The Dream – Surf Coast Century 100km

I find it difficult to summarise something that took so long to achieve. Nor do I feel the need to. Behind every major life event is the story of how it came about and how it was made possible, how it was achieved, and I felt the need to put this down in words so I can look back in the years to come and remember. Maybe this seems silly for something I will never ever forget, however, here it is in its entirety if you have the time to read it.

Prologue 

My 39 year sporting life summarised pre 100km attempt:

  • Grew up playing footy and basketball. Loved it. Knee issues killed my basketball aspirations.
  • In my early 20’s I began playing cricket as an opening fast bowler. Loved it.
  • Around the age of 30 I quit cricket to play golf. Got down to a 9 handicap. Loved it.
  • February 2013, soon after I turned 36,  I took the kids to a Spartan Kids race in Wonthaggi. Something sparked in me that day that I needed to get fit. I figured signing up to this event would be good motivation for me, so I did.
  • My first run in was 1.5km, it hurt. I slowly built up more and more and kept at it, finishing with around 600km for 2013.
  • My first ever run at Lysterfield was around May 2013.
  • My first half marathon at RollerCoasterRun was in March 2014.
  • Running a few events, none were more memorable than a team event at Surf Coast Century where I ran the first 21km leg alongside the crazy people doing the full 100km. It was scary, crazy, exhilarating. The tiniest of seeds was planted that day, but knowing how much 20km hurt me, I never thought I’d ever actually do the 100.
  • I encountered shin splints, calf issues, cramping, gut issues, hernias…
  • I finished with around 1500km in 2014, and we started the Lysterfield Trail Running Group in October 2014, aiming to replicate what the Surf Coast Trail Runners had achieved on the other side of Melbourne.
  • 2015 was a watershed year. I got to do Two Bays 28km for the first time, and I started to smash PB’s. I started to dream big and work harder, and achieved my first marathon at the Surf Coast Trail Marathon in June. I started to dream bigger, I attempted a 50km training run which was amazing but that broke me.
  • I spent 2 months not running with severe ITB pain and broken ribs from basketball, but still managed to clock over 1800km for the year.
  • Completely underdone but uninjured I decided to take the leap into ultra territory and upgraded my Two Bays experience in January 2016 to the 56km, and managed to somehow survive the heat dropping 4kgs but finishing in under 7 hours.
  • I started to plan some bigger runs around 50km. I began to believe what wasn’t possible might just be. I carefully planned some training runs with lots of elevation and focused on nutrition and hydration, and felt good at the end. I felt excited.
  • I finally signed up to the Surf Coast Century 100km, after so much debate and doubt, I convinced myself that come hell or high water I was committed to doing whatever it took to finish. I didn’t doubt it for a moment, then my ITB went again a month before the race.
  • I didn’t run for a week, then tried a 5km run, still no good. Shit. I was given the number of a local Myotherapist who was apparently very good. He was better than good. He was the best. I went from unable to run to completing the 100km without any injuries or painkillers, in the most unforgettable day. Today I still pinch myself that I did it.
  • Here is what happened on September 3rd, 2016:

 

SCC100km RACE REPORT

It is difficult to name everyone that encouraged me and supported me in this journey, who believed in me when I doubted myself. But I’ll try 🙂

It is such a big commitment, to run 100km. I sat and discussed this race entry with Nicole before I started, she agreed to help and support me and crew me, kind of critical to have your partner on board for such an emotionally invested journey.

We booked a house near the start line, and bestie Tanya agreed to come down with her kids as well and share the house; it was pretty exciting. Jess was also coming down to crew me the Saturday which was amazing, to have so much attention on me felt a little overwhelming, so I kept focusing and keeping things real.

I had prepared for this race like no other race, I had worksheets and estimated times, I had pages of crew instructions, I had boxes of contingencies for anything that might go wrong, I listened to anything anyone had to say about the race, crew, ultra running, tips and tricks.

I was ready.

FIRST LEG – Anglesea to Torquay

Incredible buzz at the start line at 5:30am, people everywhere, high fives, selfies, hugs, family. ONE HUNDRED KM… OMG….

