The Pichi Richi Marathon, celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2022, is a point to point marathon running from Port Augusta to Quorn, through the Pichi Richi Pass. According to South Australia.com, it is considered the most challenging marathon in Australia.
It’s been 3 years since I’ve done a marathon – my last official marathon distance was the Tower Trail Marathon in June 2019, although I’m not sure where that fits in in marathon terms – although it is a marathon distance, it also has over 1000m elevation so it is probably more like an ultra than a marathon. It also blows my average marathon time way out, so maybe I won’t count that one! My last ‘road’ marathon was earlier in June 2019, the UNI Coastal on the Uni Loop. I have done a few ultras since then but there’s something unique about a marathon!
I had been aware of this event for a number of years and had always intended to run it one day, but it always clashed with the 6/12/24 hour event which had been a part of my annual calendar since 2015. It was usually held 2 weeks before the 6/12/24, so the timing never worked out. 2021 was the ‘last’ running of the 6/12/24 – although it has apparently been re-incarnated, I was officially ‘done’ after last year! So pretty much as soon as that was over, I had Pichi Richi 2022 in my sights.
Considering it had been in my plan for nearly a year, you’d think I would have had ample time to train. And I did, but my training never quite took off. I even had a 20 week plan, starting in February.
The plan was initially disrupted by the ATR Summer Series (2 of the races in the series fell during the early part of my planned marathon programme, and I wanted to be able to run well in the races so I didn’t take the option of doing my scheduled long runs on the Saturday before the Sunday races. Consequently I missed a couple of my early long runs.
I also decided to enter a few half marathons – Clare was part of my original plan but Barossa was not – hence I lost another long run day. No regrets about entering Barossa as it was pretty close to a PB and a good omen for Pichi 4 weeks later!
The other thing that messed up my plan (and probably a lot of other people’s plans too) was the C-word – yep our old friend the ‘Rona! Prior to my positive test I had run 25km and was well on track with my programme. It took 5 weeks to get back up to 25km again (because I was trying to be über-conservative with increasing my mileage) – by that stage I should have been well into the 30s. I had a conversation with fellow runner Tory who has a solid record of going into marathons underprepared, and she assured me that my longest run of 25km would be more than enough, with me having run a number of marathons and ultras before. I was pretty happy with that but I was still keen to get at least one run of 30km in. The week after Barossa, so 3 weeks out from the marathon, I managed to do a solid 30, in not the greatest weather conditions. Saturday was cold with intermittent showers, but Sunday looked a whole lot worse, with likely rain all day and possible storms. I decided to go out on Saturday on my own and run out and back along the river, and was fortunate enough to be joined by regular running buddy Gary for the first 9km of my run. There were only 2 showers, and Sunday’s weather was as bad or worse than predicted, so I was very happy to have got the run done on Saturday!
The plan for the next 3 weeks was to do my normal runs during the week and I’d do 25km the next Sunday, and a social half marathon with one of my running groups 1 week from the marathon. Normally I’d want to run about a half marathon distance the week before a marathon so the timing was perfect!
2 weeks out from the marathon, after a good solid parkrun on Saturday morning, I did my regular BodyBalance class (I’ve been averaging 2 classes a week for the last few months since I’ve had the app to do it at home) and managed to sprain my 2nd toe on my right foot, transitioning from Downward Dog to a lunge – my toe got caught on my yoga mat. Not ideal the day before a 25km run!
Luckily I had plans to run with a few regular running buddies, Veronica and Lachy, who were doing 21km on Sunday. I’m not sure how I would have gone doing that run on my own! I had planned to do a few extra km before the group run started, to make the 25km, but I decided that there was really no need and nothing to be gained from running 25km, so I started with the group. I buddy taped my toes which didn’t seem to do anything. Once I got moving the run went surprisingly well which gave me confidence that even though it would be slow and not super comfortable, I could do a marathon in 2 weeks time! (Thanks to my running buddies for distracting me! Always appreciated!)
I jokingly suggested that if I could get a local anaesthetic injected into my toe on the morning of the marathon, I’d be all good! Now I just needed to find someone with such skills who was actually going to be at the marathon start – maybe I needed a Plan B! Maybe it would be cold enough at the start that all my toes would be numb anyway?
Someone in the running group said that even if I didn’t run at all again between that day and the marathon 2 weeks later, I wouldn’t lose any fitness. My revised plan was to have a week off, run the half marathon 1 week before the marathon, and then one last run on the Thursday before the marathon.
I asked running friend and podiatrist Nat for some advice on taping, given that the taping I’d used on Sunday had been pretty useless. Nat had a look at my foot and said taping probably wasn’t necessary, and suggested that I should run the marathon in my newest shoes (which I’d only got the day before). In my mind that meant I definitely needed at least one run before the marathon – no way was I going to risk running 42.2km in an untried pair of shoes! I loved that she (and most of my other running friends) didn’t even ask me if I was still going to be running the marathon! They know me too well! Nat did advise me to run 10km on Sunday instead of 21.1km which I reluctantly accepted! 10km on Sunday and about the same on Thursday, that would have to do!
The Sunday run went well – the new shoes felt great! Even though most of the other runners were doing 21.1km, so I didn’t have anyone to run ‘with’, I did stick with some of the 21.1km runners for 6km before turning around, so only had to run 4km on my own. It was probably good practice for Pichi Richi – I was undoubtedly going to be running on my own at least some of the time! I had had thoughts of running. on Tuesday as well as Thursday, but decided not to do anything silly – there was nothing to be gained, and besides my foot was a bit sore after Sunday’s run so I decided to stick with the plan, such as it was!
My last run on Thursday wasn’t awesome, but I got through it unscathed so was good to go! As a last minute added bonus, regular running buddy Amanda, who I’d had dinner with on Wednesday night, had offered a massage appointment with one of her colleagues, Lucy, on Thursday, due to a cancellation. A pre-race massage wasn’t part of my plan but nothing else had really gone to plan so I thought why not? It had definitely helped me before the 24 hour race and the last 6 hour!
My plan involved driving to Port Augusta on the Friday, staying there Friday night and volunteering at the parkrun Saturday morning, then travelling to Quorn where I’d be staying Saturday and Sunday night. I’d changed my mind several times about where to stay – I’d originally booked an AirBNB in Quorn, then cancelled it and booked the Standpipe Hotel in Port Augusta where the marathon actually starts, then I realised that I’d have to get a bus back to Port Augusta to get my car after the marathon, which I really didn’t want to do, so I went back to Quorn and was able to find a room at Elizabeth House backpackers’ (most other accommodation was already unsurprisingly booked out by then!)
I was originally considering driving home on the Sunday after the marathon but I was told there was a big party on the Sunday night in Quorn so I needed to be there for that, besides who wants to drive 4 hours after having just run a marathon? So I’d booked for 2 nights (thank you to ‘past Jane’ for thinking of me!)
My next priority was finding vegan pizza – my traditional pre-marathon meal is pizza and cider, and it looked like vegan pizza in Quorn might be hard to find – Port Augusta looked to be a better option for dinner! (I had done one marathon without pizza – that was the Tower Trail marathon and I’d had a curry for dinner as there wasn’t anything else vegan on the menu where we went for dinner) Even though I’d be in Quorn by then and would have to backtrack to Port Augusta and back, it would be worth it because the pre-race meal is very important!
Speaking of superstitions, in a similar vein, I’d been at Torrens parkrun a week before the marathon, and I’d found this little pendant in the carpark – it was quite shiny so it caught my eye. I picked it up and saw what was written on it, and thought it was a good omen and something I could carry with me on the run!
On Friday morning I had coffee with some people from the running group, many of whom were Pichi Richi veterans. I’m not sure how the conversation got around to estimated finishing time, but Michael, who has done 20+ Pichi Richis, and knows a few things about it, thought that based on what I thought I might do in a flat marathon (about 3:45, but it’s been over 3 years!), 4:15 sounded about right. I would have been very happy with that! Anything under 4:30 on that course would be great!
En route to Port Augusta on Friday, because the drive up Highway 1 is pretty boring, and also because I was running low on wine, it seemed only logical that I detour via the Clare Valley! A couple of stops later, I was all stocked up and ready to roll!
I knew the accommodation I’d booked, the Majestic Oasis Apartments, was close to the parkrun. Google Maps told me it was a 190m walk! I’d been to Port Augusta parkrun once before so as I drove towards the foreshore I knew straight away where the parkrun was! The accommodation was nice enough, albeit not as fancy as the name suggests, but it was actually a lot closer than Google told me, thanks to a back gate directly to the foreshore! 80 steps from my room, that could be a new record!
Port Augusta parkrun, which is one of the events I look after as Event Ambassador (which sounds fancy but I really don’t do a lot, they really take care of themselves! Plus I don’t even get a car!), was celebrating its 4th birthday. Pre-injury I’d already put myself down to volunteer, as I figured I’d want to have a rest the day before a marathon! As an added drawcard (apart from the amazing spread of food they put on), Steve Moneghetti, running royalty and Race Ambassador for this year’s Pichi Richi Marathon, was going to be there. It was also a dress-up theme – tutus (because ‘tu’ plus ‘tu’ = 4 and it was their 4th birthday – clever!)
One guy even dressed up as a dinosaur – complete with tutu! While people (OK yes myself included) were lining up to get photos with the dinosaur guy (actual name Richard), Steve Moneghetti arrived, and I was saying it would be pretty awkward if people were more interested in getting photos with the dinosaur guy! Richard ran a very respectable 33 minute parkrun in that costume – I’m still in awe!
I found out that a few of the parkrun team were going to be manning the 36km drink station with the parkrun flags – something to look forward to!
After catching up with the event team, enjoying some of the vegan goodies that event founder and former Event Director John had put on, I had coffee with fellow Event Ambassador Michelle who was doing the half marathon, and her partner David who was one of the official photographers for the event, before making the drive to Quorn, somewhere I’d never been!
Shit got real when I started to see ‘Runners Ahead’ signs – I hadn’t studied the route so I didn’t realise it was the actual road you drive on to get from Port Augusta to Quorn!
I arrived in Quorn around lunchtime and checked in to my accommodation, greeted by my lovely host Kylie. I chose a room near the front door because I was sure I’d get lost trying to find the other room she offered me, especially after a few drinks after the marathon! The hostel is actually the original Quorn Hospital, which then became a nursing home, then a private residence and now a hostel! It’s nearly 100 years old, with private rooms but shared bathrooms – surprisingly the place wasn’t full! The shared bathroom didn’t bother me, especially as my post-race shower wouldn’t be until the afternoon so I was pretty sure people wouldn’t be queued up outside the shower at 2pm! It had a really nice vibe, even though there weren’t any other guests around – it had a lounge, fully equipped kitchen as well as a lovely outdoor area!
