I’d only heard nice things said about Red Rock to Coffs which was one of the reasons I chose this as my first goal race of the year. 45km from Red Rock to Coffs Harbour Jetty, traversing every beach between the two places meaning a lot of running on sand, the headlands in between each beach and a number of creek crossings along the way. Seemed a fun but challenging race and that’s how it turned out to be.
I had a good preparation for this event, got through all my planned long runs and was feeling really good about this race,9 or 10 days before the race I went for my last long run before the race and came home with some pain in my hamstring in my left leg. The pain wasn’t too bad and I got through the entire long run but the pain didn’t go away over the next few days and I decided just to rest up until race day and didn’t have another run in the last week before the race.
By the time I got to the race there wasn’t pain in my hamstring but I was slightly apprehensive about it going into a 45km race on the beach. The few days before the race saw Coffs Harbour experience 180mm of rain on the Friday and very strong southerly winds on the Saturday which would not be ideal for a race 45km to the south. The day of the race began with calm winds and a clear day so we all breathed a sigh of relief when we woke up on race day.
The race began at Red Rock to a tide that had been going out for about two hours meaning the tide was still quite high and the sand quite soft for the opening stretch from Red Rock to Corindi and Arrawarra Headland. I settled in to a pace about 5 – 5:10 min/km over this stretch I was wary about pushing too hard early in a long and unpredictable race, I didn’t know the terrain which awaited nor how much of the race would be soft sand. By the time we got to Corindi to Arrawarra the sand hard hardened up and the running was relatively comfortable, I was sitting in about 4th position at this stage, two runners had led from the start and got a lead of a few minutes over myself and another runner, I was happy to let them go and concentrate on my own running with the hope that I would see them closer to the finish. The next stretch was from Arrawarra to Woolgoolga and again the running was relatively comfortable, I enjoyed this section of the race and the beauty of this area was not missed, there are some spectacular headlands and beaches along this part of NSW. The section from Woolgoolga to Sandy Beach to Emerald Beach was similar to the last, comfortable running and beautiful scenery, on the headland between Sandy and Emerald Beach I passed a number of kangaroos which seemed unfazed by me running through there home and a few times very close to them. It was about this time at about 25km that I got away from the runner I was with and began to see the two runners ahead start to become closer to me. I told myself to keep concentrating on my own race.
The next section was from Emerald Beach to Moonee Beach area and the most difficult creek crossing of the race. On this section I moved into second place and started to fancy my chances in this event. The creek at Moonee took me by surprise as I didn’t expect it to be as deep as it was and with the outgoing tide I had to put in a couple of freestyle strokes to get through. Straight after this creek was an aid station which I filled my bottle and took a handful of lollies put some of these in my mouth and discovered they were peanut m&m’s. I ate these and then spent the next few minutes coughing up peanuts. Not what I needed after 30km of running.
The next section of beach ended with a couple of pieces of rock hopping around the headlands, not long after this at about 35km I took the lead of the race, the sand now had become quite soft and with fatigue and the last few challenging headlands things were starting to get difficult. I ran up the next headland and put a decent gap between myself and the runner I had just overtaken another short beach and headland and I was out of sight and feeling very good about my chances even with still quite a long way to run.
Not long after this I missed the exit to a beach and ran for a few minutes further than I should have, I realised and then ran back to find my mistake, I was back on track and unsure whether I had been overtaken or not. I got to the next aid station a few minutes later and asked the gentleman if anyone had been through, he told me that someone had then started running and swearing at myself at the same time. A simple mistake has probably cost me a win, and I don’t get many of them.
The last section of running was among the hardest, soft sand and a very challenging headland and then I could see the masts of the yachts parked in the marina. Coffs Jetty wasn’t far away. The last section across Park Beach was quite difficult by now my shoes were full of sand and gravel and the sand was not soft nor hard, there was a creek to get through which was waist deep, once through this there was about 500m of running before crossing the road before running onto Jetty Beach and the finish under the Coffs Jetty. I finished in 2nd place, my mistake 7-8 km back had cost me and I struggled over the final few kilometres. Overall I was happy to finish in 3hr 58, under my goal time of four hours.
I went to the presentation and got the coveted Red Rock to Coffs thong for finishing. Can’t wait to be back next year for this race, not to go one better but because it was one of the most enjoyable races that I have experienced, beautiful scenery, a challenging but fun course and a very well organised race.