Coast to Kosci Race Report
By Coach Stephane Moulin
I wasn’t going to write a race report as I thought that people wouldn’t be interested that much but after quite a few athletes asked me if I was here I go…. I thought long and hard about how to approach it and decided to “call it as I saw it” not hiding from the highs and lows.
C2K has been on my mind since crewing for Brendan in 2014 and seeing just how much it takes to get over that finish line. I have never seen anybody fight as hard or dig as deep as Brendan did that race, tipping himself over the edge and coming out the other side. I was hooked! 🙂
Coast to Kosciuszko is a 240km long point to point race with 6000m of gain, starting at Boydtown Beach and finishing at Mt Kosciusko; really just a long hill.
When the entries opened after GNW I put my name in the hat, but honestly thought that I would not get a spot as there are far better people than me applying for a place. Race director Paul Every goes through a selection process for 50 athletes only. A very small field of people that he hand picked worthy/capable of taking on this adventure. I must say receiving that email confirmation was both exciting and daunting! The realisation of what you are about to go through comes real.
My physical preparation started 2 months prior to the race under the guidance of Brendan. My training was a mix of long and super long runs in which testing out some techniques (alternating run/walks, practising power walking with poles etc). I am lucky that my regular load is quite high and my body copes with volume quite well, so getting primed for C2K was done without any injury, which is great.
I am no newby to long ultra races but with this one I really struggled to wrap my mind around a pacing strategy. Nothing made sense…
‘Take it easy for the 1st 100km then step it up after 140km… for another 100km?’
It plays on your mind a lot!
Having crewed previously was invaluable, as it gave me a snippet of what was to come, and also made me appreciate how HARD it is for the crew to be out there as long as they are, feeding, helping, cleaning, running, fixing and supporting their runner. I was absolutely thrilled when Jo Brischetto, Paul Manning, Darryl Johnson and Michael McGuiness offered to crew for me; couldn’t pick a better bunch of people.
I decided that I would simply surrender myself to the crew, I trust them and I know that they knew what needed to be done, and would try not to challenge any decision. This is a team effort, not a solo one. As Shane Simpson told me, all we have to do is keep running, the crew are the ones doing all the hard work.
Along with selecting my crew, another aspect of my preparation that I really wanted to cover was my nutrition. There is absolutely no way that I could pull through without a solid nutrition plan. I worked with Jen from ProActiveNutrition to ensure that I had a solid nutrition strategy for training in build up. The load was high (550km in November) and this strategy allowed my body to recover and not be depleted in all key nutrients. Jen also helped me put together my race day plan, which worked perfectly.
Race day came in a flash and we made our way down to Eden, not before working out how to fit it all in the car and a slight detour as I forgot to pack my poles…
That evening was the pre-race dinner, I registered and weighed in (pre-race loading worked as I was the heaviest I have been for a while). We met quite a few of the other competitors and fellow runners/friends, all sharing the same excitement and anticipation.
Final preps, revise my nutrition plan, a short night sleep and the day is here!
Walking to the beach at Boydtown was very eerie for me, and very emotional. I really started to wonder if this was a mistake and what am I doing here amongst those legends of C2K. I didn’t feel adequate.
5:30am and we are off. It feels good to start running, taking the pressure off. I ran the 1st 24 km with fellow Upper Sean Ward and tagging Shane. Taking it all in our strides, easy pace, talking and trying to relax. For the 1st 24 km, there are no support crew allowed, but 3 aid stations provided for runners.
As I approached the Crew Rendez-Vous at Towamba school it was great to see everybody. Crew duties were about to start! Until sunset on Friday, runners are not allowed pacers but can be supported by crews. The plan was to meet the crew car every 5km – a Parkrun at a time! 😉
Conditions were good in the morning, I kept chugging along, trying to be conservative, not pushing the pace, walking the hills and running relaxed and by feel. I ran a fair amount of time with Shane, chatting away and having fun. I even tried his cold drip coffee mixture which I was hoping to get some after a big climb but was rejected (rightly so) by the crew. Oh well, you gotta try! My crew were getting their groove, becoming very efficient, with Master Chief Jo taking charge 🙂
The wind started to pick up which was a worry, as once on the High Plains there isn’t a lot of protection so this could be a challenge. But as Jo said, you can’t control it so don’t worry about it. Wise words. 🙂
One section worried me- which was Big Jack – a 7km/500m climb – at 56km. Before I knew it, 50km were done (5hrs) and met the crew at the bottom of Big Jack. For this section, runners are allowed a mule and Michael joined me for the climb, which we ended up doing with Shane and his mule Andy Lee (quality “mule” there!). Not sure why I was worried, the climb was over in no time, and felt great.
