Whitney Dagg Surf Coast Century Race Report

Dunedin based The North Face athlete Whitney Dag lined up for her 2nd 100km ultra race last month, the Surf Coast Century, in Anglesea, Victoria, Australia.

After The North Face 100 in May this year I wasn’t exactly satisfied with how I did, so I knew I needed something big to target before my build up to the Kepler. When I was talking to Grant in the Blue Mountains he mentioned a 100km race down Melbourne way in September. So off to google I was to find out about this so called race and to work out how I could get there. When I had a look over the start list there were two well-known Aussie trail runners, Beth Cardelli and Shona Stevenson, who I knew would be very tough competition. I wasn’t expecting to make the podium, as this was my second 100km race, but I wanted to make the top five women.


Whitney running a beach section early on in the Surf Coast Century, Australia.

I arrived at the start line with my partner Aaron at 5:10am. Crazy Aussies start their races at 5:30am! Aaron thought I was a complete nutter as I got up at 3:20am to eat breakfast.  But making sure that I started the race well fueled was non-negotiable. The race started on the beach where we ran about 2kms before climbing up a undulating gravel path then dropping back down onto the beach for a large 15km stretch on the sand. I was so pleased to feel the hard packed sand under my shoes, which was the kindest sand I had ever run on. Beth, Shona and I ran side by side during this first section and we were ticking along at a pretty reasonable pace considering we had 90km to go! They didn’t speak to me at all during the first hour, and I think they were a bit surprised that I was going out as fast as I was. My legs felt great and my breathing was calm so I continued to enjoy the speed while I had it in me. Shona and I pulled away from Beth and passed through the first CP at 10km together. We exchanged a few words and I then made the most of a slight downhill section and pulled away from her. I couldn’t believe that I was now ahead of both Beth and Shona. It was early days I thought to myself and before I knew it they had both caught back up on the long stretch of beach that lead to CP2 at 21km. As I ran into the checkpoint I was running in 3rd but not far behind them as Aaron made sure to tell me. He cut the corner off a glad bag of vanilla creamed rice and I squirted it into my mouth like one of those icing bags used to decorate cakes with. This method I learnt from my famous cousins Glen and Braden Currie who are elite multi-sporters. Shortly after I left CP2, I passed Beth as she took a toilet stop. What I didn’t expect was that I wouldn’t see Beth again. As the track undulated along the cliff tops I quickly caught up with Shona. My legs felt good so I pushed on to take the lead. From then on I pretty much ran by myself until about 55km. I started to feel a sharp pain in the side of my knee which I was hoping would not happen during this race. It’s an injury called ITB friction syndrome that plays up for me anywhere between 50-80km on long runs. As the pain got worse I started to get my limp on which slowed my pace down.

I took an ibuprofen tablet which I had stashed in my pack for this exact situation. I thought it was only a matter of time before the other ladies caught me. A couple of men caught up on me and let me know that there was a girl in red not far behind. As I looked over my shoulder Lucy Bartholomew was slowly approaching. At the time I had no idea who this girl was and where she had come from, but what I did notice was that she looked determined. Leading into CP6 at 77km there was a technical rocky downhill section which brightened my spirits and at the same time the ibuprofen started to do its job on my knee. I felt like I was running again! I made the most of the downhill and pushed the pace. When I got to CP6 I had made a 6 minute lead on Lucy.


1st place and a new course record of 9hr33.

For the last 20km of the race, I had the win set in my mind and focused on keeping a steady pace all the way to the end. I was dreading the final beach section as I had heard that the sand can be rather soft, but to my delight it was actually pretty hard packed. As I approached the finish line I could see Aaron in the distance on the beach. As I got closer he started to make a move and attempted to run up the beach to catch a photo/video of me coming across the line. Aaron doesn’t run much, so it was pretty funny as I started to gain on him and I was worried he wasn’t going to make it to the finish before me. Luckily he did and he got a very cool video as he was shaking with excitement.

Winning the Surf Coast Century was my biggest trail running achievement so far. I am often amongst the top ladies, but this was my first big win in the ultra-running scene. Setting a new course record put the icing on the cake for me and made the trip over to Aussie very worthwhile. I just might have to go back next year now.


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