‘I love a bit of carnage’
Adam, feeling cocky at 81km
‘Be careful what you wish for….’
Paul Every, Race Director
*warning, rude words follow-
The Coast to Kosci race is Australia’s longest road ultra marathon, starting at sea level on Boydtown Beach near Eden on the New South Wales south coast, and finishing at mainland Australia’s highest point, the survey trig marker on Mount Kosciuszko, just on 240km away. Actually you have to go back from the marker 9km down to Charlotte Pass to finish the race, but the basic premise is to go from the lowest to highest points in the land. It’s nice to see the race and RD mentioned in the Wikipedia article, this is where I found that I was incorrect to call the top bit ‘Strzelecki Monument’– that’s a bronze down by Lake Jindabyne, the top is just a simple trig marker.
I’ve crewed the last 2 years, and after seeing the incredible feats of endurance that these runners produce, I figured maybe I’d put my hat into the ring. You never truly know if you’re ready, the only thing I could say for sure was that I was NOT ready in 2013 after a DNF at GNW100.
The discussions with Wifey happened in February and permission given. This meant I had to chase at least one qualifier. I already knew I had to conquer GNW so that meant I couldn’t take the somewhat ‘easier’ Glasshouse 100M (or ‘SoftHouse’ as it came to be known on C2K weekend). But success there was never assured and I didn’t want to wait until so late in the year to get a qual. A study of the rules took me to the Sri Chinmoy 24 Hour race in Rooty Hill. Bad news, it’s only a couple of weeks after TNF100, which commonly makes me a bit tired. With the help of guru coach Andy DuBois I did actually make the 180km in 24 hours standard so the focus for the rest of the year was to get fitter and not break like a cheap toy.
The quals cover a 100 mile race in under the cutoff, or 180km+ in 24 hours on road or track. By September I had both so I was feeling pretty good about my chances. I shouldn’t have been so cocky- some of the other runners, even ones you’ve never heard of have incredible pedigrees. At the awards ceremony Paul mentioned one runner who had 15x 100 mile races to his name……….. this year! The was a collective sucking in of breath at that one.
Then it was time to look for crew. You need a team, ideally 3 people, who are utterly dedicated to getting you across the line. People who don’t require a lot of sleep, won’t kill each other, can think on their feet and equally take orders when needed. Thankfully amongst runners these qualities aren’t rare. This ended up presenting a problem because every time I got pissed I’d tell people about the adventure I was planning and gain another 20-30 crew volunteers. I had a few quiet conversations with people I thought would do the role well. Then even that was thrown out the window when I heard a hint that Jane Trumper might be injured and not able to run. And a chance meeting with the mighty legend Wayne ‘Blue Dog’ Gregory, he offered to crew too. And he’s also a great friend of Jane’s and said he would ask he if she would come for the ride. So that’s the story of how I came to have my wife, a 5 time C2K finisher and holder of several world records, and Blue Dog who has 3 finishes at C2K including a win in 2006. That’s got to be about the most epically talented crew ever, right? Well it turns out that over the 47 or so starters, there were 24 people on crews who collectively had 49 finishes. That’s right, pretty much the entire field had epically talented crew. And I had to make loads of phone calls that started with ‘hey mate, you know I asked you to crew me at C2K…..?’
Now the pressure was on- with such a class crew there would be no soft cuddly moments until that beast was spanked. Or as Blue Dog so succinctly put it in a phone call to me ‘Adam, if you can’t finish with us crewing you, you’re fucked’.
I think you might be getting the impression that these are pretty tough people. Yes, that includes my wife, who has also represented Australia in her own very odd sport involving running. However her sport also involved reading maps so obviously I’d be shit at it. More than one person commented to me ‘mate with a crew like that, they’ll do anything except give you sympathy’. How true, bring on the tough love.
And thus started nearly six weeks of packing. I even arranged a cigarette lighter powered Wifi hotspot so the kids could have FaceBook even when they couldn’t make calls, so you can thank me for all of the useless updates on FB.
The day before the race start is the ‘Cossie to Coast’ 7km fun run for the crew, including questionable outfits…… say no more.
It was kind of difficult going to the Fisho’s (Eden Fisherman’s Club) and not drinking, but at the race briefing there were unsurprisingly a few non drinkers…… we also got gold service from Brendan Davies who hand delivered our races shirts from Get Shirty because I had submitted the artwork 2 days too late.
