Race Report Great Ocean Walk 100 – GOW100s

I have been rather slow in getting around to writing up a race report on the Great Ocean Walk 100k trail run. So three weeks on, at long last here it is (had to make sure I wrote it before running the next race this weekend).

The GOW100s follow the Great Ocean Walk – a walking trail running from Apollo Bay to the 12 Apostles Visitors Centre. This is a beautiful and diverse trail, throwing a bit of everything at you along the way!

After a pre-race gear check and race briefing on Saturday night, headed back to accommodation to finalise packing, brief crew on what I was likely to need at each of the four checkpoints and catch up with Keren who had come down from Melbourne with her daughter to help my sister Suzanne crew & to get herself hooked on ultras.

Way too little sleep, and up at 4:45 to get ready for pre-race checkin & a 6:15am start (food to eat, feet to tape, plenty of anti-chaffe gel to apply!). Lots of nervous runners milling around at the start, with some big goals time wise being aimed for. After some final words from the Race Director, Andy Hewatt, he set us on our way right on time.

From the outset the pace at the front was quick. I settled in with the second bunch (with a number of familiar faces), clocking through the first 3kms of bike trail in 4:40min kms, and watching the lead group disappear off.

It wasn’t long until we hit the mud that we had been warned about at pre-race briefing – ankle to knee deep and going on and on and on! Watched plenty of others around me fall or get feet/shoes stuck in the mud through this section. Luckily apparently my Inov8 Talon 190s love the mud! Good grip & never felt I was going to loose them. Felt it was easier in the mud to keep running, so went past during this section especially once hit downhills before heading into Checkpoint 1.

Quickly thru the first checkpoint setting how they would all be for the day, quick top up of fluids, grab extra food and gels & drink either a Perpetuem, Sustagen or late in the race, Coke.

Much less mud after the first checkpoint and some lovely single track, but this section also saw lots of sand too – a theme for the rest of the day, short sharp little hills & sand, sand and more sand. Brief rainstorm hit as we were heading down into Checkpoint 2 (a theme for my checkpoints thru the race), so quickly through and marching back up hill.

The 2km along Johanna Beach to Checkpoint 3  was not as bad as I expected, but was walked to save my legs – must try & get some sand training in next year! We the hit the climb through hilly farm land, a new surface to face, the rough farm tracks well potholed from cattle.

Found myself running with a lot of the same people on and off for the first 65k, so thank you for their company! Great chat with lots of runners along the way as we all went thru various stages and see-sawed back and forward. Ran & chatted with Dan Bleakman for quite a while – thanks for the company, but your talk of the snakes you had seen along the trail to that point had me looking at every stick on the trail for the rest of the run.

At about 65k I hit a low spot as we went in to a hilly section (steps, steps, steps) that was humid (very humid to me after all my training being in the Canberra early morning cold!). This point was the last time I saw Nikki Wynd who powered on from there to be first female and take over 3hours off her own female race record.  This section did have me questioning why I run ultras – perhaps one day when I have been doing them a while longer I will have a solid answer, but the views along this run & the sense of achievement in completing it for now give me an answer.

Once out of the protected area and into the wind, I picked up again and was back moving thru the final checkpoint relatively well. I knew I had time up my sleeve to finish in daylight, so was nice to be able to elect to pick up my light weight head torches (which were compulsory to carry from CP4) rather than my AYUP which I love for trails and night, but not super lightweight! I also pulled the bladder with sports drink out of my pack at this point as it was no longer sitting well with me, so just carrying water from here on in.

Prior to CP4 I had talked with & walked another runner into an unmanned water drop (site of CP4 in previous years, but just unmanned water there this year as CP had been moved to more accessible spot) as he was out of water & suffering badly, so pre-warned the CP volunteers to keep eye out for him. Was pleased to get a phone call from my crew to advise me he had arrived in, and to check ok to give him some S-Caps to help his cramping (and to check amounts etc).

The final stage had some course changes from previous years meaning more single track (less dirt roads) which was lots of fun, but on tired legs sandy hills were becoming very hard! Was really just focussing on keeping moving & looking forward to first glimpses of 12 Apostles!! Lovely chat along here with a 50 k runner (relay team) about why we do these events & some of the other events around, which helped take mind off to job at hand!

Definitely mixing jogging & walking thru last 10k, even more so when at 95k (not long after the joy of seeing 12 Apostles & knowing was nearly there!) felt something do in my foot, near heel…..No way was I stopping! Luckily not too far from there we came out onto the Great Ocean Road for the final 2k. This had to be worst section for me – 2k on road with high winds pushing me off the road…..but pulled out a decent run once could see the visitors centre signs and that if I hurried, under 13 hours was possible! Finished in 12:59!! Very happy with the time……but of course plenty of thoughts on what to work on next year!

Great to be able to sit around heater in tent out of rain at the finish and chat to others before heading back to the backpackers at Port Campbell of clean up, eat & share war stories. A good laugh at my puffy ankles the next morning – had slept in my Proskins compression tights (thanks for the trial Proskins!) and forgot to add compression socks, lets just say my legs looked good until you saw the cankles.  Unfortunately had to head off early to get back to Melbourne, and flight home – limited leave pass issued by the kids!

Huge thanks to my awesome crew!! And to all those who sent messages of support before and during the run. Is always great to be taking others along on the adventure (and perhaps corrupt a few into joining me on ultras!)

Placed 2nd female, 9th overall. Was great to see the strength of the field with both the mens & womens race records being blown away like so many other ultras this year.  Yes, from the moment I finished, was thinking of next year (and next ultra – so apparently the pain was not bad enough : ) Was rally pleased that nutrition thru the race went much better that at TNF100, so hopefully heading in the right direction now I have found I can use Perpetuem at checkpoints, stomach Accel Gels right thru and that having due bladders in my backpack meant I could switch easily between water and sports drink depending on how I felt.

The GOW100s course throws all sorts of terrain (and weather) at you, and i certainly not a course to under-estimate, but is very very well organised and had amazing trail and scenery to make it an enjoyable day. The checkpoints are all well stocked and have great volunteers making it possible to do this race without crew just using drop bags.

My post race recovery has consisted of a little running, a lot of eating and a lovely short holiday on the Gold Coast. I had a few blisters thru the race, so feet are still suffering a little, and the heel/ankle issue that sprang up during the race has slowly come good with massage, rest, icing etc, so hopefully all ready now to get back into some training!

Plan for me from here is to run Deep Space Marathon this coming weekend – just as a training run, it will be first long run back,. Then back down to Bogong to Hotham in January, a run I am looking forward to, it was my first ultra (yes, this journey started in January this year) and is a truly amazing course.


About brymcconnell

Ultra running mum to two young girls who loves to get out on trails any chance she gets.
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3 Responses to Race Report Great Ocean Walk 100 – GOW100s

  1. I’ve said it many times before & will say again many times in the future – you are incredible Bryony. It was enormously inspiring to watch & I was thrilled to see you finish so strongly. You were completely composed the entire race – not once did we hear you complain. Legendary performance & great race report !

  2. brymcconnell says:

    Thank you Keren. While you definitely have moments of hating it & questioning why you do it, they are far outweighed by the enjoyment of completing such an awesome run. You will be there with me next year!

  3. Cathy Newman says:

    Oh wow – that was a truly amazing read. But you haven’t convinced me to do ultras! I know my limits! But well done, Bry – you’re an amazing runner and inspire me just to get out there and run! So thank you for that.

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