Outside of actually running the TNF100 course up in the Blue Mountains, running a double Coast Track from Bundeena to Otford and then back is one of the best training runs available. With 26km of trail each way, covering the 52km as a good, hard long run is an excellent hit-out, and with plenty of long climbs including the 220m ascent through the Palm Jungle at the southern end, practice at power-hiking up steps for extended climbs is essentially training for TNF100.
The Southern End of the Coast Track at Otford
Parking at Bundeena and doing the 'BOB' (Bundeena-Otford-Bundeena) has the advantage of getting the harder direction out of the way first, with the southern end of the track higher than the northern end. In addition, water is available a little closer to the southern end of the track - there are taps at Otford station about 500m from the southern end while its over a kilometer from the northern end of the track through to the park in Bundeena township where taps can be accessed. On a day in the mid-20s, I'll start with 120g of High5 carb powder and 2l of water, and also have 120g of carb powder available in a zip-lock bag to dump into the Camelbak bladder along with another 2l of water for the return trip. In addition to the carb drink, I stick to my regular gel on the half-hour and half an energy bar on the hour mark.
The Palm Jungle Descent
Running the BOB is a pretty big physical commitment with not too many 'outs' available - limited food and water is available on the course (the canteen at Wattamolla looks to be permanently closed, leaving the canteen at Garie as the only place where limited provisions can be purchased) and phone coverage is limited. With the need for a water refill, once you leave Garie on the southern trip at 20km, you are pretty much committed to reaching the Otford to get some water, and with your car at Bundeena, once you're got the water, heading back for the return 26km is pretty much the only option.
The Waterfall at Eagle Rock, plunging to the ocean below
The stunning view on the course compensate for the pretty tough condition of the track. After a dry month, the course was in great shape today but its always a tough, hard run. During the annual Coastal Classic race in September 2011, I was really happy to finish the extended Coast Track (30km) in under 3 hours - something achieved by roughly the top 10% of the field. For a double training run, the pace is a much easier 8 minutes / kilometer, with the hills and soft sand at the end of the beaches walked. While a more aggressive pace would be achievable, the recovery time would be massive. My 12.44 at last years TNF100 equated to a 7.34 pace, so running a 52km training run over pretty hard terrain at an 8:00 minute pace is fine with me. By running conservatively on long training runs - something like 10-15% less than TNF100 effort, recovery time is OK and getting in some hard runs a couple of days latter is possible.
Marley Beach. Great Scenery but tough running
With a number of 150+km weeks in the books over the last couple of weeks and the Mt Solitary Ultra booked in for next weekend as the final real hard hit-out, everything is on track for a great TNF100. Looking back over last year's race, the long training runs like the double Coast Track where one of the real highlights of the whole experience - right up there with the race itself. While the energy, excitement, crowds and achievement of the race are awesome, spending seven hours out in nature on extended training runs is something really special.
If you're keen to try the Coast Track, we've previously published detailed course descriptions.