After that I went for a wander around the town, everything I needed was within walking distance, except the marathon finish line (well it’s 1.3km away but I certainly didn’t fancy walking there in the dark for a 6:15am bus, let alone then walking back after the marathon!). I went to see the finish line and work out where I was going to park, and I also sussed out the hotel where a large group of other runners was going to have dinner, and the silos where there is a light show on every night – I definitely wanted to see that!
Somehow I managed to lock myself out of the hostel, leaving my keys in my room – luckily it was a nice day and I had my phone and car keys. Kylie was very accommodating, coming back to let me in (she doesn’t live onsite but not too far away). I then headed back to Port Augusta to get the pizza I’d ordered from The Hut (which I would later discover is along the marathon course!) – it was a gourmet vegetarian pizza without cheese – I could have had vegan cheese but it’s an extra $6, I figured if I wanted something that tasted like cardboard I could always eat the box…
While in Port Augusta I stopped off at the Standpipe, start point for the marathon, to collect my bib. I could have got it on the morning, but since I was in town I thought I might as well.
I didn’t have any cider to go with the pizza, but I had wine and I figured that would do! It was a really nice pizza! I was planning to save some for Future Jane after the marathon but it was too good, so I ate the whole thing! (I’m banging on about the pizza because I’ll probably come back again for this event and I will probably forget what pizza I got and from where!)
I then wandered down to look at the silo light show, worth a look but you probably don’t need to make a night of it, 5-10 minutes is plenty! Across the road was the Austral pub where the rest of the gang was having dinner. A couple of vegetarians in the group had ended up going to the Transcontinental next door as the Austral didn’t have any vegetarian options – sounds like I made the right choice with the pizza!
As I arrived I was handed a glass of red wine and somehow it never seemed to get empty! I blame Serg for that, he was sitting across from me and kept insisting on topping up my glass, even though I kept insisting I didn’t want any more, because I was running a marathon the next day! (To be fair, it was a tiny glass so I didn’t really have that much wine, but more than I’d planned on!) Most of the others in the group were running or walking in the event but I was the only one out of that lot that was doing the full marathon.
As I left the pub, karaoke had started – I wished I’d been able to stay, I LOVE karaoke, the woman singing at the time was TERRIBLE and I could have done SO much better! But I had more important things to do, namely SLEEP!
I got back to the hostel to find a bunch of people in the lounge so I went to meet them and chat with them for a bit, they were all running the half marathon. One of them started talking about the Point to Pinnacle, having run it last year (I think in relation to Pichi Richi being a pretty tough race!). I was very familiar with Point to Pinnacle, having run it myself in 2018, and I told him that coincidentally I was going to be running the marathon in a Point to Pinnacle T-shirt the next day! (It seemed appropriate to be running a tough marathon in a T-shirt from a tough half marathon, plus I’d had a really good Heysen run last year in it, and given that I was likely to be out in the elements for well over 4 hours with no opportunity to reapply my sunscreen, I’d be better off in a T-shirt than a singlet.)
I had a disturbed sleep – I had had a really good sleep in Port Augusta on Friday night despite the pillow being a bit fat for my liking, so it didn’t matter too much that my sleep on Saturday night wasn’t ideal (I blame Serg and the wine!). I had 3 alarms set, I always do this even though I’ve never not woken up to the first one! I got up at 5am to do my Wordle, Worldle and Heardle, before getting up to have breakfast (granola). The Wordle was RUSTY which I thought was quite appropriate considering I hadn’t done a marathon in 3 years!
I arrived at the oval early, but luckily the bus was already there – it was quite chilly and I didn’t fancy standing out in the cold any longer than I had to! (I’m not sure what the temperature was in Quorn but I do know that at the time the marathon started in Port Augusta the temperature was around 6 degrees but ‘feels like 3.5’.) It seemed to take forever to get from Quorn to Port Augusta (nowhere near as long as it was going to take to get back to Quorn again!) and we arrived with around half an hour to spare. There were only 47 starters in the marathon and only 12 of those were women, so it was a refreshing change to not have to queue for the toilets (and as an added bonus they weren’t portaloos!)
There were a lot of familiar faces there, Michael who’s done about 25 Pichi Richis, David who I later found out had done 11, and Tim and Colin who had done a ridiculous number of marathons. This would be my 10th. Steve Moneghetti fired the starters gun and away we went!
Driving from Port Augusta to Quorn twice the previous day, one thing that I hadn’t quite grasped was just how long we’d be running on the highway – 9km in fact! And although there were cops EVERYWHERE, we were still sharing the road with B-doubles – definitely not something I’ve experienced before!
I was running just behind Michael, who is way faster than me and I was a bit worried because I was not fast and I didn’t want to burn myself out early. I ended up staying with him for about 12km after which he took off. There was another guy with us too who I later found out is also called Michael – he had a very dedicated cheer squad following him along the course and every time they’d come out they’d give me a cheer too which was nice! Eventually he got way too far in front of me so I saw less of the crew later in the race but it was much appreciated!
Being a small marathon, I knew I’d be running on my own, and from 12km to about 22km I didn’t see any other runners. The timing of the 21.1km and 10.5km starts (also point to point races, all finishing at the same place) meant that I wouldn’t be seeing too many of those runners/walkers – the half started only an hour after the full, it was unlikely that I’d be at the halfway point inside an hour! However there were still cars on the road, heading towards Quorn (we were on the other side of the road which was closed to all traffic), and every now and then you’d get a beep from one of the cars and occasionally it was someone I knew, which was cool!
Even though the elevation map looks like it’s all uphill until the last few kilometres, it’s actually pretty flat until about 17km. Most of the elevation is actually in the second half, meaning that the half marathon is probably, weirdly, tougher than the full! Just before I reached the half marathon start point (my halfway mark!) there was a motorcycle cop on the side of the road, and I was on a downhill section at that stage, so I jokingly asked him not to book me for speeding. I don’t think he thought it was especially amusing, maybe he didn’t hear me, and maybe I wasn’t the first person to make that joke that day!
The half marathon starts straight uphill! At least we got a nice 17km warmup before we got any hills!
I had decided to keep things really simple this time around. In my early marathons I had used pace bands, with my goal time at every kilometre written on there. However, time wasn’t an issue here so not only did I not have a time goal or pacing plan, I decided not to look at my watch at all. Conveniently I was wearing arm warmers which covered my watch nicely! Just a little comforting vibration every kilometre, that was all I got!
I never use gels, and I don’t really eat during a marathon (I’d previously used lollies, and in the Uni Loop marathon I’d eaten sandwiches because I was using it as a training run for the 24 hour race), but I decided to try something a bit different, Tom and Luke’s salted caramel Snackaballs. They were small and convenient. I’d used them in ultras before but never a marathon. I’d used them for a couple of my long runs this year, and they’re easy to eat while still running. I had 7 of them, I figured around every 5-6km would be enough. I also had a full bottle of Gatorade but I also planned to take advantage of the water stops (every 5km. and then every 3km after 30km). I only had Gatorade for the first 15km and from then on I got water at every stop.
Around 22km David caught me. I ran with him briefly, but I was pretty sure I wouldn’t see him again – he just floated away like he does, making it look easy! I asked him if he ever walks which he said he does on some of the steeper hills. Not long after this I saw him up ahead walking, so that was when I started walk/running too. I alternated between 8 step walk/8 step run and 8 step walk/16 step run. Never more than 8 steps walking though! I find this works really well because if I walk for too long it’s really hard to get running again!
I had been a bit concerned about how my foot would go on the marathon, but it wasn’t too much of an issue. A lot of the run was uphill, so I wasn’t putting weight on my toes. There was a bit of downhill, especially towards the end, and I did feel it a bit on those sections, but it wasn’t as bad as I had thought it might be!
Just before the 33km drink station, I saw a figure up ahead that I thought looked like Michael but I thought it couldn’t be him, he would be too far in front! But he has a very distinctive running style, I don’t know anyone else who runs like him, so even though it couldn’t be him, it had to be him! I stopped at the drink station for some water. I could see there weren’t any bins up the road like there normally are, and I hate littering, so I just drank at the drink station and left my cup there – at this point I also topped up what was left of my Gatorade with water. I normally drink Gatorade pretty diluted – straight Gatorade is a bit too strong – so even with half Gatorade/half water it still tasted OK!
I caught up with Michael and ran with him for a bit, he said he was going for a PW (turned out he’d injured himself not long before the event which would explain why I was running with him now!) to which I responded I was also going to do a PW! It would definitely be a PW for Pichi Richi (being my first time) but I was also expecting it to be a road marathon PW. (Of course it would also be a Pichi Richi PB!)
Pretty soon I saw a figure up ahead, I recognised him as Kiwi Cricket Guy, I’d seen him at the start and also at other running events. I ran to catch up with him, he’s done a bunch of events in the 1980s style NZ cricket shirt and pants, I can’t even imagine running a marathon dressed like that, it’s hard enough in proper running kit! I think he said he was going to do a 24 hour race in it!
At the 36km mark I saw the parkrun flag and there was John, it was nice to see a familiar face on the drink station, I didn’t know any of the other volunteers along the way, which is not surprising since they would all have been locals, so it was nice to see one!
Around 37km I got a nice surprise, I wasn’t expecting to see too many other runners out there but I had timed my arrival perfectly for the start of the 5km race. There were a bunch of runners lined up for the start, I gave them a cheer as I ran past, fully expecting to be swamped by runners pretty soon (you’d expect 5k runners would be going a bit quicker than 42.2km runners!). Among them was Liz, Michael’s partner, (the two of them had been instrumental in getting Steve Moneghetti to Pichi Richi) and Wonder Woman (I’d say she would be tied with Kiwi Cricket Guy for best dressed – Kiwi Cricket Guy gets extra points for degree of difficulty!).
Not long after this there was an ambulance on the road, a guy had collapsed, I thought he must have been a marathon runner. Police were there as well as someone from St John’s, the ambos were on their way, so they had the situation under control. Not long after this Liz caught up with me, she said she’d seen someone on the side of the road and was worried it was Michael, I said I’d just seen him and it definitely was not him! Hopefully whoever it was is OK!
Liz then took off and I was left to enjoy the last few kilometres, occasionally being passed by another 5km runner, as we approached the outskirts of Quorn (does Quorn even have outskirts?)
Along the way, every kilometre was marked on the road. My watch was a bit out by the end – at first my watch was vibrating pretty much as I passed the markers, but as time went on the markers were further and further away from the spot where my watch went off. It was kind of cool when we were at 12km and I looked across to the other side of the road and saw a road sign that said “Q 30” indicating we were 30km from Quorn. I tried not to focus too much on the Quorn signs after that – especially in the first half! You definitely don’t want to be counting down the kilometres at least until after the halfway mark!
I had been told the last 6km was downhill but there was one more hill around the 39km mark (David apologised when I saw him at the finish, for not telling me about it when we ran together – he had forgotten about it himself!)
