So much happens over the course of 100km.
I don’t take for granted the enormity of the task to accomplish such a feat and I feel very fortunate to be able to participate in it and incredibly lucky to get the support I do from friends and family. You may know that I started a 100km race on Saturday, and you may know that I completed that race. Here is what happened in between…
0km – 22km – Anglesea to Torquay
Starting on the beach at 5:30am involved a 4am wake up to get the food into me that I required to get me up and going. Warm ups and stretches all done, Nicole, Maddi and Coops walked with me to the start line while the younger two stayed in bed getting much needed z’s before a big day of following their silly dad around the Surf Coast. A short walk from the house and we arrived with about 10 minutes to start time, enough time to hug a few fellow runners and get some photo’s with Nic and the kids before it was time to line up and shoot off into the dark.
After being held up with a few bottlenecks in 2016’s race I planned to go out harder in the first leg to avoid that happening again, but the surf was… well it was just vicious. I’m someone that struggles with blisters when I get wet feet as I like to wear two pairs of socks, knowing we would be wet throughout this run, I wore one pair of thin socks (Steigens) to help expel the water quickly. I also wore the thinner profile Hoka Speed Instincts on this leg for grip to maximise drainage. They both worked flawlessly.
I found myself running most of this leg with someone who I have so much respect for, and who’s goals were a hell of a lot loftier than mine, Adam Murphy. Constantly we came across a challenge, or waist deep water, or razor sharp rocks we needed to find a path through, or a cliff to climb up and over. But over and over I seemed to find my place right behind Adam and in parts I was feeling like this was a typical Sunday run. I planned to run this leg in 2 hours flat (2016 took me 2:10).
I was chatting to Murph about how arduous the conditions were with the surf and the constant need to get wet, and the going seemed really slow. I checked my watch and it said 6km, we both thought it felt like it should have said at least 10! I mentioned it might be tough to reach that goal time of 2 hours on this leg, but we kept up a good tempo pace when we could and made up time on the much nicer to run on beach sections. I was thrilled with keeping pace with Murph and did not feel like I was working too hard to do it or I would have dropped right back. I was concentrating really hard on running as efficiently as possible, I knew what lay ahead and that for me, the 2nd leg would be a struggle.
At one point 50 metres ahead I saw Matty Veenstra disappear into the surf up to his chest before turning around giving a thumbs up and smiling, he just loves this tough stuff! I promptly went on high alert and when I got to this section had a good look at where to step into the surf, edged around the cliff waist deep and was through it. I think this was maybe 17-18km in.
Once again I caught up with Murph and we ran this last section together, I knew this would be the last time I would see Murph for the day and I wanted to get in a few pics with the champ! We finished this leg in 1 hour 58 minutes, I was thrilled to be on target and killing it!
22km – 49km – Torquay to Anglesea
Seeing my beautiful wife and kids there was great, I sat down and got to work replacing my shoes. Things were a bit hectic and unfortunately my love of Injinji Toe socks turned out to be a right little bitch. I ripped off my shoes and socks and washed the sand off my feet, but drying the toes and getting the fresh toe socks on with the new shoes turned out to be trickier than expected and I lost nearly 7 minutes in this first aid station, not much I could do about that. I pushed on, undoing a fair amount of good work I did in that first section. In hindsight, had I just replaced the socks with normal socks I probably would have been a km up the road by the time I left this aid station….
This longer check point delay was what caused Dave Sutherland and Byron Lester to catch me sooner than I expected (I did expect them to get me in Leg 2!). I ran with them both on and off, our timing wasn’t spot on so there was some tooing and frooing for a bit as I pushed feeling ok, but struggling a little bit.
I got a really unexpected surprise to see Nicole and the kids at the 32km aid station, or Check Point 3, which was a nice little boost when I was still feeling pretty good. When I kicked on from here with a little food in the guts I felt I should be happy and familiar with this part of the course due to Surf Coast Marathon – but I wasn’t. I started to slow down, it was a little early for doubts!!! I wondered if I had gone too hard in the first leg – “NO this is your race plan, go execute it….” so I tried to keep a tempo going but just couldn’t push through and walked more sections than I’d like in parts. I was ok with it, I knew full well that even at 35km, we had so, so far still to run. I think I caught Dave at this section too, both at a low point and both saying the year of running big ultra’s had taken their toll, legs are heavy, that’s it I’m never doing another ultra again….. LOL gotta love those sections of the race!!
