05:10 Friday 12th December 2008: Sailaway (my crew for the first part of the race) and I arrive at Twofold Bay Eden. We park the car with trailer for an easy get away for Luis when more crews arrive. We walk down to the beach and find only Spud & Dog and their crews are on there. It is still dark but a beautiful morning; not cold but also not hot, perfect for running. People start arriving and the nervous talk starts with lots of hand shaking and comments like “have a great race mate” or “see you at the end” meaning I can not run as fast as you and will not see you for the whole race.
For some runners this is the second or even fourth time on this start line, but for others it is the first time. I was in their shoes last year, all nervous and not sure if I was up to the task ahead. Well I was last year and I think “this year is a different race so don’t count your chickens before they hatch”. It sure ended up being a totally different race to 2007. Paul and Diane turn up and lots of photos are being taken and suddenly we are off running up the beach to the car park.
It is so nice that all we have is a three, two, one count down and a go. I slot in behind Milov and in front of Tim (for about 30 seconds). We get to the road and jog across the bridge and Tim and Jo go off into the distance like it's a 10km race. I just jog slowly, it is a long way. I get to the first hill and start walking and Kerry catches me up we have bit of a chat. It went like this (sort of):
“Hi I'm Kevin or Brick”
“Hi I'm Kerrie. Martin (Martin Fryer) told me I would most likely run a similar pace to you.”
This gives me a bit of a boost thinking people like Martin looked at my splits from the previous year.
Actually far too many people mentioned that I had target on my back for this year's race which worried me a bit at the start. Why (you might ask)? Well after last years perfect race I had started 2008 with C2K as my target race. It's only my second year doing ultras and I was hoping to do a little bit better than last year. Maybe sub 35 hrs and if a perfect race, sub 34hrs was my target. Basically all of 2008 had something go wrong which did not give me much confidence and 13 days before I had a bad stomach flu or some thing that knocked me around a lot. Sorry, I digress.
Where were we?....Kerry and I are walking up quite a steep hill and Trout catches up. I tell him to walk the hills as it is a long way so he slows down and walks with me. Trout has asked me a few questions over the last few months which I was happy to help him out with. This in my mind is one of the best parts of Ultra running - the camaraderie between runners is amazing. Never in any sports I have done is it such an integral part that everybody helps each other out. From the fast guys who win races down to the back of the pack people , it is all one happy family. Sorry, I digress again.
We all happily walk up the hills and jog the rest until we come out onto the road at 3.9kms and meet our crews for the first of many times. Sailaway asks me if I want anything. I say “No I am okay, see you in 4-5kms” and I keep running. Milov is pulling away from me which was expected as he is a stronger runner than me - so I am happy and myself, Kerry & Trout run together for a while, chatting. We get to a small hill and I walk again but Kerry keeps running and Trout walks with me. Kerry is gone as she speeds up and passes Milov who is still in sight. I am just running my race and concentrating on what I need to do for the next day and a half. Trout checks with me that it is okay for him to tag along for while, which is fine because company is always nice.
Trout has big crew of 4 people. I get to meet them all over the next few hours. The weather is perfect as we run along. Every 4-5kms we meet up with Sailaway and get food & drink. Everything is going well. Trout’s crew are getting a bit toey just passing him food and drink so they keep joining us for a run or ride. First it was Craig running and then Rosey on the bike. Later we also had Chad (I think he is Craig’s son) - a nice kid, about 11 years old.
Anyways, we just keep going along like this for a while which is perfect, and get to the Marathon point at 4:30, feeling comfortable. It is great - right on target for a sub 34hr, but still with a long way to go. The next big checkpoint is 50kms and we get to this point in 5:21. Cool, everything is still feeling nice and easy, so I am very happy so far, counting chickens and all that stuff. Next are the mannequins in the field. This is not a timing mark - just a special place for me. Last year my crew (Luis, Colin & John) all nuded up with the mannequins. I wasn't expecting to see Colin & John, so knew it wouldn't be the same.
We go around the corner and see the mannequins and I see Colin naked in the field and then Luis and then I blink and spot Santa in a red G string... no it's John. This makes my day and I laugh out loud same as last year and we carry on running. We run for what seems an age, with no sign of my crew. Trout gets food/water from his crew but mine are no where to be seen. I did get some water and sweets at this point from his crew which was good as I was getting a bit low. Later I found out that the guys waited in the mannequin field for Horrie and scared the crap out of all runners between myself and Horrie (females and males alike). Just like last year, great fun.
