The inaugural running of the Coastal Classic has come and gone, and overall the race was a massive successful, with the event selling out, beautiful weather and great track conditions greeting the runners and a blistering 2:32 finishing time for overall winner Damon Goerke .
As I said last Tuesday, I was aiming for a finish somewhere in the top 30 - and I achieved that (just), with a finish in 30th spot with a time of 3:14:04. The full results are up at the MultiSport Australia site. Despite having done the Coast Track many, many times in training, the intensity of doing it under race conditions made for a challenging run.
The start of the race is down in Otford Valley at the primary school, and after a slight downhill to an elevation of 105m at the 200m mark, it an hard climb to 238m at 900m (~11 degree climb), and this really gets the pulse rocketing. To avoid bottlenecks on the single track sections of the track, the start was staggered with 2 runners starting every 5 seconds. Fearing that there could still be some delays on the decent into Palm Jungle, I opted to get very close to the front and started in the fourth batch. This made for some very fast running at the start, and by the cliff tops at 2km mark I felt pretty dreadful - dry mouth, struggling to catch my breath, and regretting feeling the need to push myself so hard so early.
Knowing the course and anticipating catching my breath on the long decent, I keep pushing as hard as I could, and catching site of the Burning Palms turn-off at 3km was a big relief. The pace down the escarpment was still fierce, but I managed to catch my breath and settle into a comfortable race pace. In a normal training run, you'd take it easy in this section, but with 270-odd people hurtling down the hill behind you, there is plenty of pressure to step it up. I had a few skids and slides, but the shoes gripped well and having a good track knowledge, I had a keen sense of where to keep an extra-vigilant eye out for tripping hazards. At one stage in this section I heard a nasty stack behind me as someone stacked it off to the ocean side of the track. When I looked back, the runner was fine, and the bush canopy that had tripped him up had also softened his fall.
Emerging into the shrub out of Palm Jungle had me feeling pretty good, with a few drinks out of the CamelBak during the decent providing hydration and energy. The track was really dry, and the going into Burning Palms was nice and fast, with excellent track markings leading the way. The hill out of Burning Palms again left my feeling pretty average, with the ascent more of a fast walk than a steady jog. During training runs, I'd be much more likely to take it steadier going into a hill so I had the energy to make it up and over without dropping into a walk, but with so many runners so close on a tight course, its hard to settle into your natural rhythm.
The hills climbs over the southern beach sections went fine, with everyone around me opting for a fast walk rather than a run to get over the steep knoll between North Era and Little Garie. I got to Garie in just over an hour, and it was good to see Linda and all the support crews there. I didn't make the trip up the beach to the aid station, and just continued on along the sand at a steady trot. There where plenty of dried blue-bottles on the beach, but they were sufficiently dry that they didn't sting even if they where flicked up onto your legs.
The climb out of Garie went quickly, and then it was down to fast running on the flat, good track into Eagle Rock. On the downhill section to Curracurrang, I got a mild stitch and had to pull back a bit on the pace, but by the time I made it to the climb into Wattamolla, I felt good. The course markings at Wattamolla were great, and I grabbed a Gu gel at the aid station there before heading back out.
Photo linked from Kev Malloy's Picasa Gallery
Between Wattamolla and Marley, the field had spread out a bit, and I was largely running by myself - I could only see about 4 runners in front and couldn't hear anyone behind. Crossing Marley was difficult with the high tide and beach eroded by the previous weekends large swells making running slow.
I grab some drink at the final aide station at Marley, and then mentally set myself up to empty the tank for a strong finish. I knew I was near my goal position of top-30, and I was duelling it out with another runner in this section, with each of us trading the lead a couple of times. Coming to the end of the Coast Track proper, I felt really strong, and powered into the 'Sandy Desert' Jibbon headland loop section feeling good. I was running towards the edge of the track in this section because of the sandy terrain, and, with about 2km to go, my trailing leg hit an exposed tree root mid-stride and I took a big spill. Along with a minor winding, I whacked my right pinkie toe (cracking the nail) and bent my left thumb back, causing a nasty spring.
After an obligatory minute of swearing and dusting myself off, I was back running, but the dual with the other runner was lost. I did pick up another two runners along Jibbon beach, and once I got to the mid-point of the beach, I let it all out for as fast a finish as possible. The run up to the RSL went well, and I was happy to cross the finish line in under 3.15. My GPS watch read a distance of 29.47km for the course.
The thumb responded to ice well, and by Sunday I could open bottles again, and today (Monday) its pretty much better. My legs are sore from the fast downhill section, but I did get out for my normal 10km Boat Harbour run along Cronulla today, and am back into normal training tomorrow.
The organisation of the race was fantastic, and I have huge appreciation for Kevin Tiller as event inspirer, Gary and the team at Maximum Adventure as event organiser for putting on a great run, and all the aid-station volunteers for supporting a great event.
The post-race festivities at the RSL were great, with a jumping castle for the kids, heaps of food and drink available for the runners, and first-aid available. There was a great shade tent, and plenty of stands making it a real festival atmosphere.
The two areas where some slight improvements could be made would be the augmentation of the Otford Public School toilets with some Port-a-loos at the start (the queue for the facilities was very long in the half-hour before the start), and possible a few more course markers in the section north of Wattamolla. The area around Curracurrang is really easy to get lost in, and I spoke to a few runners who had taken a wrong turn and bush-based for a while.
Overall, an immensely enjoyable event, and I'll definitely back at the next running.