Things got pretty muddy and technical in some areas and at around 38km I was feeling a little lazy and lost concentration for a moment and did something I don’t usually do. I fell. Hard. It was like slow motion, I am usually pretty good, I’ll stub a foot or a toe but I’ll catch myself and manage to stay up – but being in a low patch, I tripped and that was it. I just went directly down on a hard patch of trail, smashed my right palm and landed full force on my left knee. Someone ran past me – I was still on all fours wondering what just happened and assessing for damage “yeah mate I’ll be right”. I wondered what damage I’d done for the whole race, “oh that’s it there you go, you fell over, great excuse, people will pat you on the back and say brilliant effort after that fall you had, don’t worry about the time…”. Took me a few km to stop feeling sorry for myself and realise that there was no bad damage done just a few scratches and a little bruise, I’d be fine, push on cup cake!
Eventually when I was in another down patch and had been walking for way too long, Byron Lester caught up to me. We chatted for a bit, he had knee issues, and I was in a dark spot. I thought we would talk each other up and out of the darkness, but suddenly Byron was just ‘done’. “Nup my knees gone I’m out, I’m pulling out, I’m finished.” I didn’t know what to say or do, I’d never been next to someone that decided that, but then I selfishly thought “crap, I need to get out of this slump, I need to leave Byron, he’s pulling out but I’m seeing this thing through, I have to get going again….”. I felt bad leaving him behind, I said I just had to let him go, and for a minute I felt like Rose from Titanic when she let go of Jack’s hand at the end and saw him sinking to the bottom… Noooooooooo…. Jack….. Jaaaaaack I whispered as I ran away….. lol.
Unlike Jack, Byron’s a tough cookie and he’ll thaw out soon enough.
49km – Finally made it back to Anglesea.
Getting to this aid station was a real focus, as it was for most runners I’m sure! I ran in wanting a good rub down and some decent food. Once again I let myself down here big time with a lack of planning, I spent 12 minutes in this aid station, maybe even a podium finish though for longest time in the check point!! Still, I enjoyed my time with the kids, got a few pics of the kids and crew, ate some noodles, changed the shirt.
I may have lessons I learn in a race, I may have changes I’d like to make – but make no mistake, I have no regrets about anything I do if I decide to to them. Even if I say I won’t do that again, I don’t regret doing it.
I felt ok, now to take on the bridge. Was lots of fun as we planned for Maddi and Coops to ran with me the 1km to the bridge to see me crawl under. I didn’t fit, I tried again, I didn’t fit “bloody hell this is low!”. I ended up side saddle and dragging myself through it. It’s seriously nuts having to do this halfway through running 100km, but it part of the charm of this event. Then took off, feeling in much better shape than 2016, knowing this leg was going to be a hard one – 50km to go.
Some lonely km’s were done here, and at some point in the 50’s I remember the counting technique to win the battle of the part of the mind that says walk, walk, walk, just walk, go easy, walk this bit…. I started to take my mind of things and just count. 1, 2, 3, 4….. through out this leg I managed to get to around 2,250 before I stopped. It helped. Heaps.
I kept walking the hills and running anything that was down, and trying to tick off some kind of pace on the flats. It kept me moving and I wasn’t unhappy with the pace – I don’t remember lots about this section on who I met of chatted to, as I was focusing so much on counting!!
70km > The Turning Point > to 77km.
Finally I heard the cow bells, I saw the people, the noise was there and I was excited and ready for food and drink, but not exhausted, and certainly ready for the next 30km. But I know the enormity of the task of knocking those kms off quickly.
