Contributed by Greg Wallace, Race Director 240km Coast to Kosciuszko/AURA member
240km COAST TO KOSCIUSZKO, EDEN (NSW), 2-4 December 2022
After two years of COVID and weather impacted races, the 2022 Coast To Kosciuszko Ultramarathon delivered a fantastic event. With the weather gods being kind, a full field got to experience Coast To Kosci in a much better light.
There were 31 first time runners in the 2022 race, and it’s been quite a while since such a high proportion of first time runners toed the start line. These runners and their first time nerves experienced the beauty of sunrise on the beach at Twofold Bay, listened to stories from Uncle BJ Cruse of the traditional lands they were about to cross, and witnessed a smoking ceremony to protect them on their journey.
The field settled into positions early with race plans becoming evident on the initial 24km to Towamba. Trevor Allen had the honour of first to Towamba, much like every year. A full field and relaxing of COVID rules saw a strong turnout by locals at Towamba. A number of runners likened Towamba to the Tour de France where locals and support crews lined the road to cheer on the field as they came through CheckPoint 1.
A notable change to the 2022 event was a race route detour not long after Checkpoint 2 at Rocky Hall. Included in this year’s route was an ‘off the beaten track’ fire trail called Cow Bail Trail at 56km to replace the climb up Big Jack. Big Jack was closed due to a landslip. Cow Bail Trail was remote, tough and kicked up in elevation from the start, looking down upon the relatively gentler Big Jack climb. Most of the field would be happy to never see Cow Bail Trail again, however there were a few runners who found it stunning and embraced the tough going. Even if in the strong warmth of the day a few snakes came out to say hello.
Runners were settling into race positions that would stay unchanged for some time. Nick Bamford was out in front with Barry Keem not far behind. Maree Connor, Rob Mason, Tim Kacprzak, David Vroom and Thomas Dade were also within proximity. Sarah Foster was strong and Allicia Heron very consistent. Checkpoint 3 at Cathcart had echoes of Towamba with a contingent of people lining the street cheering runners through. A lovely elderly lady cheered on Renae Brock with a resounding ‘Go you little f@#$er’ – how motivating is that?!
Nick Bamford and Barry Keem led the way from Cathcart to Checkpoint 4 at 106km at Gunningrah Rd, opening up a distance between themselves and the next groups of runners. The heat of the long day was starting to take some toll further back in the field with some runners slowing, and back markers struggling. The state of runners could be summarised as they stopped for photos at the 100km mark at the Dead Tree (known as the Dead Horse tree by others). Some looked tired, others had their race face on, and Rob Mason even danced a jig.
As always, the stretch to Dalgety (Checkpoint 5, 148km mark) saw change. The two horse race between Nick Bamford and Barry Keem came to a premature end. Barry Keem who had been valiant, withdrew after succumbing to a hip impairment that worsened across the day. Rob Mason, Maree Connor and Tim Kacprzak formed a small cohort. David Vroom and David Turnbull remained strong. The race was starting to bite with Thomas Dade and others struggling with the heat and nutrition.
Nick Bamford arrived at Dalgety as darkness fell, in a touch under 15 hours, but with a one hour lead over Rob Mason, and David Vroom a further nine minutes back. The Race Directors say everyone has a plan until Dalgety, and that is much the way it unfolded. Dalgety saw a small number of runners withdraw or fail to make the cut-off, with other runners using the warmth, soup and welcoming locals at Dalgety Hall as a chance to regroup ahead of the step change in elevation.
The night leg to Jindabyne and the climb up the Beloka Range saw Nick extend his lead by a further 14mins, while the long day’s racing took its toll on David Vroom who had performed strongly but started to fall back. Nick was running strong, and was a long way in front. Other runners remained generally consistent through this tough part of the course and the early stages of climbing towards the Snowy Mountains. Rob Mason later stated he felt very comfortable and relaxed to Dalgety and Jindabyne, perhaps an omen of what was to come.
The section from Jindabyne to Perisher Valley (Checkpoint 7 – 214km) and Charlotte Pass (Checkpoint 8 – 223km) saw Rob Mason take his Coast to Kosci experience and racing to a whole other level. Rob set the ‘fastest known time’ in recent memory from Jindabyne to Charlotte Pass, gaining 54mins to Perisher Valley, and a further 20mins to Charlotte Pass to pressure and overtake Nick at Charlotte Pass.
The 2022 edition would come down to Nick and Rob, and the last 18km. To the summit and return, through snow traverses, with poles and with pacers. Both Nick and Rob were within sight of each other near the summit, before Rob drew away, with a superb strong finish, leaving his pacers and support crew exhausted from the pace as they crossed the finish line at Charlotte Pass. Rob Mason in his sixth finish, was the first runner home in 27hrs:53m:41s. Nick Bamford was exhausted in second place in 29hrs:17m:21s and it was clear he had given his all as race leader for 220km. Third runner home was Tim Kacprzak in 30hrs:02m:47s. David Turnbull capped a very special and personally emotional race, finishing fourth in 30hrs:49m:45s. Maree Connor was outstanding again as the first woman finisher for the second consecutive year in 30hrs:51m:28s. Maree ran an outstanding and strong race and always looked comfortable and in good spirits.
Runners continued to summit and finish throughout the day and the following night, with an overall race finish rate of 80%. Each runner with their own story, their own challenges – physically, mentally or logistically. The last runners to finish prior to the cut off – Zed Zlotnick and Xanthe Spindler – showed immense strength and commitment to the goal, as did all runners. Each Akubra for first time finishers was well and truly earned. The Coast To Kosci ‘race family and community’ grew immeasurably at this race, and also made a number of contributions to local communities, reinforcing what this event is about: Community, Humility and Resilience. The 2022 Coast To Kosci was a great race and a great event from sea to summit. So many runners new to the event. So many younger runners. 80% finish rate. Many were humbled by the course, and the course gave a lot back. Many runners got so much more from Coast To Kosci than they expected.
For the full list of results, click 2022 Results here.