Up at 4:20am on race morning, I took the time to prepare my feet- tape the little toes, lubricate the rest of the foot, one pair of Injinjis covered by a pair of double walled Wright socks. Stick these into a pair of Hoka One One Cliftons and I felt like I was floating on cushions of air.
Start to Rocky Hall 50km
We assembled in the dark at Boydtown Beach and each crew and their runner lined up for a photo in front of the C2K banner. I’d had good preparation and had even slept fairly well the night before which is quite unusual for me when doing a new race. Then all of a sudden we were called up to the start line and Brendan Davies is next to me looking at everybody’s shoe’s ‘should I have worn trail or road shoes?’ he said. My first thought was ‘you could smash this race in Blundstones Brendan’ but I managed to get out that it’s probably most sensible to wear road shoes. He seemed satisfied with the answer and as predicted I didn’t see him for the next couple of days……
Paul called out the countdown in his soft voice and we were off- it’s a bizarre feeling that you never thought in your wildest dreams that you’d be lining up with such a talented bunch. Then you have to remind yourself not to get too overawed because you qualified, and merely getting in means that Paul thinks you can finish. Put out all thoughts of failure and get on with it.
You can’t see your crew until the 24km mark at Towomba Rd, so there are aid stations about every 5km until this point, so we all just settled in and had a good old chinwag while the k’s counted down. Not too much to report from this section except I found myself in the midst of Roger Hanney, Annable Hepworth, Sabina Hamaty and Joe Ward. I let slip that the carnivores were outnumbered and may have outlined plans for the Dirty Bird 100- where the course is between KFC aid stations and the vegans get post mix soft drink. At least I knew they weren’t going to eat me…… probably.
I also met Raelene Bendall and predicted that she would beat me by 2 hours. In fact if she’d had a good run it would have been more like 4-6 hours however I did see her more than I should have in the next 35 odd hours. Gutsy run, Raelene.
I’d put in an order for a coffee at Towomba rd- I had weaned myself off coffee for the last couple of weeks and was pretty desperate to get back on the caffeine train. In retrospect this was a mistake because it gave me a boost early on when I didn’t really need it. Finding myself in front of Brick, Roger, Sabina and Nikki Wynd was just dumb, but I suppose I have a lot to learn about this distance……..
I’d made the first marathon distance in 4:42 and the first 50km in 5:52. I was going too fast but having a ball. No, actually my balls were on fire.
Arriving in Rocky Hall I made my debut as a shameless ultra runner by putting Vaseline on my testicles in the middle of the road in front of about 30 people, now read on if you want all the gory details. Sensitive people scroll down a bit…….
How to feel like you’ve set your genitals on fire for 37 hours
I had decided to shave down this area for the race and started about a week early. All signs were good but I felt I should maintain the manscaping in order to reduce friction. Here’s how it all went a bit Pete Tong-
1. Always use a fresh, sharp blade. I couldn’t find one so I didn’t bother. Strike 1
2. Do a really good job the day before the race. Water kept on going cold so I gave up. Strike 2
3. Don’t use Vaseline. It’s great for 5 minutes and then…….Strike great balls of fire
I ended up with really bad friction grazes on both inside leg and naughty bits. On both sides. A few days later when the muscle soreness had gone I was still walking like a 90 year old cowboy because of this, and the only cure is time. Many layers of skin were missing. These are mistakes I hope never to make again. Won’t somebody think of the children? Because it doesn’t look like I’ll be having any more……
OK, sensitive people, you can rejoin us here…….
Rocky Hall to Cathcart- 20km (70km total)
I don’t really remember a lot about this section except that it’s the very last place where you might see an open shop before Jindabyne. Your crew will often get you an icy pole or a pie as a bit of a reward. I’d been drinking a lot of mineral water so my crew bought loads of extra bottles of it here. Of course I immediately stopped drinking mineral water just to piss them off.
My main nutrition source on this run was orange flavoured Accelerade. It has carbs, electrolytes and some protein. I really like the flavour (a little bit like Tang from my childhood) and the protein means it is just about complete food for running. My crew had developed a procedure of putting a whole bunch of stuff on a plate and offering it to me as I went past. Then they would change the stuff on the plate and repeat the process. This meant I always had new stuff to choose from if I couldn’t make up my mind what I wanted. It also meant that I overate for about the first 100km. food and drink was sloshing around in my stomach enough too make me feel a bit slow, but not sick. I don’t usually get sick. Oh yeah, cherry tomatoes are amazing…….
