On the way to the start line of the inaugural 50km Coastal High 50 at O’Reilly’s, a male regent bowerbird (with its distinctive yellow and black markings) flew overhead. The morning was crisp, the birds were singing and it knew it was going to be a beautiful day. Naturally, this race had drawn quite a bit of attention from the trailing running community of South-East Queensland and there was a strong, positive vibe at the start line.
We set off in waves (2min apart) in order to avoid congestion when less than 1km into the race, we reached the single track that leads the (approximately) 21km from O’Reilly’s to Binna Burra. Making our way along the flat track, I was chatting to a young local friend, Kyle Weise, before he dropped back and was soon replaced by another local mate, Troy Lethlean (who would hold onto second place for the rest of the run). At one point I thought that he had slowed down, only to hear his voice right behind me a couple of minutes later. Apparently he’d been coat hangered by a low hanging vine! (An advantage of being shorter is that I don’t have to worry as much about these things!)
I lost Troy going through the first checkpoint (I had already poured Tailwind powder into my empty bottle on the fly, so I only had to add water and go) and could no longer see him when I reached the pathogen control station just a couple of hundred meters further along. I had a blast opening up along the gradual, singletrack descent into the valley below.
The course then followed a road along Numibah Valley for approximately 5km. I must admit I had thought this section might be a little boring. However, for the safety of entrants, we were climbing over fences and running through creeks just off to the side (rather than running on the road), so it was more like a fun little obstacle course!
After the second checkpoint it was time for the real fun to begin. From here the course turned upwards and I began to feel more in my element after all the faster, flatter running of the preceding 36km. When I reached the 900 stairs that lead into Apple Tree Park (at the top of the first climb), I started power hiking for the first time all day (to have run every step of a marathon was an unusual occurrence for me!). Hike a flight of stairs, run to the next, hike a flight of stairs, run to the next, all the way to the top.
There were now only 7km left consisting of a short, sharp descent followed by a longer, gradual climb. Although I still felt strong, I was also starting to wish that I could swap the climb for a steeper one so I could hike again! When I finally found myself running along the top of the majestic Purlingbrook Falls, I knew the climbing was over and I only had a few hundred more meters to go.
Crossing the finish line in 4:21:32 was an amazing feeling. Not just because of the wonderful time I had just experienced out on the course, but also because for the first time in over (an eventful and injury filled) year, I just run an ultramarathon. This race wasn’t just my return to ultras, but it was also my (fantastic) Mum’s first, and she later finished with a beaming smile in 7:47:52. I think we both owe a lot to the team at Allsports Physiotherapy for making this possible 😉 I am hoping (knock on wood) this means I am in the clear (for now) and look forward to an exciting year ahead!