and solid swim my dad and I drove up to a town nearby Wilsons Promontory called Toora. Most competitors and volunteers were actually camping at the start line as the race started at the Tidal River campground at Wilson Promontory. However the Tidal River campsite was booked out and a nice little lodge in Toora was the best we could do. The drive from our house to Toora was around 2 hours and the drive from Toora to Tidal River was approx. 1 hour. Dad and I arrived at our lodge in Toora at around 8pm Friday night, start time Saturday morning was 6am but race registration was 5:30am which meant dad I had to leave our lodge at 4:30am. So with that in mind I was going to have to get up at 3:00am to go through my usual routine which meant I wasn’t getting much sleep. To be honest that was my biggest concern going in, due to a hectic work schedule I hadn’t had more than 6 hours sleep a night since completing The Surf Coast Century 100km the previous week. As a result I was tired and pretty fatigued so felt I really needed a good nights rest. By the time we unpacked, organised everything for race day and went for a quick walk it was 9:30ish and I went straight to bed, instant sleep.

Waking up Saturday morning to the sound of my 3am alarm wasn’t fun, I was tired and felt every part of it. Apart from feeling physically and mentally exhausted I also felt off, I couldn’t explain how I felt but I just didn’t feel right. On a positive note I didn’t feel any nerves or anxiety about running 100km, I was kind of numb. Still whilst eating breakfast I felt nothing, no excitement, no nerves, alright I thought to myself stop thinking and lets just get this done. The only time I felt anything was when I thought about next weekend when I could be home, thinking about the comfort of home brought a huge surge of excitement, my body and mind craved comfort. Anyway it wasn’t long before I’d eaten breakfast, triple checked my gear, got dressed and was ready to get going. As mentioned above the drive from Toora to Tidal River, Wilsons Promontory was around an hour so we, as in my dad and I left the lodge at around 4:30am. Dad was a legend getting up early two Saturdays in a row to drive me to these races. I nodded off and on during the 1 hour drive, I tried my best to stay awake but the comfort of closing my eyes and resting my head against the passenger side window was just to alluring!

I opened my eyes and we were there, it was a fresh and windy morning, a little chilly without the jumper on. If it wasn’t for the wind conditions it would of been perfect. It was supposed to be a mildly hot day however winds were estimated to reach 40km/h so my assumption was the wind would cool us down, I was right. So my dad and I arrived at Tidal River at 5:30am, I got my mandatory gear checked off and grabbed my registration bib 5 minutes later. It was a very relaxed atmosphere, there wasn’t much people competing I’m assuming due to COVID-19. Wilsons Prom 100 was an unmarked course with little checkpoints and water refill stations, some technical trails and was in an area that was fairly isolated, however beautiful. As a result people were expected be confident enough in their current physical ability to be able run the race safely. COVID-19 threw a wrench in many peoples training routines and as a result I believe many doubted their current capabilities to complete the race safely, so they either pulled out or didn’t enter at all. Anyway dad and I waited around as Running Wild (the race organisers) finished up setting up the event. By 5:50am we were all gathered around the starting area, ready to go, I went over wth my dad my expectations for the day eg. my times an when he should expect me to see me at certain times. There was really only two aid station, one at the 80km mark/start and finish line and another at the 31km mark/65km mark. And of those two aid stations dad could only meet me at 1, the 80km/start area/finish line. The course to be explained simply was basically 3 loops which all linked together, this meant we ran along the same trail a couple times, the two aid stations were located at the intersections of these loops (Diagram of course at bottom of blog)

I told dad I expected to be at the 80km mark at around 4-5pm so 10-11 hours after the start, I was hoping/expecting to finish the race in around 14 hours.

