I was woken at 4:30am by the sound of rain plummeting down the drain pipes outside my window. The wind was howling, the weather was as wild. “Are you going to call it off?”. Mikey, my hubby asked. I did not answer. I had spent the last two days trying to organise 11 people to do this 28km run from Manly to Long Reef return. 5 of my clients running that day have never run further than 21km, 1 had never run more than 15km before, so it was a huge event for everyone.
My race the Glenbrook Marathon was cancelled on Sunday due to flooding, so I thought it was the perfect opportunity to get my 3 Coastrek 50km Teams together for a solid training session. I did not think that the weather would stop my training too. Bugger, I’m so busy with all my races and training for all my events, that I have trouble fitting in all my training sessions, and then try and train my clients and team mates too. I know that everyone one else is busy too, and what is the likely hood that I will be able to get everyone out again on the same day to train, it just was not possible. We had to train no matter what.
I got up and checked the weather on my iPhone, we were going to get hit with so much rain it was unbelievable. But, there was a dry patch just about to arrive. So hopefully this will prevent too many people from pulling out of the session and they will be lead into a false sense of security, thinking that the worst had passed. (I giggle to myself at this thought).
One person pulled out due to sickness, another pulled out because she was just going to run it for fun, and she was not in one of our teams. It was best that she stayed home, there was no need for her to be out in this potentially dangerous weather. We were down to 9. Cool, the attrition rate was not so bad, and we now fit into 2 cars.
Mia and Zandra met at my house, we had a coffee and left and picked up Brian, who rode his bike to Cleveland Street, I put is bike on my bike racks on top of my car. I can’t believe how handy those very expensive but trusty bike racks have become. We drove to Manly and parked near the Wharf and waited for the others. It was just before 6am and it looked like everyone was arriving on time. It was raining, but it was warm, so we were not in danger of hyperthermia unless someone got seriously injured. I made sure everyone had an emergency blanket and a wet weather gear. I offered everyone a choc cookie, I have been told to eat more by my nutritionist, and a VLA reading showed that I had lost a kilo of muscle since August, so I get to eat again, more slow burning carbs and protein! Yay!!! We sorted out our gels, and without to much fuss, I handed 6 girls, my clients a map, and we were off.
I was running with 2 guys, Jeff and Brian, Renae was sick and was resting. Brian is a Irish 25 year old male with red hair, who is extremely fit, Jeff is in his early thirties, strong as an ox and I am always in disbelief with his athletic ability.He just should not be able to move like he can, he is just an agile machine.
It was going to be so much fun running with the 2 boys today. The group had to split up, 9 people running together was just too many, so I ran with my team, Jeff and Brian. Mia, a client and my 2nd placed Oxfam Team Mate, and winning Coastrek Team Mate, lead the girls in the other group. She is just a reserve at the moment, but wanted to come along to help out and have a great day in the bush.
With a few words, we were off.
I ran along slowly setting the pace, trying to keep the boys slow for the first 10 minutes, so their joints could warm up properly. It was our first training session with Jeff. We were so happy to have him venture out with us, the early morning starts had been getting to him a bit. We really appreciated the extra special effort he made to get up on this revolting day. We ran along the course-way, up over a hill in the burbs of Manly, and descended down to Little Manly Beach. We then climbed into the Sydney Harbour National Park, dropped down into Little Collins Beach then climbed for 1km up the the North Head. This climb always bites, especially when you have just started, but we hit a rhythm that we could all manage, usually this meant that we go no faster than the pace I am able to talk the whole way up then hill, if I stop talking we are going to fast. We crossed the road and threaded our way through some heath scrub on metal grates. I find these grates really fun, they are slippery, but I find the faster you go the better, I can bounce my way along these types of paths. We crossed another small road and hit a small trail that followed the sandstone headland around North Head, we ducked through a stone tunnel and ran down some bush stairs and onto Shelly Beach.
Instantly we were exposed to the full force of the wind and rain. We had a direct head wind, and that head wind was going to stay for the next 10km. Damn the head wind!!! We crossed Shelly beach then hit a footpath past Fairy Bower, ran around a point and hit the sand on Manly. In training for Coastrek, I encourage my Team Mates and Clients, to hit the sand, grass, or soft ground where ever possible. I want to avoid any unnecessarily high impact injury. So for all the training we run the sand along the beaches.
