2004 Coastal Classic 12Hr, Gosford, NSWby Bill Koumertas
As usual, I was running late for the event start, mainly due to last minute preparations of fluids, cloths, and food. Weather was mild with temps around the 20's. Living only 2 km's from the event location made non-attendance - not an option. Why not attend you may ask?, 2 weeks prior, I joined 3 other runners, including David Criniti, the ultimate winner of this event, for a leisurely run over the Six Foot Track marathon course (by the way thanks Sean Greenhill for the invitation and support at the Coastal). I over estimated my capabilities that day and suffered a nagging post ITB injury which lasted up until the day before the Coastal Classic.
Anyway, what was I going to do, our Fatass motto includes the word "no wimps", tradition had to be honoured. I had to make the attempt. In hindsight, I realised that for many of the runners that night, it was the attempt that was important.
I walked onto the grass track of Adcock Park, Gosford, waiving the insects away from my face, pleased at having decided to attend, and looking at the inside track for a suitable location to set up camp for the night.
Event formalities were orchestrated from a small table in front of the canteen. Organisers were hurriedly finalising last minute entry allocations and assigning lap scorers for those lone runners, like me. My younger brother, who was to be my lap scorer & motivator for the race, cancelled at the last minute, although understandably, meant I had to rely on a stranger. Fortunately, Lesley Overton (I hope the name is correct) stepped into the breach. She was not merely an amiable, quiet woman but attentive to the job at hand and supportive of both this event and all the runners participating. She fosters many of the ideals the event stood for, thanks Lesley.
The race began at approx 7:40pm, with what Robert Frost would refer to as a "professional whimper" and not a bang. The 30 odd runners, ranging in age from 20's to 70's, shuffled off in a determined but excited pace. Each appeared contemplative, as the first few laps swept under our feet without incident. Each runner seemed to rehearse in their minds eye a tried and true routine that would preserve them for the next 12 hours.
Conversation was a mixture of banter, nodding, exchanging strategies or merely restating the night's goals. My energy level was higher than normal due to the lack of training in the two weeks preceding the event, but this allowed me to keep pace with a few of the better runners, for a very short while at least. I chattered with Kieron Thompson for a few laps admiring the effortless way he ran. He was a dedicated runner and a familiar name from many of the local Fatass run reports. It would not be his running prowess that I will remember most, but his consistently supportive, friendly and sincere encouragements received throughout the entire race. Even towards the end, when strength and sinew struggle or falter to deliver onto their master's demands, he would run past me, exhausted, and hearten me on to complete the course. Thanks, Kieron.
Each hour rolled by faster than I expected. At every hour or 10kms, I took a break of no more than 10mins. As this was my first 12hr race, my goals were to finish and learn what was needed to complete these longer events. I sought out and spoke with as many people as I could.
It was uplifting to see a few Fatass runners either participate or like Sean, make the huge effort to attend the event and encourage others. I mused to myself as to how he was able to compete, among the best in the world, in the Western States 100miler last year. The answer was simple, he was committed, pounded the weekly miles into submission, one after the other with grit determination, becoming a dedicated ultra runner with heart. Sean had time for the both the novice and the elite. A great inspiration.
More so, I'm beginning to appreciate the unusual psyche that draws people to ultra running. It's a mixture of contemplative solitude, a desire to physically test ones limitations and a need for self revalidation.
My pace began with the possibility of completing 100km. After the first 3 hrs, it slowed to 90km and progressively down to 80km, by the 7th hr. Ultimately, by the 10hr, I was doing more power walking than running, but still everyone that I'd met would shout (or whisper) encouragements.
Shoes were a big issue. My favourite NB 763's had disintegrated but I had no time to break in a new pair. Tried to run in an old pair NB 1020's but not enough medial support; I'm a neutral pronator weighing 75kgs but have had years of PF problems. The weekend prior to the race, tried on a pair of size 10/2E 765's, they felt great but the front metatarsal support pad (abzorb) felt very pronounced. The ASIC Adrenaline (size 10.5 D) felt like slippers. Haven't made up my mind yet.
I felt that my food consumption should have included more solids eg hot pasta, some protein drink, bread. I generally took in Gatorade, some Coke, alternating with water. Fruit and lollies made up the rest of my nightly diet.
I was impressed that a BBQ was operating throughout much of the night. Hot sausage & eggs rolls were being served for breakfast for those with the stomach. The organisers also had drinks for sale.
Professional advice (and poor jokes) were available from Kerry, the owner of "The Runners Shop" East Gosford. His store, specialising in all things running, provides a significant and genuine contribution to the local running community.
This was a professionally organised event which retained an ambience of informality, making participating and meeting people a pleasure. I highly recommend this event to anyone.
Serious runners were aiming for 120km plus. By the 11th hr, the winner was on track to break a course record. As he ran past me, walkman over his ears, face masked with cool sweat, I knew David Criniti was running on pure adrenaline. That feeling of exhaustive elation that I know every runner feels, now and again, when you give it all you have. He seemed to sprint the last few laps with greater ease than what he started with. By this stage he had committed himself to giving this race his best. David almost appeared at times to forget there was anyone else on the track.
All I can say of the venue that night is "perfect!". It was as if nature simply held her breath for the entire night. Mild, cool conditions. No wind, no rain, no mosquitoes or flies (until morning). I thought that some areas around the track surface would disintegrate into small sand pits but it held together throughout the night; wonderful to run on.
Hi to Joan Robards, who at 69 was running smoothly, even at the eleventh hour. At times I would notice her quietly musing to herself or striding comfortably alongside other competitors. At other times she recounted to me of days, running over beach sand in QLD and participating in other 12 hr events on gravel courses, but at all times she persevered, placing one foot in front of the other, one hour after the next.
Of my fellow runners, I enjoyed everyone's company. Some of those I met came from as far a field as Kiama, Port Stephens and Canberra. Families, single mums, young and old, first time walkers, experienced runners, truly a representation of the "ultra" community.
Congratulations to the winners. David Criniti, who ran with heart and determination. Carol Baird, who ran with quiet, controlled physical resolve and mental fortitude. She has certainly mastered this distance/time, being able to take short power breaks, eating, drinking and thereafter being able to continue maintaining a pace that left others walking.
As for me, completed 76.491km, a personal best.
Results are here
I will certainly be back in 2005.