By 6am we finally took off, the first 1.5km was all on flat road before making a right turn onto Wilsons Promontory Road. Running on Wilsons Promontory Road sucked!! It was a gradual, never ending uphill run, running into a strong headwind (30 – 40 kmph) for 3 km before we finally left the road and got onto the trail (Sealers Cove Walking Track). I was in second place by the time we got to the trail, closely behind first place. I was feeling pretty good so decided I’d try and stay with first place, it’d give my mind something to focus on and pass time quicker. With the being said I wouldn’t of tried to stay with him if he was going any faster, his pace felt good to me. The rest of the small field (20-30 people) were a significant distance behind us. The trail at first was an undulating single track trail, it felt as if we were running along a saddle, I remember some great views of the surrounding mountains to our left. After around 7km I noticed the leader didn’t seem to interested in trying to shake me off and I didn’t have much interest in trying to pass him, so I started talking. After an introduction I realised he was Zach, a beast of a runner, who’s placed at some of Victorias most competitive trail runs such as the Two Bays Trail Run. This made me nervous and I started questioning my decision to try and stay with him. I had no business keeping up with Zach he was in a different league! He was a freak! With that being said I wanted company and was enjoying our conversation, I was happy to enjoy the current moment and deal with the crash from going to hard, to fast, later on. After a couple kms of chatter we hit a winding downhill patch, running through what felt and looked like a tropical rainforest. Something I loved about this race was how isolated the course felt for significant periods of time. This part was no exception, the winding down segment lasted 3-4km before we made our way down to near sea level where we then ran along Sealers Creek Walk Boardwalk which led to Sealers Cove. We picked up up a solid pace on the boardwalk, I thought this was were Zach was going to drop me as he picked up the pace but somehow I managed to stay with him. Before I knew it we were at Sealers Cove and running along the sand. Much of the sand was super soft and at times it felt like we were getting nowhere, it was beautiful though the water was an amazing tropical turquoise colour and the trees surrounding the beach were lush green. All the beaches around Wilsons Promontory seemed to be like this!! It’d been around 13km and I felt great, time had past quickly, we had some great views, the trail was awesome and Zach was looking strong. At 13.5km we crossed Sealers Creek (a creek running into the ocean) which meant we had to take our packs off and walk across some nearly chest high water, it added a fun little element to the run. This is also were we met up with one half of the photography duo The Eventurers! The other half was at the starting line. It was great seeing these guys again, The Dynamic duo take amazing shots during these events and at this point are just as important to the event as the course itself!! It was great to see them back. Once over the creek we ran past the Sealers Cove campsite and continued on our way. The next 14km was run along the coast, a few steep little climbs with some technical trail, some beach crossings and some beautiful views along with some gradual descents and significant trip hazards, you had to be focussed otherwise there was a good chance you’d take a tumble. Zach and I ran most of this part together, again having some great conversations which was passing the time however at around the 21km mark a crazy thing happened, Zach asked me to lead and he started to slow down. I was confused, again I have no business running at his pace let alone faster! I also didn’t want to leave him behind, I was enjoying his company but I had to remember this is a race so I kept holding a pace I felt comfortable with and before I knew it he was gone. It turns out Zach was getting chest pain and lightheadedness, he only just run the Traralgon Marathon in 2 hours 40 minutes two weeks prior so it was probably his body telling him to rest up. At around the 26km mark I passed Little Waterloo Bay Campsite before making my way onto Little Waterloo Bay itself, I ran along the beach of Little Waterloo Bay for a good 500m before making a right turn onto the Waterloo Bay walking track.