Next target mark for me is the top of Big Jack mountain - 63.5kms. A few kms down the road I am told that somebody is catching us quickly. I don’t even look back. It's still a long way to go and there are some very fast people ahead as well as behind me. About 2kms later Whippet catches up and says he is surprised he has caught us up so soon. I'm not - he is so fit I was expecting him to catch and pass me. Whippet is about 25 minutes ahead of Tim so his crew will have a hard time of it if they do not get close together. Whippet says he is going to stop at the bottom of Big Jack and wait for him. These guys race together a lot which is cool. Such a friendship is a rare find.
Trout and I get the bottom of Big Jack Mountain and just keep going. There are lots of crews at the bottom but neither mine or Trout’s, so we just start walking up Big Jack. This is one hell of a hill, about 7kms long and as we start going up it starts raining again. This time it's only light rain - last year it was thunder & lightning and only lasted 15 minutes. This year it lasts hours. But onwards and upwards was my thought.
We get to the top of Big Jack mountain and just keep going, with both Trout's and my crews stopping about every 4-5 kms. Everything is still going well. During our walk up Big Jack we caught up to Milov. So now there is three - “The three amigos” I think, but do not say anything to the others. I just have an inward laugh. Actually I think Rosey caught me laughing because she looked at me a bit weird just after that.
We get to the Monarao Highway and Milov is pulling away again. I tell Trout to go with him as they are both stronger runners than me, so off he goes and I just run along by myself for while with cars and trucks thundering by - their drivers most likely wondering what these mad people are doing, running in the rain all the way out here.
I fell into some kind of zen state at this point because I really can't remember much of the road running, I just did it. The next thing I remember is I am running on a side road and I have passed Kim Cook, Lachlan Fraser, Trout and Milov. I don't remember passing them nor at what distance it happened. My next timing marker is the 100km mark and I am using my Garmin, but it seemed like a long time coming. At least I could see somebody ahead - it was Kerry. Just as I passed the big dead tree which marks the 102km mark my Garmin says 100 on the dot. I reset my Garmin so as not to lose data, and start it again (technical reasons). I am still eating and drinking well and slowly catch Kerry. I'm not sure at what time or distance I pass Kerry, but I did, and my crew tell me I am in 5th position. I am really surprised, I was not expecting to get that close to the front of the field and then I remind myself about chickens and counting again. "OK Kevin pull your head in, still a long way to go".
The next big target in my mind is Dalgety at 147kms so I just keep on going. At some point Luis got on the bike and started riding with me again. The time and distance was not recorded in my mind. This zen running is really cool - kilometres just go by and do not hurt - nor do I even need to think about them at all. Milov told me about this state of running but I do not think I have ever been in it before. Again, I think it is cool.
We get into Dalgety and I had forgotten that we had medical check so when a guy walks up to Luis and I and starts asking questions, it takes me while to work out what is happening, but eventually I do (This took only seconds, by the way, but in mind it took a while). So I get asked how I am feeling - "Fine". I get asked to rate how I feel as a number between 0-10 - "6 or 7". The Doctor tells me most people in front have said a similar number, “Cool”, I think “everybody ahead is feeling good.” I really did think this, by the way - I really wanted everybody to have a great race ahead or behind, it comes from the comradery stuff mentioned before.
After no time at all we are off past Dalgety and in the high country. Dalgety really marks arriving in the high country for me. The night is perfect - not cold or hot - just perfect, and I still feel great. Amazing, having already covered about 150kms. My next target is the roundabout. I reached it last year in just under 25 hrs. Last year this was also my really bad patch where I was feeling low on energy an walking very slow. This year I kept eating and drinking. Not eating enough as far as my crew were thinking, but I did remind Luis that the coke & water was extra energy and was still going down well. We arrived at the roundabout one hour and 40 minutes faster than last year, so it was still dark. I crossed the road and got onto the bike path. Last year John was with me at this point, I think, so Luis did not have a clue which way to go. I kind of remembered, so off we went. Luckily I did remember going through the caravan park and we get back to the road and see a sign that says 38kms to Charlotte Pass - at least that is what I remember.
This has got to be the longest 38kms in the world for sure. I start walking because it is up hill with a slight head wind, but nothing major. We have only gone a couple of kms and we see Blue Dog’s campervan at the side of the road. As we get closer Sarge gets out. I say hi and just keep walking on past and think nothing more about it except the crew needed a sleep as it is a long race for runners and crew alike. Colin stops and has a chat with Sarge and then catches up to me and tells me I am now in 4th spot. I look at him with disbelief and ask him is Wayne inside, he tells me "no he is about 500 meters behind you".