When you hit the Quorn sign, there’s still over 1km to go but having recce’d the finish line on Saturday, I was prepared for that. I still had my Gatorade bottle and I didn’t want to run through the finish with it, so, as I couldn’t see a bin anywhere, I decided to drop it on the side of the road just before the finish line, and go back and get it afterwards.
What a great feeling it was to cross that finish line and stop my watch (still never having looked at it), collect my very well-earned medal and a bottle of water. I spoke to a few people briefly but my first priority was going back to get my discarded bottle. I was also pretty keen to get my shoes off but I didn’t think I’d be able to walk very well in the slides I’d left in my car, so I thought it was safer to keep the runners on! Somewhere along the way to finding my bottle, I thought I might have a look at my time. The first thing I saw was the time of day which was 11:25. I was a bit confused by this because we started at 7:30 so that would mean I’d run under 4 hours, how was that even possible? But sure enough, I looked at my run time and it was 3:55 something. Even while writing this I can’t quite believe it!
Back at the finish line my next priority was coffee and food. I was pleased to see sweet potato fries at the coffee van and wow did they taste good!
It was such a perfect day weather-wise, and there were so many friends there to catch up with! Just before they did the presentations, Sue asked me if I was 3rd, I hadn’t considered this possibility but she said that there were only 2 other women ahead of me out of the marathon, and the only women that had passed me along the way were 5km runners, so maybe! I checked the official results and sure enough I’d managed to scrape in to the placings, ‘just’ 12 minutes behind 2nd! That was an added bonus and to make it even more special Steve Moneghetti was doing the presentations! It was my first legitimate podium in a marathon, I’d finished 2nd twice before but in one of those events I was one of two women, and in the other I was one of 3, so literally all I had to do was finish to get a placing. In this case, although it was admittedly a small field, there were 12 women in the race, so I kind of earned this one…
I was glad Sue hadn’t mentioned my position as I went past. I prefer not to know and just run my own race! I am also glad I didn’t know that 4th place was over 20 minutes behind me. If I’d known that I would definitely have taken my foot off the gas and almost certainly not gone sub-4!
As we were about to leave, we saw Peter approaching the finish line. Peter was the one who had been trying to convince me for years to run this event, and was heavily involved in the organisation and promotion. It was great to see him finish (I’m not sure how many Pichi Richis he has done!) and it was great timing too as Michael and Liz were about to take Steve back to Adelaide to catch his flight home – it would have been a shame if he had gone by the time Peter finished! I told Peter thanks for talking me into it, I really enjoyed it and I would definitely be back. I am pretty sure I won’t run the marathon again (unless I’m running it with someone else and probably at a more cruisy pace!) but I am 100% keen to try the half!
Here is a link to the local news coverage of the event – unbeknownst to me I was in the background during Steve Moneghetti’s interview – completely oblivious!
I drove back to my accommodation and wandered down to IGA to see if I could find any decent vegan food to bring to the night’s celebrations (spoiler alert – I didn’t!) and I quite fancied an ice cream and/or a Coke. Then I saw a lemonade ice block and I thought PERFECT! I sat down on the bench outside the IGA for the first time since I’d finished (over 2 hours since I’d finished) and that would have to have been the best tasting ice block I’ve ever had!
I went back to the hostel for a shower and change of clothes, responded to the multitude of Facebook and Strava messages and then wandered down to the Great Northern Lodge for the party, with a couple of bottles of wine to share, since I couldn’t contribute any food! Marg and Leanne were kind enough to let me have some of their vego sausages and there were heaps of salads there so I didn’t go hungry! And there was ample wine of course! And singing and dancing – such a fun night!
I went ‘home’, got in the front door of the hostel (which was conveniently unlocked, I don’t think it was supposed to be!) only to get to my room and realise I didn’t have my keys! Rather than walk back to the party to get them (who can be bothered doing that after a marathon!) I curled up on the very comfy couch and grabbed a blanket. I’m sure I would have slept better in my bed but probably not much better – I don’t tend to sleep that well after a marathon or ultra! The next morning I did the ‘walk of shame’ back to the lodge to get my keys, then back to the hostel to freshen up and pack, and met the rest of the gang for coffee before we all headed home. I opted to go via Clare rather than the main highway, no wine stops this time but there were a lot of leg stretch stops! And randomly ran into 2 groups of people I knew at the same lunch place in Clare! Great minds!
It was such an awesome weekend, everything about it! The location was beautiful, the people were lovely and personally I had a great run. Special thanks must go to all the organisers and of course volunteers for putting on this brilliant event which I will be talking about for years to come – I do plan to come back and run the half next year (I’m a one marathon a year type of girl and next year is all about Chicago, so I can guarantee no Pichi Richi Marathon for me in 2023)
I have to say, if you’re only ever going to do one marathon, you could definitely do worse! Beautiful scenery, friendly participants/spectators/volunteers, and probably my favourite thing about it, it’s a point to point event – you actually feel like you’re going somewhere, that there is some kind of point to this running thing! It’s a lot like Boston which is another one of my favourites, although Boston is a bit flatter, the field/crowd is a tiny bit bigger and it is marginally harder to get into… but other than that it’s pretty much the same!
Now is the fun part that I remember – that bit where you have to start thinking about what’s next! This has been my focus for the best part of a year, and now it’s done – my next scheduled event (City-Bay) is not until September – what to do until then?
I guess I’ll need to take the next couple of weeks off at least, because, as it turns out… my toe is broken! (I intentionally didn’t get it X-rayed before the marathon, because I’m not sure I could have gone ahead with it if I’d known it was broken before, and I REALLY wanted to do it!)
It was my first Barossa Marathon in 2015 that inspired me to start writing race reports and subsequently start writing this blog! I then ran the half in 2016 and again in 2017 as a pacer. In 2018 I ran the marathon again for a Chicago qualifier (spoiler alert, I got my qualifying time but I still haven’t quite made it there yet – 2023 is the year!). The last time I ran Barossa was in 2019 but for some reason I never got around to writing a report for that one! 2020 was cancelled due to the ‘Rona and I presume I didn’t run in 2021 because I was focusing on the Adelaide 6 hour race.
I’m not quite sure what inspired me to run Barossa this year – perhaps I got a bit excited after a really pleasing run at Clare?
Since Clare I have been focusing primarily on long runs, building up to Pichi Richi which is now only 4 weeks away (when did that happen? I knew I was doing it 12 months ago and yet here I am, having done nowhere near the training I had intended to!) COVID got in the way a bit, actually only a week after Clare (so you could say it was good timing, although it did totally ruin my Easter weekend!) Although I had a VERY mild case with (as far as I can tell) minimal long-term effects, a week of no running followed by gradually upping the distance again, meant that I was about 5 weeks behind where I wanted to be.
I entered Barossa after having had COVID, knowing it probably wasn’t going to be a PB (or even close to it!) but thinking it would be good to have a solid hit-out 4 weeks before Pichi Richi. Plus, I was due to do around 30km that weekend so it would be a good excuse not to do that. Plus, Barossa, wine!
The lead-up included a 28km run the previous Sunday (my longest run since Heysen in October) which was a hard slog – I’ll be glad when the long runs are over! I did my usual Tuesday and Thursday runs, with a slightly shorter Wednesday run thrown in, and no runs on Friday or Saturday. I had had a good run at Clare on the back of a solid parkrun effort the previous day, but I’m still not 100% convinced I couldn’t have run a better time at Clare had I not done parkrun. So this time around I decided to give parkrun a miss and see how that went!
Those who have read previous reports of mine may be aware that my pre-marathon meal of choice is pizza and cider (I’m already trying to figure out where I’m going to find a vegan pizza in Quorn!). Well this was not a marathon but it was a half marathon so I figured half a pizza was appropriate! And it’s coming into winter and I have no cider so red wine would have to do!
Something I used to spend a lot more time thinking about than I do now, was what I was going to wear on race day. On Saturday evening I was thinking about what I might wear – I knew which shoes and socks I was wearing and which hat but in between I had no idea. I had thought I might wear what I wore for Clare because that went so well for me, but I didn’t plan that well as I had worn the top to the gym the previous day so it was in the wash! Ultimately I have come to the conclusion that it really doesn’t matter as long as it’s comfortable, although fluoro pink does make it easier to pick myself out in photos!
When I went to Clare I forgot to take my drink bottle and Gatorade that I would normally carry. It had been a long time since I’d done a race where I didn’t carry my own drinks. As it turned out, drinking from the cups at the drink stations was really not a big deal, so I decided I’d do the same again at Barossa.
Sunday morning was cold – luckily I thought of arm warmers as they were definitely needed! (I’d also forgotten to take them to Clare but it hadn’t been an issue that day!). I left home around 6am, planning to get there around 7, in time to see the marathon start at 7:30 and give me more chance to find a park. The soundtrack for my drive was the brand new Def Leppard album – perfectly timed, finishing just as I pulled into my parking spot! Even at 7am, apparently the car park was already full and I ended up parking what seemed like a mile down the road! I got out of the car with my gear and started walking towards the race village, and definitely was tempted to turn around and go straight back home – it’s been a pretty mild autumn and we haven’t really had too many cold mornings yet, and of course it’s generally colder up in the Barossa than in Adelaide! Anyway, needless to say I did not go back to my car – I was there, I was committed!
I did say to someone, we should have left Barossa in August and Adelaide Marathon in May like it was for a few years (including the last 2 times I’d run here) – it’s much warmer in August and it’s not unpleasant in Adelaide in May!
The setup of the race village was great. This was the first time it had been held at the Rex, and it was excellent – the bib collection and bag drop was in the gym, undercover, which would have been much nicer for the volunteers than outside in the elements! Also good in case of rain – the last thing you want after a run is to find all your warm gear you were going to put on, is wet! There were also proper toilets (and showers for after) and plenty of indoor space for warming up for those who wanted it!
The half marathon started at 8:00, and I made my way to a spot near the 1:45 pacer who I was planning to try to stick with. I didn’t really have a specific time goal – theoretically I should be able to run Barossa faster than Clare but I was definitely better prepared for Clare so I wasn’t banking on it! Sub-1:45 had a nice ring to it though and would be a nice confidence booster leading up to Pichi Richi!
In the end I passed the pacer after a few minutes – I saw another pacer with a balloon just up ahead so I decided to try to keep him in sight (I later found out he was the 1:40 pacer).
I won’t go into details on the course because I’ve described it a number of times before but one thing that I did notice was the beautiful autumn leaves on the trees and the vines – and all of a sudden I was glad we were running in May and not August! (I also noticed a few wind turbines among the vines – not sure how long they’ve been there!) There are a lot of turns in the course but the good thing about that is that you get to see a lot of the other runners (all the half marathoners and a good bunch of the marathoners) and in pre-COVID times there would have been a lot of high fiving!
A chilly start turned into absolutely perfect running conditions – cool, sunny in patches, and most importantly, no wind or rain!