I rocked up with my long sleeve top and wind proof jacket – but it was so warm I ditched these on the start line and went with the LTR shirt. Good choice.

The gun went off and I hobbled off slowly in the mid pack in no rush, soon enough found myself running next to Connie for a while which was great. I think she had to stop and put her jacket away, so I lost her. Soon after that I found myself running with Patrick Herft for a while, quite a nice touch, it was Patrick that introduced me to Lysterfield and was integral in getting me hooked on trails… anyone I was next too capped a full chin wag, “how amazing is this!” “checkout the views!” “Would you want to be anywhere else?!”

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Around 8km I ran into Dave who I ran with for maybe 4-5km until he ran off for a pee break under the cliffs. People were slipping and falling on the rocks left right and centre, I concentrated very hard on ensuring I chose the right path along the rocks, and put my foot in the right areas so as not to slip. I felt terrific on these sections, so much fun!

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It wasn’t until maybe the 17-18km mark I finally got my ankles wet in the ocean, “bugger” I thought, “might have to change shoes after all”. Running into the first aid station, I was a little too eager to move on, and was a little overawed with all the people around, I forgot to top my water up, I didn’t change my shoes, I didn’t get any food. Mistakes all round.

SECOND LEG – Torquay to Anglesea

The second leg was a little bit of a blur to be honest. After a few km of running along I started to feel a little fatigued and walked for a bit, when I realised the mistakes I made at the first Check Point. Damn, can’t do anything about it now.

I spent some time running with Paul Wilson, such a positive great guy, and always such img_266714231346_10154422407902789_1544025938129966545_oa bonus to have someone to run with.

 

 

David Sutherland flew past me (had no doubts he was heading to a great time), Trish Yates caught up and flew past me, Mark Ghirxi caught up and flew past me, I was ok with all that, I kept positive and tried to hang on and get going again. Then I felt a little twinge in my groin. Oh no I can’t cramp at 30km PLEASE no… without enough water or food, I resigned myself to walk to the next aid station, which thankfully arrived at the 32km mark. There the vollie unfortunately helped me to fill Hammer electrolytes into my water bladder (Faaaaaaaarrrrrrrk!!!!!), which meant I had to wash it out and refill it again by myself. So annoyed, I had to compose myself again, and relax into the rest of the long run. I grabbed bananas and some Vegemite sandwiches and took off again, walking for another km, getting a great boost of encouragement from Tanya and Jess who popped down to give me some much needed support.

I started to feel better and lifted the pace again to a shuffle, eventually catching Skye Meredith who was in for the 50km. Had a good run with her for ages which was nice, and helped so much. I was also caught at one stage by Nikki Wynd and David Eadie out for a casual 50km. That was nice touch, as Nikki had coached me for a good 3-4 months and really set the

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Nikki and David

foundations for me to achieve the 100km, I tacked along behind them as best I could for a bit, but not before seeing Nikki power hiking in her unique and effective style – arms straight by the sides, pumping furiously in line with her body on each stride. Hiking this way keeps the walking pace under 10 minutes per km, sometimes around 8 minutes per km if you really concentrate. I channelled this style many times during the rest of the day, meaning even when I was walking, I had a plan and a pace to stick to. Kept me focused.

40km onwards took FOREVER, finally I crept closer to the halfway mark. I called ahead on the phone to Nicole and Tanya, letting them know I needed new gels, replacement full bladder, new shoes and socks, I felt a blister on my toe I needed to get repaired, I needed food, and wanted a fresh shirt. Amazing crew, so vital to my race to have them there to help me!

At some point someone was running behind me “hey Chris, I think I know you, what’s your last name” lol, turned out to be Amanda Elissa, she works with Andre and I’ve seen her around before, we had a good chat for a while and again, was so nice to run with someone for a while to help pace me through to tick off the km’s.

At 48km I passed Richard Matison, he was in struggle town and I was genuinely concerned for him for the entire day to be honest, was SO pleased to see him finish, GUTS!  Not surprised though I’ve seen that grit and determination on a trail runners face before.

CHECK POINT 4 – ANGLESEA 49km

In what became known as my formulae one pit crew (minus the formulae one car), the grease and oil and tyre change, pep up and genuine positive vibes I got were absolutely invaluable for the rest of the race.

