In the end though, it was a poor gamble. By going in to Wonderland on tired legs, I had sacrificed my best possible finish there, and while I felt pretty good in the days after, I well and truly put myself in a hole with a 20km tempo run on the Thursday after. From there, I felt very flat and fatigued, and never recovered. To further complicate matters, my old groin injury had been playing up as the effects of January's cortisone treatments slowly wore off, and this would require further attention at the end of the year.
I was fairly committed to a finish though. My only ever DNF had been at this race a year ago when the injury was still undiagnosed (I thought it was a hernia at that point), and I was hoping for some revenge on the course. Unfortunately, it seemed as though it was going to be a long day. I had the family with me staying down at Anglesea near the start/finish, so on race morning we all got up and headed down to the beach where the start was. After coffee, a quick warmup, and a kiss for Allie and the kids, I lined up a few rows back from the front and we were away!
The first 21km leg of this race is quite magical, following the beach all the way from Anglesea to Torquay as the sun comes up. Skipping over rocks, wading around little headlands, and up and down boardwalk stairs, it is impossible not to have a good time. I ran well within myself through this whole section, just enjoying the morning and making sure I had plenty in the tank. I arrived at Torquay feeling great, and restocked from my drop bag before heading back towards Anglesea via the inland route which would see us back at the start/finish point at the half way mark.
Leg 1 was fun at least!
Shortly after leaving the checkpoint at about 25k, I had my first warning sign. Still running super-conservative and going up a very mild climb, I found I had absolutely nothing in my legs, and the feeling of fatigue I had been carrying for the last two weeks seemed to wash over me. From there, the day went downhill pretty quickly. By the time I arrived at CP3 - Ironbark Basin (32k), I was already in the hurt locker, and with three quarters of the race in front of me, it was not a pleasant place to be.
Starting to not enjoy myself
I held hope that I might come good, but it was very different to a mid race flat spot or the sort of bonk you get when you run low on calories or are transitioning energy systems later in the race. This was the body basically holding up its middle finger and telling me where I could stick my ultra running. And fair enough too. So all I could do was put my head down, one foot in front of the other, and not think about how far I had to go.
To be honest, I don't really remember a lot of the rest of the day, but suffice to say, it was not my most enjoyable one! At CP6 - Moggs Creek (77k), I totally lost interest in eating, and didn't even re-stock from my bag, pulling on my lightweight jacket as I left the station, and pretty much resigning myself to walking it in. I was able to run some sections, but never more than about a kilometre at a time, and the final beach section I walked just about the whole thing.
Very much not enjoying myself
When I finally jogged it across the line in 10:57, I don't think I've ever been so happy to get a race done, and while I was a bit disappointed to have got my training and taper so wrong, I felt surprisingly upbeat. There's something to be said for grinding one out when you know early on it's going to be a tough one. Having said that, it took me a long while to recover from this event, and my injury was significantly worse after it as well. I also dropped down to under 63kg, which is way lighter than I should ever get.
Stick a fork in me
In short, I question whether it is the right thing to aim for two hundreds in a year. Certainly in 2016, I think UTA in May, then a nice long break and slow build up to a shorter race is preferable to rush a preparation to another long one. My passion for the big events seems to be waning somewhat, so my racing schedule may look very different in future.