It was great to see so many familiar faces out there – for me it was probably more on the volunteer side than running!
One of the marshals, Michael, I first saw at 5km, at which point he said ‘not far to go’ – I jokingly said “only 3 and a bit parkruns” . When I saw him again at 14km, I very happily said to him “only a parkrun and a bit to go!” It’s funny how everything is measured in terms of parkruns now!
There were plenty of opportunities for drink stops – being quite a mild morning I only needed to stop twice for water, and by stop I mean run straight through and grab a cup, pour half of it on me and maybe get a quarter of it in my mouth, at the 9km and 14km marks.
With my arm warmers on, I intentionally kept my watch covered, and that helped me concentrate on my running and not time or distance. I found that really worked for me on this occasion. I knew I was well ahead of the 1:45 pacer (with the multiple out and backs, I saw him quite a few times) and I estimated I was probably closer to the 1:40 pacer in front of me than the 1:45 pacer behind.
Probably when I reached the last 5km, I needed some distraction so I decided to try to cheer on all of the marathon runners (most of whom I saw were early in their second lap) – not sure if it helped them any but it certainly gave me a bit of a boost thinking about what a good decision I’d made not to run the marathon!
I seemed to be getting overtaken a lot towards the finish – I don’t know if I’d slowed down or if they’d just conserved better than me and had a bit left in the tank. In any case, I was particularly happy when I saw the finish line and I decided I was going to try to overtake a couple of people right before the finish line – although I thought I had nothing left, somehow I managed to find an extra pair of legs right at the end! The time on my watch was 1:40:32, my official net time was 1:40:29. Not only was that a PB for this event, it was also my second fastest ever out of 28 half marathons. I have no idea where that came from – possibly pulled out of my arse – the ideal weather conditions certainly helped, but I’ll take it! (And just quietly – maybe missing parkrun yesterday was a good move!)
After the event a few of us went to Chateau Tanunda (sponsor of the event) for a wine tasting – we must have made quite a sight in our sweaty running gear!
After that I went to stock up on the essentials before heading home!
As is traditional among my running group, a marathon is followed by celebratory drinks in the afternoon – a few of us gathered at the pub to finish the weekend in the best possible way!
Congratulations to the organisers for putting on a fantastic event, thank you to all the wonderful volunteers for making it all possible, and well done to all the runners out there today – such a great day!
I have a relatively long history with this event (relatively long insofar as I only started running in late 2012), and plenty of reports to show for it.
My very first ever half marathon was at Clare in 2014 (pre-blog!) and I have also run the half in 2015, 2016 and 2018 (as a pacer). 2015 was memorable for being probably one of my least enjoyable halves (well it certainly was my least enjoyable at that point, but has now been well and truly superseded by the debacle that was City-Bay 2019!). I won’t forget it, I went out too fast trying for a PB and by the second half when I was supposed to be able to pick up the pace (because it is allegedly downhill) I had nothing left and did even resort to walking at times!
In addition to this I have also gone all the way to Clare just for 5km a couple of times – in 2017 (not wanting to run a half only 2 weeks out from the Boston Marathon but not wanting to miss out on the event altogether) and 2019. (There was definitely wine involved on those occasions though, so they weren’t wasted trips!)
In case anyone reading was not aware, the Clare Valley is a famous wine region, most famous for its Riesling. The event itself is held almost entirely along the aptly named ‘Riesling Trail’ which connects dozens of cellar doors – you can hire bikes and ride from winery to winery. I’m not sure why I have not yet done this, every time I go there I think I must do that, and yet every time I just end up running along the trail and not even stopping at any wineries!
Having not run the half here since 2018, and not run it ‘properly’ since 2016 (with all due respect, running as a pacer, while not without its challenges, is not a physically challenging exercise – in fact if you’re working hard when pacing, you’re doing it wrong!), I was super keen to get out there this year. It was also an ideal stepping stone towards my one marathon for the year (and first one in 3 years) Pichi Richi in June.
I’ve done 2 half marathons since my return from injury, Murray Bridge in 2020 and Leconfield in 2021, the latter being almost a year earlier. Those 2 events I trained specifically for, and it showed in the results, my times were way better than I had predicted, and then I realised that I’d never trained properly for a half before (all my previous halves had been as part of a marathon training programme)
This one was also going to be another one of those ‘training’ half marathons, although I did also want to do a good time (as I always do if I’ve paid good money for an event!) I worked out a rough 16 week marathon training plan, and then extended it back so I could be in a good place for Clare in April, so eventually my combined training plan was 20 weeks long. I’d used a similar 16 week plan for my first few marathons, which incorporated ‘easy’ and ‘tempo’ runs, but given that I have now done a few marathons and also I’m not expecting a PB at Pichi Richi (it’s a tough course, so I’ve been told), I’m not too worried about the weekday runs, the main thing I am trying to do is gradually up my long run, eventually getting to around 35km.
I decided to make a weekend out of it, driving to Jamestown (via the Clare Valley) and staying there Friday night, visiting Jamestown parkrun on Saturday and then motoring back to Clare to stay Saturday, and then head home sometime on Sunday after the run. I booked accommodation well in advance, because in past years, even having booked several months ahead, I still couldn’t get anything in Clare! I think COVID may have helped this year, with people perhaps being a little more reluctant to make long-term plans!
Having not done a half in a year, and having not written details of my taper in my last race report, I was kind of winging it a bit. The Sunday before Clare I really wanted to do an ‘easy’ 21km, because I am a bit behind where I had planned to be at this point in terms of long run distance, and I’d missed my long run the previous week due to the Cleland Summer Series event. Ordinarily you wouldn’t run a half marathon the week before a half marathon. Well I certainly wouldn’t. But I managed to get it done and at just the pace I’d hoped for, and most of it with other people (the last 7km on my own). I’m finding as the long runs get longer I am enjoying running them on my own less and less! I know when I did my first marathon I only ever ran with a group, but as I don’t have any other training buddies training for the same marathon it’s hard to find people wanting to run the same distance, so I think my best option is to try and find some buddies for at least PART of the runs!
During taper week I had a ‘drop down’ week, which I’d never done pre-injury but it had become quite a big part of my running routine once I got back into running again (every 4th week I’d drop my running distances back a bit). I probably haven’t done it in about a year but I thought I would try to do it right for once! Instead of the usual Tuesday and Thursday run of around 1 hour, I mapped out a shorter version of the run which should take about 45 minutes, give or take. I skipped my regular Friday run.
I was a bit undecided about parkrun on Saturday – on one hand I didn’t want to go into Clare having not run for 3 days, and I’d also spent a fair bit of time in the car (Jamestown is about 3 hours from home) so I felt like I needed a bit of a ‘leg loosener’. On the other hand, I’m not so good at the concept of an ‘easy’ parkrun. The Event Directors put me down as a second barcode scanner which meant that I could still run if I wanted to, but could decide on the day what I wanted to do.
In the end I decided to go hard and somehow ended up with a course PB – there were a few factors involved there. Firstly, I had been ‘encouraged’ by a running buddy (who sometimes gives good advice) to go hard – what could possibly go wrong? Secondly, I’d had an energy drink that morning – I had a new one for Sunday that I’d never tried before so I wanted to road test it before the day (it seems that it was effective!) Thirdly, local footy season had started and the footy players that I had been able to follow at the launch event, were not there (the attendance was only in the 30s as opposed to over 100 at the launch meaning I didn’t see so many people out on course to know I was on the right track – there was only one guy in front of me and he was a sub-20 runner, and I was desperately trying to keep him in sight for as long as possible! I’m still not sure if it helped or hindered my performance at Clare on Sunday but I guess we’ll never know!
Going back a step, because it is an important part of my reason for being there, Friday’s journey to Jamestown via the Clare Valley involved a couple of stops along the way, firstly to stock up on my whites at Taylors (given that I was driving I had to be selective about tasting, so I opted not to do a tasting there) and then to one that had been recommended, Jeanneret which also happens to be the home of Clare Valley Brewing Co. What a delightful place that was, I had a tasting sitting on a comfy chair in the sun, listening to nice chilled music and ended up going home with a lovely Botrytis Semillon. I will definitely be back!
After parkrun I checked out of the caravan park and had coffee at the ‘official’ parkrun coffee place, the intriguingly named ‘Ek-Wi-Tee’ with fellow tourist Mark, and because the rules state that if the parkrun coffee place has vegan cakes/slices, it is mandatory for me to have one, I also had a delicious lemon slice. It’s a really cool café which also doubles as a bit of a foodie store.
En route to my motel at Clare I did another winery stop, this time at Sevenhill, where I had stopped previously on my way to Jamestown but didn’t have a lot of time, and I’d planned to come back and explore a bit, including the church and the cemetery, such a lovely place, and so much history there! It didn’t hurt that it was another glorious day!
Now one of the downsides of an ‘away’ event (meaning one where I have to spend at least one night away from home), is that you have to be prepared well in advance and if you forget anything it can be problematic. Also I hadn’t done a half in a year so I’d kind of forgotten what my usual prep was. On this occasion I forgot to bring a drink bottle and Gatorade, and also layers for the morning, as it can often be cold in Clare at this time of year! Other than buying a new drink bottle just for this one event, and buying additional layers, I would just have to go without. As it turned out it was another stunning morning on Sunday and I didn’t even need to wear a jumper to the start, so I needn’t have worried about that! Possibly having some carbs on board during the run may have helped, but grabbing cups of water from the drink stations was not a drama and I am sure did not cost me any significant amount of time.
Saturday night I caught up with regular running buddy Sarah and her Ironman mates Mel and Peter for a pub meal and some sparkling shiraz. I was impressed that the pub had a separate vegan menu and I was tossing up between the tofu burger and the pasta. The pasta didn’t really excite me so I ended up going for the tofu burger which was substantial (a LOT of tofu in there, and a side of chips – plenty of protein and carbs!) but maybe could have been a bit more flavoursome – but again, if a pub has gone to the trouble of having proper vegan items on the menu, I am not going to complain!
Daylight saving ended on Sunday morning meaning an extra hour’s sleep which was ideal leading into an event (even more ideal for those who were driving up from Adelaide on race morning!). Many people I know prefer to sleep in their own bed the night before an event but I find that I sleep way better when I’m NOT in my own bed! Interestingly I vividly remember dreaming that I ran the half in 1 hour 42 which may have been a good omen? (1:42 was my PB for this event). My goal was sub-1:45 which equates to roughly 5 minutes per kilometre. I wasn’t convinced that it was going to happen – I hadn’t run at that pace for anything longer than 10km, for a good 12 months, but I had done my two most recent halves in under 1:45 (albeit with proper training) so it was not out of the realms of possibility! Still, I was confident I could do sub-1:50. I just needed to remember DON’T GO OUT TOO FAST!!!
