For me the Coastal Classic was “the” race of 2015 for me. It was to (hopefully) be my 6FT qualifier having made the decision to attempt my first ultra distance race in 2016.
In order to qualify I had to finish the 29k race within 4:15. This was going to be my longest run to date having only ran 22k races so far. What’s another 9k between friends though.
The coastal track if you don’t know it is a one way 29k track that follows the coast line of Sydney’s Royal National Park starting in Otford and finishing in Bundeena. It’s a very popular multiday walk and the numerous beaches along the way are also very popular throughout the year. Ah so many beaches, so pretty to visit, not so pretty to run across!
Logistically being a one way race it’s a bit tougher to organise but with the help of my lovely wife I was dropped off at the start line at early o’clock. And before we knew it we were off. Now I’m pretty good when it comes to pre-planning and knowing what I’m in for before I get into a race but having never been out to the coast before I was quite unprepared for what was to come. The first hill of the course comes very quickly and it’s a very steep climb this made me think that the rest of the hills were insignificant. BIG mistake!
But before all the other hills there is the most fun section of the entire course, a steep technical downhill that winds through trees and ferns. It’s a great little section but before you know it you’re on the climb out and luckily for us bright blue skies and sunshine greeted us as we emerged from the forest.
The first section (and few later on) is on a metal grate like platform track, fine in the sunshine but not sure what it would be like on a rainy day. Also some of the squares are looser than others giving them a spring, it’s a bit like hitting a trampoline every 5th step! Fun but heart jittering at the same time! The views soon open up and the reality of what was ahead was upon me… Oh the hills.
It was a pretty hot and sunny day and the course offers no protection once you’re out the forest. It was making the hills even tougher than normal. And I was seriously feeling it.
Up and down we went crossing beach after beach on the way. It is one of the prettiest races in Sydney. Once over the initial technical downhill the remainder is very runnable / walkable / climbable!
Then when all the hills are over you hit the mother of all sand sections - a sandy trail then beach which feels like it lasts for ever. I started to hit the wall with about 7k to go and at this point didn't know how i was going to get through it. I called my wife at this point to beg for a lift home - I had planned to get the bus and train combo but boy had I misunderestimated how horrendous I was going to feel...
I was pushing hard to make the 4:15 cutoff. My watch had paused part way along the course (old Nike) and I wasn’t sure for how long so I knew there was potential for me to be cutting it close if I didn’t push through. I really hadn’t had much hill work ahead of the race and looking back at my Strava was only doing an average of 40-50k a month! Compared to 40-50k a week when I was training for 6FT (and more in the later months). So I was pretty undercooked for it and my hip-flexors were soon killing me. I crossed the finish line in 4:00:39 which I was unbelievably stoked with,
This is a great run that everyone in Sydney (and beyond) needs to try at least once! I can’t wait to get back one year to see if I can improve or at least finish feeling without looking like this…