We arrive to the start about 30 mins early so there’s plenty of time for a catch up with some familiar faces and then we quiet down for the race brief.
This is a team or individual event – run, kayak, road bike, MTB so at 8am sharp they give the individual competitors (all 10 of them led up by weapon, Alex Hunt) a head start and then by 8:05 we’re off.
I’m in a team of four with hubby doing the road bike. The kids are in tow and it’s an organisational jigsaw to manage. Truth be told we’re about as organised as late night shopping on Christmas eve so it’s brekky at the Bicheno bakery and from there we’re relying on local establishments to keep the kids from gnawing at each other’s limbs.
After doing this race last year I know that as soon as that lap of the car park is behind us it’s a tight chase through the hazards and there’s not exactly room for leisurely overtaking. So my plan today is to pump it at the start so once we take to the single file goat track I don’t get “stuck” behind anyone.
There are cheers and high fives from hubby and kids on the winding track as we leave the car park and with a big grin on my face I delve into a swift stride. After the first km clicks over there’s about 4-5 of us close on each other’s tails. We spend the next km passing and re passing each other as we settle into a rhythm. I quickly ascertain a suitable target to try and keep up with until the next couple of turns and they’re already behind me.
Now if you’ve run (or walked) the hazards track before then you’ll know it’s full of rocks, exposed tree roots (especially good for rolled ankles) and undulation? Well thats a slight understatement. But most of all it’s a scenic delight, with coastline for miles.
After 6.5km we break out of the trail onto the beach and with a high tide we’re all scrounging for a firm foot hold. A short way up the beach and I decide to take a gel here, it’s the 7km mark and I figure even though not half way I want it to kick in before the climb ahead. Someone overtakes me on the beach and with go pro held high says “smile for the camera!” We briefly discuss the incredible scenery and it’s at this point I’m missing the sisterly banter that would be going on if Bec was here.
We take a left onto the isthmus and it’s up (up and up) over the sand dunes and quite breathless at the top I plummet down the other side. I settle in to my thoughts at this stage, taking a moment to acknowledge my fatigue but talk myself to a strong and confident place (and rhythm). Taking a quick look at my watch I notice I’m sitting on 5:22/km and I know there’s a big climb ahead of me.
My goal is to average 5:30/km which for the 16.8km will bring me home in sub 1:35.
After struggling on this course last year and finishing at 1:49:40 I’m confident it’s achievable. I push ahead and in an attempt to keep things light I throw the odd comment to the two guys ahead of me; without much response if I’m honest!
It’s not long at all before the isthmus is history and I start digging deep for the mental strength to take on the saddle. I’m pretty close to a couple of lads up ahead and decide to keep them in view to keep me motivated. I know as the track becomes steep I’ll slow to a walk but if my calculations are correct I’ll make it all up flying down the other side.
There are plenty of cheers and whistles as walkers and tourists stop to let us climb past. It’s here that I discover I’m close to the lead female as a walker yells “wooo, second female!!” The grin on my face and the pain in my legs are contradictory at this stage and within a few more hundred meters the track starts to level as we reach the top. There’s a friendly face in sight and we exchange a few words before I get my game face back and let the brakes off down the hill.
I start to feel the exhilaration as I tear through the bush like the cast of The Blair Witch and before long my average pace is coming back down out of the rafters.
It’s not long before we’re back in the car park where we started and a quick distance check tells me it’s 5km back to Iluka Tavern to tag my paddler.
It’s a slightly rude shock from trails to the bitumen but with spirits high I turn to the guy next to me and say “ok, just a short cruise home!”As we take in the last of what seem like endless hills on the road we are directed down to Richardson’s beach and it’s a tired slog along the next km of sand. At this point I’m knackered but stoked, I can tell I’m going to smash my goal as I sit on 5:28/km and it gives me a boost of energy to surge on.
The last km is tough, I keep thinking I must be close as the road seems to stretch further and further away from me but within a few minutes I am being directed though the flags and down onto the beach. There are kayaks lined up for all along the beach and I quickly see Toby who tells me to keep running to the end. A high five with our paddler and I’m done. Pushing hard through the cheering crowd at the end has left me breathless but grinning from ear to ear……. I’ve finished in 132:20 with an average of 5:24/km which is a 17.5minute course PB from the previous year. Goal smashed!
