December 2013 was to be my 5th and final Coast 2 Kosciuszko. A trek of just over 240kms from the sand in Eden at Twofold Bay to the snow on the top of the highest mountain in Australia.
The weekend is always full of emotion and love for all my like minded friends that make the journey down south for that weekend in December, whether they be crew, volunteers or runners. Paul Every and Diane Weaver, the RD’s have made this my favourite few days of the year. Just awesome.
So, on Wednesday morning, my crewgirl from last year, Sarah-Jane drove across Sydney in a Ford Territory packed with everything we could possibly need. With her Dad (ex Wallaby Captain and father of one of the most beautiful people I’ve ever met) passing away at 65 back in September, she’d had a tough year. We were going to have a good trip. She picked up me and Pete (husband who had never witnessed the pilgrimage to the Strezleki monument on top of our highest mountain..)
Adam, my wingman from last year and the real thinker behind my mental state at times was my last necessary accessory.
Driving down via Kiama, we found Blue Dog and Hully in convoy, carrying their runners from the USA, Alex and Frank. A pleasure to meet them and get to know them over lunch and then dinner that night. They are on a mission to run to the top of the highest mountains on each continent.
Thursday was spent doing the major food shop, relaxing and then witnessing SJ (Sarah Jane) donning a swimming costume for the first time in 4 years to run Cossie to Coast. This was a major intervention with her shaking like it was the most horrifying thing she’d ever done. She didn’t have the guts to do it last year and I’m pretty stoked that she’d finally cracked that hurdle.
Dinner, race briefing and catching up with old friends and generally getting nervous was on the menu pre race night. Back to the cabin to tape my feet and sleep.
Friday wake up at 4am. Dressed, cereal eaten and in the car at 4:50am for the start at 5:30am. I just love the start. 50 runners all milling around like old beaten race horses… checking each other out. It’s the emotion in Paul that gets me. I managed to get him at his finest moment for the best hug of the weekend. Splashing around in the water on that beach….. Paul, you make this race special and the memories for what it means to you live on with every runner.
I had hoped to spend some of my Friday with Kirrily and Joe but that never happened. I did have the pleasure of my mate Andy who had told me on Thursday that he wanted to run with me. Happy days. Running with mates is 100% better than an ipod. We hadn’t run together since our 700km run across the Kimberleys in June and I think he just likes me to make him look “big” 😉
Fortunately for me, we spent some time with Matt, his lack of foot wear (huaraches) and tatts…. gave me a better visual than Andy’s red lycra… He had a genki crew and good fun was had by all.
By the bottom of Big Jack, Matt had gone ahead 😦 and I was with Andy and our crews. We walked “with a purpose” up that fu#^*r of a hill and passed a few wanderers.
Up the top of that 7km climb I checked my feet for rubble and ditched a few stones. Put the same injinji socks and shoes back on… that was at around 60 kms. I didn’t even take my shoes off, let alone change socks for the rest of the run. Over 240kms in one pair of shoes and no sock change. My feet felt great the whole run.
Next landmark was the Cathcart shop at 70kms where I had made good time and was rewarded with a mango Weis Ice Cream. Whoop de do. The things that you get excited about. Another 30kms to the dead tree… For some crazy reason, the tree is famous for being dead. Situated at the 102km mark, it’s existence is only important to a bunch of runners and their crew on a Friday in December.
Last year I had changed into night gear here, but I was quicker this year and wanted to stay running while the weather was good and it was still light. I managed to get through the next checkpoint at the intersection of Snowy River Way (106kms) and was thinking less than a marathon to Dalgetty. It soon was dusk and I could enjoy the company of my crew running with me and not just Andy.
With just a niggle in my ankle that I was trying to ignore, I dealt with sleep monsters and it was a welcome relief to have Adam helping me through this section. Last year poor Adam had me heaving and “oh, dear”ing. I was going to behave this year… best chuck in a random swear word every once in a while just to make him realise I’m ok.. Andy and I were both very quiet. I did manage to appreciate the night sky and a few shooting stars which I managed to wish on.
Getting to Dalgetty is always welcome. Human contact. Always lovely to see Andy Hewat, Race Medic and one of my favourite runners on the planet. He’s seen me in a bad way at GNW 100 miler. I felt good apart from my ankle. I ate some cereal at Dalgetty (148kms) and soldiered on with Pete keeeping me company. The bottom of Beloka Range is the 161km or the 100 mile mark. I was pushing to get 100 miles done in less than 24 hours and got there in 23:26. Pretty happy with that. The climb up Beloka wasn’t as bad as some years. Dawn appeared over the other side towards Jindabyne. Seriously beautiful part of the world.
