In 2017, I ran my first Surf Coast Century. It was my second 100k race and I felt I had learnt a lot from the first one only 6 months earlier.
It was perfect by any stretch but I was happy with my 15:18 time.
My dad, who is not remotely interested in running never mind ultra trail running was stoked for me and a bit baffled. He was taken by the event and as a beer guy, the beer stein awarded to finishers under 12 or 16 hours caught his attention.
After an underwealming DNF in 2021 (you can read about that here), I left it very late to sign up this time. I didn’t want to pay $500 (I’m not exaggerating, that’s the price!) and not making it to the start line or worse, start it and not make it to the finish line due to some work stress or life complications that came up unexpectedly in the weeks before.
Having ran it twice (ok one and a half!) and spectated or crewed twice, I’m pretty familiar with the event and the course.
I am also lucky enough to get to train on it as I live about 30 minutes from Torquay. I’d ran in just about the entire course during training.
My training had been really consistent but not exactly as many long runs as I’d like. I’d still been doing the run/walk method to make sure I didn’t flare up my knee and I felt strong after a good result at Peaks and Trails. But it’s 100k, anything could happen.
The race festival of Surf Coast Century starts on Friday afternoon with packet pick up.
Annoyingly you have to collect your bib and drop of your drop bags between 3pm and 6:30pm the Friday before the race. A very tough time window for anyone who lives or works east of Melbourne. Oh and this year it was also the start of the school holidays. I decided not to go to work and took the day before prepping my drop bags and trying to find the random pieces of first aid equipment required for the mandatory first aid kit.
I didn’t go crazy with the drop bags. I didn’t have one at checkpoint 2, the infamous spot everyone changes their shoes after a forced dip in the beach and just had one for checkpoint 4, the halfway point and checkpoint 6, Moggs creek, the last drop bag location. I popped my fuel, extra socks and buffs and sunscreen in the halfway one and a change of clothes, my fuel and a spare head torch battery in the Moggs Creek one.
Once that was done, it was back home for dinner before a very early start the next day.
I set my alarm for 2:30am. I woke up before my alarm, actually excited to get out and do it. I don’t remember the last time this happened!
I picked up Megan on the way and got to the start line a bit too early with plenty of time for a pre race toilet stop and walk down to the start on Anglesea Beach.
I was nervous about the beach section. The one thing that freaks me out and slows me down on the trails is wet rocks. I hate them! I have slipped and hurt myself so many times that I am now overly anxious about it. It slows me and everyone behind me down.
In 2021, when I signed up for the race and pulled out at 50k, I had some really difficult time on this section. The tide was high, the waves were violent and the rocks were sharp. At one point, I logged a 17 minute kilometre.
But this year, I was pleasantly surprised by the runnability of the sand and the early start, whilst ungodly, meant that we missed high tide. I was beyond thankful. The race broke apart quite quickly and I found myself running alone. I had a few k’s where I ran with Megan, and then another Megan as well but I was mostly by myself.
The sun rose over the coast, creating that perfect mirror on the sand that you only see at that time of the day. It was the type of sunrise that makes you feel endlessly grateful for being able to run at all.
I was almost at the end of the first leg, when I slipped, banana style, on a rock and landed smack on my butt. My immediate response was to panic. I didn’t cry, but I wanted to. I got up and luckily only took some skin my hands and leg. “Had a broken my butt bone?” Nope, it shook out after five minutes or so and I kept on shuffling like it didn’t even happen.
Coming to the end of Leg 1 and into the second checkpoint, I was very conscious of getting in and out of that aid station. I didn’t want to dilly daddle. In preparing for the race, I had a looked at my previous attempt in 2017 as well as my races at Ultra Trail Kosciusko and Ultra Trail Australia, my only other 100km finishes.
In 2017, I spent a total of 10 minutes and 31 seconds in the three main checkpoints.
At UTK, (with the first aid issue!) I spent 40 minutes and 3 seconds ‘resting’ according to the UTMB website.
At UTA, I spent 50 minutes and 10 seconds ‘resting’! Thats almost an hour on top of my finishing time. And I can’t even account for most of it. There was an outfit change and mandatory gear check at one and a toilet stop at another but 50 minutes!
I was not doing that here. In and out was the plan. I came into the checkpoint, like everyone else, with wet feet. But I’ve had wet feet before and it had never bothered me so I stopped to refill my bottles, looked for some watermelon, there wasn’t any, and kept on going. In and out in 1 minute 40 seconds.
The next leg, from Torquay to Anglesea is the leg I run a couple of times a month. It’s a regular training run of mine. I had decided early on that I wasn’t going to the ‘soft’ on this section and was going to run the hills.
There were a few spots I struggled going through the mountain bike tracks heading into Anglesea but I jumped on some conga lines and had some good chats with people, including Jonathon who had run 100 out of 170 kilometres at UTMB only two weeks prior.
I came into the finish line/half way ish checkpoint at 48km feeling good. I knew I was well ahead of my previous time even though the checkpoint was 1km earlier.
Once again I came into the checkpoint on a mission. Get my drop bag, re-apply sunscreen, get my fuel out of my bag, grab some watermelon and get the hell out of there.
Problem was, the aid station was chaos. There was no volunteers or race official people looking after the drop bags, you had to find it yourself, which wouldn’t have been so bad if there wasn’t relay runners and crew of other runners everywhere. Luckily a friend of mine, who clearly saw I was a bit frazzled, was there waiting for her relay runner to help me out. She found my bag and lathered me in sunscreen. I refilled my bottles and headed out, again without any fresh fruit. In fairness to the event organisers, they never said they would have watermelon or oranges at their checkpoints, so I couldn’t be too upset about it, I’d assumed there would be some, especially given the heat.
