Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Coastrek 50km Record Winning Time

(I have to excuse the above pic, it was torrential rain, and my husband only has one good camera, and he had to shoot a wedding the following day so he used his crappy iPhone.)
I was going for 3 records in 3 trail races when I was lining up for the start of Coastrek Trek 50km, a trail event that runs from Palm Beach to Balmoral Beach to help raise one million dollars for the Fred Hallow Foundation.
I had the best team of four, Brian, Jeff, Renae and myself . Renae and I already hold the course record with a time of 7 Hours 42 minutes. I guessed we were going to be pushed this year and a time closer to 6 hours and 30 minutes will get us first position. I knew with the right team, I could get across the line close to the 6 hour mark. I hand picked my team mates. I was so was fortunate that Renae knew a super fast runner, Brian, who narrowly beat me at City2Surf 2011 (I did have the flu, he he he), and I then found another strong runner, in one of my bootcamps, Jeff. Jeff is a machine, and he can run a Marathon in 3 Hours 24 minutes, without knowing how to properly fuel himself, and Brian ran the Blackmores Marathon, his first ever Marathon, in 3 hours 41 minutes in scorching temperatures of 37 C. So my boys were strong and the girls, Renae and myself are great mates, and we would do anything for each other. Our kids go to school together. Renae and I love to head out to the mountains and get lost , have an adventure and then live to tell the tale.
I set a time goal for our team of 6.5 hours, taking the splits from the slowest training session, knowing that you can only go as fast as your slowest team mate. My husband was on support crew, I warned my team mates that there was going to be swearing, and to ignore Mikey and Me, as I get a bit temperamental  coming into the check points, especially the first one. It is something I need to work on. I'm a control freak, and I am not use to leaving things in other peoples hands. Also, I hate to generalise, but husbands never listen to exactly what you say, and Mikey has an uncanny ability to tune out to the tone of my voice. So there is always a communication break down between Mikey and myself. But this year, thanks to Barefoot Running Inc, http://www.barefootinc.com.au/?gclid=CPrhybqe064CFQYdpAod5ma8bw I was given two UltrAspire packs to try, which I love, and with all my other hydration packs that I have accumulated over the past 3 years, my team had enough packs to do a bag swop at the only check point. So bags, hydration and nutrition were totally pre-packed the night before, all we had to do was put one pack down and pick the check point 1 pack up. I also had a secret weapon on the check points, Mia, my Oxfam and Coastrek Team mate from 2011. I spoke to her before the event, and CC'd her in the many emails were sent with support crew check list of what to do when the runners come in. So for once I felt like I was in good hands.
The rain was torrential at Palm Beach for the 6:30am, at the start of Coastrek. We were told to prepare for the wet. Due to the climate of Sydney in March, Race Day being 21C, and the access to the course from the roads, I thought it was safe enough to say that A Cap was sufficient wet weather gear for the race that day. We lined up at the front, my team, plus 2 more teams of 4 females which I had been training since October.
I had 3 teams entered under the Great Outdoor Runners name, we are a motley crew of mum's, chicks, party animals  and blokes who half of the team of 12, have never really run in an event like this before except for Renae ,Gemma , Jane, Margaret K, Margaret C and Myself.
The count down went off, 10, 9, 8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1, and we were off with a cheer, along the sand and quickly off the sand and onto the nature strip at the back of the sand dunes. We were in the lead and I wanted to keep it that way. Renae was nervous, she is always nervous, her anxiety gets to her. But this year, I told her it was just adrenaline and to use it. Off we went, out in front and we ran past Palm Beach, the first of 20 Beaches to be crossed for the day and up a set of slippery wooded stairs. There was a fit looking group dressed in blue behind us. One of their team members left his group and ran with us. I ran up the first step of stairs passing my team mates and waited for them at the top, looking back to see who was coming up behind.
Renae was struggling a bit, she had been ill with the flu only the week before, and was a champion to be even at the start line. I took note of her exertion rate as I  ran across the road and up the drive way through to the nature reserve. I waited again for my team and noticed that Renae was hurting. I ran along side of her. I lifted her heavy back pack up with my right arm, taking all the weight of gels and water in my right arm. The Blue Guy ran with me, but when I got Renae onto the single man track, I told her to push. "Let's get some distance between us and them, I want a beach between us, then we can rest, we are going to have to work hard for a bit now, run, take little steps, push".  Renae being an absolute fighter, pushed, she ran, and we were soon out of the track onto another steep climb on a road. She needed to rest. "Walk 20 , run 20 until we make it to the top". That we did and we hit the top and the Blue Team were out of sight.