Given that check-out time for my motel was 10am, it was going to be a bit impossible for me to run the half (with an 8am start), get back to the motel, have a shower and be checked out by 10, so I packed up the car (with all the wine and beer I’d accumulated over the past few days!) and drove the 1km to the start line. (Yes, I could have walked and a 1km stroll probably would have done me good!)
As I mentioned earlier it was a beautiful morning, I put my hoodie (which I was intending to wear to the start but ended up not needing) and thongs in a drop bag for the finish. I also left my phone in there as I didn’t want to carry it. I caught up with Beck, Kate, Sarah and a whole bunch of other regular running buddies who had also made the trip.
The finish line was at a new location this year, at the primary school instead of the main oval, due to renovations at the oval. The oval was an ideal location, firstly being very close to the main street, but most importantly because we had access to the gym changerooms for a post-run shower! It was a bit of a walk to the start but it was a good way to get the legs loosened a bit more! There were plenty of toilets – the school toilets as we came in off the street, and then 2 lots of portaloos, one at the finish area and more at the start line. From what I can remember the start line was at the same location as previously, just a little bit more of a walk from the school than from the oval.
The start was seeded, my understanding was that there were 4 waves, with the sub 1:40 and podium contenders in the first wave and 1:40-1:55 (where I planned to be) in the second. In the end the waves sort of morphed into one so we were away before I knew it!
The one thing I told myself I must to, was the one thing I failed to do: DON’T GO OUT TOO FAST!
The course is mostly uphill on the way out, with the high point coming just before the turnaround so it’s a little bit downhill heading into the turnaround, then a bit up on the way back until you hit the high point and then down from there. So to run an average 5:00 per km, given that the idea is to run a little bit faster in the second (‘easier’) half, you’d be wanting to run 5:05-5:10ish in the first half, to conserve energy for a fast finish. My first 2km were 4:38 and 4:50. No matter how much I try I never seem to be able to avoid going out too fast, but as long as I can pull myself back quickly, it’s fixable! I was really happy with my consistency in the next few kilometres (5:08, 5:07, 5:08, 5:06) and in fact I had a guy Mitch pacing off me for a little while there – normally I’m the one pacing off someone else so it’s nice to know I was doing something right! (Mitch and his buddies had also made the same mistake of starting too fast!)
Looking at my Strava splits, it looks like I started to pick up the pace around the 9km mark which happened to coincide with a nice little flat then downhill section. I was looking for the marker that indicated the high point (which I’d noticed for the first time in my last half there) but didn’t see it, but I knew when I’d passed it. The turnaround point came, I sang a few lines of ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ and then kept going, hanging out for the high point sign (which I did see on the way back!) after which it was theoretically all downhill!
I was sitting on around 5:00 average pace at the halfway point, which was faster than planned but I still felt relatively comfortable so I thought I probably hadn’t cooked myself! If I could sustain that pace (and being downhill, ideally go a bit faster and neg split it) I would definitely be able to get sub 1:45!
Once I passed the high point on the way back, I kept an eye on my splits, knowing that anything under 5 minutes would put time in the bank. In the end, in the last 9km, I had 2 splits of exactly 5:00 and the rest of them were (mostly well) under. So I had no idea what my time was going to be but I knew that, barring disaster, it was going to be under 1:45 (probably not 1:42, mind you!)
Everything went smoothly, the finish was a bit brutal though, once coming off the Riesling Trail we were on road for a while and it seems that we did an entire lap of the block before finally arriving back at the school. By the time I got to the last 500m, I literally had nothing, my legs felt like lead! But I didn’t have to sprint, by that stage I knew for sure I was going to get the time I’d hoped for, and if it was only in the last few hundred metres that I had absolutely nothing, I’d take that!
My official time was 1:44:15 – so very happy!
After having a coffee and catching up with some friends at the finish, Kate’s husband Bill arrived with a bag of goodies for us including Coke and chips – I may or may not have professed my love for him at that stage! (It would have been good to be able to get a Coke at the finish line – I didn’t see any outlets selling any) and after refuelling/rehydrating we had the difficult decision of which winery to go to for a post-run celebratory wine? I suggested Paulett’s, primarily because I wanted to get some sparkling red piccolos to take home, and everyone was on board! It was a great choice, although we arrived at lunchtime with a full house, they were very accommodating and let us sit out on the deck with a glass of wine – and it was glorious!
What an awesome weekend, topped off with personally a very nice run, shared with a great group of people! Congratulations to SARRC for putting on a very successful event, well done to all the runners/walkers and as always thanks to the volunteers! I hadn’t planned to do any more halves before Pichi Richi but after Sunday, I’m 75% across the line for Barossa half!
Well – the Adelaide Trail Runners Summer Series is over for another season – today I’m going to cover the last 2 events of the series as I realise I never completed my report from Onkaparinga. I’ve tried to keep this one reasonably brief as there’s only the one photo!
Firstly to Onkaparinga which was event 4 in the 5 event Adelaide Trail Runners Summer Series, after South Para, Anstey Hill and Belair. I had only ever run here once before, in the corresponding event last year.
This time around I was treating the event more as a distraction than a focus. I hadn’t been doing a lot of trail running recently, and I had just started the long road to my next marathon, with this weekend due to be my second long run of the programme, 17km. If I’d been doing the medium course I might have considered that was close enough to 17km to call it my long run for the week, but just over 9km was not quite enough. I really felt like I needed to do a long run this week, and I didn’t think doing it on Saturday would bode too well for Sunday’s event, so for the first time ever I went out early on a weekday and did a bit extra before my regular Thursday morning run. What was meant to be 6km before an 11km run ended up being 7km (still working on my long run pacing – it was a little faster than planned, and to make it a continuous run rather than having a rest in between, I had to add an extra kilometre). I was really happy with how it went, I think I could still go a bit slower and I’m sure that will come as I up the distance! It’s been 5 years since I’ve trained specifically for a marathon so I’m a bit rusty!
It’s not something I would do every week, but it’s nice to know that Thursday long run day can work if needed!
Back to Onkaparinga. My legs didn’t feel too bad at the start of the run, they did start to feel a bit like lead when I hit the first uphill, but that’s normal for me and probably not related to my long run!
My main focus in this event was to finish, which would qualify me for an age group prize in the series (to qualify you need to have run at least 4 of the 5 races). I planned to run race 5 at Cleland but didn’t want to take any chances in case for some reason I couldn’t make it – I needed to get this one done and then I could relax and just enjoy Cleland!
I found the course quite challenging due to a lot of single track and lots of runners behind. I didn’t want to stop running because that would have meant that I had to stand aside and let all the runners past. What that meant was that I ran hills that I should have walked, leaving me a bit spent for the downhill bits where I might have been able to make up some time. If it was just one runner behind it would have been one thing to let them past, but with a long queue of runners that may have cost me a fair bit of time. Who knows whether it would have cost me in the long run – maybe a short rest might have given me some more energy for the downs!
I spent quite a lot of time following a guy who I hadn’t met before and I never found out his name, but he set pretty good pace – I had intended to try to find him at the finish and thank him for his awesome pacing but coffee and Coke won out in the end!
Probably the most memorable part of this event was when my bladder fell out – that had never happened to me before! And of course I am referring to my water bladder falling out of my race vest because I had forgotten to zip it up – the other kind of bladder falling out would have been a bit more disastrous! So picture me untangling my hose, unclipping my vest, taking it off, pushing the bladder back in, zipping up the pack, putting the vest back on and doing it up, and putting the hose out of the way, all while running – amazingly I managed to keep on my feet – fortunately this was not on single track!
Leading up to the 7.5km mark there was lots of uphill rocky single track running (again, not wanting to slow to a walk which probably did not work in my favour) – by the time I got to the top of the hill and could have done a bit of running, my legs were shot and I ended up having to run/walk for almost 1km!
On this occasion I ran in a fluoro orange top and black shorts – coincidentally the exact same outfit as Lisa who finished 2nd in the medium course! After the event I commented to her that we were twins (except that I’m a bit taller and she is WAY faster!) and she said she went with the bright top so she could be found easily if she got lost – funnily enough I have often joked about wearing bright colours for the same reason!
So I got it done, albeit a bit slower than last year but I got it done!
So I was pleased to have completed the qualification requirements for the series by completing 4 events, which took the pressure off – in the current climate things can change at any moment, and I was TOTALLY expecting to end up in isolation this week!
I had not done any hills since Onkaparinga and Cleland is probably the hardest of all the series so I was very well unprepared. Also I’d been out at a Fringe show the night before which involved consuming a little more wine than would be desirable in preparation for an event such as this. Not making excuses, just stating facts!
The choice for me was either run Cleland (around 8km) or do a long run as part of my marathon training (at least 22km), I opted for the former. At this point I believe that was the right choice! I’m finding the long runs a real hard slog on my own – I need to get back into a group again for the long runs! (I could have done my long run on Saturday and still done Cleland but Cleland was going to be hard enough as it was without adding an extra 22km into my legs beforehand!)
I definitely said to more than one person, “I don’t know why I’m here!” Probably not a great way to get into ‘race’ mindset!
The course was exactly the same as last year so there’s not too much to tell – other than that I was a good few minutes slower this time around (surprise, surprise!). And I’m pretty sure I didn’t walk as much last year as I did this year – I walked almost all the uphills, couldn’t even be bothered with the walk/run strategy that I’d relatively successfully used in the past!
For most of Cleland I was following a guy called Scott, I recognised his back from Onkaparinga, where I had also been following him for a good bit of the run until he took off towards the end. I used him as an excuse to walk – every time I’d see him walking, I’d also start walking! Having a ‘pacer’ (although he didn’t know it until afterwards!) was really helpful, although at times he did go a bit faster than I would have liked!
To summarise the course, it starts with a little bit of down, then a lot of uphill followed by a few very fun downhill kilometres with switchbacks, with a nasty little uphill to finish. Towards the end of the first uphill we hit the RMA drink station. Normally I like to run into and out of a drink station (as per usual I was carrying everything I needed but it was always nice to see the ladies!) but this time I was just plodding up the hill and I distinctly remember saying to Michelle “I don’t want to do this anymore!” – but not long after that, the downhill fun began!
On the downhill, towards the end, just as we were being overtaken by a long course runner, Scott went left where the sign pointed right – the long course runner and I both called out to him – it would have added extra distance to his run, plus then I would have lost my pacer!
I managed to keep him in sight all the way to the end. The last part of the run was through the carpark which wasn’t the most scenic but nice and easy. Before hitting the final uphill, we had to get out of the carpark and back onto the trail. There were 2 options, a small ‘hurdle’ (presumably to stop bikes riding through?) and a narrow gate off to the side. Scott went towards the gate so I decided to do something I never do (and for good reason), I decided to jump the hurdle. Normally I would CAREFULLY step over, there was no way I wanted to trip and faceplant so close to the end! But nope – on this occasion I decided jumping over was the right thing to do. And I made it! Such a good feeling! Scott ended up still entering the last climb in front, and finishing 4 seconds ahead of me. After a much-needed post-run coffee I went to chat with him and his son, as well as Ollie who had managed to complete the course also (unlike me, he needed to finish this event to be eligible for the series), and we chatted about City to Bay which is about as far removed from this event as you can get! (Side note, I’m still waiting for my redemption from 2019 so it’s safe to say I will definitely be running it this year!)
