Flew down from Canberra on Friday arvo and met up with La Sportiva teammates Gill Fowler and Matt Adams for the drive to Wilson’s Prom. I’d never been before and everybody was raving about the beaches/views. Personally I got a rude shock when Google maps told us we had a 3.5hr drive to get there, I didn’t realise it was that far away from Melb! We had a quick Cranbourne stop to pick up the essentials like beer, wine and canned soup (perfect mix of salt, protein, carbs and more salt, with minimal fibre). The low key vibe of the Running Wild events lulls me into a false sense of security, but I remembered that this was only the third time I had raced 100km, so I needed to respect the challenge.
It didn’t take long for us to meet the Prom wombats while setting up tents on Friday night. They were everywhere! Quite a few people had close encounters at night with them foraging through tent vestibules looking for food, even pooping on tent pegs. Anyway, a few hours of crappy sleep (lucky I got 10 hours the previous night) and it was time to race! Future Running Wilders beware – Paul Ashton’s mandatory gear checks actually occurred on this day!
6am start meant an hour of darkness. Firstly for our 4km uphill road slog, which felt surprisingly pleasant – uphill running practice must be paying off (thanks JP and Titou!). This was a good chance to chat and suss out the competition. It seemed like there would be a front pack of 6 guys in the 100km. Gill reckoned she might pace us until the 60km course split off from the 100km. Some people had really bad head torches and I don’t know how they coped on the next section. It was still dark for the awesome, rocky, muddy, single track descent towards Sealer’s Cove, and (even with Ayups) I was struggling to tell the difference between surface water and deep mud, so I ended up with a new coat of brown paint on my Anakondas, but there was no slipping or sliding.
I caught up to Rob Zwierlein and we ran together from Sealer’s Cove until the 4-ways at Telegraph Saddle, making pretty good time through rough undulating single track (6min/km average). He knew the area very well and made a couple of speedy nav decisions that helped us get through the campgrounds quickly. The tracks were generally easy to follow but split off into a maze at each campsite. We couldn’t see the guys behind us on the beaches so I figured we had a 5 minute lead over Toby Wiadrowski, Damian Smith, Dan Beard and Chris Roberts who I knew would be stalking us closely. Rob stopped to collect some creek water and (maybe for the first time ever?) I snuck away on an uphill, running a fire trail that I would normally walk.
An out and back down to South Point was probably my highlight of the course. Techy single track winding down to the Southernmost point of mainland Australia! On the way back I could check my splits to the chasers. Rob 5mins, then bam-bam-bam-bam: Toby, Damo, Chris and Beardy around 10-12mins.
On towards the lighthouse – a few short steep pinches that I power hiked up – providing much needed rest from running. Gill breezed through in the opposite direction, leading the 60km outright, a lead which she would hold through to the finish for a new course record.
Nasty little pinches on the lighthouse out and back, plus a beautiful beautiful fresh water tap. I lingered here a bit longer than I should have and refilled all my powders and bottles. As I left it seemed like Rob had almost caught up to me again, darn! On the bright side, I escaped from the out-and-back section before Toby/Damo/Chris/Beardy came through, which I hoped would give me a mental edge up on them.
The section heading North from lighthouse to Waterloo was possibly the toughest of the race. Overgrown single track and one of the biggest continuous climbs on the course. Plus we were around the 60km mark and feet were starting to get heavy and not go where you tell them to go, damn rocks! Although it was a really good excuse for some hiking, which always perks up my spirits (I swear I actually like running, but hiking is such a relief).
Back to the Telegraph Saddle 4 way junction, and on to Oberon Bay. This fire trail was a bit demoralising – 3km of soft sand heading towards the beach! As if it wasn’t enough, I went to drink some of my purified creek water, and realised that I must have filled it too close to the beach, because it was salt water! Gross! It was a relief to hit Oberon Bay and the next fresh water tank.
Then another km of soft sand running. I was really starting to get sick of that, but forced myself to be practical about it. The inefficiency of travelling across sand is that there is so much give in the ground, and you can’t ‘push off’ firmly. This means that walking and sprinting are a massive struggle, because they rely so much on pushing. I’m pretty sure the most efficient method of transit is fast step POSE style running – focusing on pulling your feet up with hamstrings and falling forward with your bodyweight, rather than pushing off with every stride. Anyway I theorised about this over a couple of spurs and beaches then I was back to Tidal River! As I ran towards the start/finish/80km checkpoint, the clock was on 7:59:xx so I put in a little burst to get the 80km in sub 8hrs, woohoo!
My recollection of this checkpoint is basically:
- Stephen – “how are you feeling mate?”
- Gill – “less than a half marathon to go!”
- Matt – “let’s get a photo for stalkbook!”
- Shane Hutton – “what fuel do you need in your bottles? Let’s get you outta here!”
At this point I had 3h18m to complete 20km under the record time, but for all I knew Rob and the others could be a mere km behind me. It was important to keep concentrating and eating/drinking/pacing responsibly to avoid any disasters/bonking.
The Mt Bishop boardwalk loop was a pretty cool place to run, and the ground was firm underfoot! I was stoked for another hiking climb then a rocky single track descent. My feet were a bit heavy and I kicked my toes quite a few times but avoided any major stacks. Rob and I passed on the summit out-and-back, high five-ing and assuming we probably wouldn’t see each other again til the finish (20ish minute gap).
The final 10km was a bit of a grind. 3km of road running on a douche grade uphill, followed by a few km of beach running (guh, I thought I was done with this!). A final out and back to Pillar Point, then sprinting 7min/km for the 2km back into Tidal River. New CR! The depth of the field definitely helped speed us up as we had 6 guys pushing each other all day.
Rob came in 30mins later, also under record time. Chris 3rd, Damo 4th and Beardy 5th. Toby had some stomach issues and bailed at a respectable 80km. There were new records in the 44M/60F/80F/100M so I’d say it was a pretty successful year. It definitely helped that conditions were perfect with mild temps, no rain and minimal wind (despite the ominous forecast of wind/rain).
Congrats to all the runners who attempted/finished the courses and thanks to everyone who made the day possible. Matt Adams and La Sportiva for personal and race sponsorship, Paul Ashton (Running Wild) and his volunteers for organising the event, Bogong Equipment for event sponsorship.
Coming up I’ve got: