Race Review: Surf Coast Trail Marathon

Event: Surf Coast Trail Marathon
Distance: Full Marathon, Half Marathon or Team Marathon
Type: Point to Point
Where: Torquay Victoria, utilising the Surf Coast Walk
Start: Torquay / Point Addis
Finish: Fairhaven SLSC
Event Partners: I/O Merino, Vivobarefoot, Oakley, Surf Coast Walk, Tailwind, Eventbrite, The Running Company, Runners Kitchen, Kongo Industries

I had everything going against me for this event, but I did it.  I completed my first Half Marathon Trail run.

When I entered this event I was fit as a fiddle.  Little did I know the events that would unfold prior to this run, so all things considered I did well just to be able to finish.

The Surf Coast Trail Marathon had a full, a half and a team event.  The Full started in Torquay, while the Half started at Point Addis on the beach. Due to the locality the Half run was 22km in distance.  From what I have heard from other runners, the 2nd half was harder than the first.

Let me say now, I DO NOT LIKE Beach running. I’ve never liked beach running.  I know that they say beach running is good for you and all that, but it’s still not going to make me like it anymore.

sctm-start-halfWhen the gun went off at 11am, we set off down the Point Addis beach, in the far off distance you could see the Split Point lighthouse.  It did not occur to me then, that we would be running past it.  It looked so far away.

I went at a pace that I was comfortable with, and when we got off the sand I was glad to be on a track.

The wind was icy, and I was glad that I chose to wore my thermal dri-fit long sleeve top, and my Lorna Jane ear warmers.

At about the 3km I decided to have my first amazeball.  I wanted to make sure that I fueled consistently throughout the run. I stared off having some fuel every 3km, but it ended up being whenever I wanted and needed it.

The Salomon vest served me well.  I had easy access to everything, and it also meant that I could carry my rain jacket, a spare top, and my emergency Larabar, along with my phone.

What I liked about the event

The course was easily accessible for spectators.  There were various hop on hop off points.  So family & friends could easily keep track of their loved one on course.

There were a variety of grades and track materials to run on.  From sand, rock, dirt, clay, concrete, granitic sand, mud, single lane track, through heath lands, around estuaries, and a diverse range of views.

sctm-angelsea-runmumAll the marshals were friend and briefed and helpful.  I made sure I said thank you to every marshal I passed.  Thank you volunteers.

The finishers medal was a dog tag. Different and totally cool.

Tailwind.  Were a sponsor for the event, their hydration drink looked liked water, but wasn’t and it was delicious.  I had some at the finish line.

Toilets accessible throughout the entire course.

A later starting time of 9am for the Full or 11am for the half.

What I didn’t like about the event

High Tide.  Seriously, if you going to organise an event that includes beach sections, check the tides. Hide tide was a huge problem, and could have been very dangerous considering the forecasted winds.

sctm-beach-runmumI didn’t mind the beach section, however the high tide caused problems on these sections.  Sinking sand, puddles, unexpected waves, having to run on rocks because of the tide.

A tree not cut down, and blocking the path at approx the 16km.

A section of path not clearly marked, at a forked intersection.  An arrow would have greatly helped.

Spectators blocking the path.  I’m all for spectators, but please keep to the left, and keep your kids out of the way.  I had to yell “coming through” down a set of stairs and had to remove a kid from my way.  I swear I had to remove this same kid going up the stairs at the finish line.

The biggest dislike for me however (the others so far being minor), was the finish area.

It was poorly laid out. It would have been better finishing on the beach, but due to the tide, that clearly was not possible.  Instead runners had to climb up a set of stairs.  That’s cruel and mean.  The other problem was it was so congested with runners, spectators, family, friends, it was difficult to get through.  There was no one directing human traffic.  It also meant that I didn’t get my medal when I crossed the line, I had to go ask for it.

Parking at the Fairhavet SLSC also presented a huge problem.  The majority of the parking was along the Great Ocean Road. There was no traffic management nor signage advising traffic of a special event, or reduced speed limits, that I saw of.

Any inaugural event is going to have teething problems. You can do all the forward planning you like, but hiccups are always going to happen.

Overall it was a great event along beautiful scenery.

