I've been battling a hamstring strain in my right leg for about 2 weeks now since the Mudgee Marathon. It was more a niggle that would flare up after any activity. In my efforts to even get close to my marathon goal this year I returned to speed training early this week, while I probably should have been in recovery mode. Anyway, on my last 400m rep with the Ewan and the Spilling Squad, I was brought to a sudden halt by the said hamstring. It was a tear, not a really bad one but definitely left me pretty sore. So anyway, all week it's been R.I.C.E and just doing everything I could to get to the start line today.
|With Shona and Max DeLacy from barefootinc
Anyway, to the running. The start is a staggered start with runners going off in pairs in 5 second intervals. I went off with No Roads and barefootinc team mate Shona Stephenson who was backing up after last weekend's Oxfam victory and looking for her second consecutive Coastal Classic title. I thought that if I could keep up with Shona all day I'd be guaranteed an entertaining run so that was one plan. I cruised the first hill, a few guys had gone out too hard and were really suffering half way up but I maintained a steady and cautious pace. Last year I went out too hard and paid for it a bit later in the race at the headlands. At the top of the first hill at the Squeeze Way there is some lovely wide trail to stretch the legs out on except I couldn't, my hammy was restricting my stride length and power in the push off so I was really doing an easy pace run but was still up there in the top 10 or so. Vlad Shatrov, Sam Walker, Dani Andres and a few others were beginning to disappear out of sight fast though.
|INOV-8 was a popular shoe choice!
I had slowed up quite a bit and a few guys passed me. Coming out of the Jungle and onto the tricky grasslands towards Burning Palms beach was very hard work. The track is super difficult, with the grass covering the track and hiding any hidden nasty obstacles and trenches. I struggled to keep to the track and was guessing which way the track went at some points. This led to a potentially very dangerous 'fall' that I took. I say 'fall' as I didn't actually fall over, it was more like a free fall! I got off track, and before I knew it I had run off the side of a rock face down a small gully. I had already tried to correct myself so while I was falling I was facing the wall. I had that dreaded feeling while falling of 'when am I going to hit the bottom?' The fall was about 2.5 metres, and thankfully a few branches slowed down the fall's momentum.. I was very lucky to land on my feet and only come away with a few scratched and bruised ego.
After getting myself back up the rock face I saw about 6 runners had passed me while I was down that gully, including Lachlan and Shona. Once up I was running gingerly and was glad to hit the climb at Burning Palms. I was pushing Shona up the steps here but she didn't need my help so I forged on ahead. A few guys were walking but I was pleased to be running up. Coming down onto South Era beach, I was taking the descent very cautiously. Along the beach I was able to increase the cadence a bit and was feeling much more comfortable. I was definitely still racing. In the back of my mind I thought any time near my 2:27 from last year would be great.
I got a little off track entering Little Garie, but I wasn't the only one. Probably could have been a bit more marking tape around some of these key points. Around here I caught James Kuegler, another barefootinc runner whom I had first met at the Coastal Classic last year and also competed against at the Commonwealth Championships last year. A great bloke and a top trail runner; was a little surprised to see him back off the leading guys. Running along the pebbly section right on the coastline approaching Garie is one of my favourite sections and I was getting a nice rhythm going here. I hit the long beach run and headed straight to the wave zone where the hardest sand is. I could see the next pack up ahead and could tell that my pace was quicker and I was looking forward to passing a few of them in the next couple of kilometres and get myself back into the top 10.
|Crossing the creek at Wattamolla
It was amazing how comfortably Shona was going, we were running at a very easy, conversational pace. She didn't need to push at all, that's how dominant she was. It indicates how fit she is and also the lack of depth in the women's field to push her to the next level. I'm sure the leading men wouldn't have been able to talk very much! Evidentally, good mate Damien Smith must've been one of many that passed me on my little detour and he came into our sights. Shona and Damo have a very friendly rivalry happening, and Shona was yelling 'we're coming to get you Damo'. Damo had a great TNF100 this year, finishing 13th but this race was to be where Shona would get one back on him. He kept up for a while before dropping back off our pace.
Onto the metal walkways, Shona was stretching out and enjoying the gentle descent. I couldn't keep up, being restricted by my leg but knew that I would catch up to her on the ascents. I traded places with a few guys, yo-yoing with them between Curracurrong and Curracurrang. Shona and I ran into Wattamolla together where I filled my bottle and grabbed some GUs; Shona ran right through. I saw Sally from barefootinc who is always encouraging; even though I wasn't going to be competitive she is always there with a smile. Not once since being sponsored by barefootinc have I ever felt any pressure to perform.
The next section is great running along the top of the cliffs and down to Little Marley beach, affording brilliant views of the coast and ocean. I don't think we caught anyone but we were having a great time. Leaving Little Marley, my race suddenly took a very unexpected twist. Coming up to a T junction just before Marley, we saw a sign on the trail to the right (coast side) saying 'Wrong Way' with a cross on it and ribbons tied up to shrub going up to the trail to the North. Instead of the North East bearing we had been taking, it seemed the ribbons wanted us to head inland. Just as we were beginning to run up (the wrong trail) a whole heap of guys were running down, including Lachlan and Kuegs (who must've repassed me when I took my detour) and were yelling that it was the wrong way. I didn't know exactly what was going on it happened so quickly but Shona and I were fortunate we didn't head up the 'garden path' either. Had I not have taken my earlier detour off course, I surely would have also run up this wrong way. Even though logic dictates to keep to the coast, in the heat of battle and exhaustion it would have been an easy mistake to make even though I know this track pretty well.
|Post race battle scars!
The Balconies section on the cliff top is spectacular and it reminded me of the times I used to run out this way when I lived at Bundeena. As I passed a photographer I asked him how many were in front to which he answered 'you're it!'. Bloody hell, I was in a real ethical dillema now. There was no way I deserved to be here in front but I didn't really know what to do except just run my own race. The longer the race went on the better I felt and hit the Jibbon Beach Loop at Bundeena full of running. The temperature was quite hot, but I ran straight through the last drink station knowing that I only had about 4km to go.
The run through Jibbon Point and along the beach was probably some of my fastest kms all day and hit The Lambeth Walk on the road knowing that I would cross the line first; albeit totally undeserving. After I had finished a few of the front runners like Dani Andres were already there; apparently they ran the wrong trail all the way to the road and had hitched a ride into Bundeena. Soon after a lot of the other runners began to finish, those that took the wrong trail and backtracked and those that didn't. There was a lot of talk at the finish what would happen with the results. I didn't care; I knew I didn't deserve it so was more than happy to accept any decision race director Garry would make. Talking to Sam Walker after the race, he had been in the lead at the time over Vlad, with Dani Andres probably in third, with the rest of the guys a little further back.
|Relaxing with James Kuegler
You would think that the day's dramas would end here, but alas the trend continued. When I had gotten back to my car at Otford my car wouldn't start as I had left my lights on. I had jumper leads and after trying on Lachlan's car for a while to no avail, we flagged down a 'beefier' looking car and got mine going. Finally the day was over and was on my way home. It certainly won't be a race I'll forget in a hurry! Thanks to Max and Sally at barefootinc for sponsoring a great race and all at Max Adventure, particularly Garry Fairbrother for putting on a great event. Despite the sabotaging and some rightly annoyed runners, Garry remained calm and sympathetic.