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Determination and Focus

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Best. Crew. Ever.

Nicole on the bladder change, Jess and Tanya doing the nastiest job and helping with the shoes and socks change, and applied Compede to some big blisters on my two big toes on the right foot. Maddi had a stop watch on and kept telling me how long we’d been sitting for, and she also ran off and brought me food. Jess was on the LTR top change and I had a fresh new bunch of gels put in the pack.

Alan and Doc were hanging around taking photo’s and being cool mates offering support and encouragement, and people around us were generally admiring what a functional crew I had. It was a good feeling, knowing how much people were behind me helping me achieve this thing. Very humbling.

THIRD LEG – Anglesea to Moggs Creek

So I was pushed out of the aid station in about 11 minutes, I was ready for the next 50km.img_2675img_2674 First up, the bridge of hell. Needing to crawl under a low bridge on my side for about 20 metres was not very pleasant, then I set to jogging along on my own and felt ok, then at 51km – maybe it was the food, or a general low after the high of the Checkpoint love, but I crashed. I tried to keep up the pace by walking fast, but I kept looking at my watch every minute and thinking “I’m stuffed”. I honestly felt at that point that I was done running, that the best I could hope for was to walk the next 50km, oh no, that’s another 9-10 hours… it got a little depressing.

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I kept trudging along and the km’s seemed to take forever to tick over. I ended up running with a few other guys for a bit, and I took A LOT of heart to see them running around my pace and hearing from them that they had done this before, made me feel good about this being my first 100km that I was in the company of others that had been there and done it before. About the 57km mark we were struggling along and a girl goes running past us around heartbreak hill, powers on too fast for me to even say “hey, wow!”. When people run past img_2678you at that pace straight away you look at their hydration pack expecting to see nothing, as the 100km runners all have an extra race bib on the back of the hydration pack to identify them. This girl had that red bib on. “Damn, how can someone running that strong have been behind me for so long?”. Using Nikki Wynd’s power hike style I smashed up heartbreak hill and soon after was ready to shuffle along again. Eventually we hit some nice single trails and I felt great again, some slight decent and I was running under 7 minute pace which was kind of quick when you’ve already run 60km.

At this pace I ended up catching the girl that flew past me, I ran with her for a while, OMG it helps SO MUCH to run with someone else and tune out mentally for a bit. Eventually she asked if I wanted to pass, “lord no please keep going you’re doing great, I’m just hanging on and trying to get going again!”. Turns out this awesome chick was Nicky Prior, 4 time SCC100 runner, I’ve been around the ultra scene long enough to know her name but I had never met her. What a time and place to meet someone, 60km into a 100km run. So on and off, she paced me img_2681and I paced her for a bit until we FINALLY reached the 70km aid station, I felt like I needed it so badly. Except I thought it was the major aid station (whoops) lol, dammit. I think Jacqui Cooper was volunteering here but I was too focused on red bull to say hi. I grabbed another amazing Vegemite sandwich and took off again to get to the long awaited 77km and final major check point. Again I think I ran a little on and off with Nicky here, I also had some really good splits where I knew ‘someone’ was behind me which spurred me on to hold the pace for a while, before they would eventually overtake me saying ‘wow man you’re running well for a 100km runner’, and it turned out they were just in a team doing one leg haha. Still, it gave me lots of confidence that not only did I look strong (that’s what they told me anyway!), I felt pretty strong too considering. My head was working and brains weren’t going to mush, my legs kept going, and importantly…no cramp. I was going to finish this thing I could feel it….

I was chatting to another fellow who’d done it before and advised that we had just one more climb before a nice long decent to the 77km aid station at Moggs Creek, that really encouraged me and I let it go with a 5:35m km, and I felt good heading in for the final change.