It was a warm morning – it wasn’t too bad while I was running but hanging around afterwards I could definitely feel it start to warm up – would have been quite hot for some of the longer distance runners! It was great to catch up with people I hadn’t seen in a while – one of the best things about these events!
So – I was glad to have got it done and I did enjoy the downhill bits but all in all, for me it was a bit of a slog. The lack of hill training was definitely evident! I think if I were to do the series again next summer I would need to train a bit more on hills! Can definitely do better!
Overall I would definitely recommend the series, the courses are all really good and well supported with drink stations and post-run snacks and coffee! I think this year my favourite was South Para, probably because it was the flattest of all the courses, also new to me and I was probably a little more accustomed to hills at that stage! Thanks to all those involved in making it happen and maybe I might be back next time around!
If you’ve been along for the ride for a while now, you will have heard me talk about parkrun. If you don’t know what parkrun is all about, here is my first post about it from way back when!
In March 2021 I put my hand up to become a parkrun Event Ambassador (EA) for South Australia. Between us we ‘look after’ all the parkruns in the state. I say ‘look after’ because mostly it’s the Event Directors (EDs) who look after the events, we are their ‘go-to’ person if they have any issues. It seemed like an ideal role for me because I love being a tourist so it gives me another reason to travel around to different parkruns (Indeed my first trip to Port Augusta parkrun, one of ‘my’ events, was the inspiration to try to become a ‘Statesman’ once again. Statesman means you have done all the parkruns in a state.)
One of the things that most appealed to me about the role was the opportunity to help set up new parkruns. Now I’d attended a lot of launches (something that is frowned upon these days – the approach now being that launches are not promoted, rather ‘soft launches’) but I’d never really seen what goes into starting up a new parkrun. So I was pretty excited about that prospect!
Within a few weeks of becoming an EA, I was offered the opportunity to help set up a new parkrun in Jamestown. I’d never been there before but it was approximately 3 hours away from home. The thing that sealed the deal for me was that it’s about an hour from Clare, and at the time Clare was one of ‘my’ events. So it made sense, and I immediately said yes!
The co-EDs, Emma and Rosie, and I met via Zoom in April to discuss the process and get to ‘meet’ each other. They had a great story behind how they came to be starting a parkrun in their community. They were involved with the Mid North Suicide Prevention Network and were approaching it primarily as a mental health initiative. Neither of them had ever done a parkrun! I thought this was a really great way to get involved in parkrun, and being such a community minded team, they already had a large core of volunteers ready to get involved – often that’s the hardest bit! At this stage pretty much the only thing they didn’t have (other than funding) was a course – usually that’s the first thing that prospective event teams come up with!
In May they had worked out a course and we organised a time for me to come out in June to look at and measure the course. It would be my first time measuring a course with a wheel – wow, that’s a tedious process!
I went and ran Clare parkrun in the morning and then motored up to Jamestown Golf Course. What I hadn’t realised before I got there was that the course was actually ON the golf course. I’d run plenty of courses that were adjacent to golf courses but this one was actually ON the golf course! This would indeed be a unique parkrun! (Fortunately the golf club is incredibly supportive, and because the golfers don’t start until midday, parkrun and golf can co-exist nicely!)
I was a bit unsure if the course would be easy enough to follow but I loved everything about it! It was quite green and lush at the time, I remember my socks getting very wet, I hadn’t brought spares so I had to then drive the 3 hours back to Adelaide in wet socks! Won’t do that again!
We had another Zoom in November and things had progressed. Emma and Rosie organised to go to Clare to meet the team there and run the parkrun to see what it was all about!
The funding was confirmed and the paperwork completed in December and dates organised for 2 trials and the launch. The first trial was just to test out the course, so I didn’t go up for that one, but from what I’m told it went well. The second trial was the Sunday before launch date which I did attend – it was my first time running the course and I did make a bit of a navigational error but on discussion with the EDs afterwards we worked out how to mark it better on launch day. Also it was really hot and I was totally inappropriately dressed – I apologised to all the runners/walkers/volunteers for the heat as it was because of me that they put the trial at 10am, not the traditional 8am, which would have been a lot cooler! 38 runners/walkers attended the trial which was more than expected. Initially I only put 25 finish tokens on the holder (we had 300 tokens but probably – hopefully – will never need that many!) but as the crowd built up I kept adding more, in the end I put 50 on there and that was plenty. It was really cool to open the box with all the brand new kit in it – feels like the unboxing should have been marked with a YouTube or TikTok video!
I was not about to drive 3 hours for an 8am start on launch day (although there was a group who drove 4 hours on the morning of the launch – now that’s dedication) so I drove up the day before, stopping as you do in the Clare Valley for a wine tasting at the first winery in the region (and learned that Clare Valley is the birthplace of the screw cap!) and staying at Belalie Wines B&B with a very friendly cat called Simon who wanted to come home with me!
I met Emma at the golf course and we walked the course, putting some flagging tape on some trees to make the course a bit clearer. She’d put some lines on the ground earlier to point people in the right direction. After the walk through I was confident I’d be able to follow the course on the day!
We then had dinner at one of the local pubs (a very nice cheeseless vegetarian pizza – vegan food is not very common in these parts but I was very happy with what I had!) and on the way home I went to check out the wind farm – so photogenic at sunset!
Launch day turned out to be a very beautiful day, I went for a touristy walk around the town centre (actually it was a bit cold at that stage, my fingers were numb and I only had warm weather running gear with me!) before heading to the golf course at 7:30 where the crowd was already building.
We had tried very hard to keep the launch quiet (other than among the local community, who we WANTED to encourage!) but of course the website was live on Friday and the die-hard tourists check the events map every week for new events popping up, so we knew there would be some tourists. Emma thought we might have about 70 people at the launch. We were hoping most of those would be locals (because they are the ones who will be there week in, week out!) The local footy club had a big contingent because the coach told them if they get 25 of them out to parkrun, they won’t have training on Tuesday! I think they were just short of this number but the coach promised an easier session as a bit of a compromise!
I managed to follow the course OK this time – the markers worked a treat! I then jumped in and helped with barcode scanning, something I can do in my sleep after doing it so many times while injured! We got a bit excited because as time went on we realised we might actually crack 100! I think it was probably a little bit hectic with the early finishers – there were a LOT of fast guys out there – but after I finished the scanning seemed to go pretty smoothly!
Eventually the tail walker came in – participant no. 102 – and we made our way up the hill to the club house, where there was a coffee van and the local Apex club were doing bacon and eggs – pleasingly a lot of people were still hanging around! Thanks to the girl (I can’t remember her name) who bought me a coffee – much appreciated!
We had a few technical issues with the results – after everyone left Emma, Rosie and I went off to sort it out as best we could, and eventually just before midday we got the results in – and we all agreed the launch was a huge success!
I was a bit blown away when they presented me with a gift to thank me for my time, blown away AND hugely appreciative – but really all the work was done by them – I see parkrun as their ‘baby’ and maybe I’m the godmother? (even that is probably giving me too much credit!)
This is and will continue to be a unique and fantastic event for the community and also a great one for the tourists – I don’t know of any other parkruns in Australia that are entirely on golf courses! It’s certainly the only one in SA! I would highly recommend a trip and I look forward to seeing this event grow and coming back to visit again soon!
Today was the 3rd event in the newly-expanded Adelaide Trail Runners Summer Series. This year the events in the series have been flipped around a bit, with Belair, traditionally the last race in the series in March, now being run in January, and the series concluding at Cleland in March. If you’re just catching up, you can check out my reviews of the new event at South Para and the most recent race at Anstey Hill.
Last year I had quite a good run at Belair, albeit on a somewhat cooler day! Unfortunately for me, as has become tradition, I failed to take advantage of Past Jane’s helpfulness, telling me all the things I should and shouldn’t do in this event, by not re-reading my blog from last year. Why do I even bother?
In a classic example of shutting the gate after the horse has bolted, I re-read last year’s report this afternoon (ie AFTER the race) in preparation for writing this one. It’s hard to imagine that last time I ran here I was kicking myself for not bringing my fleece gloves! (This time I once again forgot my cycling gloves for hand protection – I really need to leave those in my race vest!)
Sometimes in the past I have written about my lead-up week to races (again primarily for Future Jane’s benefit) – I didn’t do that last time but if I recall correctly I ‘tapered’ for all the summer series races – I’d do a 45 minute run on Tuesday and Thursday, and either do an easy parkrun on Saturday, or volunteer.
I seem to have forgotten all about that this year. Tuesday was a particularly revolting morning for running, and I did 12km with a LOT of swearing, then Thursday was just over 11km and only slightly more pleasant. Saturday I decided to make the trip down to Victor Harbor and visit one of ‘my’ parkruns as Event Ambassador, and, well, you don’t just go to one of the fastest parkrun courses in SA and take it easy, do you? I followed that up with a 2km swim in the lake, the first time I’d been swimming in nearly 2 years, but I can’t imagine that would have made any difference as I don’t really use my legs in swimming. Also during December/January I have been doing more gym work (with time off work giving me more time to train) and although I definitely feel my improved leg strength helps my running, there was definitely a bit of fatigue in the legs leading up to today.
I don’t want to make excuses, this is really for me in 12 months time to know what NOT to do!
The main focus for me in this series is the age group prize. After the first 2 races I was leading in my age group and you have to run 4 out of the 5 races to qualify for an age group prize. My plan is to run all 5 (especially Cleland which is my favourite!) but in the current climate with every second person being in iso, who knows if I’ll be able to run both or even one of the last two races? So I figured, even with crap preparation, I needed to run when I was able to!
Just for a bit of variety in the photos for the series, I decided to wear a green T-shirt and blue shorts for this race – I had seen one of my favourite running photos during the week where I was wearing that exact outfit, and I thought it would look pretty cool in the photos, albeit at a different part of the day!
It was probably the best thing I did all day, because as it turned out, I was perfectly coordinated with my race bib! And I hadn’t even seen the bib before picking my outfit!
One of the best things about Belair is that there are proper toilets as well as the portaloos – and who in their right mind would use a portaloo when there is an actual proper toilet right next to it? And even better – no queue!
I arrived in plenty of time as usual – the short course started after the long and medium courses, meaning the carpark would be (and was) pretty full by the time the short course runners arrived – therefore we had to allow extra time in case we had to park a little way away.
Like all the other races this season there was only one wave start for each event so I put myself somewhere in the middle. The plan was to take it pretty easy for the first kilometre, just settle into a rhythm. It wasn’t likely to be a fast one so there was no point busting my arse right at the start (like I almost always do!)