Hitting the top of Big Jack, you enter the High Plains which also means protection and shade are a thing of the past…. Wind picked up and was strong, which made running really challenging as it would either stop you in your steps or push you on the side. I tried to block the wind as best as I could – ok, maybe a few expletives there and that – but once again, as Jo said, I can’t control it so don’t worry about it. I decided that listening to music for a few hours would be a welcomed distraction which worked for me. This also helps me drift away and thinking of loved ones – which are overseas at the moment.
Kilometres kept ticking over and my crew were fantastically well organised, it was literally like an F1 pit stop every 5km. Nutrition plan was working well, no issues to report. The crew worked so hard in making sure everything was ready for me when I got to the car, minimising stoppage, ensuring I had sun protection, was not too hot, checking on my feelings (sick, ok, hungry etc) and making me laugh too. Legends!
Jo was very good at giving me feedback from the posts on FB from fellow Uppers and passing on words of encouragement from Jen. Those are invaluable little boosters.
Road camber started to affect me with glutes tightening up, and putting pressure on left Achilles.
90km turn off was a great surprise – crew waiting there for me – before a VERY long exposed hill section – with some water melon. That was such a good pick up! Thanks guys J
Paul Avery kept floating amongst the field and stopped and walk/run with runners, checking they are ok. Same with chief medic Andy Hewatt. It is a lovely touch, as you can tell they really care about the runners.
Before too long, 100km mark was reached in 12 hrs. A nice little goal ticked (20 Parkruns yeah!). The crew had party hats on for me at that point – AWESOME!
The next 30km hit me hard mostly mentally as I really struggled to come up with a “pacing plan” in my head and started to think of the unknown. ‘What do I do after 100miles – the furthest I ever ran?’ Doubt entered my mind and fatigue started to set in and that @#$! Wind was still not dropping! I must apologise to Paul as he kept telling me it would drop off, but I might have been a bit forceful back at him… Oops!
I then decided that I needed to refocus so set myself the challenge to get to ½ way mark BEFORE sunset, which is 8:30 PM. I had 15km (3 Parkruns) to go and 2 hrs to make it happen. I got to 120km just before 8PM and got treated by a little Bon Jovi serenade. CREW ROCK! The crew attended to what I thought was a little hotspot ending up being a huge blister. Oops oh well – didn’t even feel it J. Change of sock and shoes and I was like a new runner (leaving the dirt for tar so I wanted a shoe with more support).
The best thing now was that I was about to get some pacers and company. This combined with wind dropping (Ol’Man was right after all!), all seemed to be getting me back on track. My pacers alternated every 5 to 10km, chipping away at the mileage and resolving all worlds issues (but 2GB discussions were banned – to Paul’s disgust – hahaha). Glutes started to lock in which resulted in Jo “kindly” assisting in releasing them. This was to become a regular occurrence for the next 140km.
Having the ‘live cross’ to the Up Coaching Christmas party was AWESOME! I really felt the love and gave me a huge boost of energy. Cannot thank fellow Uppers enough. Fuel wise, I exceeded my tolerance for Pepertuem, and needed some “real food”. Time to get some hot food in me – Miso soup and Japanese noodles, hot tea. Temperature dropped and I struggled to regulate my body heat, so stops were hard as I ended up shaking like a leaf at each departure once I had the blanket taken off.
I absolutely loved having my crew running with me. And I think they were itching to run too. Well, jog really J. Different person, different subject and different personalities made it interesting. Nearing midnight, I started to fade, so I was allowed some Caffeine – yeah baby!! That rocked.
In getting to Dalgety (148km – 19hrs) there is a sense of relief as you’ve got less than 100km to go (double digits left). Amazing how you need to adapt your thinking to the situation. Dalgety is a CP at a townhall that is nice, warm, cosy, chairs and beds and toilet – apparently. The closest I made it to it was the wall outside of the door. No sitting down for me. Right call from my crew as I didn’t need it, I’m not here for a camping excursion, got a job to do!
