This page last updated: Saturday 20 March 2010
For more info about Australian Ultra Runners' Association click here
Shoalhaven 46kmHeld 18th June 2000. Report by Sean Greenhill
Whilst most Sydney Striders were travelling to Woodford in the Blue Mountains to contest the Woodford-Glenbrook 25K, I was travelling down Nowra way for my second running of the Shoalhaven Ultrmarathon 46K, a longer extension of the well frequented King of the Mountain 32K which winds from Cambewarra (just outside Nowra) to picturesque Kangaroo Valley over roughly half tarmac and half fire trail style tracks.
I arrived in Nowra the night before the race a much different runner than last year, when I ran it for the first time. Last year I had been plagued by IT Band trouble and kept fit with a lot of cycling and running two or three times a week. The week before last years Shoalhaven I ran 36.48 in the Woodstock 8K, and two weeks later would run around 48 and a half minutes for 10K, a PB at the time. Form this year is not so different- I ran Woodstock in 36.33 this time and ran 45.50 odd for 10K a fortnight ago. This year however I was running a lot more than twice a week, including plenty of long runs, up to 60K. My intention ths year was to run around the same time as last year (4.57) but finish in much better shape- a long training run for the Glasshouse ultra in October.
After staying up the night before to see Australia hammer Argentina in the Rugby Union, I fronted up this morning at Cambewarra to join a reduced field from last year- only about 14 started. Last year's top two, Trevor Jacobs and Peter Goonpan, weren't there but two living legends of Australian ultrarunning took their places- Kelvin Marshall and Paul Every did front up for what promised to be an intriguing battle for line honours. Another such legend, Peter Gray, had started at 7am, having been given a dispensation because of a gammy knee.
The weather was cool but not cold, cloudy but not overcast. Essentially, a perfect day for running. I stood on the start line next to Kelvin and Paul, and when the gun was fired at 8am these two took off. For about the first ten metres, I ran behind them- in third place, woo hoo!Then I settled down as the course wound through the waking streets of Cambewarra. A number of residents were standing in their front yards to clap us past. After a couple of minutes I settled in next to Nick Drayton, fellow UltraOz list member, who had run me down a few kilometres from the finish of this race last year. Very quickly we were at the back of the field, which felt very odd as the first four kilometres flashed by at 5 minutes per kilometre. The road started to roll and dip and climb, and we settled down to pass 10K in exactly 60 minutes.
It's funny how you can meet someone for the first time and within a few minutes be chatting away like brothers, because Nick and I were doing exacly that, nattering away about work life, family life, ultramarathoning life. Before today we'd run in the same race a few times and swapped a few emails, but that was all. We were still hovering precisely on 6 minutes/kilometre pace as twenty, then twenty five kilometres came and went. By now we had left the bitumen and set a course on fire road through the Morton National Park. Nick wasn't out to run himself into the ground either, so we walked a few steep climbs, and made up the time on the downhills. This course can be run the entire way- all the hills can be run- but we couldn't see the point in running ourselves out to do so. The race passed through rainforest type surroundings, then farmland, and, as we climbed higher on the escarpment, dry eucalypt forest. We passed Peter Gray, exchanged a few words, then kept on.
Nick was a fabulous running companion. No potential go get bored with him around, and he was setting a good pace for the pair of us. At around the 32K mark we emerged onto the long stretch of hilly bitumen that would take us right into Kangaroo Valley and the finish. At times we had spectacular views of the ranges of Morton National Park, still in some parts enveloped in fog as the clock approached lunch. In the foreground, we had trees, spinifex type scrub and a number of farms and properties. This road wasn't closed to traffic- cars came by not infrequently, and the drivers and passengers of every car- every single one- waved as they passed these two runners who had come a long way. Nick's muscular frame and my 190cm body must have looked an incongrous pair in an ultramarathon. At around 41K we passed the road where the King of the Mountain runners came down to join this main road. We didn't see any at that point, but the prospect of running down a few KOM runners who had gone 14K less in an hour shorter time perked us up considerably.
We reached the marathon mark, 42K, in around 4.15 (my second best time ever). Nick worked out that we still had a chance to finish in 4.36- precisely 6 minute kilometres the whole way- if we pushed hard over the final four Ks. At that point I couldn't believe how good I felt- as though I'd only been jogging for 20 minutes. I really didn't feel tired or sore, which was a great sign, but then Nick picked up the pace hard and I went with him. We passed a pair of KOM runners, raced to the top of the next hill (after debating at the bottom whether we'd walk it or not), hauled in two more KOM runners further down the road ("like stalking prey, isn't it?" said Nick), then reached the 45K mark and the turnoff to Kangaroo Valley in 4.30.
Nick was slowly pulling ahead, but I was managing to stay within a few metres of him. My legs were hurting now- a dull pain and heavy lead like feeling. They just didn't want to turn over fast any more. Just hang on a couple more minutes, I thought, gritting my teeth as we ran through the town to the applause of pedestrians and passerby, then reached the last rise. Nick was bellowing at me to keep it up, and slowed a little for me as we turned left off the road into the Sportsgrounds and the finsih gate. We finished with arms round each others shoulders in 4.36.19 and feeling pretty good.
I was delighted, actually- I had finished twenty minutes ahead of last year's time but with legs that flet fine (the soreness and heaviness vanished as soon as I stopped), as opposed to last year's race where I destroyed myself for about three weeks afterwards. I scoffed a Coke and chatted to Nick and Paul Every while we awaited the presentations in bright sunlight. Kelvin Marshall won in around 3.26, with Paul coming in second (three weeks after taking second in the Trailwalker 100K) in around 3.33. I caught up with Kelvin after the awards, just before he set off to drive back to Melbourne. "Get home around midnight tonight," he said (I suppose he's still going as I type) "and tomorrow I'll be nodding over the PC a bit, but the guys at the office are used to that." He was genuinely delighted with his win.
I like this run. It's potentially quite fast, and scenic, even from the road sections. Aid stations are not too frequent, so you have to carry your own stuff (unless you run as fast as Paul or Kelvin, who both ran without packs and relied on special drinks at the aid stations and the water those stations served up). I ate regularly throughout the run, mainly mars bars and potato chips (really healthy eating) and finished with a stable stomach, even after the hard running at the end. Quite a contrast to my vomiting episode at Glasshouse 50K 7 weeks ago after drinking lots of fluids and not eating a thing. I got a lot out of this race- confirmation of my ideas on eating on the run, and a great long hard training run. If you ever do it, a good choice of running companion can heighten the experience further.
Sean has also written the following articles that are published on CoolRunning Australia :