After the race, comparing my kilometre splits from last year, I can safely say I failed miserably at starting conservatively! Last year I ran the first kilometre in 5:37, this year I did it in 5:05. It was interesting reading because that first kilometre pretty much destroyed the rest of my run (OK maybe that’s a slight exaggeration – it was not all bad, but it could have been a lot better!)
Spoiler alert – every kilometre from then on was slower than the equivalent kilometre last year – some of them MASSIVELY so!
One of the issues at the start was a bit of single track, where I had people right behind me with no room to pass, so I felt like I needed to keep running fast when I would have preferred to take it a bit easier. I certainly was not going to step aside and let people past this early in the race! In the first kilometre there was also a flight of stairs which I had forgotten about – normally I do NOT run up stairs, I walk, but on this occasion I also felt I had to run which wasn’t ideal.
After getting past the first kilometre and realising I’d once again made a serious error in judgement, I finally got into a bit of a rhythm of sorts. A slow rhythm but a rhythm nonetheless. The first half was HARD. Lots of up.
My goal was to get to 5km without walking but then something else happened that ruined that plan, and something I had completely forgotten about. I came up to a sign that said “Echo Tunnel” – for the uninitiated it is quite a long, dark tunnel (I swear it got longer since I was last there!). If you walk on the high side, you have to duck to avoid clocking your head on the roof. If you walk on the low side, you can stay upright and possibly even still run, but it is often muddy and sometimes there’s even running water (not on this occasion!). Last year, being super prepared, I brought my head torch and that was probably the one take-home message I should have taken home. But I didn’t, so this time I felt my way along in the dark for what seemed like an eternity before emerging to light at the other end and trying to run again. But the ‘momentum’ was broken so the first hill I got to, I was walking. Last year I went with the 8 step run/8 step walk strategy, which I have used only recently and which I SHOULD have remembered, but that went out the window – it was pretty much all walking the uphills from this point on, and running the flats and downs – which, along with the too fast start, almost certainly accounts for being about 3 minutes slower than last year – which is quite a lot for a 10km race!
It was definitely not all bad! The highlight for me (other than my bib matching my outfit, and the always awesome post-run coffee from Neil at Stir Express) was my first ever emu sighting on a run! Ollie, who had caught me just before this point and was about to pass me, who is a local to this area, informed me that emus are pretty common in Belair but it was a treat for me to see one trotting (do emus trot?) across in front of me. Had my phone been more easily accessible and not in the back pocket of my race vest, I definitely would have stopped to attempt to take a photo!
Around this time a couple of fast runners passed us, they looked way too fast to be ONLY overtaking me in the last few kilometres. I later found out from another fast runner who passed me, Neil, who I definitely remembered having passed me earlier, that a bunch of the faster runners took a wrong turn! Oh that’s one other thing that went well for me – I managed to stay on course – and in fact I thought the course was pretty well marked. There were times in the first half where I didn’t see another soul and I never questioned whether or not I was going the right way. So thanks to the trail markers – you did an awesome job! (AND – winning at life moment here – I also did not fall over!)
The last few kilometres, as you can see from the elevation plot, was mostly downhill. THAT bit was fun. I remembered chasing Steve last year through this section. I was behind him again this time after he caught me, but this time he was so far ahead I couldn’t even see him – but I managed to keep Ollie in sight.
I got to the finish line – albeit about 3 minutes slower than 2021 – and my first port of call was my car to get my keep cup so I could get a coffee – I’m actually surprised I didn’t go for Coke first (that came later) – the coffee went down beautifully, and later, so did the Coke!
It was pretty warm out there today, especially compared to last year – well done to everyone who ran/walked, and as always thanks to all the volunteers without whom it would not have happened!
So, all being well, I will see you at Onkaparinga in February! (Hopefully better prepared next time!)
Oh, and isn’t it about time I won something in the random prize draw? My wine rack is looking a little empty…
Has it really been a month since the last one? Time flies!
This was relatively familiar territory for me, having run this event last year. Also recently I ran the new Anstey Hill Recreation parkrun which takes in slightly different parts of the park including the infamous Torture Hill. I highly recommend giving this parkrun a go if you get a chance – the last 1.6km is epic downhill!
I didn’t do any specific training for this one, but unlike last year I have started running hills regularly once a week so I figured that was enough.
Before writing this I re-read my report from last year. I think the idea is that I am meant to read it BEFORE running the event, in case there is anything I had forgotten about that I need to know! Better late than never I guess!
My preparation for this one was remarkably dissimilar. Friday I had the wedding of one of my running friends which was an awesome night, then dragged my arse out to parkrun on Saturday. Instead of running with my mum like I did before this event last year, for some reason I decided it was necessary to go hard. I realised afterwards that this was probably not the greatest plan the day before an event, and completely unnecessary!
Race day was going to be hot so I decided to wear a tank top instead of a T-shirt. Weirdly it happened to be the same one I wore to this event last year! I figured for 8ish kilometres the compression shorts were not really necessary so I went with plain black shorts which seemed to work well! Like last month’s event I went with a bladder with about 1 litre of water which I was sure I was going to need! (1 litre was the ideal amount, enough to get me through but not so much it would weigh me down!)
I got to Anstey Hill about half an hour before the start, parking down the road near Ruby Raja (as it turned out I could have got a park really near the start but I assumed all the close parks would be taken by long and medium course runners, and volunteers!) and I felt like I’d done my run by the time I walked up the hill to bib collection! It was already pretty warm even by 8:00 – I was glad to have opted for the short course once again – even though it would be hottest at the later start, at least it would be over quicker! By the time we started at 8:30 it was already over 25 degrees – it was the first real warm run I’d done this summer – it’s been a bit of a cool start to the season!
I didn’t especially want to be at the front – I stood a bit back from the start line but then for some reason no-one else stood in front. I have this tendency to go out too fast and then pay for it later, and being at the front certainly doesn’t help!
The course was down at the start, then a whole lot of up, then finishing with some nice down! I don’t know why, it was probably my recent experience at the Anstey parkrun, I had it in my head that we would be going up Torture Hill. I later remembered (probably around the 7km mark) that it was not part of the short course, and that was one of the reasons why the short course appealed to me!
I went out nice and quick at the start, and then swiftly got overtaken by a bunch of people as soon as we hit the ups. I remembered in the past describing the course as ‘runnable’, meaning that it is possible to run the whole course without walking, but it would probably be quicker to power hike some of the hills. As soon as I saw people in front of me walking, that was my cue to follow suit! Like last year, I quickly realised that I needed to make it a run/walk (16 steps run/16 steps walk and then later 8 and 8) otherwise it was going to be a whole lot of walking in one hit and it might be hard to start running again.
The course was pretty open, with very little shade but somewhere around the halfway mark we were treated to a lovely coolish breeze!
At around the 6km mark I realised I wasn’t wearing my gloves (aka hand protectors) – this happened to be a slightly technical/rocky section so I spent the rest of the race repeating to myself “don’t fall, don’t fall!”. It’s funny that it wasn’t until I realised my hands wouldn’t be protected, that falling became a concern! (Spoiler alert: I didn’t fall! But I will endeavour to remember the gloves next time, just in case!)
Looking at my results from last year, I was around 2 minutes slower, and talking to others at the finish line most people recorded slower times due to the heat. I was glad to scrape in just under 50 minutes! I walked over to the coffee van and stood there for a moment deciding what I wanted, but as it turned out, what I really wanted was an icy cold can of Coke! (And then later went back for my caffeine hit – thanks as always to Neil from Stir!)
Despite it being slightly warmer than most of us would have liked, it was still a fantastic morning for a run in the hills! Well done to everyone that ran, especially the long and medium course runners (hands up short course runners who were super happy with their life choices!)
Thanks to ATR and all the amazing volunteers for putting on another wonderful event! Can it be a little bit cooler for Belair in January please? Thanks 🙂
This weekend was the first race of the newly expanded Adelaide Trail Runners Summer Series – technically it is still Spring, but this weekend we were treated to some lovely weather in Adelaide, so maybe Summer isn’t too far away!
Traditionally the series spans the Summer months, plus March, which is Summer-adjacent, with 4 events making up the series. After the first year of Adelaide Trail Runners taking on the series, an extra race was added, bringing it to a 5-race series and starting in November.
I ran the whole series last summer, for the first time (I’d done bits and pieces in previous years but had never been able to commit to the whole series) and I hadn’t planned to do it again this time around, especially with it starting so early – and only 4 weeks after Heysen! However I recovered very quickly from Heysen so looked at my calendar, put all the dates in and promptly signed up for the series. I was given some grief for entering the short course series again, it was seen by some to be somewhat of a ‘soft option’ but I was comfortable with my decision! Plus, the short course started a full hour after the long course, so why would I get up an hour earlier on a Sunday than I have to?
The first race looked to be the most ‘iffy’ of all of the dates in the series, with a friend’s bridal shower (in other words, day drinking!) the day before. This also ruled me out of attending the launch of the new Copper Trail parkrun, (temporarily) losing my newly-earned Statesman status in the process. (Last weekend at Naracoorte this was being discussed and I mentioned that I couldn’t go to Copper Trail because I had a bridal shower that day. Someone said (with great surprise) “You’re getting married?????”. I thought this was pretty hilarious because a) Nope, just nope!!! and b) As IF I would agree to have a bridal shower on the day of a new parkrun launch!
The way the series works, you have to run 4 out of the 5 events (previously it was 3 out of 4) to be eligible for an age group placing in the overall series. I figured if I was going to miss one it would be this one, and then I’d be all good for the rest of the series. However, I certainly did intend to run this one!
I didn’t do a lot of preparation for this one because it kind of snuck up on me, I tried to get a course map to put on my phone but I couldn’t figure out how to do that so I decided to just rely on my usual navigation skills, dangerous as that may be! I did read the briefing – I knew where to go (it was the same location as the newish South Para Reservoir parkrun) and I knew it was (approximately) 8.2km. That was enough!
On race morning I was putting something in the green bin outside and did that stupid thing that I think we’ve all done at one time or another, where you’re in a hurry and you scrape the back of your heel with the bottom of the screen door. There was blood, so I thought I’d better put a dressing on it otherwise peeling off my sock afterwards might result in tears! I made sure I didn’t put the tape on so tight as to restrict movement.
It was about a 45 minute drive to South Para Reservoir – it seemed a long way to go for what could potentially be a less-than-45-minute run, but then I remembered all my parkrun adventures this year and thought this was entirely reasonable!
