GOW100s 16-17th October 2010
Saturday morning, five minutes to six. Sixty-two runners huddled under a Norfolk pine, bracing themselves against the bitter wind on the Apollo Bay Foreshore. As if on queue, rain started pelting down. No, not rain, it was actually peppering small hailstones. Fittingly, after 2 days of heavy rain and gale force winds, The Great Ocean Walk100s was about to start. The 62 ultrarunners were about to experience some real southwestern Victorian weather. And with that they would have the run of a lifetime. They don’t give out the coveted GOW100s finishers buckles in weeties packets. You have to earn them. The 2010 GOW belt buckles would be all the sweeter for the hard slog necessary to earn them.
Traversing the spectacular, rugged Shipwreck Coast from Apollo Bay to the 12 Apostles, the Great Ocean Walk winds its way across headlands, along cliff-tops, through rainforest and over beaches. The 95km walking track passes through diverse ecosystems and weathered geological formations to present runners with endless panoramic vistas, tough short climbs, slippery descents and some sublime single-track. Forty-three runners lined up for the one-way journey of roughly 100km. Nineteen opted for the out and back 100+miler, which actually measures around 190km. Only eight completed the return trip to take home a silver buckle while 31 runners secured a bronze buckle by finishing the 100km.
Spectators and runners alike bore witness to the raw elements of the weather that blew straight in from the southern ocean. But that wasn’t the only natural phenomenon they were treated to: Peter van Wijngaarden streeted the field in an effortless display of controlled trail running. At every checkpoint Peter looked fresh and composed and he went on to win outright in 27:32, smashing 3 & ½ hours off last years winning time and over 2 hours ahead of the next runners.
Darrel Robins continued his impressive form of late, repeating his second place finish from last year but this time sharing the podium with Damian Smith. The pair ran much of the return journey together finishing strong with a sub 30hr time of 29:37.
In the women’s 100+miler attrition took its toll and GOW100s kept its reputation of only having one woman finishing the return journey on any given day. Susannah Harvey-Jamieson in her renowned never-say-die style, ground out a solid win in 36:41. The relief and sense of accomplishment was clear in her heart-felt embrace of Luis Vazquez-Recio who finished equal 5th with Susannah.
Some big names fell by the wayside as the day and then night wore on and the tight cut-offs took their toll. Five 100km runners were caught by the cut at the very first checkpoint. The slippery conditions cost them dearly. But they were in good company. There was no margin for error, and a missed turn cost 2 more runners their race. Others just fell too far behind the pace as the relentless hills, heavy sand and slippery mud sapped their legs. The turnaround point at the 12 Apostles must rate highly as one of the toughest challenges to face any ultrarunner. To turn around and head back into the night with the wind and rain pelting down and knowing what is before you is a true test of fortitude.
In the 100km race Damon Georke led from start to finish. Making easy work of the slippery conditions, Damon pulled away from Josh Street early on and was never challenged. Goerke’s time of 11:21 was a new course record, despite the conditions. Toby Wiadrowski followed in third place. Nikki Wynd continued her rise to prominence as the first female in 14:15. Nikki looked comfortable, cruising in with training partners Darren Mooney and David Eadie. Jackie Appleyard held on for second. Equal third was shared in an emotional celebration by Leanne Keating and Deborah Piercy. Runners and crew were clearly ecstatic with their performance.
Parks Victoria is to be applauded for their support of this growing race. Beyond allowing access to this iconic track, the local rangers worked in a close partnership with the organisers to ensure a successful and safe event for runners and volunteers. Parks Vic also provided souvenir backpacks and DVDs for all the runners.
The coming summer will see track realignments moving the Walk off the final 1.5km of bitumen. Further work will see more single-track and less gravel road. The GOW100s look set to have a healthy future and will surely grow in reputation as a spectacular trail ultramarathon. Someone said that it’s the tough ones that you remember most. I am sure that this years GOW100s will stand out in peoples memories for a long time to come. Look out for GOW100s in October 2011, at www.GOW100s.com
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