My 2023 race calendar was not as structured as I've had in previous years. For a little while I've been toying with the idea that I should have a crack at getting into the Coast to Kosci run, as it seems like an amazing event and a really cool route. For me this year Coast to Kosci requires an additional qualifying race (the GSER miler from last year would satisfy the other qualifying race). Since I've never done any running around Brisbane, I decided to sign up for The Guzzler 100km.
We headed up a couple of days before the event, with enough time to walk up to The Trail Co. to pickup bibs, and then spent the day before the race soaking up the glorious weather, walking around Brisbane and just generally relaxing, followed by a cheeky little shakeout run in the afternoon.
The race was scheduled to start at 0630 on a Saturday, so we got up to the event hub at about 0530, leaving plenty of time to pickup the GPS tracker, grab a coffee and chill out on the beanbags before the start of the event. It's a really cool event hub that they have going, with lots to check out and an energetic atmosphere.
I didn't take many photos on this run - I really should have, but I spent too much time actually running...
We lined up just as the sun was coming up for the countdown to the start, and after the usual suspenceful buildup we are off! The start of the race is a gentle climb up to the top of Mt Coot-Tha, which I was always planning to run for shenanigans. It was a pretty relaxed jog up to the top of Mt Coot-Tha to warm up over the first mile, and then some fun steeper fire trail descents down the other side.
My original plan was to get to the top of the climb at around 70km feeling good, then try to run hard home. I changed that plan on the start line, and decided to try to push myself right from the start - what could possibly go wrong?
For this first section it's primarily fire trail, and after a few kilometres the course gets to the Gap Creek picnic area where it crosses over the road and we can give a wave and a shout to the spectators and marshals, and then start the journey out towards the back of the Ennogera Reservoir.
The next section of trail, which takes the course on an adventure around the Ennogera reservoir (Brisbane's oldest reservoir) is a cool bit of a trail that skirts around the back of the dam. It's pretty flat and good running with some nice little single track sections, and refreshingly cool temperatures in the shadier and lower parts of the course. Not that it was warm per say, but just coming from Canberra winter I wasn't quite used to the warmer temperatures.
After the first 18km the course rolls into the first aid station at Walkabout Creek - The place had a lot going on, but I didn't end up stopping here, just ditched some rubbish and grabbed a couple of lollies before heading straight on out again for the next leg. The next aid station was at 24km, and I was aiming to minimise my stopping time because I am excellent at faffing around and wasting time given the opportunity.
The next leg between Walkabout Creek and McAfees Lookout was along a section of fire trail that had a lot of steep undulations. The sun was coming up, and it was time to bust out the poles to help with the steeper sections. There are no real big climbs, but a constant up and down. I got passed a few times here, and was just running to my own pace, and making sure I could keep getting calories in.
After another 6km or so, the McAfees Lookout aid station appears. It's here that there is a mandatory gear check on the way into the aid station where we had to present an item of mandatory gear to confirm that we were carrying it - I think this is a great idea, and it was really streamlined so took no time at all as we were entering the aid station. I refilled water here, and then cracked on towards the next aid station by heading down the Hell Hole Hustle.
The Hell Hole Hustle is a timed section of track, that first descends a super smooth runnable trail down to a creek before climbing back out the other side, with a short but steep scramble up from the creek - it's a lot of fun. The Guzzler has a prize for being the fastest through the Hell Hole Hustle, so it's certainly tempting to just send it down there, but I didn't give it that hard of a crack - maybe next time!
After being spat out the other end of the Hell Hole Hustle, it's a short jaunt along some fire trail before turning off to head down to the Gold Creek Aid Station / Checkpoint. We hit the turnoff and from there it's a nice short easy run of only about 2km down to the next aid station where we entered the Gold Creek Aid Station - The atmosphere here was awesome, and it was so much fun to run it in to the cheering of all the spectators and volunteers. The volunteers here were just amazing, taking my flasks off me to refill water and electrolyte, as well as checking to see if I need anything. One volunteer recognised the Ultra Mediocre kit I was wearing and was a fan of the GUMBY, which was awesome to see!
From Gold Creek it's a real long stretch from here out to the next proper aid station / checkpoint. Although there are a couple of water points in between the two checkpoints, it's still about a 25km run between them. I took the time at Gold Creek to refill water / electrolyte, eat some watermelon, and take a photo or two across the dam before starting the journey to Lake Manchester.
Leaving Gold Creek is a section of delicious singletrack that wraps around the outside of the lake, and takes in some of the views out across the lake before rejoining the firetrail, then starts an undulating uphill trend past a number of properties and heads off deeper into the South East Queensland bush.
