CurraNZ ambassador Andy Heyden took on Australia’s premier ultra-marathon in December, which he describes as 'an amazing couple of days' in which he set a new PB in the 240km race. Here, he recounts his race that saw him excel despite the hail, thunder and atrocious conditions on Mount Kosciuszko, the final section to the finish line.
Andy writes: The Coast to Kosciuszko Ultramarathon is such a special race and I was thrilled to get one of the coveted entries again in 2023.
Despite the days of rain I was very excited to line up at the start on the beach at Eden (six hrs south of Sydney) with 54 other runners ready to tackle the 242km ahead of us.
I had promised myself one thing, to make a solid start and set out with the race contenders from early in the day and not finishing with any thoughts of ‘what if’.
The first few hours went by fast and I sat in third or fourth, chatting to a few familiar faces.
We had a few fun causeway crossings, wading through knee-deep water as we traversed a mix of trails and sealed/unsealed roads.
I moved well for the first 50km and felt strong, powered by gels, banana and some chips. It was cool with light rain and as always, the atmosphere and camaraderie with the passing crew cars was great.
Next the 5km steep Cow Bail trail hike as Big Jack Mountain road remained closed and after a nice stretch of unsealed road the last of the six causeway crossings.
Through the 70km checkpoint and then onwards towards the ‘Dead Tree’ at 102km. I was moving well, feeling good and eating well, my crew keeping on top of clothing changes, sun cream and two CurraNZ capsules every 3-4 hrs.
I reached the Dead Tree in 11 hrs 51 and 15 mins off the leaders, with the top five-six spread across 5km.
I pushed on as the sunset drew closer and was looking forward to being joined by my pacer from around 8pm.
Into the evening my hips started tightening and my pace started to slip. I was holding sixth place and opted not to stop for soup at the hall at Dalgety, but I did eat of bowl of warm noodles to get some more calories in.
On toward the 3km climb at Beloka Hill and then the lights of Jindabyne soon came into sight. No wombat sightings this year, just hundreds of frogs.
I kept trying to eat 70-100gm of carbs an hour but was getting sick of the Tailwind and gels.
My right foot was stiffening up and the walking breaks were lengthening. My mental game was good and I had stayed warm. The 80s rock music from the portable speaker was helping too!
We pushed on to Jindy (185km) and arrived before daylight, then started the long drag up towards Charlotte’s Pass. I just couldn’t run the ups anymore and had to stick to a solid power walk.
At that point, the calorie intake switched to lollies and chocolate! My favourite part of the race!
On finally reaching Charlotte’s Pass I changed back to a trail shoe ready for the 9km section to the summit of Mt Kosciuszko and back. For this, the whole crew can join which is awesome as we can all share the course together.
They packed enough food for around three hours, plus all the mandatory gear and we set off into the sun with a fresh layer of sun cream. It was nice to feel the first rays of the day and enjoy the views. As we pushed up to the summit and passed patches of snow, the clouds started rolling in - and then suddenly, there was thunder.
The mountain showed us how quickly conditions can change. Soon visibility was minimal and the temperature had dropped. We put on heavier Gortex jackets and pushed on to the summit.
After a brief pause and photos we started the final 9km leg to the finish line. The fifth-placed runner was too far ahead to catch and seventh was a fair was back but we were keen to get in in under 32 hrs.
I tried to get shuffling and running but the legs weren’t co-operating. Then the weather served up another twist - wind and horizontal hail! My fight or flight reflex kicked in and I wanted to be off that mountain. I managed to get shuffling into a light jog after a brief pause to put on waterproof trousers and gloves – and we didn’t stop again.
I crossed the finish line in 31 hrs 50 mins for a PB in tough conditions and sixth overall. Due to the deteriorating weather and storms, only the top seven summited and the mountain was closed to the remaining runners. Glad to see that all but six of the field made it through to the finish, another solid finishing rate.
Since the race, my recovery has gone really well, with very little DOMs in my 49-year-young legs, which I put down to the CurraNZ.
My smile is wide and heart full. It was another amazing couple of days in the Australian country with the awesome crews and runners that this race attracts and some great money raised for my preferred charity, The Run Beyond Project, helping high school students gain confidence and life skills.