The parking was easy – I got there just before the medium course set off at 8:00, as I thought maybe I might have to park a long way away with the long and medium course runners already taking up a lot of the parking spaces. It wasn’t too bad (although I will admit that when it came time to get a post-run coffee, I could not be arsed walking all the way back to my car to get my reusable coffee cup so I went straight to Neil at the Stir coffee van and got my coffee in a disposable cup. *hangs head in shame*)
It was slightly chilly in the morning but I decided to go with just shorts and a T-shirt, and leave the arm warmers in the car, as the sun was out and it looked like it might be a pretty nice running morning. I did wear my gloves for hand protection – they did little to warm up my hands (they were pretty much numb at the start, and started tingling towards the end) but they were my insurance policy against potential falls!
This year we only had one wave start (last season there were 2 waves for each distance – presumably for COVID reasons) and no-one seemed to want to be at the front – we were lined up quite a long way back from the timing mat! We were to look out for the green signs (matching our bib colour – each course had signs matching their bib, to make it easier to follow) as well as the generic blue and white ones. I didn’t have any trouble following the course on this occasion, I know a few people who had some issues but somehow I managed to stay on course for a change!
Early on in the run I was passed by a girl (Isabelle) who looked to be quite young (15 as it turned out) and decided to try to keep her in sight. I saw her walk a couple of times up one of the hills so I figured if she’s doing it, so will I! The second time I saw her walk I decided to keep running, and somewhere around maybe the 5km mark, maybe a little later, I caught up with her and we chatted for a couple of minutes. Then she took off, I was able to keep her in sight but never quite managed to catch her again (she ended up beating me by about 20 seconds – way too much for me to even attempt a sprint finish!) My main thought was, “at least she’s not in my age group!”
The course was really nice, I had only run there once before (parkrun) so it was still relatively new to me. The scenery was magnificent and the weather was glorious – I couldn’t believe how lucky we got with the weather, especially since a lot of rain was in the forecast for Saturday which would have made it very wet underfoot (that rain ended up bypassing Adelaide which was very nice of it!). There were a few hills in there but as far as trail courses go it was a pretty fast one. The only part I had a bit of trouble with was the rocky section especially going downhill – a previous issue with my foot which generally does not cause me any problems, meant that I needed to be careful about how I stepped on rocks. Luckily not much of the course was like that so I was able to run comfortably for almost all of it!
I managed to sneak into 2nd place for the females behind Isabelle, and Vicky, who I had run with a lot of times before and who also volunteered as a car parking attendant before running (thanks Vicky!) came in for a well deserved 3rd place. Knowing that Isabelle was 15, for a moment I thought maybe just maybe the bottle of wine that the winners all got, might come my way – but in the end she got it to give to her parents! So close…
I was really glad to have run this event, it’s always nice to try out a new course and the weather certainly helped! Thanks as always to Adelaide Trail Runners for putting on this fantastic event, and to all the volunteers who made it happen! Congratulations to all the runners out there, hope you had as enjoyable a morning as I did!
See you at Anstey Hill in December for the next one!
Last weekend I went on a little adventure to Naracoorte to participate in the Megafest – Naracoorte World Heritage Trail Run. The run was held for the first time in 2019 – 50 years after the fossil beds were discovered in the Naracoorte Caves, and 25 years after the Caves were put onto the World Heritage list. The 2020 event was postponed to 2021 because… oh, you know why! Hence this year’s bling was inscribed with ‘2020’ which I thought was pretty cool!
The added attraction of this event was that it would allow me to FINALLY do the Naracoorte Lake parkrun, my 39th different South Australian parkrun, and regain my ‘Statesman’ status, last gained in December 2015 and lost in July 2017.
For those unfamiliar, a ‘Statesman’ is someone who has completed all the parkruns in one state. As new parkruns launch, it becomes harder and harder to become a Statesman! When I first became a Statesman there were only 11 parkruns in the state! This year I worked out I have done well over 4000km driving, chasing new parkruns – I figured with interstate travel still being a bit problematic at the moment, this was the year to do it! As most SA parkrunners would be aware there is yet another new event launching next weekend, SA’s 40th, and due to other commitments on the day and this being a regional parkrun, unfortunately I won’t get to the launch so there goes my Statesman status after one lousy week…
Also, Coonawarra wine region.
I drove down on Friday, heading straight to Bellwether Wines in the Coonawarra, primarily because they have highland cows! I got to have a personal wine tasting with Sue, the winemaker, followed by a close encounter with the resident donkey! They also offer glamping which looks pretty cool, might try that one day!
Following that I detoured briefly to Penola, famous for Mary MacKillop, Australia’s first saint.
My accommodation was at the delightful Log Cabin AirBNB, complete with a bottle of local wine in the fridge and a huge spa bath! Highly recommend this place, the hosts Julie and Murray were excellent and the bed was SUPER comfy! And it is within easy walking distance to the city centre.
On Saturday morning I drove to Naracoorte Lake, a man-made swimming lake (imagine a giant swimming pool) which at this time of year has no water in it. I must come back in the summer – would be great to jump in and cool off after parkrun on a hot summer day! Listening to the course description at the first timer briefing (there were a LOT of first timers – mostly tourists visiting for the Megafest and a lot of familiar faces among them!) I was a little dubious if I could actually follow the course but it was not too hard to follow with the marshals, painted arrows on the ground and local runners to follow! There were a few little hills in there but nothing too difficult. Turned out a couple of other runners, Tracy and Jackie, were also achieving Statesman status that day!
After the run I went back to the cabin for a shower and then headed out to the caves. I had been there once before on school camp in 1988. I didn’t remember much about it but did happen to find my journal – I was a bit of a nerd back then!
I went on a tour where you got to watch a live stream of the bat cave (Naracoorte Caves is one of the only places where the southern bent-wing bat breeds) which was super cool – amazing how clear the images of the bats were, even zoomed right in!
Following that we went for a walk through Blanche Cave – formerly known as the ‘Big Cave’ and they even book it out for functions such as weddings – now THAT would be cool!
In the afternoon I booked a tour of the Victoria Fossil Cave which is where fossils were discovered that led to the Caves getting World Heritage status so that was definitely a must-visit – weirdly this was the first time I’d ever heard the term ‘megafauna’ – some pretty crazy looking creatures existed here many years ago!
In between the two tours I had lunch and a bit of a walk around, taking note of some of the course marking for the next day’s race.
Saturday night’s dinner was a bit challenging to find, I had been invited to a BBQ by Steve, one of the Trail Running SA contingent visiting from Adelaide, whose parents live in Naracoorte, but I said I’d bring my own food as vegan BBQ food is a bit problematic. I Googled to find vegan-friendly food in Naracoorte and the first thing that came up was McDonald’s so I thought, I’m in trouble here! Eventually I managed to find a nice stir fry with noodles from one of the pubs, along with some sweet potato fries, and headed out to the BBQ to catch up with a large group of fellow Adelaide runners, many of whom had been at the inaugural event in 2019. The weather forecast was for 45 km/h winds, rain, hail and thunderstorms, with an overnight minimum of 5 degrees. Sounded like pretty ideal running weather!
I decided to go minimalist with my nutrition and hydration, I was only running 15km which I hoped to do in around 90 mins (apparently the course was not too hilly, 6 minutes per kilometre for a trail sounded a bit ambitious but potentially doable!) so I probably wouldn’t need much. I went with my trusty salted caramel balls (which I didn’t end up eating until afterwards), and just a bladder with water. Turned out my bladder was leaking a bit, where the hose connects to the bladder, which it had never done before, and I hadn’t brought any bottles so I was just going to have to deal with it, but I figured it was going to be raining anyway so what was a little extra water?
I ended up getting there quite early, collected my bib and went back to my car to put it onto my race belt. The 15km was due to start at 8:30, with the long (23km) starting at 8:00. It was around 8:00 that I got back to my car and that was when the heavens opened. I seriously considered driving back to the cabin and going for a spa instead… but when the rain eased off slightly I decided to suck it up and get out of the car. Standing under the verandah of the café with the rest of the 15km runners watching the rain, I openly admitted that the only thing I was thinking of was a hot shower – maybe this would make me run faster?
Miraculously the rain cleared in time for our start. We were to follow the pink ribbons (there were also blue and orange, signifying the courses for the other distances) and the standard red and white arrows. No-one seemed to want to be at the front as the Race Director counted down to the start! I was hoping someone that knew the way would lead, and I could then follow!
Away we went, I fell into my usual trap of going out too fast (when will I ever learn?), trying to keep up with the girl in front of me, I wasn’t sure what place she was in, but she seemed to be going at a pretty good pace, albeit somewhat faster than me up the hills, but if I could keep her in sight I’d be doing OK!
The course was superbly marked. This is very important for me. I have a tendency to lose concentration and veer off course. Sometimes it’s because I’m chatting with someone else (in this case it was a relatively small field – just under 100 in the 15km, so we were pretty spread out and there wasn’t a lot of chatting other than when 23km runners overtook me) other times I’m just admiring the scenery or thinking of something else. Whatever it is, a well-marked course goes a very long way! There were 2 points in the run where I went slightly off – the first one was where I went to follow an arrow in the wrong direction (in my defence, when I got up close to the arrow I realised I had misread the direction, slightly blurry vision coupled with rain drops on my sunglasses contributing to this), and the guy behind me let me know I was about to go the wrong way, so I didn’t end up going off course. (Had I gone the wrong way there would have been a big red ‘X’ soon after which would have steered me back in the right direction!) The second time I went off course, it wasn’t by much. It was pretty close to the end, maybe the last few kilometres. I went along a trail that was parallel to the actual trail, and once again it was the awesome trail marking that made me realise quickly that I was off course – because I couldn’t see any pink ribbons! I retraced my steps and conveniently another 23km runner happened to be running towards me so I decided to follow him. I hadn’t gone too far off course but it was extra distance I probably didn’t need!
In the end I finished in 1:24:14.90, well under my estimated time, which I was very happy with, especially since I’d probably added on 1-2 extra minutes with my creative navigation! I collected my medal and caught up briefly with the other Adelaide runners who had finished, before heading back to my car to go shower before heading home. I had made plans which necessitated my being home well before 4:00 – probably ambitious as it turned out, so I wanted to hit the road early. While walking back to my car it occurred to me to check the official live results where I was surprised to learn I’d finished 5th overall and 3rd female (the top two runners overall were the first two females) so I guess I wasn’t heading home after all – I needed to come back for the presentations, the trophies were super cool and I was excited that I was going to be getting one!
I made it back to the cabin for a shower and to do a final pack up of all my stuff, and straight back to the caves for the presentation which I think started about 1 minute after I got back – just in the nick of time!
I found this to be a really enjoyable event – did I mention IMPECCABLY MARKED? The volunteers and other runners were super friendly, the scenery was beautiful and somehow I managed to avoid the worst of the weather (it hailed not long after I finished!) and it was really cool to be able to run in such a historic region, and also to have the opportunity to explore the caves while there. I can highly recommend this event and it’s definitely worth spending a weekend in Naracoorte, there’s so much to see, you could spend a day at the caves alone (and I didn’t even get to see all of the caves!)
Thanks to the organisers and volunteers for a superb day!