Again I never look back, I just don’t like to. Dog catches me within about 1km and says he will walk with me for a while. This only lasts about 750 meters as he and Sarge slowly pull away. Colin asks me if I am going to race him, I say "I am just doing my thing if I catch him then I do but I'm not chasing him". I would like to say at this point I never expected to see anybody from in front of me - just maybe some people passing me from behind. At this point I am getting a bit paranoid about how far back Milov is - will he catch me? And if so, when? Bernie went back to Jindabyne to get some supplies so would have this info as she passed us which was good. When Bernie eventually went past me, she told me Milov was about 6kms back. I think "okay, keep walking and jogging when possible and you will be okay but you need to jog the flats and down hills". This was not to be.
The closer we got to Charlotte Pass, the stronger the wind was - getting to the point that even going down you needed to fight against the wind. My crew had already started talking about the race maybe stopping at Charlotte Pass, they asked me how I felt about that idea. I was okay with it, if it was for a good reason like safety. Not much further and the rain and wind picked up and it got a lot colder. The weather changed within about a 1km stretch.
Paul and Diane came by and told us it got a lot worse higher up, and the race was finishing at Charlotte Pass - 18km short of the original distance. It was simply not safe to go to the summit and the Strezleki monument. As I said, I was okay with the decision. I did try to do some jogging down some hills but it was useless against the wind so I just walked as fast as I could. I was nearly blown off my feet at Smiggins Holes, which worried me a bit, but I had been in worse conditions on mountains and out at sea so thought it was okay, if a bit uncomfortable. By the time I got to Perisher Village, only 1.6kms after Smiggins Holes, you needed to fight for every step. I was being blown back 4-5 steps at times and sideways 2-3 steps.
This was crazy stuff and it was so cold. The wind was so strong that Colin and I had to shout at each other to be heard. The rain had changed to horizontal sleet. I was getting cold so decided to stop and put another layer on underneath my rain jacket. I also put a woollen balaclava on to keep my face warm, but my legs still felt okay with just shorts on (Go figure?). I got about another 300 meters and the ice in the rain got worse and so did the wind and I stopped feeling okay. My legs felt like ice and I stopped John in the car and put my over pants on.
What a difference - I was warm again instantly. Colin stayed with me from this point on which is amazing as it was freezing cold, wet, windy and he just walked in it all the way with me. The guys who had finished ahead of me had started coming off the mountain and they all stopped and gave encouragement to keep going which is great support from some amazing athletes. For the last, I guess, 15kms to go we had changed to John and Luis going 1 km ahead and giving us cups of tea and chocolate as I asked for it. The visibility was down to about 10-12 metrss but eventually we could see the Charlotte Pass hotel sign. Colin told me it was only another 1.5kms to go and I was hoping for it to be about 500 meters. I could not remember from last year. It ended up being about 1km, we could see cars and then two figures in the car park we just kept walking and suddenly the two guys started dancing a jig. What the fuck? it was bloody freezing blowing an absolute hooley with gusts of wind over 100kms per hour, and raining like there was no tomorrow - and I had two tall guys doing a jig in a car park in front of me. It blew my mind guys - I will never forget it. We walked through the car park and got to the witches hats which marked the end of an absolutely incredible journey with some great mates.
4th in 35:27 last year and 5th in 30:41 this year. I cannot tell you how happy I am. This years race was so different to last year, you cannot compare the two but I still think that C2K is the hardest race I have ever done and hope to keep coming back to at least finish. I am sure we will get lots more starters in the next few years which will make this race the iconic race it should be.
To all runners & crew who started this great adventure of C2K 2008, I raise a glass to you all. The determination needed just to get to the start line is hard enough never mind the finish line and with the weather that was thrown at us all, it was amazing to see so many finishers and all with big smiles.
My crew, what can I say? Two years in a row you have put up with me and looked after me over the C2K course. For those two years I owe all three of you so much. It is so good to have such good friends. This year you went above and beyond the call of duty to get me over the line with the atrocious conditions on the mountain. The only people that can truly understand what the weather really was like are crews and runners who went through it - not many people can portray in writing what it was like.
I need to give another great big hug to my close friends Paul and Diane. You make this race what it is and I am sure all of the runners and crew appreciate all of your efforts. From thinking up the idea, to running it as a fatass race, to running it as an official race. I know that so much of both of you goes into making this race better and better each year. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
See you all in 2009 at Eden.
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