I ran for about 5km along the Waterloo Bay track, the track was mostly gravel with some patches of sand and dirt. After approx. 5km the track led me to the first aid station/checkpoint, I’d ran around 32km. The checkpoint was located at the Telegraph track junction. I couldn’t believe how good I was feeling, my energy levels were pretty good, my mood was good, I felt hydrated and was enjoying myself! This was a nice surprise as I really thought after the two ultramarathons in the two weeks prior I’d be struggling to complete this one. But it was quite the opposite, this was the best I’d felt!! The Telegraph track junction was located at a junction on a dirt 4WD road (one of the few dirt roads on the course). I was greeted at the checkpoint by a few friendly volunteers who offered to refill my water bladder, and gave me some extra gels and a few lollies. Once I was restocked I took off, keen to get the remaining 68km finished. This was the beginning of what I like to call “the lighthouse loop” because your pretty much circumnavigating the bottom of the Wilsons Promontory where the infamous lighthouse is. Starting from the Telegraph track junction you make your way south to the most Southern Point of Wilsons Prom and of mainland Australia, before making your way East to the lighthouse, once you’ve touched the lighthouse door you make your way north back towards Little Waterloo Bay where from there you make your way west back along the Waterloo Bay track towards The Telegraph track junction checkpoint, thats the loop.

The first part after leaving The Telegraph Junction is an uphill 4WD road, nothing too steep but it’s a long gradual slog for a good 3km. I still enjoyed it though, it was nice to not have to worry about going off course because its pretty hard to go off course whilst running on a nice, wide dirt road. The ironic thing about that though is this was the only part of the course where I went off course!! After around 3km right before you get to a designated helicopter landing spot theres a turn off which leads to a single track trail. I ran right past it and past the helicopter landing spot. My watch kept telling me I was off course but I didn’t understand how I could be off course, I was still heading south the correct direction and I thought this was the only way to go. Something in my head was telling me something wasn’t quite right though so after a little over 1km of being told I was off course I stopped and got out the map. F**k!! According to the map there was a turn off at around the helicopter landing spot, serves my cocky a** right. The other part that sucked was the last 1km I’d run was downhill, which meant I had to run uphill to get back! I didn’t let it bother me too much though, I was still feeling good and it actually made me realise I could be running faster, all of sudden I increased the pace once I found out I was off course. By the time I made it back to the turn off which was not hard to find, I met back up with Zach. He wasn’t looking too happy, definitely looked like he was in some pain. “Hey mate! Don’t go down that way, don’t be an idiot like me” I shouted. “What happened? You lost the lead” he responded. Although I wanted to win it didn’t really bother me I’d lost the lead, I was happy to still be feeling so good after 37km and Zach was back! So after the little meet up with Zach I was disappointed to find he wasn’t following me, we just weren’t running the same pace anymore, which was because as mentioned above Zach was in the hurt locker and having some issues. After only 1km being back on track I fell over face first into the dirt, hitting my head. “God f**ken damnit” I said to myself “this is bulls**t”. I hadn’t got any injuries though, my hip hurt a little but nothing substantial which meant there was only one thing to do, head down and keep running. Only a km later I fell over again!!! Tripping on another root, “hahaha, this is getting ridiculous” I laughed to myself, “I’m a bloody idiot”. Once again I got up, put the head down and continued running. So within 30 minutes I’d added an extra 2km to the race by running off course, lost the lead and fell over twice, I was still feeling good though!! And at the 40km mark I hit the first of the 4 detours of the course. There was 4 points to the course where we had to run to a landmark and back. The first one was from the Roaring Meg to the South Point and back at around the 40km mark (where I was now), the second one took us to the infamous Wilsons Promontory Lighthouse and back at around the 50km mark, the third one was up to the summit and back of Mount Bishop whilst on the Lilly Pilly Gully Circuit track at around the 86km mark and the fourth and last one was to Pillar Point and back coming off the Squeaky Beach Walk track at around the 94km mark. The Roaring Meg to South Point out and back segment was quite technical, scrambling up some rocks and squeezing threw some others, it was also quite undulating with a few steep little climbs and descents. It was beautiful though, especially the closer you got to the Southern Point as the the beautiful coastal islands, landform and turquoise water got revealed. The out and back segment was 3km out and 3km back, so 6km in total. This meant I’d most likely run into the leader and the others who were behind me, I was looking forward to seeing how close the field was. As I got closer and closer to the South Point I was finding it odd I hadn’t run into the leader, surely he was due to run past me soon. However I was shocked to discover he was refuelling at the South Point, I’d caught up! “Hey mate! How you feeling?”, “good” he responded, we chatted a little, he asked me about what happened when I got off course amongst some other things. He seemed a great bloke, maybe I found my new running partner for the rest of the run I thought to myself. Let’s try and hold onto him for as long as possible, the funny thing was I didn’t want to hold onto him so I could win or for any competitive reason, I just wanted company! Anyway we ran together for pretty much the whole 3km back to the Roaring Meg. We past a few other runners as they made their way to the South Point but we had a good 3-4km on them, so weren’t too concerned they’d catch up. About 500m away from getting back to the Roaring Meg I was once again shocked I started running a faster pace than my new mate Dan. Today made no sense, I had no business running at these guys paces let alone running faster than them!! It happened though and before I knew it I found myself a little disappointed running alone however back in the lead. Now at the 46km mark I started making my way east along the coastal cliffs towards the lighthouse.