I went into this event with no expectations, and considering I was committing a faux pas with the new shoes I really wasn’t sure how things were going to unfold.

The new Energy Boost shoes did me well considering I hadn’t broken them in.  I ended up with a few friction blisters because of the sand, but that’s a given.  Otherwise they pulled up well.  They have now officially got more k’s in them than my Kinvara-4’s.

sctm-angelsea-inlet-runmumI was aiming for a rough time of 2h15 (based on my 16km long run).  At the 6km-ish mark when I ran past Tom in Angelsea I even told him if I keep going at this pace I should finish in that time frame.

By the 17km mark though I was starting to unravel.  The 4km beach section was hard.  And having to climb over a tree limb on a single lane track, I was feeling it in my legs.

I was hitting the wall.  Mentally and physically.

It then occurred to me that that was the longest that I had run since February.  That’s when I mapped out Run The Gap trail course.  Sure I had got in a 16km long run 10 days prior to the SCTM, but physically I was ill prepared for this event due to several bouts of Tonsillitis which hindered my training regime. I couldn’t put in the kilometer, or to get my legs up to the endurance distance.  Nor could I do the speedwork training to prepare myself for the hills to be expected on course. (If I could do a do over, there are many things I would change.)

One of the visual highlights was seeing a rainbow over the Ocean and the Lighthouse just short distance away.

Those last km’s were hard. I had to give myself a pep talk, and I had to take some walking breaks.  I was tired, my feet felt like they were dragging and I was close to tears.  I just wanted to get to the finish line.

There is no shame in walking.  If it can work for Jeff Galloway to run a Boston Marathon it can work for me.  Some of those hills, I just didn’t have anything left in my legs. I would have loved to have run the entire thing, but those walking sections helped me get to the end.

Every run I have ever done, I have been able to see the finish line.  I never realised what an incentive it is to see the finish line until this race.

I kept looking at my watch, and it was telling me that we should be there.  I felt like the end was no where in sight.  I would have loved to have seen a sign that said “1km to go” or “nearly there”. All I had was my watch, and not being able to see the finish line was a huge mental barrier.

runmum-sctm-finishAfter another runner had passed me, I was feeling even more deflated.  It was then I heard a female marshal say “the finish line is just up the stairs”.  That was all I needed to step it up and push through.  I overtook the girl that passed me and tired to go as fast as I could up those damn stairs.

Those stairs were painful, I got a cramp in my right thigh, and had to hold onto my thigh to release the cramp and then hold onto the rail to help me get up the stairs.
I crossed the Surf Coast Trail Marathon finish line in a time of 2h34m.  Not my finest, but I will take it all the same, especially for a trail event.  It ended up being 22.6km.  That’s the furthest I have ever run.

Top: Puma
Bottoms: Skins
Socks: Pro Compressions
Shoes: Adidas Energy Boost
Ear Warmers: Lorna Jane
Bag: Salomon Hydration Vest
Fuel: Water, Endra & Amazeballs
Map: SCTM Map on Garmin

  • Great recap! I think you did awesome, running in the sand takes a lot more out of a person. Looks like a fun and beautiful race!
    That’s too bad about the disorganized finishline, the race is to blame, but so are the families of the runners, they should have know better than to congest it all up. Must of had a lot of first time spectators or something:( But overall sounds like you had a great time. Great job!!!!!

    • The problem with the finish line was 1, it was at the top of the stairs. 2 the stairs were less than 20m from a major tourist road.
      This is why I thought it would be better to finish on the beach.
      I’m hoping they send a survey, cause I will tell them. As that was my only ‘biggest gripe’ the rest was minor and although annoying I can deal with it.
      There were a lot of families (also the start of school holidays), so lots of kids.

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  • jillconyers

    Congrats! You know I love trail running! Trails are tough so enjoy your finish and be proud of your time! I’m not a fan of beach running either.

    • Thanks Jill.
      AT least now i have a bench mark for any other trail events I want to do in the future, including the roller coaster marathon (i’ll do the half), which I will have to get loads of hill training prep for.

  • Carol

    I love reading race reviews, both good and bad, forewarned is forearmed for people who read it. Good points about what you said about could be done better, having said that you did an amazing run! Congratulations.

    Carol / http://www.finding-carol.blogspot.com

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