Coastal Classic recap by Melinda Counter

8:30 am Saturday 5th September 2015, a bunch of crazy RMA ladies were in place at the start line outside Otford Primary School for the annual 29km Coastal Classic.  It was a gorgeous morning, and we had fun chatting and taking selfies as we inched our way towards the starts line.  The organisers original plan was to send people off in waves of 2 people, 5 seconds apart, but when we reached the start line close to 9am, we set off in a group 5 RMA strong.  

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We set off all pumped and excited down the road, but this only lasted about 200 metres.  We turned off the road onto a single trail, and were stopped in a long line of runners walking up the first of many hills. So unfortunately the first km was spent mainly walking.  A bit frustrating, but it seems to be the nature of single track running events. The trail came out on the main road, we crossed the it to Otford Lookout, where right in front of your eyes is the most breathtaking view down the coastline.  We ran along the footpath, hammed it up for the camera, then entered the Coastal track.  Again it was slow going once we hit the track, but it didn’t take long until we got a bit of running space, though it was stop and go the first few km’s.  The track started with a single trail through bushland on a rocky & twisting track, which then opened right up to ocean views & grated boardwalks.

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The boardwalk lead us into the Bulgo and through the shacks that line the area, which I enjoyed, as I have only ever seen them from the top looking down, then we hit some killer stairs at the last cabin (which I think may be called Burning Palms).  Once at the top of the stairs the trail opened up, and it was really lovely to actually have some room to breath, as everyone was pretty much right on top of each other through the run so far.  Then it was on to the first of the soft sand runs across Burning Palms Beach (killer!!!)

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We crossed the sand and it was straight into a stiff climb up the hill.  Then we ran down onto South Era Beach for some more sand running, and straight up another humungous hill (just in case we weren’t feeling our legs enough by then).  This hill was walked, as you can see by the picture below, it was just a line of people walking with no way around (no that you would want to run it anyway!)  

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Once we battled the hill and stairs up from South Era Beach, it was downhill to Little Garie Beach via a series of steps (again mainly walked as we couldn’t get past people)

We then travelled from Little Garie beach to Garie Beach via a rocky single trail along the waterfront which was one of my favourite spots, I loved running right beside & on level with the ocean.  We clambered down some rocks and onto the sand at Little Garie to see that first aid station & the gorgeous RMA Michelle Peace standing on a sand dune cheering us on, it was definitely a welcome sight.  At this point we are 9.5km into the run.  After a few lollies and a banana, it’s another beach run along Garie Beach (harder sand this time which was a nice change.)

At the end of the beach run, yep, you guessed it!, another mammoth hill with lots of steps and rocks to climb over.

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Once at the top we had a lovely reprieve from those huge hills and sand by running on boardwalks across the heath land.  After being fairly bunched up most of the run to this point, it was so nice to get some space to stretch those legs.

There was a couple of water crossings, and a rocky cliff section, then it was downhill to the next aid station at Wattamolla (16.5km mark).  We are REALLLY hot at this stage, and since I only had an electrolyte drink in my hydration pack, it was so nice to get some fresh water.  I had another banana and some more lollies while we waited for one of my running buddies to use the ladies room.coastal 9Back on the trail the track gradually inclines up, and along this stretch is the muddiest part of the run so far.  We hit the coastline again and run along some gorgeous rock cliffs, with magnificent views, and the breeze is a wonderful reprieve from the heat of the day.  

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From this point the track follows the coast all the way to Bundeena.  There is plenty of rock cliffs we ran along, which was absolutely amazing, and also sand tracks, which were sometime made difficult to run along with those wooden sleepers placed on the sand that you see at most beaches.  Very tricky to try and run on without doing an injury!  We then travel uphill before reaching the last aid station at the 22km mark, which is the only one we didn’t stop at.

One of my girlfriends I was running with had slowly been declining through the first part of the trail, the second half of the run I didn’t take in as much of the scenery or track conditions, as I was more focused on getting her to the finish line.  It’s a brutal course when you have nothing left in the tank, but super woman she is, she kept going (with only a little cursing and swearing at us, LOL).

After the aid station we continue on sandy tracks & over rock, we basically follow the cliff line nearly all the way to Bundeena.  It was not flat though, the track goes up and down step gorges along the way.  

Now the fun part, the last 3km is on sand!!!   Starting on a very sandy track (which again isn’t flat and soft sand!), and then you come out on Jibbons Beach and run the length of the beach (which feels like it goes forever!), before going up a small ramp onto the streets of Bundeena.  You have to run down what felt like a ‘very’ long road, which is mostly flat thankfully, and then you hear and see the best thing of all, that the finish line is close!!  Thanks to the lovely Kath White who started crying coming into the finishing chute which then set me off, I ended up crossing the finish line with tears in the eyes, made worse when I saw my husband and children standing just at the other side of the finish.  It was the first time my little family have been to a race I have done, and to also cross the finishing line with Kath White & Hayley Kain who I ran the entire race with, made this finish even more special to me.  

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All in all I LOVED this run and will definitely be back next year.  It is tough and a bit longer then 29km (my watch actually said the distance was 30.4km).  It was a bit frustrating as we did get caught behind people a lot due to the single trails, but it has such a mixed terrain, gorgeous scenery, and I just had lots of fun with it.  Coastal Classic you rock!!

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