Again amazing views along the course, the 4km between The Roaring Meg and Lighthouse was a nice combination of rugged single track trail with a little bit of dirt road. This was also the first time I saw runners competing in different distances, I believe they were the 60km runners. They were running in the opposite direction, seeing other people is always a mood lifter. I continued running, taking in the stunning views whilst minding my step, the sun was shining down but the harshness was burnt out by the cool breeze, it was almost perfect conditions. Before I knew it I reached the turn off that took us to the Lighthouse. So making the detour off the main trail I started making my way towards the lighthouse, it was around 1km to the lighthouse however 200-300m of that was a steep climb so it wasn’t easy. The first 300-500 meters was trail however as we got closer to the lighthouse the trail eventually met up with a asphalt path, so the last 500m or so was run on asphalt, this is also where the steep climb began, I turned off my running legs and turned on my hiking legs. It was comforting to see quite a few 60km runners ran past as they were coming down from the lighthouse. It wasn’t long before it was my turn to reach the lighthouse. Once at the Lighthouse we had to touch the door and turn around so after touching the door, and taking in the views along with some photos I turned around and started making my way back to the trail. I should quickly mention the Lighthouse offered a tap so I was able refill my camelback for the second time, it was just in time as I’d just ran out of water! Running back down the hill I ran into Dan!! It was good to see him again, he was looking strong, we cheered each other on as we passed each other and gave a quick fist bump.

After leaving the Lighthouse and getting back on the trail I’d ran 52km which meant I was past the halfway point!! I was feeling great, I’d eaten a few salted peanut butter sandwiches, cliff bars and gels at this stage and had no gut issues, so that was great, and I’d even managed to stay hydrated. I’d also been smart and hadn’t gone to hard so still had plenty left in me, the next 8km to get back to Little Waterloo bay (the 27km and 60km mark) was the least runnable and the most frustrating part of the course so I’d need the extra energy.

The 52km to 60km part of the course between the Lighthouse and Little Waterloo Bay along the south east part of the Wilson’s Promontory had us running inland a little, and was filled with overgrown ferns and constant uphill segments. It was a constant stop and start, I remember a part were I picked up a pair of sticks to use a trekking poles. However I couldn’t get into a rhythm or use them properly because there was no where to place the sticks without them getting caught on overgrown ferns and other plants. A lot of it was also a constant gradual ascent which eventually became too much for me to run. To make things even more frustrating the parts where I tried to run my feet would always get caught on the overgrown plants! So honestly I think I only ran 40% of this 8km segment which was a little frustrating, but I managed to stay positive by joking around with myself and just being an idiot. I deal with being uncomfortable a lot of the time with humour, and since I’m not a very funny person my humour is very silly. Now with that being said as we made our we made our way back to the coastline cliffs from the inland forrest ferns, the views of the turquoise blue waters and white sandy beaches quickly made me forget my frustrations with the trail. And before I knew it I was running downwards along the coastal cliffs towards Little Waterloo Bay. Then bam! I was there running along the sand towards the same Waterloo Bay track I’d run on nearly 33km’s ago and around 4 hours ago. It felt good to be back on the beach and to only have around 40km left, I could start to smell the finish line. As I ran along the sand I passed a sweeper who was making her way back the way I came with a runner. I feel it’s important to highlight all volunteers and sweepers, without them these races wouldn’t be possible. Anyway after running around 1km along the beach I was back on the Waterloo Bay track heading towards the Telegraph Track Junction checkpoint again. I picked up the pace as it’s quite flat around here and surprisingly my legs felt good! I was able to get a few km’s with a 5:30ish pace, which is usually a slow pace but after 60kms of running and a few tumbles thats good for me. At 65km I was at The Telegraph Track junction checkpoint once again, so good to see some smiling faces! The amazing volunteers gave me some packets of lollies and refilled my water, they asked me how I felt and then before I knew it I was off, heading north along the Telegraph Track before quickly making a left turn onto a different track heading west towards Oberon Beach. The whole 3km towards the beach was run along a wide 4WD track however instead of the normal gravel road it was the typical coastal sand/dirt and grass terrain. If you tried running in the middle you were not in for a fun time, it was the softest sand you could think of. However along the sides which were a good 400cm higher the track was great to run on. The temperature felt like it raised 10 degrees Celsius along this part of the course, completely exposed but also surrounded with trees and shrub which added an extra humidity element. On a positive note I was still feeling good and was now running with the 44km runners and there was plenty of them! Cheering each other on as we were all suffering in our own way. At the 68km mark I found myself running along Oberon Beach, back on the sand!! Luckily most of the sand running along the whole course was on hard sand!! The next 8km was all run along beaches and coastal cliffs, constantly entering and exiting beaches. First it was Oberon Beach as mentioned above then Little Oberon Beach and lastly Norman Beach. Again spectacular views of the coast and some awesome technical terrain whilst running along the coastal cliffs and plenty of 44km and 60km runners to keep me company. Once I finally exited the last beach (Norman Beach) I was back at the Tidal River campground, AKA the start and finish line, I was nearly done!! All I had left was one last little 20km loop which wasn’t too little when you consider we have to run up Mount Bishop. I stopped at the start/finish line checkpoint to refill my water for the fourth and last time, however didn’t grab anything to eat. I also got to have a quick chat with my dad who it was great to see and race director Paul, but I was still racing so it wasn’t long before I was running back out of the Tidal River campground heading North towards Mount Bishop.

The last 20km was along some much more established walking tracks, lots more people just going for walks along these beautiful tracks. First part of the 20km loop was after crossing the Tidal River Bridge which eventually led to the Lilly Pilly Gully Circuit. The Lilly Pilly Gully Circuit was surrounded by dense bush and tall trees, as mentioned above the track was very well established and some parts were gravelled. This made it very runnable, The Lilly Pilly Gully Circuit was attached to the Mount Bishop climb detour, so after 5km of running around the circuit (including a weird little loop turn off) I was back running on some rugged, single track trail making my way to the summit of Mount Bishop. After 2km of running/walking I was at the top, the sun blazing down and the wind hitting hard. We had to take a photo of a bench plaque to prove that we made it to the top, so after a quick photo and after calling Paul to make sure I had the right plaque I took in the view. Best view of the day, you could nearly see the whole of Wilsons Promontory and where we’d run today. After a minute of taking in the view I once again had to remind myself I’m racing and turned around to make my way back down. Paul told me I’d be running into Dan on my way down, I was looking forward to catching up with Dan again but also now I was nearly finished and was leading I starting feeling the anxieties of losing first place. So what did I do? I turned on the gas, I’d been just trying to enjoy the day so far and miraculously found myself in first place but now with the end in site and first place in my grasp I started really pushing what little I had left. Paul was right I did run past Dan on my way down, but I had around a 2km lead on him and I was going down whilst he was going up so I felt pretty confident I had the win, but still there was no guarantee, so after congratulating and encouraging Dan and him doing the same for me I pushed hard down the mountain. I made it off the Mount Bishop detour and back onto the Lilly Pilly Gully Circuit, 86km down.