I was in that checkpoint for 6 minutes and 25 seconds and boy was I annoyed about it! In fact I let it bother me for way longer than it needed to, easily 5 km. I was pissed off and frustrated and really really hot.
The third leg is the hardest leg of the course. It has the most hills and exposed sections and in the heat, it felt like it was forever between checkpoints. I really struggled here. I was really worried about having enough water and not cooking myself.
I knew it would get hard on this section and I was fully prepared to get out my headphones and jump on the struggle bus. I’d decided the struggle bus was half annoying pop star and half my life is over Emo (one day I’ll draw how I picture it!) I had playlists ready to go. I just made one mistake, I didn’t download it. So when I pulled out those headphones and was ready to deploy the run three songs, walk one song plan to get me through this rough patch, I had no phone reception! FAIL!
If I wasn’t tired and frustrated enough, that tipped me over the edge. I shoved my headphones back in one of the pockets of my pack and angry hiked up the hill.
For some reason I really struggled with the hiking this year. I seemed to have no butt muscles. Walking, sorry hiking, uphill felt like I was standing still.
My core memory from this entire section is obsessing over the water points. How far was it to the next checkpoint? How much water did I have? I constantly refreshed my phone trying to get the list of checkpoints to come up so I could quickly screen shot it.
I had the map downloaded on my phone through the Capra app but I was too hot and bothered to get it to work.
I obsessed over the water until I got to the Currawong Falls climb, then I obsessed over how long it felt, even though I had done in many times before and knew it wasn’t actually that far or hard, then I went back to obsessing over water.
I was super cautious on the run back down. I almost face planted before literally saying out loud “for fucks sake, lift your feet”, in a tone only reserved for myself and usually only in my own head!
I have never been so relied to get to the end of that leg. One leg to go. I just had to get to the lighthouse and then it was all flat to the finish from there.
I changed my shirt and wiped off all the salt and sunscreen at the last big checkpoint, moggs Creek, 75km in. I grabbed a few things out of my drop bag and kept on trucking.
I got to run/walk with some great folks over this section and I was so grateful for their company, especially when we got to the bridge at Airey’s inlet. Why they can’t put a stop go man there is beyond me! We had to go under the bridge, on sharpe steep rocks covered in blackberry thorns. It was horrid. Thank goodness for Stuart and Jacs. I was so glad it wasn’t dark yet.
And just like that, I was at the lighthouse. Or close enough that I could see it.
I had been getting messages from my other half all day, he’d been following on the tracker all day. “We just missed you” he sent as I was coming into the aid station. I was confused by the “we” and where he could possibly have been.
Turned out my “tracker” which was actually an algorithm not an actual tracker, thought I was further ahead than I actually was!
So when I came around the corner, there he was on the trail, running with our two, overly excited dogs.
I was determined to get it done and my god Freddo kept dawdling in front of me! But they were very excited and I think the other runners were excited to see them too.
It was around here that I redeployed the run/walk, just without the music because I wasn’t going looking for the headphones I didn’t put away properly.
I decided on walk for 3 minutes and then run until my watch beeps. It wasn’t super fast, but I needed to be accountable to my desire to just walk it in.
Once on the beach, I thought it was 8k on the beach to the finish. I could run/walk 8km!
I have a history of falling in a hole at 70ish k’s and spending more time walking and feeling sorry for myself than running. I didn’t want to do that, I wanted to learn to keep running towards the end, even if it was just 700m at a time.
The only time you get to practice this is in races, so now was as good a time as any.
To my surprise, it was only maybe 4K on the beach and then back onto the trails for a bit before going back down onto the soft sand to get to the finish.
I passed a group of guys with about 500m or so to go. “Let’s go fellas” I yelled, thinking they would jump on the conga line to the end. They tried but couldn’t latch on.
I was going to do it. I was getting that bloody stein!
I crossed the finish line in 14:22:03, almost an hour better than the first time (15:19:13).
Stoked! Proud! Accomplished! Exhausted… and slightly ill.
I sat down at the finish line with the pups and a pizza and tried not to die. Usually I’m fine but I got the shakes and aches and even a weird hip flexor cramp. Hubby found me a Gatorade which would usually be a hard pass but was the best thing I had tasted all day.
We cheered on random runners and people I had ran with at various stages as we waited for Megan to finish her first 100k event.
Additional fail to note: I didn’t put my finishers bag at the finish line, I left it in the car which was parked easily a k away! Lucky hubby was nice enough to go get the car otherwise we would have been making the long hobble back to the start line! Bless his patience, crewing and supporting is hard, mostly because people who are hurting and upset aren’t always very nice.
The finish line didn’t have the same atmosphere without Kerry’s waffle on the mic, but it was still nice to hang out for a bit and cheer on other runners.
As I literally fell out of a porta loo, another runners says to me, “gee you look great for someone who just ran 100k”. He may have been joking, I did just fall out of a toilet, but I said thanks and as I shuffled back to our spot thought “I’m actually not that bad, I could have done better, I can do better”. Damn it!
The next day, after I treated myself to three breakfasts, I went over to my parents house to drop off dad’s stein. I hadn’t told him I was running or that I was trying to get him a stein. Too much can go wrong and I didn’t want that extra pressure.
He was pretty chuffed and drank the free beer from the race sponsor, Blackmans Brewery, from it.
I’m glad he doesn’t know enough about the race to ask for the big one! Sub 12 hour?
I’ll do a gear/fuel etc recap next week.
But I’m calling it a win, a big one.