Seeing the crew there again was GREAT. I saw Nicole and Jess, Maddi ran over and starting to bring me food, Nicole filled the bladder, replaced the gels, Jess rubbed down the quads a bit, I was ready to smash out the last leg and bring it on home, I was pretty excited!14199287_10153922749609077_4899752292771954676_n
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FINAL LEG – MOGGS CREEK TO ANGLESEA

I took off from the last major check point and the climb up single trail began. I hiked it feeling tired again and waited for some energy to return, the thrill of 5 minutes ago when 23km seemed like nothing, once again seemed like an eternity. Got near the top of the climb and was feeling ok in a nice little trot when this massive POP sound rang out and echoed in the trees, I looked around, nothing, I checked my shoes as I thought I’d blown a hole in it by standing on a stick, nothing, couldn’t work it out. Then the pain hit me, the blister I carried with me from the 40km mark had had enough and popped at 78km, I felt it on every step. No way I was going to let that stop me so I focused through the pain, and luckily when the Compede blister medication strip was applied by Tanya she’d done a good job! It stayed in place despite the ooze, and only hurt until about 80km, then I was ok again.

20km to go and it felt so close and yet so so far. Run – walk – jog – hike, I kept moving forward. I ran with another awesome trail runner, Rosemary Catton, but as my pace was all over the place she’d take off when I walked then I’d run past her again, then we’d switch, but we paced each other for a bit, she was a self confessed one paced shuffler I had no chance keeping up!  We talked about the slim carrot dangling in front of us – that very slim but possible chance of making it under the magical 12 hour mark. I gave it up as I didn’t want to ruin the day killing myself to make a goal I never planned for – I hoped for 13 hours, and I was on target to beat that, so I was content to enjoy the last 10km as much as possible. I was just so grateful for every runner I shared km’s with.

The last aid station at 86km was great, running to see Nicole and the kids again, Jess there too taking pics, and Tanya a little further on, I felt like I was still running along ok. But oh that last 14km…. up to the lighthouse at Aireys Inlet, this was serious head down stuff now. Just get it done.

When i finally hit the beach at Urquarts Bluff the dreams of a possible 12 hour finish again reared its demonic head. “F**k it, let’s just have a dip” I said, I felt a 9th wind coming along and I just went for it and tried to hold on, my 92nd km was 5:46m pace, then 93rd km was 6:16m pace… I was doing it, I was a chance!  I was overtaking people at a rate of knots and they knew exactly what I was doing, having one last dip at sub 12….. “go for it good luck, go you good thing!” they cried, it was great… then the 94th km ticked over and boom, I copped the worst stitch ever, probably brought on by the quicker pace, but I didn’t expect it. “Quickly walk along, get rid of it, hurry up” I said to myself…. then 95th km came and went… I could not shake it, I literally couldn’t even break into a shuffle without having to stop, so I kept walking as fast as possible, surely it will go away in a minute… but it just didn’t go away!!  So that was ok, I was happy I gave it everything I had and I ended up having to walk 4km would you believe until I could run again. It gave me time to reflect on the achievement and really start to soak it up. The last few km was very hard, and the last stretch of beach leading to the finish line, was, maybe not surprisingly, quite emotional.

I ran along the beach my mind telling me a million things, I wiped a few stubborn tears and sobs away, and kept shuffling along, madly looking for my family and crew, who would be there to see me and share in this triumph, I just loved everyone and everything in this world at that moment. It was so very special, that even at the moment I was shuffling with tired feet to the finish line I would tell you in a heart beat I’d be back the next year.

Maddison looked me in the eye and “Dad you DID IT!” “I know honey, I know” Dad’s an ultra runner now. Gosh that made me proud. This is a favourite pic of us I found walking along after the race. I am one lucky father.14212687_10153924864209077_433337512315211559_n

I met Nicole for a quick sweaty kiss and grabbed the kids and up the finish chute we went to a rousing reception, across the line was hugs, shouts, hand shakes and fist pumps. It was just THE BEST feeling in the world, to have achieved something so huge, to set your mind and make a plan and execute it, I look back and think how extraordinary that was. To look down and see my legs still working in those final stages amazed me.

Quite startling to look back and compare my race plan to my actual results, it was almost spot on the entire 100km!!!