Fantastically Maddi and Coops were waiting to run me into the aid station, and I felt excited and I felt good about it. Nicky Ogle was there volunteering was nice to see a friendly face volunteering at an aid station. I’m pretty sure I just said red bull red bull red bull and went straight to the food and to start my caffeine rush. 70km was my plan to start to smash into anything caffeinated.
As I drunk my red bull, Nicole handed me a strong coffee to follow it, I pushed that down too – I wanted a spark and I was going to get it. I’d done the maths. It was already over 8 hours of running, and I needed to complete the last 30km in less than 4 hours. I know that the family knew my goal time of sub 12…. I turned to Nicole and said quietly “honey….. I don’t think I can do this sub 12 hour. 30km in 4 hours…. I just don’t think it’s going to happen”.
She was very supportive and said that 100km is massive and it didn’t matter – in hindsight she probably should have given me a cup of concrete and told me to harden up and get on with getting it done. So basically, I had lost confidence in being able to achieve sub 12. Then entered Brett Tilley.
I saw Brett back at the 49km aid station, he came in a few minutes before I departed, and I thought I was doing well, and here was Brett in his first 100km smashing it! I didn’t think much more of it until once again, at the 70km mark and only a few minutes behind me, in comes BT. Immediately I thought to myself ‘wow, we must be running REALLY similar race times. We must have walked the same hills and crashed in the same sections or he would have caught me by now”… and there he was smiling and pumped and eager to push on. “Brett!!” I yelled as he went to run out of the aid station “CJ! We got this mate sub 12 lets go!” “Seriously mate? We have a lot of work to do to make that time! But wait a sec (I sculled the rest of my red bull), if you think we have got this, I’m running with you buddy….. ok let’s go do this!”
And off we went, had a brief discussion about the job at hand, me being a glass half empty, and Brett just continued to pour me drinks till it was 3/4 full. It was only 7km to the 77km aid station, and together we enjoyed bombing down the single trails with some really nice trail to run. Then we heard the bells ringing and Ali screaming, I looked at the watch, was about 75km – Geez Ali Moxham is loud today haha. There was some snaking around the windy tracks before pulling into the aid station at 77km. I went straight to the chair Nic prepared for me, gave Jamie Moxham a hug, even went back for a selfie at the LTR flag. The caffeine was kicking in from 70km and I was high as a kite, especially with everyone there. Nicole and the kids helping me out with supplies, Dazza stepped up with the boss level massage rolling on my very sore quads, and Ali and Trish really helped the most by laughing at me and taking photos and video. Besties 🙂
I was ready to go, I looked around a little frantically as there was no way I was leaving without Brett. He was almost ready, boom, that’s it, let’s go chase that stein!!! High five to Shane Smedley on the way out was the last goodbye as we trekked up the hill to the top to run some more nice single trail again. By this stage I was still VERY nervous, now we had less than 3 hours to do 23km, we left the aid station just after the 9 hour mark… the clock was most certainly ticking. Brett was still confident, I was wary of being heart broken so I tried to protect myself with nice thoughts of how this was still a big accomplishment anyway blah blah blah. I wondered who else back at the aid station thought we actually stood a chance. It was going to be tight.
77km > Chasing Steins Fo Real > 86km Airey’s Inlet Lighthouse
How perfect was this. The last 3 aid stations all filled with friends and support and family. 70km, 77km gave us a huge buzz, and the incentive to get to 86km was also huge knowing Vanessa Hueser and Bich Jennings were going to be there volunteering too. This section was also just beautiful to run, trail heaven. Yes there was lots of mud but mainly lots more single track than I remembered. We finally saw off the tracks and hit the roads, we were starting to overtake quite a few others doing the 50km at this stage, was nice to shout out and reciprocate some encouraging words for both sides. And it’s always a boost in this race, as most of the 50km and the team runners only running 1 leg always have huge respect for the 100km runners and usually remark accordingly as you pass them or they pass you….
We saw the lighthouse in the distance at 86km and we had about 2km to go to get there, and we knew the bridge was coming up. We were really running well at this stage, and felt like we were flying past everyone. We got to the bridge and there was Michelle Harris and crew tip toeing under the last crazy bridge we had to get under, and they were laughing and crapping themselves hahaha. They were awesome and well on the way to their first 50km ultra! They were having a ball and we could tell they were enjoying themselves and were adamant that we scoot past them, so we did. We wished them the best and then climbed up the other side and made our way into the 86km aid station less than a km ahead.