Around the 81km mark when I was crossing the Monaro Highway it started raining, big fat lazy drops of summer rain. It came in harder and I saw Paul Every the Race Director standing on the side of the road ‘I love a bit of carnage’ I called out, he gave me a little smile and replied ‘be careful what you wish for….’ I should listen to him. Paul is not only a fantastic RD, he’s an amazing athlete. This year I saw him at the Canberra marathon so I looked up his time, pretty decent but not massively sharp. Then someone told me ‘oh he rode his bike to Canberra to compete’ and ‘it was probably a taper run because he did a full Ironman the week after’. Like I said, amazing athlete.
Cathcart to Snowy River Way 37km (total 107km)
I was pretty keen to put in a decent 100km time because I knew from previous calculations that I could walk the rest of the way and still make the cuts. It didn’t mean I would walk from there, just that I had a decent buffer and could do things like change shoes and eat while stationary. The rain had stopped so I should have changed my shoes but I think my mind was starting to go. Greg Brown got past several times and appeared to have a demon chasing him, he was running up hills I wouldn’t have considered but seemed to be absolutely thriving. That was the last I would see of him. Finally Brick caught up to me and restored some natural order, then just about 1km from the dead tree Roger caught me- I love him dearly but the guy has a stream of consciousness conversation with no filter. Of course the only way for me to combat this was to say ‘I need to go and crap in that ditch’. We had a quick group photo at the dead tree and my crew asked if I wanted to change shoes (again I should have said yes) and we agreed to have dinner at the next CP, about 4-5km away.
So I’d made my first 100km in 12:44 and was pretty happy. I knew that I was on course for a 38 hour finish or better if I could keep up the pressure, but conversely the pressure was now off (for a finish). From here to Jindabyne on the first overnight would be a big test, as would ascending from Thredbo River in the morning.
Snowy River Way to Dalgety 41km (total 148km)
I sat down to dinner of cup noodles as the rain set in for the night, it was looking pretty grim but I got on some wet weather gear and headed off. You’re allowed a pacer from 8:30pm and I’d arrived at around 7:30pm. This was about 30 minutes in front of Jane’s time from 2013 but I wasn’t to know how much suffering there was yet to come……
I was moving pretty well and trying to do a light run on the downhills here when I came across another runner recycling his dinner over the guardrail. A quick check of his welfare (they never want any help) and I strode off into the deepening dark. I was initially pretty happy that the weather was a bit gloomy, but actual rain was a bit of a bother because it meant wet feet and as Roger says in his report, you can run with just about any problem except broken feet. Water makes it much more difficult to keep your feet working.
About 10km out of Dalgety I finally asked for some foot care, so we all stopped and Blue Dog got out the foot care pack. He removed the socks (sure enough my tape had come off) sprayed the feet with adhesive and taped up the problem areas. Man it was like I’d had new feet transplanted on. They weren’t any better looking but they worked a whole lot better. Should have done that 50km ago…….
It was during this section that we said goodbye to a 38 hour finish. The stats say you need to get through here between 1-2am for a 38 hour finish and I think I left at 2:55am.
Dalgety is a big reward for the crew- the hall is set up to give them a warm feed and somewhere to sleep if needed. Oh and there’s a toilet. Toilets are awesome.
Dalgety to Jindabyne 36km (total 184km)
It’s about 12km from Dalgety to the bottom of Beloka Range, which is the second big climb (after Big Jack at 56km and before the climb to Charlotte Pass) so we told the crew to drive ahead to Beloka and have a 2 hour nap. As soon as they drove past my headlamp flashed 3 times, meaning it was out of batteries, and my spare was in the car! Oh well, Jane had hers and a spare so we were fine, it was just an embarrassing mistake. Particularly as I’m supposed to be the electronics geek. It went into low power mode and lasted most of the night, but I did think I had tuned it for a longer burn time.