The next few hours is spent watching the rest of the team in their legs of the race as well as the kids smashing the obstacle course.
A delightful Epsom salts soak and hearty meal later and I’m ready to kick day 2’s butt in the morning.
It’s been a sleepless night due to the wild winds shaking the shack from side to side and as a result we soon hear that the kayak leg has been moved from start to the finish in the day 2 schedule.
We pack up and it’s an early bakery brekky (for something new) as we make our way to into the national park.
The weather is pretty wild and as my husband gets ready to start the team off he has reservations about his safety. He’s back in record time and as he tags the MTB I head to the car to get ready. I’ve got an hour up my sleeve but the time flashes by and before long I’m eagerly awaiting the flash of yellow and black kit to return to transition.
After a quick tag I’m off. It’s about 10:30am, the sun is out and wind has died down. I’ve set myself an average pace goal of 5:20/km. Which should bring me in under 1:10 for the 14km course.
With all the cheers and shouts of encouragement it’s hard not to power out of transition and a quick look down tells me I’m running at 3:30s.
I remind myself to be sensible and quickly pull back to 4:10/km. The first 6 km is Day 1 in reverse, an out and back up to the saddle and by now the weather conditions are spot on. I’m not to far away from a couple of guys in front of me which is good because I can’t be bothered having to navigate the course. After 1:5km we’re back on the beach and there’s a reasonable tail wind so the next km comes in under 4:15/km.
The tide is high so a couple of leaps are required to stay as dry as I can while navigating the rock pools and before long we’re on the road into Wineglass carpark. I really notice the heat at this stage and am very pleased with my decision to pack 300ml of H2O. After the endless undulation of the bitumen road I prepare myself for the upcoming climb. If you’ve done the Wineglass Bay track you’ll know what I’m talking about and as I see the carpark up ahead I take out a gel in preparation.
I keep the legs turning for as long as I possibly can before I slow to a walk.
It’s stone step after step sometimes breaking for a bit of path and I start to make little deals with myself. “Walk these ten steps then run until you get to the next set.” This pays off as before long I’ve reached the top and the marshals wave me up to tag the witches hat before I’m allowed to turn and fly down the hill again. This is where I quickly suck back the gel I’ve been holding in hand all the way to the top and as I stash the empty wrapper back in my pocket I smile and prepare to let loose.
I offer cheers and claps to those coming up who are in as much pain I was just minutes before. The vibe out here is strong and full of encouragement from fellow competitors – there’s something special about the second day where everyone is just trying to break the mental barriers and there’s a lot of respect for all the individual efforts. I feel like a kid in a fun park again as I don’t hold back flying around the corners, breaking my fall with short sharp steps.
Way too quickly I’m back in the Wineglass carpark and onto the bitumen again, this time feeling high on life and pumped to own these last km home. A quick pace check tells me I’m already averaging 5:19/km and for the first time in my life after a quick distance calculation I’m actually stoked that I still have 5km left because that’s plenty of opportunity to lower my average even more. Bizarre how the endorphins make you think. It’s at this point that I decide to adjust my goal and aim for 5:10/km average.
After a hot few kms on the road the beach is a welcome relief however I make a point not to look up much as it does look very long and at this point my head doesn’t need any encouraging to psych me out.
Due to the early morning wind the race organisers pulled the kayak leg and decided to put it at the end of the course so while I’d usually be finishing the event I now need to head into transition and tag the paddler.
As I come to the last km I’m stoked that my pace is sitting at 5:09/km and I put the foot down as I look around for what should be my paddler in transition. I quickly learn that since heading out they’ve changed the tag point and I now need to head down to the beach. I’m feeling fresh and pump the arms to fly between the flags as I hear them calling my number down on the beach. I see Trav right in front of me and as I tap his oar he’s off into the water and I’m done!
Bent over in two, hands on my legs, I gasp for air and stop my Garmin. Such an amazing event, such a beautiful run. I have a giggle to myself as I check my time, 1:08 which is an average 5:08/km and a 6 min course pB.
After I freshen up at the car/change clothes I’m back at transition just in time to watch our paddler come in for strong finish. It’s been a mammoth team effort in an incredible part of the world.
We gather the kids from the beach and meet up at the Iluka Tavern for beers and lemonade (for the kiddies), basking in last couple of days achievements.
Job well done.