The wind was so strong that we felt like we were running in a wind tunnel, piercing rain and sand was stinging our exposed limbs. I hit the front, finding the stride rate of the boys too slow for me. I am only 5 foot 2 inches, so I have to turn my legs over much faster than the guys to remain at the same speed. Being out in front meant that I could set my own rhythm. Damn you head wind!!!! We ran on the sand, searching for the sweet spot, just on the edge of the tide line, where our feet could get traction without sinking too much. These were tough conditions. I really could not think of a time when I was wetter. The rain was pelting down on us, and I really thought my running singlet was a useless piece of clothing that I really did not need at that moment. The beach was littered with countless blue bottles, and tangled on the tide line. The wind was so strong that the Blue Bottles were being blown down the beach like tumble weeds. I have never seen such a thing. We now had moving balls of venom to dodge as well as stationery blue bottles, plus the floating Bluies, that were still being washed up by the sea.
We ran past the Pool at Queenscliff, then hit the steepest climb of the day, straight up the headland between some apartment complexes and up to the headland. This one hurt, and forced the boys to walk for a bit. We were already tired from the beach running into a headwind and we needed to rest for a while and wait for our bodies to switch back into aerobic.
I had been very lost around this area before and I showed the boys which route to take. Without a map around this area, you can end up going off a cliff. We found the walking track and descended into Freshwater Beach. Freshie was a relief, as it was protected from the hollowing wind, we made great time across this beach and headed over the headland, around the point, where the path switched to a beautiful broad walk along the cliffs edge for the next kilometre. On the pathway to Curl Curl beach the waves were monstrous, crashing violently against the rocks below.
What a better way to spend a Saturday Morning I thought. What else could one be possibly be doing?
This was madness. The tide was high, there was a storm surge of water making the seas fuller and more ferocious, and the rivers and lagoons will be full. I was starting to worry about what was ahead of us. Shit I forgot to tell the girls about the rules of water crossings. I hope Mia will guide them through and water crossing safely. That they should not enter water that is deeper than their knee height.
We hit Curl Curl beach and again we were greeted with a cyclone strong head wind. I hate running on Curl Curl Beach. The sand is deep and soft, what’s more is that the beach is set on an angle, so it puts uneven stress on your limbs. Damn you head wind!! It better not change direction for our return. I am looking forward to the tail wind I will be getting for our return.
We dodged Blue Bottles, passed a dead baby rat, washed up logs that were covered in shell fish and were bemused by live fish that had been flung out of the water. Man it does not get any more wild that this. The sea was angry, and we were feeling the full brunt of its force. Jeff lead, I tried to hide behind him. He was running so fast I could barely keep up. Brian hung back with me and kept a steady rhythm.
We waded into Curl Curl Lagoon, and waded straight back out again. We have had so much rain over the past week,the lagoon was flooded. A brown rapid of a river had formed at the mouth of the lagoon. The tide was high also, added to the depth of the crossing. The water was up past my chest. I took my back pack off, not wanting to submerge my iPhone in the water, then waded across the Mouth of turbulent the Lagoon. Far out, it better not get any worst than that. I looked at the headland at Curl Curl, and remembered our experience of this section of the track from last years race. At high tide the headland track is un-passable. The waves are too big and there is not enough dry path to follow around the rocks. I decided that it would be too dangerous to follow the track so I went to the Curl Curl SLSC and asked for directions
“Hi, is there a path to Long Reef?”, I asked the weather harden surf life saver. “Where do you want to go? Long reef, yeah, just head up to the traffic lights and follow Pittwater Road, you will be there in no time.” He replied. “Is there another path, through the bush?” I ventured. “Oh, you want to follow the head land, yeah, just follow the path to the right, and walk up the steeps”. He replied. Cool, we were off. We got to the top of the head land, I found some shelter and I texted the Team of Girls following us the directions, and that they should not try and follow the track around the head land due to the tide being so high. With this done we were off again. Brian lead through this section, followed by Jeff and I hung at the back having a little rest. We were protected by heath scrub in the reserve, it was so nice to be off the dreadful beach and running on a single man track. We passed some amazing houses, with equally amazing views as we winded our way down to Dee Why Beach.
We passed the pool, the SLSC. The Weather was so horrendous we could not see Long Reef Point only 2km away. This was our last beach crossing that we had to do before we had to head back. We ran along the grey foggy beach and then waded into Dee Why Lagoon. We waded straight back out again. “Shit, this is deep”, and with that we took off our back packs and held them above our heads and started to wade across the rapid filled lagoon mouth. I walked in, and I was soon in head deep with the water swallowing me. I was going to go under, it was too deep for me. Shit. I turned over onto my back so I could float, then started to do back breast stroke across the divide of fast flowing water. The current was so strong it was pulling my legs under into a whirl pool. I lifted them up and started to kick my breast stroke harder, using my legs only, whilst holding my back pack up out of the brown storm water. My iPhone was in my pack and I did not want to drown it, so I held my pack up as high as I could. Jeff was out first. He dumped his pack then ran back to get me, fearing that I was going to be swept away with the current. By the time he came back to me I was already out of the water dripping wet. We then looked for Brian. He was making his way out of the torrent. “That was really hairy, I’m not a strong swimmer” The Irish Team Mate said. Jeff and I looked at each other in shock, f*cK we almost could have drowned our team mate. Us Aussies take it for granted that everyone is a strong swimmer. Whoops. (Technically you should not enter any water of a river that is above your knee height, please don’t do this on your runs, I’d hate to hear that one of you got injured).