"Well done guys, but we need more distance between us and them, release your breaks and roll down this hill, let's go". We rolled off the top of the Hill at Little Head, Palm Beach and rolled into Whale Beach, ran down the stairs, calling to the 100km event racers who left 30 minutes before us "Runners, on your right.Thank you. Sorry, Well Done" Half apologising, half asking permission to pass, as we scooted down the slippery stairs to Whale Beach. 
We hit the sand and we were running, Brian and Jeff out the front myself and Renae in the back. The Blue Guy, Mick, caught us again, leaving his own team mates 50 m behind and ran with us along Whale Beach chatting. "I'm just us here trying to find out your tactics". He cheekily said. 
"Our tactic is to stay together and work as a team". I bluntly replied. Imagine someone trying to give me shit? (If you knew me a person this would make you laugh). We compared Oxfam and 6 Foot Track Times, and I decided that he was going to be tough to beat. We hit the climb out of Whale beach and Mick ran straight past us, proving that he was the business, but soon had to walk. I again helped Renae with the weight of her pack up the climb, staying with her, chatting with her, encouraging her , reassuring her and reminding her, that she could do it and she was more than good enough. Renae, had to walk, 20 on and 20 off running and walking, until we soon caught and past Mick.
"Guys, slow down a bit, just a bit, and let Renae warm up". I shouted to Jeff and Brian. The two guys were so powerful and they were just doing it so easy at the front. We then rolled down the hill and chatted about the pace we were running at. We felt good, Mick's team mates were no where to be seen. We headed straight up another set of stairs, the biggest climb of the day, again trying to be as polite as possible to the 100km Racers.
I'm petrified of leeches, and I was stuck walking behind Renae. I probably pushed her harder than she would normally climb, just so I could get out of the rainforest and away from the possibility of a leech attack. When ever there was a flatfish section, I said to Renae,"Run, take small steps and run it, you can do it, flush out the lactic acid in your legs, go, go, go". Renae had me as her personal cheer squad for every step she took, I just wanted to get out of the leech farm. 
The boys were are the top, and they took the wrong turn, "Wrong Way!" I shouted, with Mick just behind us. "Renae let's keep going they will soon catch us", and Renae flew down the single man track using all her agility not to slip on the flooded bush stairs. We ignored the photographer wanting us to stop and pose for a shot and flew down the remaining bush stairs and descended the grassy headland of Bangalley Head, past the multi million dollar houses, and out onto the road towards Avalon.
This year the course had changed, including more beaches than ever before. More than 10km of sand had to be crossed out of the 50kms of the course, and Avalon Beach was the first beach to be crossed. I kept checking for the Blue team to follow us out onto the beach and they were no where to be seen. Excellent. I have my beach. Cool we can recover.  The tide was low, and the sand was thankfully wet from all the rain, so the sand running was much easier than expected. But it still not as fast as running on grass or concrete, and when the waves come in they wet your shoes, and no matter what shoes you wear they will always be heavier than running dry. The beaches are more exposed than running on the foot paths, and on  the event day there was a strong gale forced southerly blowing. It felt like we were running in a wind tunnel.
We ran along Avalon Beach pushing into the wind, waved to the Coastrek Staff, and headed up the climb between the houses towards Bilgola. Again Renae was slow on the climbs. I grabbed Renae's bag and exclaimed "What have you got in here? It weighs a tone!" While I was running, I started emptying out the contents. A bandana, strapping shape, bandaids, gels, compeed blister pads, hydralytes, 500ml water bottle filled with hydralyte mix, plus 2L of water. I even saw tampons in there, but I left them alone, and started to put the remain contents into my bag. I emptied the extra water out and stored the container in my pack. I think I took 700grams off her back. Jeff helped me store the hydralytes in his pack also.