Around Beloka we saw Annabel again, she’d had quite a long sleep and was moving pretty well. I couldn’t match her speed up the hill and so we said goodbye for about the 10th time. I was pretty determined to get to Jindabyne in good time but couldn’t make the maths work. It was a sign that I was really losing it, and soon the crew came to me and said they wanted me to sleep for 30 minutes. This was good because I had started hallucinating. I could see loads of words flying up the road like movie credits, but too fast for me to actually read. I gratefully got into the car and shut my eyes- I did have a wonderfully refreshing sleep for about 15 minutes but then woke up freaking out that they had not set the alarm or something. But then I could hear voices outside the car, so I knew they wouldn’t forget. I couldn’t get back to sleep so it was a bit of a relief when they came to wake me up. I felt energised and happy with only a few km to get into Jindy. I was moving well, but then old iron guts decided he needed relief- I found a nice quiet stand of trees and just as I was pulling my pants up the Singaporean runners van pulled up and he jumped out- ‘you runner?’ he said and I couldn’t think of anything to say. Of all the outdoor toilets in all of NSW he had to pull up outside mine…. but read on to find out how I got him back!
Blue Dog took me through Jindy via the bike path and the ladies went to buy coffees and try to book in to the motel where we would stay after finishing.
Jindabyne to Perisher 33km (total 212km)
It’s around this time that you start to make shit up. I mean, I knew that the last 40-50km of this run is basically uphill. So I have no idea how I managed to be convinced that there was only 11km of uphill then it would taper off. But I kept on looking around the next corner and then the next for a bit of relief. And it never came. The weather started to close in too. Looking up from Jindy we could see dark menacing clouds around the peaks, just where we were heading.
And sure enough, the higher we climbed, the more filthy the weather became. It wasn’t too bad at first with the wind whipping up a bit, then the heavens opened and it just deteriorated from there. And I got slower and slower. Jane had been saying to me constantly ‘when you get to Thredbo River you’re halfway through the race’ which quite frankly gave me the shits because it was quite clearly more than 2/3. But maths and reality can diverge so she was right in meaning that you need to reserve a decent amount of energy for this last push, or you’ll get crushed by the course. I was in the process of being crushed by the course, and when the crew said to me ‘maybe you need another sleep’ I took a couple of km to think about it and agreed. But before I could tell them they pulled over to a sheltered spot, pointed out to me that I only had 2 hours to make Perisher and started to dress me in warmer wet weather clothes.
They were using the flimsiest of excuses, I mean I’d actually written the stats that they were using against me, but I had no choice but to buckle up and carry on.
Perisher to Charlotte Pass 9km (total 222km)
We arrived at Perisher about 15 minutes after the time on my sheet, to find Joe Ward rugged up and waiting to see if anyone would continue with him. I hadn’t seen him since early the day before and thought he’d be finished by now, but he’s obviously had some hard times in the intervening period. I hadn’t realised how cold I was, I didn’t feel too bad but when someone handed me a cup of soft drink I couldn’t hold it still. Time for even more clothing and then we would attempt the 9km from there to Charlotte Pass. Joe and Ben Blackshaw came out of the bus shelter with us but quickly slipped behind. The weather got more grim. The wind whipped up the rain into our faces and we had a constant roar of rushing water in the culverts next to the road. I started matching the cadence of my feet with a soft repetition of ‘fuck this, fuck this, fuck this’ while watching the world destroy itself through my 2 inch viewhole. Jane came back and said ‘Whippet (race medic Andy Hewatt) wants to call the race off, but he said if I can go to Charlotte Pass and take over there, he will go to Rawsons Hut and tend to some stuff that needs doing’. I’m a bit ashamed to say I was thinking only of myself at this point and how much I wanted to finish the race. It didn’t really matter that was happening elsewhere, I just wanted to finish, and I didn’t want to be plucked off the mountain while so close. ‘Go’ I said to Jane without asking what she wanted. I realised after that Sarah was pretty tired by then, in fact everyone was tired and over it. We’d been brilliant as a team, but cracks were starting to show. Blue Dog would have to take me to the summit and he had to borrow some pants from Brad Smithers. He’s quite happy not wearing pants most of the time but these were mandatory……
About 5km from Charlotte Pass Sarah said ‘look, here’s someone coming down the mountain and he’s talking to everyone’ we knew it would be the announcement that they were calling an ‘inclement weather’ course, and we would finish at Charlotte Pass. This has happened 3 times in the 10 years of running the race and I’d have to say it was completely justified. It was Paul Every coming to give us the news himself, and he was very apologetic. I was reasonably happy because I knew it was going to take me another 4-5 hours to summit and the crew would not be happy at all with a 42 hour finish. We got within 3km of the finish and I told Sarah to get in the car as the weather was now properly vicious. I’d lost places to the Singaporean guy (he’d probably needed to get ahead because for the last 8 hours I had been pulling my pants down to wee whenever I felt like it and he was often in prime viewing position, sorry dude), Realene Bendall got past and also Joe Ward had shuffled past while I was looking for a chocolate bar. So I lost about half an hour in that last 3km. Lucky Blue Dog got out of the car and started using his dog whispering routine to get me to move forward. I was having all sorts of trouble but of course it was all related to being so close to the finish, all the aches and pains came out. With his gentle chatting and frequent stops we finally saw the car park at Charlotte Pass. A pretend run through the tape and it was over in 37:35 (inclement weather). Yes, this is also known as the 222km sprint course. Har har.