Just prior to entering the aid station a bunch of cats led by Kellie Martin told us not to be a pussy, so after meowing past them for a laugh we pulling into the final check point to see Nic and the kids again. Greeted by the smiling faces of Van and Bich was a great boost to get us on our way again feeling refreshed and energised after another red bull.
As pumped as we were and despite all the words of encouragement, the numbers were getting tighter. We had pushed really well and felt like we were motoring along but still had a huge task ahead of us. We left our wonderful friends and family and took off to the lighthouse and discussed where we were at. About 1 hour and 40 minutes left and we had to tick off 14km. This was going to be close….
86km > The final push for sub 12 hours
This section promised to hurt, and it did. Brett was adamant we had it in the bag (at least he was saying that out loud), I was still worried and knew we had to just push push push and push to get there. I searched deep within myself but found nothing, I realised there was no way I was going to be convinced that we ‘had this’ until the final 500 metres to the finish line, so I had about 13km of convincing to go. We power hiked every hill, and we ran every flat and we tried to let go and pick up some time on the downs. There always seems to be so much damn ‘up’ at the end, every little bump looks like a bloody hill! Eventually we hit Urquart’s Bluff at about the 94km mark. The tide was out, and the sand was hard, the sun was out, and we had a beautiful tail wind. WOW how times change, this 5km beach section was unrecognisable, as back in June I’d run this section at the Surf Coast Trail Marathon with a fierce head wind and a King Tide that had us waist deep in water 50 metres further up the beach in the soft sand and rocks – thank god for Spring!!
With the open beach section in front of us suddenly everything was clear, runners were littered along the coastline. We had an hour to get the last 7km done.”OK” said Brett, about to say something that was on point. “This will make us or break us.”. “Yep”, I agreed. “Let’s do this”. Another little fist bump with Brett for motivation and we started to tempo at boss level. Our 5km beach section from 93km to 97km averaged 5:58 per km! Nothing was going to stop us know, we knew it but didn’t say it. We absolutely flew past heaps of runners on this section like men possessed. There is no doubt how hard it was to maintain that tempo, but slowing down was just off the table at this point, we just went for it.
Last year that section had broke me and I finished with close to 10 minute km’s.
Not this time.
When we finally got off the beach with only 3km to go, we’d nailed that beach section so well we now had over 40 minutes up our sleeve for the final 3km!
We pushed for home as hard as we could, we took off again and saw the familiar stripes of an LTR top – “by George I think that’s Georgia!” I said, she looked around at us and didn’t look overly impressed as we flew past her, she really wanted to beat us home she told us later – not like her mother at all right Trish Yates? We finally made the beach section and there was Trish, the supreme enthusiast screaming at the absolute top of her lungs with volume Ali Moxham would be proud of “YOU GOT A BIG STEEEIINNNNN, YOU GOT A BIG STEEEEINNNN!!!!!” Best reception ever!!
Maddi, Coops, Millie and Lacey were there with Nicole to run us in which was just beautiful! Unfortunately Nicole couldn’t control Lacey and Millie from running too far from the finish line, and there was no way I was going to stop and walk the last section after what we’d been through so poor Nicole, Lacey and Millie got left behind on the beach as I run up the finishing chute with Maddi, Coops and Brett “The Supreme Optimist” Tilley.
WE MADE IT!!! It was just so satisfying, and with over 17 minutes to spare! AMAZING!
Those moments ….. at the finish line with everyone that was already there, or waiting, or crewing, with Nicole and the kids, with Brett and Kerri. It takes a while to sink in, and it was pretty special.
All in all, this years course I found much tougher than the prior year, mainly as the beach section presented a very tough first 20km, and the diversion gave us an extra 2km and 150 metres of elevation, so to come in 40 minutes better than last years time was a dream come true.
Just another epic weekend with memories to last a lifetime.