It was along this stretch of trail where I started to realise that I was actually feeling the heat quite a bit - it's only 20ºC, and the locals are all in their jumpers, but being from Canberra where my last run before heading up to Brisbane was in temperatures of an icy -5ºC I was certainly sweating a little bit and noticed that I was starting to get pretty dehydrated despite going through the water quite quickly.
I got to the corner where another water point was located and I definitely needed to fill up with more water at this point - but it was an opportunity to chat to the volunteers, who were talking about my outfit and how they were trying to guess which part of Europe I'm from - I'm hoping that people got a bit of a laugh when it turns out that I'm definitely Australian, and explained that they're the colours of ULTRA Mediocre Runners of Canberra.
After this chat the wonderful vollies pointed me off down on a super chill downhill section towards the aid station. After cruising along here for a while, the terrain levelled out and it was mostly flat running with quite a number of stony creek crossings - quite nice scenery to be running through, with tropical, lush Australian Bush. Along this flat section was the additional emergency water point. I was going to carry on, not wanting to use up their water for others who might need it, but the vollies talked me into filling up a flask. I'm certainly glad that I did as I was continuing to suffer in the heat, and getting quite dehydrated.
A little bit further along we started to climb up out of this flat area in the sun, and about this time I had another runner (Flavian - nice dude) come up behind me looking super strong, but a few minutes later we had a bit of a chat and he was suffering from a bit of cramping. I was very much in the same boat of trying to find the right balance since I could tell that I was on the verge of cramping - something I put down to dehydration, but it could also be because I just went out too damn hard...
We ran it into the Lake Manchester / 57km aid station pretty much together, and I sat down for a bit to go through my drop bag - I had planned to basically just make this the one stop for additional food / gels / etc. so I get my stuff organised out of the bag, shoved a bunch of water into my face (which the vollies nicely kept refilling for me), ate some watermelon and grabbed a zooper dooper - which really helped to cool me down. I only spent about 5 minutes in the aid station before bouncing out and heading towards Lightline Camp.
Oddly - I suddenly found it really difficult to run after leaving Lake Manchester, I was struggling a little bit after shoving all the food and water in, but even on the flat my legs just didn't want to go do the running thing. I feel like some of that might be mental, knowing that there was a long climb coming up. I got passed by about 3 people who weren't that far behind me during the flat section, then hit the climb and started hiking - though I just wasn't getting the power through my legs into a solid hike like I normally do.
Either way, the hill ahead of me wasn't going to climb itself so I just chugged away. It honestly wasn't that bad of a climb. It was super smooth fire trail so nice and easy to grind away at. After what didn't feel like much climbing at all, but just frustratingly slow climbing, I got to the Lightline Camp aid station and sat down again while the vollies filled me up with water. I found I had to keep explaining that I'm from Canberra which is why I'm dying and needing water but they all still have their jackets on...
On the plus side, I knew that we were getting into the afternoon so the sun would start to go down and I'd get some relief from the heat.
I sat at Lightline Camp for a few minutes, then got up to keep on grinding knowing that Township Break was coming up - I'd heard stories about Township Break: that it's a super steep gnarly descent followed by a steep technical climb, so I wasn't sure what to expect.
Turns out, it's actually a very, very fun section!
It wasn't really anything worse than I'd done before. It's steep, rough, loose gravel with trees, ruts and all sorts of debris across the track. Very easy to fall over, but although the legs where cooked I just rolled with it, didn't try to fight the terrain, and made my way down. The way back up was a struggle though - My legs were trying to cramp and I was sweating like nobody's business. I'm glad my poles clip into my gloves because my hands where super slick with sweat and I probably wouldn't have been able to hang onto them.
After doing the bulk of the Township Break, the track heads along some singletrack sections and through some really cool, dense and lush bush which was an awesome experience to run through. After winding through the bush it pops out near the road, signalling that it's only another 5km or so to the McAfees Lookout aid station at 84km.
I knew at this point that my legs were done, and trying to get a decent run along the undulating section next to the road was a real struggle. I was walking anything that remotely looked like an uphill, and shuffling along the flatter and downhill bits. It felt like it took forever to get to the next aid station. My legs were in a lot of pain that I'd not experienced before, rather than just being fatigued they actually hurt, almost like they were constantly trying to cramp.
This part just went on forever. Undulation after undulation. Walk, try to run, run in pain, push through it, walk the next uphill. Time goals going out the window.
I spent the last kilometer or two before the aid station wondering where the hell this damn lookout is. Many times where I got a glimpse of a good view and thought that this lookout has to be here somewhere, since the view is so good. After checking my watch again and again I realised I must be getting very close. Then I could hear people, cowbells and commotion, and saw the checkpoint sign.
From this point it got dark, so there aren't really any photos.