On Long Reef Beach, I found a surfy watching our crossing. I asked to be sheltered under is umbrella, it was raining heavily and I wanted to text the other team to tell them not to cross Dee Why Lagoon, but to take the Road. I chatted to the surfy, he said he use to be a runner, and that he is 53. I almost fell over, he looked so young. The running and the surfing has kept him in the best shape. Finding out this just reforms all my thoughts about exercise. Knowing that there are people in their 50s, 60s and 70s still living healthy active lives is one of my main motivators.
The rain was coming down, and we were over the head wind. Jeff took off running, Jeff was a machine and ran ahead, whilst Brian and I did our best to keep up with him. He hooned up the hill to the top of the point gaining 100m on us. At the top he rested and waited for us to catch up. We hit the 14.5km point and we had some food, and headed straight back down the hill again. I was looking forward to the tail wind all the way back to Manly. This took us 1 hour 44 minutes.
On the return we decided to take the road instead of the rapids at Dee Why Lagoon, and headed along the path past the SLSC at Long Reef and out onto Pittwater Rd. There was only a narrow path of about 50cm between the forest, us and the 3 lanes of traffic, it was unnerving suddenly being so close to civilisation. I felt vulnerable. The cars were speeding past, splashing us. Jeff was at the front setting the pace, stretching his legs. We ran for about 1.5km and then turned onto a cycleway that headed back to Dee Why Beach.
At the beach I had another gel, then looked for the other team. I could not see them along the beach near the lagoon, they should be around this area, they should not be that far behind. Bugger. Oh well we will just run into them later I thought.
The tail wind was fantastic. With is added help we were blown down the beach, it was making our return on tired legs so much more enjoyable. We past Dee Why Beach, then hit the bush again at Dee Why Head after a steep climb, Jeff lead us again through the bush. It was his first time out with us and he showed us what he was made of. I was having troubles keeping up with him. Brian was right on my tail, so I had no choice but to speed up. It was great to be pushed by these 2 guys. I was rising to the occasion. We took the turn off to Curl Curl SLSC, and on doing this we spotted some walkers that I’d seen earlier in the day. “Have you seen any girls wearing a singlet singlet like this?”.I asked pointing to my singlet, wondering where the others had gotten too. We should have passed them by now. “Yes back there”, the guy said, pointing towards Freshwater. With this knowledge I had the shits. How could they have turned back so soon? They better not have whimped out I thought. They should have told me they were having problems. The weather was not that bad, or so I thought. Bugger. The girls really needed to complete at least 25km today to keep them on track for their 50km.( I am a tough trainer, but it was not cold out there, it was really warm).
With these thoughts we headed down to the crossing at Curl Curl Lagoon. We waded into the water, and waded straight back out again. The water had risen since our last passing only 1 hour ago, it was brown, dirty fast flowing and unpredictable. We took off our back packs and waded though the shoulder deep water. I had to swim for a section of it as it was too deep for me to stand. Okay if the other team did turn back because of Curl Curl Lagoon, fair enough. It was bloody dangerous, and I would not suggest that anyone goes into water that they did not feel confident that they could cross with out any danger.
We ran down Curl Curl Beach trying to avoid the blue bottles, picking the sweet spot in the sand, enjoying the tail wind that we were receiving. On the pathway between Curl Curl and Freshwater Beach the tide had risen some more and the waves crashed into the rocks and splashing us as we ran along the clifs edge. This was madness. I have never been in such conditions, the seas were monstrous we were wet from the rain, and wet from the sea. My allergies were feeling fantastic. The salt water was clearing out all my sinus, there had to be some perk to running on a day like that. My chest had been bad ever since The GNW 100km, when in the last 10km I inhaled smoke. But the sea side air and spray was helping me so much.
We flew down the steps onto Freshwater Beach, crossed the beach with out much fuss, hit the stairs on the south end of the beach and started one of the final climbs of the day. This one stung. I lead up the stairs, knowing that we were so close to our finish, and push on up feeling really strong. We had been on our feet for over 2 and a half hours and the boys were starting to get tired. At the top they wanted to walk to catch their breaths. But after only a minute or so they were off and running again back down the hill, around the apartments and down to a flooded rock baths at Queenscliff. The rock pool was under water by about 20cm.
