Following the pack

The Coastal Classic Course is a beautiful trail run which starts at Otford and ends in Bundeena. The logistics can be a bit tricky with a big group but it was well worth it. This is the most beautiful coastal course I have ever run.

sunrise

Our Sydney Striders crew met at 7.00 to start the Coastal Track, which is easily accessible from the Otford Train Station, you just have to walk up the big hill and turn left at the end of the road. I think I actually rode past this spot when I cycled the Sydney to the Gong a few years back as it looked very familiar. We had a few people turn up after the shot below, so i’m sorry if i’ve missed you you guys!

group before shot

The first section of the trail was tough as there was a lot of overgrowth and fallen trees, this was going to be a challenging run. For most of the first section I had to duck and weave and there were vines and long grass covering lots of the trail. A few sections were so covered that you could hardly make out where to head but luckily some of our crew had run this before so they knew where they were going.

My plan was to not get lost this week and to try and go a little faster than the week before. So I tried to stay with the biggest group that was closer to the back, one that had some experienced guys in it. It was tough keeping up with them for some sections but at other times it was easier.

Here’s a few shots of the long grass sections near the start. It was kind of cool being able to just see these heads popping out of the grass and not being able to see the ground. A little scary too as you’re not too sure what’s underfoot sometimes.

running through the long grass 3

running through the long grass 2

Our first really big hill came quite soon and I was looking forward to the view at the top.

up hil sun shot

And the view was spectacular!! We had just run a lot of that coastline…..

view of where we had just run from

And here’s a shameless selfie of Maria and I heading up one of the big hills.

uphill shot of maria and I

We also came across some really rocky sections ad I could feel my knees getting angry with me, I hoped there would be more softer ground to come. But this wasn’t exactly the type of softer ground that I had in mind.

beach run group shot

We ran across a couple of beaches and there were some campers at some of them too. They probably thought we were a crazy bunch of people running along as we were. I had half a mind to stop and take my shoes off to make it easier but that would have required a lot of effort and getting too much sand in my socks!

beach group shot

One of the experienced guys in our group Scott made sure he looked after the slow-bies like me at the back which was very much appreciated, as a few of us were really struggling today. Myself included. My knees got continually worse as the run went on and it wasn’t muscular, I wasn’t sure what it was but it did ease every time we were on the dirt/grass tracks. However the stones, rock and beach sections were not so nice to them.

Scott on rock

That’s Scott above and below is the rest of our group posing on a rock probably at about the 20km mark. The rock here was spectacular and the view incredible. I took a lot of photos this day and the views were a good distraction from how awful I was starting to feel.

group shot on rock

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coastal shot

Below is probably my favorite spot that we went past on the trail. There was a stream of water running down the hill and into the ocean and I felt so special to be able to see this beautiful little spot tucked away in the middle of nowhere.

beach view shot

We eventually got to what I thought was the last section which was a small road section to the Bundeena RSL club, however my crew had a different thought. The group had decided to run an extra 2-3kms along the soft sand all the way down to the beach and around the coast and I was not very happy about this. It’s not often I feel so negative and usually i’m the one wanting to run more. But by this point my knees were not very happy and I had been falling a good distance behind the main group. Luckily Tanya was kind enough to wait behind and give me directions for the last few turns and I’m grateful to her for this.

I’m also thankful to Emma who gave me the kick up the butt that I needed, telling me that I could do this.. even if I just walked it. So I gritted my teeth and followed the group down to the beach. I got overtaken by some other runners and also by one of our own Striders who had missed us at the start point. But I kept moving. And I finally got to the last beach….

bundeena beach

What an effort. It really was a struggle that day and i’m so lucky to have such a wonderful bunch of people to run with, without them I would have given up and at the end of the day it’s made me tougher than ever.

We had a quick dip in the beach at Bundeena and even though the water was freezing cold it felt amazing! Then we all hopped onto the ferry and headed back to Cronulla to get the train home.

I highly recommend this run to anyone considering it, and I will be back again soon to give it another shot despite feeling a little beaten. I love a good challenge!

Happy Running 🙂

When the going gets tough

On Sunday my training planner said that I had to run 24.1 km. I have never run that far before in my life and felt pretty scared in the few days leading up to it, especially when I had only just run a half marathon 7 days earlier (and probably pushed it a little harder than I ‘should’ have).

When I woke up sunday morning I didn’t feel sore or tired and I felt well prepared having eaten properly and hydrated in the week leading up to it. But I was scared and it ended up a HUGE struggle.

For the first 5km my calves were tight and felt like they were restricting my leg movement and changing my gait. Thankfully they got warm and released, however at about 6km I got a sharp pain in the muscle underneath my foot and it slowly got worse. It felt like a cramp and it burned for the entire run, never really easing enough for me to forget about it.

Then at about 8km the knee pain started, a sharp pain underneath my kneecap. All I could think was “Why me?” and “Why now?”. I have been going so well for so long, it had to be in my head right? So I kept running, and running, and tried not to think about the foot, or the knee… just keep running.

I looked down at one point and my App told me I had 14kms to go. The hamstrings were getting tighter and tighter, which was putting more stress on my already sore knee. This was not going to be an easy run at all. But I kept running, and running.

I had to keep telling myself to think about the end goal, the reason I was out here and why it meant so much to be getting the kms into my legs now before the marathon which was only 62 days away. I had to keep telling myself that “I can do this” and I kept running, and running.

Usually I hate traffic lights because it gets me out of rhythm but I welcomed them with open arms and used the time to stretch, hopefully ease the muscles into the remainder of the run. And it seemed to help a little, enough for me to raise my spirits and keep running. The little green man was telling me to “Go” so I ran, and ran.

I reached the peak of the second last hill. I had 3 km to go and I knew I had it in me to just keep going, I just kept my head down and kept putting one foot in front of the other. All I could think was “Just keep running”. Then I reached the peak of the last hill and it was such a relief to know the rest was all much easier than what i had already conquered. “Just keep running”.

Finally I saw the gate, our beautiful front gate. Just sitting there waiting to welcome me home where I could rest my weary legs. I had made it, i was there. I could be satisfied that I had not given up. No matter what got thrown at me I had stuck to my guns and I had run 24.1km and beaten the calf tightness, foot pain, knee pain and tight hamstrings. I had won and I had just run the furthest distance of my life, and the longest run of my life. It had taken me 2 hours and 37 minutes but I had gotten there.

I immediately went to the yard and laid down with my legs in the air against the back fence. I stayed in that spot for ages and then eventually got up and started a long stretch session, followed by a cold/hot shower. Thank god it was over.

I don’t know why but my emotions were really scattered after the run, maybe it was exhaustion. I felt so unsure of myself and a bit down in the dumps. But after hearing some kind and supportive words from friends and looking back now I can say i’m very happy with the run on Sunday. It’s good to know that I am quite mentally tough, as i’m going to need it in the training to come.

So when the going gets tough, just keep running!