While we were reorganising ourselves the persistent Blue Team showed up on our tails again. Bugger. Jeff and I looked at each other and ran. We flew down the hill, I was going so fast and distracted by them being on my tail that I over shot the turn off to Bilgola Beach. My team mates called me back and we bounded down the stairs again calling, thanking, well wishing and apologising as we passed the 100km Racers. We hit the beach and again Mick left his team mates, I turned back and noticed they were suffering on the descents. We crossed Bilgola Beach along the sand dunes, and entered the car park on the other side. I sent Brian and Jeff up the stairs as I stayed with Renae. Mick followed us up.
"Did you run along Avalon Beach? I did not see you run along Avalon Beach? Or did you run along the foot path?" I probed.
"I ran along the path just like everyone else, I ran along the Yellow Brick Road" He said. "Everyone else went that way".
"We did not, the course had changed, you have to run along Avalon Beach this year." I showed him the map, I'm a control freak, and I love to run with a map in my hand, I can constantly check that we are taking the right course. "It's a new course and you are meant to run along Avalon Beach. By the way where is your mandatory gear? Wear is your high visibility vest for running on the roads, we have ours?".
Finally I had shut him up.
He stopped pestering us and said. "I'm going to run with my team". Good I thought, it is a team event. Normally I would not be so prickly, but we were doing the correct thing, following the course in entirety not taking short cuts along footpath to avoid running along the beaches, and wearing all the mandatory gear, and we were sticking together as a team. You don't take short cuts, it just ruins the integrity of the event. In the end I knew his silly antics won't pay off in the long run. But it still just sucks, knowing that you have run the full distance and another team did not.
We climbed out of Bilgola Beach and Renae and I ate. Renae and I were eating every 30 minutes and I let the boys decide how often they needed to eat. We ran along the back of Newport Beach then started the steep climb out of Newport. At this point the Blues were still in sight, so I took Renae's Hydration Pack off her and I wore it on my front, making the climb easier for her. The Blues were hot on our tails, less than 50m away, but we needed to show them how strong we were, by running up the longest climb of the day. We ran up the gradual climb, and when it was only 25m from the top, we walked and ran 20 on and 20 off to the top. We gained an extra 50m doing this. At the top we were greeted with the steepest descent of the day, and we zigzagged our way to Bungan Beach and zapped the first Check Point of the day.
We ran along the soft sand down to the tide line for a few hundred metres then straight back up the steepest climb of the day out of Bungan Beach. I looked back and watch the Blue Team, again they looked unstable on the descents. This comforted me, knowing that descending was a strong point for our team. We ran up through the soft sand dunes. Again Renae struggled. I was carrying her pack, and she was still showing signs of fatigue. The week of illness was starting to bite her. I waited for her and encouraged her up the climb, Renae may have a different word for it. The climb was a quad burner, but we all hurt, and the climbs are small compared to the Blue Mountains. Renae has accomplished most of her training out in the Mountains so she should be preforming better. 
We hit the top and we were running. We ran along the streets and out to Mona Vale Headland, and zapped into CP2. We hooned down to Basin Beach, so fast that Renae lost her footing and ended up on her arse, I picked her up, brushed her off "It will only hurt for 5 minutes, get up and run", I ordered, we zoomed down the single man track and ran along the sand. This year both Basin and Mona Vale Beach were added in, 1500m to the total of extra sand running. The sand was on an angle and it put un-even pressure on your hips, knees and ankles. I looked back a few times and we managed to get a few more hundred metres between us an the Blue Team. "I'm Sorry" Renae said. She knew how close they were, and she is one of my best mates, and she knows how I love to win. 
"What are you sorry for, let's just stick to the plan and make our splits, you can do this". I replied. I tried to run in front of Renae, sheltering her form the strong wind. I watch some of the other 100km contenders running on the soft sand, trying to keep their feet dry. I thought they were nuts, struggling in the energy sapping sand. I felt so sorry for them I even yelled out to them and told them it was easier to run on the wet sand. I hope they listened to me, as there was over 10km of sand running and that was just in the first 50km, they were doing the 100km event.
We crossed Mona Vale Beach, then headed up the sand dunes to the wooded stairs up to Robert Dunn Reserve. We passes the houses and headed down another set of stairs to Warriewood Beach, we glided past the cafe and headed up a set of stairs out of Warriewood Beach through a Nature Reserve, following the markers around Turimetta Head. Last year at the 16km mark Renae was already starting to cramp. I chatted to her about how much better she was feeling and preforming this year, and that she was doing really well, we were ahead of schedule. We crossed the soft sand of Turimetta Beach, with another set of bush stairs to climb and prepared ourselves for the 3.5km strain of sand running ahead.