It was the last long beach we had to run along. Jeff again hit the front, just wanting to get the hard work over and done with. Brian and I did our best to keep up. After a few hundred metre of running, I noticed that my groin was starting to show signs of a strain. If mine felt like this, the others may be feeling it too. I watched the boys ahead of me avoid the blue bottles in the ever rising tide. Jeff narrowly avoid being stung by one. There was not hard sand left to run on, only the soft sand was available for running.
“Jeff, Brian off the sand, let’s rest up and take it easy, lets not get injured now, and lets avoid getting stung by a blue bottle”. I said. I this this made the guys day. We ran onto the broad walk, and stopped and stretched our groins, ate some food and started running down the beach towards Shelly Beach. It was great to be back on solid ground, I stretched my legs, hit the front and I felt great. I strided out, feeling my niggly hamstring have a stretch and warm up. This is when I enjoy my running to most, running at top speed and feeling my body flow naturally with every step.
The sea became angry again, the pathway between the SLCS at Manly and Shelly beach was being pounded by the waves crashing onto the rocks. Even blue bottles were being thrown up out of the sea and onto the footpath. This was again crazy conditions to be running in, but nothing will be this bad for a long time.
At Shelly beach I stopped and had another gel, Jeff had a power bar, and Brian ate spiced hot pepperoni sausages. This I personally find repulsive. I don’t know how he can eat a protein and run on it. I am a pretty vego, only eating fish 2 times a week at the most. If it was me it would be vomited up the pepperoni sausage after the first hill I run down. But everyones body works differently and what works for me may not work for someone else. After our little snack, we hit the last major climb of the day as we headed up to North Head. I still felt great, I’d been eating every 30 minutes,so my energy levels were high. Here, on this climb was when the guys started to feel it. We had been on our feet for about 3 hours. They were eating 50% less than me and it showed. We slowed to a walk. Jeff felt sick. The power bar did not agree with him. If I am going to eat something that is not a gel I usually eat it early on in the session or race, so my body has time to digest it. Or if I am hungry in a long run I only take a tiny bite at a time, then wait 15 minutes so it does not shock my stomach. Jeff, ate too much too late. But hey, this is why you train, so you can learn what works and what does not work.
At the top of the hill I started to run again, trying to motivate the boys. With this Jeff regained his strength, soon followed by Brian and I stayed at the back. Letting the boys set the pace. We were on the home stretch and they knew that it was only 2km more to go. We ran along the metal grates, crossed North Head Rd, and headed down the beautiful steep hill to Collins Beach. I hit the front again, and was amazed that the pathway to the walking track to Manly was under 50cm of water, next to a beer coloured water fall. We waded through the water, meandered through the small bush track of Spring Cove, past Little Manly reserve, rolled our legs down to Little Manly Beach .Yay, our last beach was crossed and we started the last climb for the day. With this Jeff could no longer run. He had to walk. We walked up the last hill together, then before too long we were running again. Jeff hit the front, again just wanting to get the run over and done with, he was cramping. I suggested that we did a cool down jog. But Jeff just wanted it over with. So Brian and I ran along side him, keeping him company and keeping the team together. The rain was still pissing down, it had hardly stopped all day. We passed the wharf at Manly Cove and ran back to our cars.
Training Session Done. The 30.5km took us 3 Hours 34 Minutes.
I opened the car, grabbed some cookies and shared them out. I gave Jeff and electrolyte mix to have to help his cramping, and Brian went and bought some warm clothes from the shops. I checked my phone, I saw nothing from the girls, I texted to tell them that we had finished. They must have gone all the way to Dee Why Lagoon. Cool, they have probably completed about 27km. Excellent. This made my day knowing that my other clients were still out training making the most of their opportunity.
Jeff and I walked into the water at Manly Cove to aid with our recovery whilst I waited for the others to return. We were soon joined by Brian. I made everyone stay in for at least 15 minutes. Jeff was cramping really badly, so we sent him home to be properly fed and to recover. Brian and I jumped into the car and waited for the others. I turned the car engine on, with the heating on full blast to warm myself up. I was freezing. Suddenly I heard some giggling and chatting, it was the other group. They had survived these awful condition with energy to burn, happy faces. “That was the hardest thing I have ever done”, Jayne and Kellie said. But their faces were glowing, almost contradicting what they have just said. They looked like they that a ball. The ran the 27km in 4 hours 4 minutes. “I am so proud of you guys, you made it here faster that your schedule by over 30 minutes, well done!”. I said, truly stoked with their effort. I tried to dry out Jaynes phone that Curl Curl Lagoon drowned, and Brian and I waited while they hit the water at the beach for their recovery. Sweet, they made my day!!!