I was worried about Andy. He was very quiet. Very unusual. He wasn’t happy. There were some really lovely runnable sections after Beloka Range but he didn’t seem to think they were “lovely” or “runnable”. It was warming up and I was happy to know I’d be in Jindabyne by 9am. (9am was also the time all 3 of my support crew needed to be within range to get on their phones to enter 6 ft Track Marathon.) I sent them all on and told them I’d be fine until they could catch me on the other side of Jindabyne. Andy was running with his crewman, Ian, and Mike and his car would be waiting at the Jindabyne Caravan Park Checkpoint (184kms). I arrived there a few minutes after 9am and waited for Andy. He arrived, sat in a chair, said not a word, and put his head in his hands. Things were not good. I spoke with Mike and told him I was going on. Andy needed some treatment and I couldn’t wait. It was a good decision for me and Andy in hindsight with what happened after Jindabyne. My ankle was swollen and hurting but I couldn’t see any point in strapping and messing with my shoes. I just wanted to get to Charlotte Pass and get up to the top in daylight. As one of my very first crew said to me 5 years earlier, the race doesn’t start till Jindy…. you think it’s almost over, but that climb from Thredbo River to the highest point in Australia is brutal.
I left Jindy alone. I would have loved to finish with Andy but he was hurting. He’s a great mate, but my job wasn’t to support him. I had a run to finish and he had a good support crew to help him. My crew drove past and jumped out. They had all managed to enter 6ft! Pete had a coffee for me and toasted Sandwich… all I wanted to do was poo…. the busiest section of road and I wanted to poo. I yelled out for sunscreen, lip balm and water and told them to hold off on the coffee and sambo for a few minutes… there was a big dead brown snake right there and I had to hold off the urge to squat….. great. Sarah Jane was more excited about doing the climb with me than my toileting.
Anyway…. 😉 Got to Thredbo River (190kms) and washed my hands 😉 got my coffee that really just tasted of fatty cream and tried to choke down a bit of the toasted sandwich. My appetite was gone. I knew the last 50kms well and made a big effort to swallow whatever I could to keep me fueled. I passed 5 people on that climb up to Charlotte Pass. Managing 6.5kms/hr was as good as it got. It’s one mother of a climb. I’d been moving for 29hours. and sleep deprived. ankle hurting. just a bit. The winner would have finished. I didn’t want to think about that. I needed to focus on the people behind and knowing that they were doing it tougher. The runnable sections had me doing some weird shuffle as my left ankle just wouldn’t bend. It hurt like hell. My legs and feet felt great. Just one ankle….that looked like this a few hours later…..
I reached Charlotte Pass around 3pm to the news that anyone not getting to Charlotte Pass by 4:30pm would have their race cut short and have to finish there without the 18km pilgrimage to the top of the mountain and down again. Some would be gutted. Some would be very relieved.
The snow up the top was brutal. It was a beautiful day and I was going to get to the top of Australia in daylight. How to traverse the snow with over 200 kms in the legs was testing. Hokas were the only shoe choice. Could I get back down in daylight as well?
I could understand the decision to stop runners being up there at night and the safety issues the snow delivered. It would have been difficult to retrieve an injured runner if they fell down the snowy slope, which with nightfall would have been icy. It could have been well over 6 hours of hell in the dark.
Adam had been doing the numbers game at the top. Probably been doing it for hours. He knew I wanted to do 38 hours. His maths at the top told me I could have a 37 something. So that was the race down the mountain. 37:59 …. I would have been ecstatic. But I could move faster than that. Anything to get me off the mountain before I spewed. I was retching the whole way down. Adam and Pete ignored it apart from telling me to drink… yeah, it’d come up pretty quick. SJ stayed right beside me, the little legend.
So just after 7pm, in daylight, in 37hours and 43mins… I finished. Smashed 2 hours off my previous best time. Not a drop of vomit. Big hugs from Paul and Diane and Andy H. and a champagne handed to me from Robyn Basman!
The wildlife on the road as dusk approached was amazing. I can see why the roadkill we smelt was continual. Kangaroos and wallabys everywhere and not a hallucination in sight.
Next first was getting back to the hotel in time to order pizza. Didn’t feel like eating or drinking but had a celebratory drink after a decent shower. Nice to be clean. Somehow, I managed to toss and turn and get little sleep but enough to enjoy the festivities of the breakfast and presentation the next morning.
I now have a partial tear in my Achilles and am recovering by eating and drinking over Christmas 🙂
To my most amazing crew that looked after me so well and helped me achieve a result better than I had imagined, thankyou. I said 5 hat pins would do me, but there is one more hole in my Akubra…….