Midnight passed and it was Darryl’s 40th birthday! I cannot believe he decided to put up with me in the middle of nowhere on his 40th. What a cool guy!
I took off with Michael, luckily he knew where to go as I was about to go the wrong way… Typical. I am convinced, still, that I saw a Camel out there, but Michael insisted it was a rock! Another milestone reached, 100 miles in 23hrs! Now we are entering the unknown… mixed emotions of excitement and fear/panic.
Some of the following hours are a blur/lost from my recollection; all other than Paul getting all of the hilliest sections to run with me. I know this because he never stopped complaining about it … 🙂
As night went on, so did the kilometres, I couldn’t wait for the sun to rise again as body wakes up and feels energised. My glutes and TFL consistently locked after a few km, which resulted in a release at each CP. Jo had her work cut out! I got very good at “assuming position” getting to the car!
Finally the sun rose and some downhill started to appear which meant Jindabyne wasn’t that far off. After a quick game of spotto (which I won Jo!), Darryl took me on to “Brendan’s spot” at the Jindy caravan park car park where I prepared for the climb up the mountain.
Under the guidance of Dazz Bon Jovi, we started to make our way to the National Park. This is the last 60kms but it’s a real grind. Exhaustion started to set in, with a lot of emotions and doubt as even though you are at Jindy there is still a good 6 to 8hrs of work to be done. I was very happy when the crew treated me with a fresh coffee and a croissant about 6 kilometres up the climb, although I knocked over the coffee! Sorry guys!
Lucky for me I am a reasonable power walker so I managed to power walk the biggest climbs on the Jindy road (with Paul of course) and pushed my body to make sure I would ran wherever I could – flats and downhills. By this point my body was shutting down, refusing to work. To lift my legs and run took a lot of effort and focus as if I was pulling my leg from a block of cement.
The road to Kosci does have plenty of ski markers on side of the road. So Jo thought it would be good to use those markers as targets… So there started the “run 5 poles, walk 2 game” – am still convinced counting was off and it was more than 5 poles! Hitting the 200km mark was great but I couldn’t help but starting to doubt I would be able to finish.
Upon getting to Perisher, I started to experience some hallucinations as I was convinced that the yellow road markers were blue but Dazz reassured me no one repainted them! Some urgent caffeine intake helped defer this issue. The last 28km were an absolute battle not only physically but also mentally. I was an emotional wreck, struggling to think straight, communicate and focus.
But my crew were absolutely outstanding in taking my grumpiness in their strides, trying to engage me and keeping me moving. Upon seeing the Charlotte Pass sign, I utterly melted down, but thankfully Paul was there for me to pick me up and get it back on track.
The last 18km are an out of back from Charlotte Pass to the Summit and back down, where the whole crew can join you but everyone needs to carry mandatory gear in the event weather changes. Some of the crew had some issues in getting their gear ready so I was allowed to head off on my own whilst they organise themselves. Am sure they would catch me up….
The final 9kms up to the Summit were tough. Hot but yet cold, tricky with rocks (particularly when the last 100km are on road, you forget to lift your feet), I pushed as hard as I thought I could, coming to grasps that I might actually do this! Even now, writing this brings emotions back…
We met Andy Hewat a few km from the top – what a legend. He was doing medical support for the race.
The last ridge was covered with snow which was fun going up to – something different bringing the kid in you.
We reached the summit in 2 hrs – what a feeling! To say there was an explosion of emotions it is an understatement. One of the best hug ever with my friends, my crew, my mates.
Yet, I couldn’t stop thinking about the descent, wasn’t sure how I would cope with 9km downhill after 231km uphill! After a quick look, I started descending, dropping poles at 1st (sorry Jo) then jacket (sorry Paul), and kept pushing the pace, taping into my emotions. We ended up descending the 9km in just over 40mins! J I am really sorry crew – but thought you could do with a bit of speed work after 30hrs + !
The feeling of crossing that finish line cannot be described. Relief, joy, pain, achievement and camaraderie, disbelief bundled up altogether. I wanted the crew to cross it with me but they bailed. It is as much my finish as theirs. WE DID IT! I would have never been able to do this without their dedication, kindness, support and guidance.
All I had to do is run.