Narrabeen and Colleroy Beaches were included into the course this year. The two beaches joined together added up to 3.5km of continuous sand running. It hurt physically and mentally. I was still carrying Renae's pack for her hoping it would help with her speed along the sand. Jeff and Brian were up the front dragging us along, their coping mechanism was just to get the sand running over and done with. It just hurts so much, and even though it was low tide, the sand still saps energy from your legs, especially when you are carrying a pack, I was carrying two. I looked back a few times and noticed we had about 500m between us and the Blue Team. I noted the splits we were running every kilometre, and told Renae if she needed to run faster.
Renae is fast, faster than what she thinks she is, so when I asker her to push more she did it. By the time we were off Narrabeen, and Colleroy Beach we had gained enough of a buffer for me, for the time being.
We ran across Fisherman's Beach, calling our support crew, warning them of our arrival, making sure they were ready for us, and we hit the climb up to CP6 at Long Reef Point. I handed Renae back her pack, I'd carried it for her for 14km straight. We rolled down the hill past the golf course and prepared ourselves for the first and only Manned Check Point of the day at the 25km, Long Reef SLSC. We were 10 minutes ahead of schedule, 3 hours 25 minutes to complete 25kms.
I waited with Jeff just out of sight, for Renae and Brian to catch up, then we all ran in together to our support crew. Mikey, Mia, Zandra, Ben had all come out to see us and cheer us on. I was in race mode, most of my friends, family and clients don't see me get flustered, but with the extra adrenaline, and knowing they there was a team just behind us I wanted to get in and out of there ASAP. Last year I forgot I was racing. Then Mikey screwed with my head telling me that there was a team ahead of us. "No there is not, we are coming first, it's a 100km Team, you idiot".
I ran in dropped my bag picked up my replacement pack and emptied my rubbish and noticed I was a bit aggravated so I took a few steps back, to get out of the action. Bloody Mikey telling me we were not in the lead. Mia handed me a Hydralyte, I told the Race organisers that the Blue Team took a short cut. And I felt like I was still in everyones way, pissing them off, so I said, "I'm going", and took 10 steps saying that I am leaving. Our packs were pre packed and we just had to pick them up and go. Jeff and Brian had never run in a Team event before, and they had never raced with packs before with check points, so it was all new to them. They just needed a bit more time than me. I was of no help, because I am me, and I know I am shocking at CP's so I tried to stay out of the action.
With in a minute they organised themselves and they were up and running. I realised I forgot the map, and had to double back for it. But we were though the check point , and we had gained 11 minutes on the following team. We did not know this at the time, we could only see how far behind they were by looking back along the beaches. We shot out onto Long Reef beach, soon to be followed by Dee Why Beach, and we all felt better knowing they we were over the 1/2 way point. We were 10 minutes ahead of schedule and I was just so happy. Everyone was doing their job in the team. "Shona you just need to calm down, and let's have some fun out here", Brian rightly said to me. I know Cp's are a weakness of mine, and I need to improve on it. "Cool, Brian, I'm sorry, but I only managed to keep 2nd place overall by 2 minutes in the GNW by being as quick as I could in and out of the check points, and that was over 100km, every minute counts". I think we both understood each other. But I still needed to calm down. So I did my best to stay clam and focused on the track ahead.
We ran along Dee Why Beach, then along the coastal cliff broad walk, through a single man struck, around Dee Why Head, under the Curl Curl SLSC and out onto the last long beach of the day, Curl Curl Beach. At the end of Curl Curl Beach, Renae and Brian emptied their shoes of sand , my Inov8 Roc Lites 268 were keeping the sand out, even without gators, I did not need to stop, but I still waited for my team mates, and looked back for the Blue Team. We had about 1500m between us and them. We ran up the hill around McKillop Park and descended the stairs, rocked hopped our way onto Fresh Water Beach. I love this beach, it is short, flat and sweet.