The last 11km hurt, from the Lilly Pilly Gully Circuit we had to do a little bit of road running (around 3km). It was busy at the Wilson Promontory and cars were flying past me, the road running part was mostly a slight, gradual, uphill ascent before a turn off which led to Picnic Bay. Once off the road and back onto some gravel trail it wasn’t long before I found myself running along Picnic Bay itself, more sand running and more beautiful stretches of beach!! The beach was also pretty populated with lots of people relaxing on the beach. At around the 91km mark I exited Picnic Bay beach and was back on some trail which led me to….. another beach!! The infamous Squeaky Beach this time, at the 93km mark I found myself squeaking along the sand, literally, the sand squeaked when you ran on it. This beach also had lots of people chilling out. Now I was starting to feel tired, my legs were finally starting to fall off but although Dan was no where to be found I did not want lose first place now, I was so close so I dug deep and kept pushing. At around the 94km mark I was off squeaky beach and back on the coastal cliffs making my way towards the last detour. The last detour had us running off the Squeaky Beach Walk track and towards Pillar Point. This detour only added an extra kilometre though and before you could blink I’d run to Pillar Point, taken a photo, took in the amazing view and was back on track. I was only 1.5km away from the finish line and coming back from Pillar Point Dan was nowhere to be seen, for the first time I felt I’d won, still though I had to be sure and now knowing how close I was the excitement carried me towards the finish line. I made sure to take in what I’d done and enjoy this last km, reflecting and enjoying the feeling that only hard work brings, that feeling of accomplishment. I hit 97kms and then crossed back over the Tidal River Bridge and into Tidal River campgrounds. There it was the finish line, well kind of…. turns out I was finishing a little faster than expected and the blow up start/finish line wasn’t blown up. The wind had been blowing hard and causing trouble all day so they couldn’t keep the start/finish gate up. There wasn’t really anyone around either, well no one paying attention except for the timing guy. So I ran through the campground and across the finish line. I finished and won but it took 10 seconds or so for people, including myself to realise. Yay?! I’d finished, and in 11 hours and 3 seconds I couldn’t believe it. I was expecting 13 -15 hours, the terrain was quite technical, there was a total of 3,461m elevation and I’d run 55km two weeks ago and 100km 1 week ago, this was not supposed to happen. After 10-20 seconds people realised what had happened and Paul, along with the photographer, my dad and some amazing volunteers congratulated me, it felt so odd. I thanked Paul for holding the race and the others for their support, then I walked around the campground with my dad whilst waiting for Dan to finish the race so I could congratulate him. Dad bought me an Oak so I quickly got that down along with the infamous Freddo Frog from Running Wild. After around 20-30 minutes Dan finished, we had a chat, Paul awarded me an amazing first place trophy along with a sick Wilsons Prom cruise voucher, I had a chat with the champion photographers The Eventurers and then got in the car and head home. What a day!! It didn’t feel real, like somehow I must of cheated, I checked my watch to make sure I hadn’t taken any shortcuts, nope, I’d ran the whole course and actually added an extra 2km.

Thank you Paul and Running Wild for holding a great event with a breathtaking course and a big shout out to all staff and volunteers for making the race happen, you guys are amazing!! Another shout out to the photographers, The Eventurers who’s presence is always appreciated on these runs, yet another shout out to Dan and Zach, it was great running significant parts of the course with you guys and I wouldn’t of got the time I got without you guys and lastly thank you to my dad for your support, having you support me means a lot and I can’t appreciate you enough for spending your weekend being there!

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