Coast2Kosci 101, A User’s Guide

So you’re now just 2 weeks away from Coast2Kosci, the Australian ultra-adventure of a lifetime. You’re going to run from the ocean’s edge, Eden, on Australia’s east coast to the top of the country, Kosciuszko — and you’re wondering, now what?

Joey Joe Joe from Manly Running Club had a great clip put together from photos on course in 2014

Quick facts

Distance: 240km (disputed by some to be 246, but that may have just been a stitching error on one of the pullovers — don’t worry, everything after the first 187km feels more like 300km anyway).

Elevation: 5500m climbing, 3300m descending. If it was any more climbing or any less descending you would be levitating, which will only happen when you finally make it to a bed after finishing.

Cutoff: 46 hours but if you take this kind of time you’ll be tripping balls, that’s the only way to describe the caffeine-overloaded-fatigue-haggard-calorie-depleted-mammoth-spotting state you’ll be in by the time you’ve missed most of two nights sleep. Caffeine, Red Bull, rice pudding, and lube will no longer be your friends by this point in the game.

This is what it’s all about — everyone you run with. And pain. And mental anguish. And sunrises. And sunsets. And falling asleep during pizza afterward.

Know Your History: For all the fancy new running tech, it’s still a game of brutal attrition. Like any long ultra, one of the most important distances you’ll have to deal with is your own top 4 inches. Check out this classic race report from Andy Hewat back in 2007, way before Medium and almost before Facebook. The only tech that might actually save your ass is a pair of HOKA :)

Course Records: Andrew Tuckey, 24:33, 2014 — stayed dry by outrunning 4 storm fronts that soaked almost every other runner. Jess Baker, 30:04, 2013 — stayed dry by not falling over in the 4 kilometre radius of snow dumped the night before the race.

HOKA ONE ONE athlete Jess Baker and the elation of beating the previous course record by 7 minutes…. and of knowing you can stop running after 30 hours.

Handy tips

  1. Your crew: Get it right! Make sure these are people you would accept a kidney from because it might just come down to that. Unlike your standard race crew, these are not people that will meet you with a bag of snakes and a pair of dry socks every 30 kilometres. Rather, these are people giving a measurable portion of their life to your tour of pain, watching from a car while you vomit on trees, and meeting you every 5 kilometres with toilet paper and hot soup. Don’t mix those things up by the way. What I’m saying is you will be in each other’s pockets for anywhere from 24 to 46 hours. Either choose clashing personalities for entertainment or choose a cohesive posse for harmony and progress, but make sure they can handle physical distress, bad language, and oversharing. It’s a genuine bonus if they are experienced ultrarunners who understand empathy but have no time for sympathy.
My 2012 crew had to get me through jetlag and post-GrandSlam fatigue, my 2015 crew had to deal with a body that had all the running beaten out of it by Tor Des Géants, but these guys in 2014 got me to a PB that still taunts me, and they all have strong C2K results of their own.

2. Overprepare, underpack: Anything can happen at Coast2Kosci, from ferocious burning sun to insanely high winds and wrath-of-God rains and hail and snow. If you are not mentally ready for those kind of extremes, it will not matter that you have five different jackets of slightly varying weather-resistance, from ultralight windbreaker to kevlar Antarctic tornado resistance, all in different shades of black that your crew has to find in a black bag under black socks and black gloves and black tracksuit pants at night. The beauty of a car being within walkie-talkie range is not having to carry stuff. The downside of a car is taking stuff that you just don’t need to be thinking about. Just take stuff that you have used and that you know will work. And maybe some reserves in case of a 100km/hr sharknado on top of Kosci. Seriously.

3. Self-Preservation: This is actually the prime directive for every long ultra, because incremental savings over an extended period of time really matter. The sunscreen that doesn’t make it to the back of your knees will end up feeling like razor blades from just before the first setting of the sun. The chafing under your arm before the first 100km is done will feel like a Sarlacc pit by the second rising of the sun. And save little bits of energy — if that’s what it takes to stop you moaning, then think about all the energy you can save by not investing effort into unhappiness. It will come in handy when you need all your energy to not be unhappy about a hill that essentially climbs for 35km without any real respite.

Do not end up here.

4. Good soundtrack — Vitamin M: when you’re tired of the sounds of birds and gentle breezes and running water and wide open landscapes with horizons stretching irretrievably away from you, or the diverse conversation of your fellow competitors, or your crew are telling you how much further it is to everywhere, then plug in and set the tone. Suggestions include Heavy metal, hard drum and bass, filthy techno and glitchy dubstep for making the miles fly by, any ’80s soundtrack (Blues Brothers, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Beverly Hills Cop) to take your mind off how your target time is about to disappear in a burst of digestive failure, stoner rock to get you up hills at a steady pace without overcooking the adrenals or quads, gangsta rap to make you wonder why the f*** you put gangsta rap in a running playlist (see also Footloose soundtrack), and quirky weird stuff like Primus reinterpreting Pink Floyd or Enya being fed slowly into a blender for the night time to get you back on a conscious plane after 7 hours of heavy metal has turned you into a drooling zombie. And Eye of the Tiger. In every playlist. Even for yoga. Smarter runners use podcasts but I’m afraid of learning and running at the same time.

5. Think how far you’re going, but only twice: When you stand on the beach and you’re about to take the first step of a 240km run, you have got to appreciate the enormity of what you are about to do, and everything that you have done to arrive at this point in time and space, and then never think about that total distance again EVER until you are running as fast as your mangled body can move over the final kilometre of the run back down from the top of Australia to Charlotte’s Pass and one of the most low-key but phenomenally satisfying finish lines you will ever, ever cross.

So now that’s taken all the fear out of it for you :) happy tapering and see you on the start line very very soon.