We hit the climb, up over Queenscliff Head, and again I noticed Renae struggling under the weight of her pack, close to the top I took it off her and ran with it on my front. We passed  the Blue Team Support Crew, and then descended the stairs crossed the bridge, and ran along the Esplanade at Queenscliff Beach. I stopped here and emptied out some of Renae's water. She was carrying too much, it was a cold, wet and rainy day, stark contrast to conditions last year, we just did not need at much water. Wheni finished organising her pack, I had to work hard to catch up to my team mates. After a kilometre to gave Renae back her pack, now that it was lighter and she then knuckled in and found a rhythm.
"They are going to fast, I can't keep up". She said. I looked at the splits they were doing and it was not that fast.
"They are just setting the pace and dragging us along with them" I replied, hoping this would change her mind set. Within the next kilometre, Renae just started to fly, she was on a roll, with only 18kms to go and she was finally starting to feel good. We managed a 5 min 53 sec kilometre as a team, then hit the loos, at Fairy Bower. Jeff was starting to slow, but Renae was looking great, I ran on with Renae keeping her rhythm going. We all re-grouped at Shelly Beach, I took Renae's pack off her of the climb up to North Head. And I started to worry about Jeff. In every training session, he would make it to the 30km mark and start so show signs of fatigue. I don't think he was eating enough. He is such a strong and powerful guy, setting the pace winning the race across every beach, leading the team to the top of every hill. He has killed himself to get us up the front and the keep us out in front of the Blue Team. On the top of the single man track I gave Renae back her back pack, as she seemed to have recovered and was handling the climbs much better and I turned my attention to Jeff.
"I need a red bull"Jeff said. I forgot to pack some yesterday, we could buy one at Manly Wharf. We conquered the tough climb of North Head, and looked for the support car. Mikey was no where in sight, bugger, and I just saw a silver commodore driving past our location, just out of view, but in the wrong meeting place. Jeff sat down for a stretch, we decided we did not need the support crew, we had enough food and water on us.
Renae was on fire, and I wanted to keep her moving, so I ran on with her, down to Collins Beach. We decided to push on. Renae and I took off, it was nice to be leading for once. She needed to set our pace for the team now. We rolled down Collins Beach Rd, and spotted Mikey and Matt, Renae's Husband waiting for us. We grabbed the voltaren and gave ourselves a rub down, cut the hydralytes and I was ready to go, we had to wait a minute for the boys to join us. Mikey gave Jeff and rub down handed out hydralytes to the team, and with in a few minutes we were off. Mikey my awesome husband  then waited for the Blue Team to come past this point, before heading off. Our mucking around at the top had cost us about 6 minutes. But we were un aware of this.
We past Collins Beach, climbed up over Little Manly Reserve, and descended into the Manly Promenade. Jeff was desperate for a red Bull, I forgot danger money, I had Renae and Jeff run on and Brian and I searched through Brian's Pack for a $20 which we could not find. We then chased down Jeff and Renae and had to sadly inform them that we had to do it all on Gels and Hydralytes. This did not concern Renae, she became our pacer now, but Jeff hit the wall, and was jogging slowly. I offered him a hydralyte and a gel. I ran on with Renae for 500m, and soon realised that I had lost Jeff and Brian. I was starting to feel the effects of the southerly wind. My allergies were playing up, I was having trouble breathing, and I was wheezing. Renae later told me I was going white in the face. Shit. Oh well I thought, let's just keep going and get this race over and done with. Renae and I ran on ahead for a few hundred meters before I stopped to check back on the boys.
Jeff hit the wall. In training for Coastrek Jeff blew up at the exact same place. Brian soon came running around the corner near Forty Baskets Beach, he told me Jeff was suffering. I back tracked to find Jeff. He was exhausted. I handed him a Hydralyte, making him eat it.  Now he wanted the salt tablets. I felt guilty again, because I left them back with Mikey, at Collins Beach. Bugger. We soon re-grouped and I slowly got Jeff jogging again. But he soon had to walk. When we were climbing the bush stairs up to Dobroyd Head, he started to stumble. I made him have a gel. I also told him he had to now have a gel every 30 minutes and hydralyte every 15 minutes. He then proceeded to crawl up the stairs on his hands and knees. He was at the 42.2km mark, that is the furthest he has ever been. He was amazing earlier on in the race, his team work with Brian was the reason why we were doing so well and he was paying for it now. We were on a single man track. I started to complain of hamstring soreness.