And thus finishes my ambitions and the pinnacle of Australian Ultra Running. There’s plenty of races I haven’t done in Australia, but none I wanted to do more. I’m so grateful for the opportunity and so happy to gain knowledge from these amazing athletes. I made loads of mistakes and yet ran really conservatively. I do think that I could do better if I did it again. Oops, did I say again?
So I’ve finished Australia’s toughest trail ultra (GNW100m), Australia’s longest road ultra (C2K) and the Sri Chinmoy 24 hour (Australia’s silliest ultra?) all in one year. That makes me a very happy ex fat bastard. Every groan has been accompanied by a grin as big as Dark Horse Dave Graham’s- that’s huge!
I also want to pay tribute here to Kurt Topper, who battled on for longer than I did and still came out smiling. We were both at the back of the field, but a finish is as good as a win for me, and I hope Kurt feels the same way.
Saying thanks here isn’t really adequate to express how I really feel about the people who made this all possible, but I’ll try.
Sarah Connor- who let me follow my dreams and didn’t complain about all the extra child minding. I love you the ends of the earth and back, but please don’t make me run there.
Andy DuBois- who resisted calling me out when I re interpreted his instructions. I mean isn’t it perfectly reasonable to say
‘run 60 minutes easy’ equals ‘take the day off’ ?
Wayne ‘Blue Dog’ Gregory- who taught me that big boofy blokes can have a sensitive side, and still be hard as nails. You’re a brilliant man to have on my side and nobody I’d rather share the time with.
Jane Trumper- very grateful to have been taken under her wing in 2011, now look what’s happened… You’ve made me into one of those crazy running people, and I love it!
Here’s proof that you don’t need to be wordy on FaceBook, this 5 word post got nearly 200 likes
Full points to Grant Campbell- Raw Aussie Athlete, who sat down opposite me at breakfast the day after and said nothing while a whole plate of pig made the ultimate sacrifice into the Great White Buffet Hunters gob. I can be sensitive, but that was not one of those days. And special thanks to Michael McGrath, who volunteered as a safety officer for the race. Afterwards he came into my room and said ‘I always knew you would make it and I’ve brought you some nice Scottish beers to celebrate with’. Thanks Mike, I’m sure you’ll be on the start line next year. He also sent this cheery note about the weather-
‘Worth noting that :
Perisher Valley BOM site recorded 128.8mm of rain in the 24 hours from 9am Saturday 6th December to Sunday 9am
Of which over 100mm falling between 11am and 10.30pm Saturday when bulk of runners were going through area
Average December MONTHLY Rainfall for Perisher is 95.3mm
IE 35% more rain than for the average whole month of December fell in a single day’
Well, I’m glad it wasn’t considered an ‘easy’ year then!
Here’s the splits. I really slowed down in the back half, could have done a lot better with a bit more concentration.
Last year this race had its 100th finisher. By comparison, on 23 May 2010, the summit of Mount Everest was reached by 169 climbers- yes in a single day -making a finish in this race a rare achievement indeed. (Wikipedia)
I want to stress this once again- I’m a normal bloke with no particular skills. Everything I have achieved is down to spending time with people who’ve already done it. If you want to do something like this, plan it out. Spend time with people who have been there. Volunteer to crew. Get a qualifier. Get involved. The rewards go much further than just a race finish, this event is epic on every level. Thanks to Paul Every, Diane Weaver, Dave Criniti and the whole team of volunteers. Don’t go changin’