First trail DNF

On Friday afternoon we drove down to Apollo Bay for the GOW100km. I was so nervous and excited, I was totally ready to smash my previous time.

Not far from Lorne, there was a landslide on the Great Ocean Road. Huge boulders covered the road and no one could get through. I said to A, “Is this a bad omen? A sign of things to come?” It was already late afternoon and I was stressing about our accommodation and race check in, which needed to be done by 6:30pm. Not only that, but the race briefing was due to start at 6:30 and I’d miss getting my drop bags in on time! My phone had no reception so I couldn’t even call anyone to say we’re running late! I checked the map and we could go back to Lorne and take an inland route. It looked like a long detour and our trip to Apollo Bay could end up being for nothing.

My phone had reception at Lorne so I called the hotel to say we were checking in late and they said they’d leave the key out for us in case they were no longer around. My phone received a message from Brett alerting us to the Great Ocean Road blockage – it had been sent over an hour earlier! So I called him to say we’re way late, but it was cool, they were allowing later registrations and the race briefing would start later. Phew!

The inland route turned out to be smooth sailing and not too long. As we got closer to rejoining the Great Ocean Road, suddenly there was a long queue of cars that had come to a stop. What now? After a while we started moving and passed another landslide that had just been cleared.

Finally we made it to the hotel then quickly scooted over to the pub where I checked in, got my drop bags sorted, and had the mandatory gear check (where I can’t believe one guy next to me had zero mandatory gear. What an idiot). The race briefing was over dinner and we were told of someone who had to be air lifted out the previous night. We were warned that there was plenty of mud on the course, river crossings were higher than usual, not to hold onto some trees as they may fall, and there is a hole in the ground where a tree had recently fallen out so careful not to fall in. Safety first.

After a night of tossing and turning I wandered back to the pub with a handful of diced coconut for breakfast for the 5:45am check in. I gotta say, this was such a nice touch to do the roll call at the pub. Thanks Andy + Brett for organising this. The pub opened up at 5:30am to let runners in and serve coffee! Just brilliant!

We gathered round the anchor over the road for the start and it was cold, windy and raining. Soon enough we were off and running. The first part of the course is quite exposed, over grassland and beach. The wind was blowing me sideways, I had to tighten my cap to stop it blowing off my head, and I couldn’t wait to get to the sheltered inland. It is so much nicer not being hailed on.

I saw some footprints in the sand and mud that belonged to a pair of Five Fingers. Well done to whoever that was! I hope you had a great run!

The ground was so muddy. I know we were warned about it and I knew it would be muddy but muddy doesn’t even come close to describing it. Running on the soft sand was much easier than sliding around in the mud. My glutes and hamstrings were feeling it just trying to keep myself upright. It took me 90 minutes to travel 10km. I then calculated at that rate I could finish in 15 hours. Maybe 17 to allow for fatigue.

There is a little 5km loop that the 100km runners do to get the distance up. This was quite slushy but not too slippery and I was actually able to run again. As part of this loop there is a river crossing we have to go through twice. It was about knee deep and icey cold. It cleaned the mud off my shoes though.

The rest of the run was a mix of me running through mud, walking through mud, having my shoes ripped off by the mud and skiing down the muddy slopes. At times it was shin deep and there were a few puddles that were knee deep.

There were some points along the way where some people just went running past me. How is it possible they can run through this? I could barely keep myself upright! Obviously I never train in the mud!

I checked my watch and noted I had 1 hour to cover the 8km left to get to checkpoint 1 at Blanket Bay before cut off. Not a chance I would make it. I thought I was dead last and every time I heard someone from behind I expected it to be David sweeping me, but each time it was a runner running through the mud. Why were they only picking up speed now? And why weren’t they slipping and sliding like me? Why couldn’t I run like that through the mud? I tried to pick up pace a few times but it usually resulted in me going for a little ski. If I had a sled I could could’ve done it.

A said he would surprise me and meet me at some checkpoints along the way for moral support. I hoped he was coming to checkpoint 1.

Blanket Bay was at around the 26km mark and I was about 15 mins late. 3 others also didn’t make it in time. It was so disappointing because physically and mentally I was feeling strong and fresh. A quarter of the way through and I felt great.

A was planning to meet me at checkpoint 2 rather than here, but fortunately a kind volunteer drove us back to Apollo Bay. I think we were all feeling a bit sorry for ourselves. This nice volunteer stopped along the way to show us the Manna gums where the koalas like to hang out. He pointed out some koalas and soon enough we were spotting heaps of koalas sleeping in the trees. Well at least something good came of the morning.

After spending ages in the shower (it was perfect without a water saving head) scrubbing the mud off my legs, we took a drive through the wind, rain and hail to the 12 Apostles. It was so wild there. The rain was horizontal and I had to hold onto my phone with two hands to take photos. It definitely lived up to its name of the Shipwreck Coast.

This race had everything. Wind, rain, hail and shine. Dirt, mud, sand, water and a few runnable bits. Many thanks to the organisers and great volunteers. This is the most well run race ever. Everything had been thought of. I was prepared and ready to smash my previous time based on last year’s perfect conditions. I will be back with a vengeance next year. I will buy some trail shoes (my Adizero PRO racing flats are great on dry rocks but not mud) and I will hit the trails and toughen up. Just you wait, GOW, I will conquer you yet.


6 thoughts on “First trail DNF

  1. aroset

    I am so impressed! My gosh, 100 kms. The fact you got as far as you did, feeling strong and in all that mud- I really hope you're proud! You so deserve to be.


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