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Meet Kevin: Why & how I ran The Coast to Kosciuszko Ultra Marathon. A whopping 246km non-stop!

The Coast to Kosciuszko ultra marathonGuy: For most people I have met, a marathon is one of those events that people put into the ‘that would be great to do one day’ bracket. You know, one for the bucket list. Then some of those people in fairness go on and achieve it. A once in a lifetime race with that box finally ticked. 42.195km’s acheived! (26miles). Anything longer sounds like it was straight out of the awesome read Born to Run.

Then I met Kevin Heaton. Marathons are just a mere part of his training schedule… entrée if you like.  The main course being The Coast To Kosciuszko (C2K). A whopping 246km! The longest race in Australia which features on Wikipedia and is certainly not for the faint-hearted. Oh and by the way, did I mention he ran this ultra marathon non-stop!

Over to Kevin…..

The Coast to Kosciuszko ultra marathon has hit cult status within the running world here in Australia – What attracted you to first competing in it?

It all started with race directors Paul Every and Diane Weaver who are close family friends.

In the first year back in 2004 Paul had just completed the C2K in 39hrs 26min. The very next day I met Paul at the start of the Canberra Half Ironman! (Guy: Yes you read that right. Paul completed a half ironman the next day!). I thought that it was simply amazing what he was doing. Paul went on to finish the Half Ironman and I was hooked on the idea from that day.

During my first year of ultra marathon running I completed this schedule:

The Six Foot Track Marathon – It is a marathon held in the beautiful Blue Mountains with lots of demanding hills! My time was 5hrs 24min 21secs.

I then got asked to join the Sydney Trailwalker team. It is a 100km event from Mosman to Brooklyn which is mostly on trails.

I started training with the team but people kept getting injured and we lost a few members of the team. The last person we lost was only a couple of weeks out from race day and the team captain asked if we knew of anybody who could step into the team. Naturally I suggested Paul Every.

Paul joined the team and we managed to finish as a full team in 14hrs 15min 44sec and 5th over all.

During the race I was continually thinking about the C2K and asking Paul questions. When we finshed the race, we were celebrating with a glass of champagne and Paul asked me if was I was able to run back to the start right now? This was another 100kms ontop of the 100kms I had just ran. My answer was an instantaneous YES. Paul told me that if I wanted to do C2K then he would let me enter. We didn’t run back but Paul then knew mentally I was strong enough for the challenge.

In 2006 I entered and finished my first C2K and finished 4th overall in a time of 35:27:32.

246km is a bloody long way, so I’m assuming preparation is paramount. How many weeks out from the race does the serious fitness training begin? What does it entail & what would your ultra marathon schedule look like?

Yes 246km is a long way and preparation is very important.

For me personally, training does not really start and stop as I run all year round simply because I enjoy running.

The last few years though I have had a few weeks off at the start of the year as I am recovering from C2K the year before.
 I then start back slowly aiming for the Six Foot Track Marathon in March.

I never seem to get enough good training in for the Six Foot Track Marathon and never quite have the great race I’d like. But I think some of that is due to recovering from C2K ultra marathon which I feel can take up to 2 months to fully recover.

After the Six Foot Track Marathon I continue building my km’s to what most people would call Marathon training and race a few Marathons up to the middle of the year.

Then I start thinking about 100 km or more. The Glasshouse 100 is in September so I build up the km’s for that and then keep them quite high until C2K Ultra Marathon.

From July I try to keep my weekly km’s to 100+.

And have at least one run/race over 60km per month in my ultra marathon training schedule.

What is the biggest challenge to your motivation & how do you overcome that?

Summer is my biggest challenge.

That might sound weird but being from the UK I don’t handle hot/humid weather very well.

The upside is that I know cooler weather will come and I will be happy again.
I also force myself to train sometimes in the heat of the day to try to acclimatize to it as much as possible.

What is your strategy for nutrition building up to and during the ultra marathon?

This is one thing I don’t think I have got correct yet. This year though I have been using 180 Natural Protein SuperFood as part of my food intake which I feel has helped my nutrition and performance. This year’s event has been the best time I’ve managed to date, but I feel there is still room for improvement.

Over the last few years doing C2K my nutrition has changed quite a bit.

Coming from an Ironman background I used to try doing races on gels/bars and this works to a point and I think that point is 100km races so between 10-15 hrs.

For races longer than 15hrs I think you need to mix it up a bit. During races my body does not like the constant sweet drinks/foods and at some point my body needs real solid food.

This is a problem because during ultra marathons in Australia you sweat a lot and you need to replace the salts. I can’t stand sports drinks so I take Hydrolyte and take salt tablets.

This year I added 180 protein powder with milk every hour and also every half hour something solid like chips or a quarter of a ham sandwich.

Later on I had pancakes made with the 180 protein powder and a big blob of strawberry jam.

At night I added in cups of tea and some 5 minute noodles (it gets cold).

The second day I had a bacon and egg roll for breakfast and then a few hours later started on the chocolate as well as some 180 Natural Protein Superfood.

If you could give one piece of advice to a novice ultra marathon competitor, what would it be?

I will borrow the advice Diane Weaver gave me before I started my first C2K race. She said “Beware the chair”.

This advice works for anybody during ultra marathon races from the winners to the last man/woman racing.

It means try to limit the amount of time stopped in a chair.

What is your hardest running challenge to date?

I would have to say back in 2009. It was the first year that we had a chance of running the equivalent of the USA Ultra Marathon Grand Slam.

We had to run 4 x 100 mile events in a 3 month period. I decided to take up the challenge because I could not see any good reason not to give them a go.

Obviously this is a massive challenge with logistics as well as how do you recover from a 100 mile running race to do the same thing again in 4-5 weeks 4 times?

The hard part is you need to recover and still train for your next 100 mile race all at the same time, this is obviously impossible.

After one race I take a couple of days off totally and then if my body is feeling ok I start back running short distances at a moderate pace.
 If you start feeling tired quickly during your runs you then have more rest days. The idea is to listen to your body as it knows best what it can and can’t do. If you push it too hard then you will only break something.

I keep building back up to about 80km per week and then have only 1.5 taper weeks before the next race.
You do not need to taper heavily because you have not been pushing the km’s or pace over the last few weeks as you are just maintaining fitness.

What is the most important thing to remember when racing a C2K Ultra Marathon?

1.Getting to the start line without an injury.

Many fast runners never manage to do this because of over training and/or injuries.

2.Have a great crew.
Don’t underestimate the importance of your crew in races like C2K. After the first 26km which is supported by drink stations your crew are your line of food/drink and most importantly support.

Having  a crew that puts you and your race first is very important.
C2K is run by an individual but it takes the whole team to do it well.

For the results of the 2011 C2K. Click here.

The Crew of the Coast to Kosciuszko ultra marathon