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Was it life changing?  I don’t know yet for certain, but I think so. I don’t shy away now I know I know I’m a bona fide ultra runner. I have a new found confidence in my ability to enter unchartered waters and come up trumps, to find a way through tough times, keep moving forward. The mental side of pushing through this race, and not once thinking “I need to pull out I can’t go on”, was significant for me. Sure I had several down periods where things got very dark and I felt it was going to take much much longer to finish than planned, but I stayed focused and pushed through those periods. The sky is no longer the limit, and I don’t know where this journey ends. Honestly, I don’t want to know, I don’t care, I’m enjoying ‘now’ way too much.

How ironic is it that when you finally reach what you believed was the end of an epic journey, only to realise that you are actually at the beginning of a new one.

It’s a beautiful realisation.

THANKS

Nicole – My rock. Wife, crew, best mate, supporter number 1, I have her back and she has mine, forever. It’s a comforting thought, I can do anything as she’s always in my corner. Love you babe!

Maddison, Cooper, Millie, Lacey – So proud of my kids, they are growing up just awesome, and their support is touching for their age, for any age, and I look forward to their ultra life journey in years to come whatever that entails.

The Crew

  • Tanya – Total bestie, not sure I can find the words for you, we always say we have no idea why we are even friends as we seem to be opposites in every way imaginable. But for as long as I’ve known you we have never let each other down, and we have an unbreakable bond and trust and friendship which I treasure greatly. Thanks for being you, was awesome to see our kids playing happily together all weekend. Never forget it.
  • Jess – Not sure you envisioned when we first met you and Jas at Joe and Geri’s engagement party that you’d be replacing my socks and treating blisters while I ran a 100km a year or so later!  Thanks for being part of the best crew SCC has seen in years, truly ultra amazingly awesomely cool crew indeed!

Friendship & Support

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It’s hard to think of everyone along the journey that helped this become a reality, but so many conversations take place along the way, so many tips, words of belief and encouragement that all mean so much to provide the impetus to keep going when things are difficult. Special thanks to these people, I’m sorry if you don’t get a mention coz I love yas all!!

Shane Winzar, sharing his worksheets and spreadsheets and guides that formed the basis of the plans for my entire run!

Bich Jennings, for the bravery and dedication and love helping me believe and getting it done herself, I was so happy to be there for your triumphant finish, you already know this but you are such a lucky girl to have so much love and support from your family and friends!  Lucky but well deserved!

Vanessa Hueser – Absolute warrior, your bravery inspired me greatly when you completed this event through all sorts of adversity in 2015, and was a large part in helping me believe in myself. And I believe in you mate, so much. Your running mates on the day, sensational, well done you fkn legends, don’t ever stop smiling sisters!

The messages of support I got in the week leading up to it – Dion Milne, Doc Morgan, Alan White, Regan Welburn, Shane Wheeler, Shane Dodman, Tony O’Connell, Lucinda and Steven Scott, John Everett, Matty Veenstra, Nick Cimdins, JB, David Lipman (critical in helping me nail nutrition!), Trish Yates, Nikki Wynd, Mathieu Dore, Joanne Maidment (what a story we did it!), Wayne Terrington, Nellie Awad, Michelle Harris, Leigh Whittle… lots more too…

All of the Lysterfield Trail Runners, AMAZING. Truly amazing people.

My family (parents and sisters) think I’m a little strange, but they did before I became an ultra runner 🙂 Thanks for your support too. To my parents who thought I was a little silly and irresponsible doing this, I still need to bring you down to one of these events to see how amazing and inspiring and uplifting it is to be surrounded by such positive humans.

 

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3 thoughts on “The Dream – Surf Coast Century 100km

  1. Patrick says:

    Hi Chris, it was my first 100km run also, I wanted to write about it but could not find the words. You have captured the feeling. I ran with you on and off for the last 30 to 40 kms. I have seen so many Lysterfield runners out on the trails, those shirts are hard to miss, I run with another running club but seeing the goat shirts out there gives me a lift.Congratulations on your run, I hope to see you on many more. Patrick from Diamond Valley Striders

  2. Ian Johnstone says:

    Chris, what an amazing effort, article, you got the Johnno name in lights with your fantastic effort. I’ll neve complain about my stuffed knee again. Well done to you and all those who assisted in this journey

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