"Man my hamstrings are killing me from carrying Renae's Pack for her". I grumbled as we climbed slowly up onto the plateau.
"Can you carry my pack for me? Nah, don't worry". Jeff half asked.
"Hand it over" I reluctantly agreed. But with that I had something to work with, Jeff was lighter and more balanced. We made it past the final CP, and Jeff was moving again. I was having trouble trying to stay with them. Jeff's pack was big and bulky, and hard to see over when while I try and watch my footing on the technical single man track. For the next 3 kilometres we ran as a team threading our way through the harbour cliffs of Sydney Harbour National Park. The minute we Clontarf Beach, Renae, Jeff and Brian took off. I was too heavy carrying two packs, so I stopped and emptied some water out. There was 5km to go and we really did not need all this water, so to lighten my load I emptied the pack to nothing. I was getting tired, and I needed some help. I asked Jeff if he could carry is now light empty pack. He agreed I then informed him that he was due for a gel.
Renae and Brian were still out head, and I hung with Jeff, staying behind him making sure he was okay and running. We entered a section rain forest near sandy bay, and whilst holding onto the railings to keep my balance on the wet track I was horrified to discover that I had  leech on my had.
"Eeeeeek, I've got a leech on my haaaaandd!" I yelled as I flicked it off as fast as I could before it attached itself. I then ran along stupidly, running on my heals, looking down at my feet checking for more leeches. Doing this unbalanced me and I slipped on the slimy wooden broad walks and fell flat on my butt. Like an embarrassed cat I was back up on my feet hoping that no one saw my graceless fall, but Jeff spotted it.
"Are you Okay?" He asked. I was too embarrassed to answer. I narrowly avoided falling off the boardwalk and onto the rocks below.
We pushed on as a team and ran across Fisher Bay, and ran up onto the Spit Bridge, thankful that it was not going to open and let boats through while we wait on the Clontarf Side. We made it across in time and we were feeling great. I told Jeff how well he was doing,
"We are probably going to break the record by 1.5 hours, only 27 minutes of running left". I remarked.
 A few cars tooted us and we spotted Mikey and Matt waiting for us near Parriwi Park at 47.5km. They had hydralytes ready for us.
"The Blue Team are only 5 minutes behind." Mikey nervously informed us.
"Jeff , Renae you have to run, we did not come all this way, and hurt this much to be beaten in the last few kilometres". I said. "Come on run. 20 on 20 off". We ran and walked our way up the climb to the top of the hill where Brian was waiting for us. He had been so solid all day. Such a fantastic team mate. I did not have to worry about him once, and he took the pacer, and just kept them going.
We ran up past the Rosherville Lighthouse, down the stairs, along the steep descent to Chinaman's Beach, past the kids play ground and up the final climb of the day. Again Jeff and Renae slowed, but we used the 20 on 20 off rule and before we knew it we were at the top of the final climb of the day, and descending down to the final beach of the day to Balmoral Beach.
We ran along the last few hundred metres of sand, past the photographer, who we dare not stop for and have our photo taken with,  and crossed the final patch of soft sand back up onto the Esplanade. We jogged together, quickly at first, but we soon had to slow.
"This is the best I have felt all day, I can finally stretch my legs" I said.
The finish line always seems so far away, at the far end of the beach, I looked around a few times and I could not see the Blue Team Following us. We past the expensive restaurants, and tried to ignore the bemused faces of the locals of Mosman, and we just kept our eyes on the finish line. Again we slowed, sorted ourselves out and held hands and ran across the line. We completed the 50km plus is 6 hours and 14 minutes and 54 seconds.
We did it, we preformed better than expected, not once could the entire team get together for a training session, but it did not seem to matter. We all knew how to run, and we all knew how each other ran. We proved ourselves as a true force in the trail running world. Renae and I now have the title back to back. I can't wait to make it 3 out of 3. Winning Coastrek meant that I have 3 wins from 3 trail races, 3 records from 3 Trail Events. It's been a great 6 months.
We narrowly beat the Blue Team by 11 minutes. My two all female teams finished 2nd, 8 hours 18 minutes and 3rd 8 hours 44 minutes. It was an awesome effort for our humble running club.

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