Rafferty’s Coastal Run organised by Maximum Adventure, is a 10km, 22km and 35km trail run hosted at Rafferty’s Resort at Lake Macquarie. The course takes in the sites of beautiful Lake Macquarie and the stunning coastline of historic Catherine Hill Bay and the Munmorah State Conservation Area.
9:00am on this sunny, Saturday morning, our morning commenced at the starting line for the Rafferty’s Resort coastal run, excited and unaware of what lay beyond the starting chute. We are about to embark on a 35km trail running adventure. This is 10kms further than the longest distance we have all officially run thus far (which was 2 weekends ago at the Careflight Woodford to Glenbrook Classic).
We know it is going to be difficult but little do we know actually how difficult it was going to be.
There was no sugar-coating this course let alone even easing competitors into the arduous running that lay ahead. Within the first kilometre we were already running uphill and uphill some more. A mild downhill section and then once again uphill, ascending, climbing and then scrambling on all fours up a 10m soil embankment. The first kilometre only touched on what was to come… for it only got more interesting.
It was about this point I also lost the boys. After the first two hills I was already feeling knackered and with a little more power in their muscles (and air in their lungs), the boys started inching further and further afield. Out of breath and with what felt like 30% lung function, I managed to shout for them to run ahead . . . and that was when this became a solo Ninja journey for me and the last I saw of them for the remainder of the course (well, of Colin at least).
Words cannot express how insanely difficult this run was. I only wish I could have stopped to take more photos to display how rugged and challenging the terrain was, however stopping would have meant loosing momentum or potentially even rolling backwards back down the hill – not to mention I was far too exhausted to even contemplate pulling my camera out to snap some pics.
No matter how difficult this course was going to eventuate, slowly but surely I was going to jog, walk or maybe even crawl across that finish line. After about 4 kms I was finally warmed up and in the groove. I was maintaining a speed of approximately 6 kms/minute which I was entirely surprised about given the undulating terrain.
Undulating? That may have been the wrong word to use. Undulating implies a pleasant soft rolling of hills, like waves. No, this was more rugged, mountainous and steep rather than undulating. I am positive I was forever running uphill, ascending towards an invisible summit that I was destined never, ever to reach. A moment of short downhill or even the elusive flat section was quickly replaced by an even taller, steeper, more mountainous rocky incline.
After about 15 kms my speed started to drop significantly. First to 8mins/km then 10mins/km as I resolved to walking up some of the hills as it was faster than trying to shuffle up them.
As I ran along by myself I admired the view, gave myself internal words of encouragement and wondered how the boys were doing and how far ahead they were. As I continued on my solo, merry way I…
Laboured up long, steep, mountainous hills,
Passed through dense, native bushland,
Clambered up unstable soil embankments,
Traversed rough, jagged rock formations,
Crossed long fatiguing stretches of soft sand,
Paced through sinking pebbles underfoot,
Climbed over towering boulders,
Slipped across mossy rockbeds,
Powered up and over strenuous sandy mounds,
Waded through deep, thick muddy sections,
Scampered up narrow, grassy hills,
Braced vast ocean breezes,
Dashed down precipitous graveled sections,
Negotiated substantial, murky, puddle crossings,
Sweated through long unsheltered lengths,
Hopped over dug-out trenches and danced over pot holes,
Hurdled over fallen tree trunks…
And that was just the first 17.5 kms! We had to loop around and do almost everything again in reverse!
My legs were fatigued, my cheeks wind and sunburnt, my tummy hungry. I had had so many conversations with myself during the past 3 hours that I had run out of things to say. Then the path finally broke away and my Garmin told me there was only 8 kms to go! What a relief, not far to go now. What my Garmin didn’t tell me is that those final 8 kms had some of the steepest hills yet to climb!
After 3.5 hours of running, jogging, hobbling, walking and wobbling, I clambered up the hill and stumbled into the 4th checkpoint and what should I find? A deflated and discouraged Hammo pacing around in the sunshine! I was so excited to see a familiar face… but first I needed to eat! After scoffing a whole banana, swallowing a handful of lollies and washing it down with a cup of electrolyte drink, I returned to exclaim my surprise to see Hammo there.
Hammo had sustained some unbearable cramps 100m up the road, twice, and each time returned to the safe haven that was the checkpoint. He was planning on getting a lift back to the finish line once the last person passed through the 4th check-point but I was not going to listen to that.
“Whether you walk, roll, crawl or if I have to push you there myself, we are crossing that finish line together – on our own two legs!” – I told him!
It took a bit of encouragement and tough persuasion as Hammo had already made peace with his running demons that he was going to get a lift to the end. Eventually, after some joint encouragement from all the volunteers at the checkpoint (and a few lollies) we finally got Hammo on the road again.
And back to arduous path before us…
Together we tackled yet another set of the steepest, endless, relentless hills,
Trudged along fire trails that had been reduced to deep, expanses of mud pools
(so muddy in fact, that we could have been forgiven for mistaking this event as Tough Mudder),
Hiked single file along bush tracks,
Attempted to jog but then,
Plodded along with his cramp stricken and my heavy weighted legs,
Escaped through stretches of old abandoned overgrown roadways,
Passed over the final footbridge,
Hustled the never-ending last kilometre (that turned into 2.1kms)
AND FINALLY . . . Dragged ourselves across the finish line!
“Its not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves”
– Edmund Hillary (first man to climb Mt. Everest)
For this particular run each runner was provided with a timing token which we wore around our wrist. Along the course there were five checkpoints and aid stations that we had to visit and deposit our timing token into which kept track of our whereabouts and pace throughout the route.
After shouting to the boys at the beginning of the race to carry on without me, Hammo and Colin reached the first checkpoint at the 30 minute mark. Although it seemed like they had blitzed far ahead of me, I checked in a mere 2 minutes later. The boys reached checkpoint 2 at 1:22:43, followed by me 8 minutes later. Check point 3 was reached by them 46 minutes later and even after a few stints walking, I reached the checkpoint only 7 minutes after them.
The boys checked into the 4th checkpoint at 3:02:34 and after Hammo endured his cramps, Colin carried on without him. After walking up yet another steep hill, I rolled into the 4th checkpoint and discovered a deflated and discouraged Hammo at 27 minutes after Colin carried on, at the 3:29:12 mark.
After persuading Hammo that walk, crawl or push we were crossing that finish line together, we trudged on. There was only 7 kms to go. We hobbled and walked and after our last burst of energy, a whopping 1 hour and half later, we crossed the finish line. Hammo politely let me cross the finish line first, but as I started 10 seconds before him, the gesture was futile.
Hammo officially finished in 100th place (5:04:49) and myself in 101st (5:04:54). An incredible effort by Colin who carried on alone, for the most lonely and monotonous section of the trail run, to claim overall 53rd place (4:15:22).
It was an ambitious effort for us all to sign up for the 35km trail run without having trained for the distance let alone the distance as a trail run. Indeed it was insanely difficult but we did it and it was incredibly rewarding to cross the finish line on our own two legs!
With painful legs, stinging blisters and scarred memories of the trail, we’ve already vowed to return next year to smash our 2015 Rafferty’s results. With some proper trail running training, that shouldn’t be too hard at all, especially since Hammo and I have an excessive 5 hours record to beat.
Next Event on the list is the Hunter Valley Winery Half Marathon in 2 weeks and being only 21.1kms, on sealed road, will seem like such an easy run in comparison to this one. Looking forward to another weekend away running with these guys!