I climbed up the little stretch to the lookout and told the vollies that "boy am I glad to see you!" Made a joke about this being the finish line, to which they replied it could be - but even though I'd slowed down way more than I wanted to I had no doubt about finishing. I was going to get there. Hell, I could walk the last 21km if I needed to (I think mentally I'd decided it was going to be a death-march to the finish, which honestly probably didn't help and maybe I'd be able to push harder if I got myself into a better headspace).
The volunteers at the aid station were once again amazing. I sat down, they got my drop bag, helped me get stuff out of it and refill flasks, and I sat and chatted for a little while - probably only 5 or 10 minutes, but still longer than I planned. The guy warned me about the last climb (the Kokoda Trail), gave me some Cramp Fix to try (spoiler: it did not help. I think my cramps were of the "went-out-to-hard-muscular-fatigue-and-damage" variety) and then I stood up and proclaimed that it was time to get myself back to the finish line.
There was nothing for it but to keep moving, so I headed out through the Hell Hole Hustle entrance again and was honestly surprised at how bad my legs felt after sitting for a moment - maybe the trick is not to sit down!
I ran most of the downhill on Hell Hole Hustle, albeit slowly, and the sun had gone down which meant it was time to fish my headlamp out of the back of my vest and chuck it on. Then I hit the creek at the bottom of the Hustle and started the climb back up the other side- much slower than last time, and with much less running. By the time it was completely dark I emerged from the Hell Hole Hustle, about 10 minutes slower than my first run through there and started the plod along the fire trail.
Despite the pain I was in, it was quite pleasant along this section of trail. The sun had gone down so it was cooler and I was feeling better, there were birds making a bunch of noises in the trees which is just different scenery and sounds to what I normally experience.I made my way along the fire trail that should have been very runnable for me, but tonight had a lot of walking thrown in. I'd accepted that I was going to be super slow and that I'd probably get passed a bunch more times, but I was still going to be finishing in a time that would be a new best time for me.
A few left turns, a few right turns and I popped out at the road where the marshal helped me cross (Hi-viz vests are a requirement for crossing after dark). This was back at the Gap Creek picnic area, which I first passed about 12 hours ago! I decided to fill up a flask at a tap in the picnic area, which may not have been strictly necessary, but it made me feel better about life.
I hadn't really been eating properly for a few hours now - it was very difficult to eat solid food, and even gels made me feel very nauseous so I was relying on liquid fuel from the hydration/nutrition mix at the aid station which seemed to be getting me through. After a short flat section I reached the final climb - the Kokoda Trail. This again was actually nothing to fear, and was quite a fun climb, but I certainly wasn't as quick as I'd hoped to be up it. At the top is another road crossing assisted by marshals, and then it's only 5km home!
(The course is 105km. In what is perhaps a cruel twist, you cross the 100km point halfway up the final climb).
After the road crossing, I hit the final single track that linked back to the last little downhill bit. This should've been an epic 5km smash to the finish but I just couldn't run all of it - on the plus side, I'd developed a stitch which took my mind off the pain in my legs. I ran into some 50km runners making their way down which was super cool to see and they gave a bit of a cheer (which I returned, of course).
After what felt like endless singletrack, I popped out onto the fire trail and knew from here it was about a mile, or 1.6km to the finish. I was very surprised that I hadn't been passed by anyone since Lightline camp, and gave the occasional look over my shoulder but didn't see any headlamps approaching, so I gave it my best shot at a mostly-run, but sometimes walk strategy.
I rounded a corner and could hear and see the finish line and event hub about 500m down the hill absolutely pumping with energy, and got a burst of energy myself. I folded up my poles, and ran quite strongly into the finish line to finish The Guzzler in 13:36:00!
Immediately finishing I sat down by the heater, and helped by Rachel, tried to get some 2min noodles in and bask in the glory of not having to run any further!
The next day stairs seemed insurmountable. We returned to the event hub the next day for the 21 and 10k events, for Rachel to run the 10k, where I walked at a very, very slow shuffle to the top of Mt Coot-Tha.
It's interesting to reflect on the experience. I suffered an implosion at around 50 - 60km which I think can be attributed to a couple of things: Firstly I definitely went out too hard, though that's not always a bad thing as it's good to test our limits (of course, in a 100km that can compound quite severely). Secondly the heat - I did some heat acclimation protocol, but not enough. I misjudged how much it would effect me, and was clearly sweating way more than the fluids I was consuming, which is going to be an interesting problem to improve on. I'd say it was a combination of those factors that lead to the implosion.
Having said that, I'm still absolutely stoked with my result. That's my best time yet for a 100km (105km), and a top-10 finish at a pretty big event is awesome.
The Guzzler is another gem of a trail running event. A huge thank you to the amazing volunteers out there, and the organisers for making it happen. It's definitely up there on the list of favourite events and one I'd be happy to return to!