This weekend was the 3rd of 4 races in the Yumigo! Summer Trail Series. I had previously run the first race at Anstey Hill but missed Race 2 due to being on my way home from Thredbo! For the first time, this summer, I planned to run 3 of the 4 races in the series (my previous best being 2) with a view to trying to crack a Top 3 age group placing!
So, this month, before Sunday’s race, I had done quite a bit of trail running.
There was a 3 hour epic a couple of weeks back (that was only 17km!) – the first training run for the new 5 Peaks Ultramarathon which I vowed several times during the training run I was DEFINITELY NOT going to do. By the end of that day I was asking “When does earlybird entry close?” So yeah, I’m pretty much signed up for that one!
Last weekend I doubled up, doing my own personal favourite trail training run – the Chambers loop plus an extra smaller loop. This run is my favourite because it’s close to home, I can run it without any danger of getting lost, and post-run coffee and vegan Snickers at Basecamp Cafe makes it all worthwhile!) Later that day I did the Morialta Special Grand Loop as I’ve entered a Strava challenge and up until then I’d only run/walked it once as a reccy run, but had not actually posted a ‘proper’ run. I may or may not have run that whole thing with my phone in my hand, closely following the map!
And during last week I did the annual ‘Pub Run’, a run of about 9km uphill to the pub, a refreshment stop, and a nice 11km downhill back to the start. That was really enjoyable except that Norton Summit Road, normally favoured by cyclists because most cars take the Old Norton Summit Road, was overrun with motorists with the Old road being closed! Damn cars, ruining my run!
Friday morning’s run was great too, it was a regular Friday route up ‘The Big Kahuna’, officially named Mt Osmond Centre Track. Centre Track is pretty steep. It’s runnable in that you can run up it, but in that you could probably walk it twice as fast as I ran it. For the first time EVER I extended this run to go all the way to the old Mt Barker Road (which is what the fast people do, so they don’t get back to the start HOURS before the rest of us!)
Before Sunday, I had accumulated 4000m of elevation in February. That’s a LOT for me, who for a very long time avoided hills like the plague!
I did parkrun on Saturday, Mount Barker being quite a fast course (probably the fastest current parkrun in SA but I’m prepared to be proven wrong on that!) I had to remind myself that I wasn’t ‘racing’ this time. That was made a lot easier by my seeing Lisa, Sarah and Coralie at the start, effectively ruling out any chance of my getting a top 3 finish, even if I ran close to my PB! It was also great to see my friend Donna finally do her first parkrun, and I’m pretty sure she’s hooked, already talking about where we’re going to run next week!
With the start of the race being at 7:30am, I was aiming to leave home at 6:15am to be there by 7. There was a slight snafu with my navigation there. I’ve done the drive down the expressway more times than I care to remember, but on most occasions I’ve gone all the way to the end of the expressway. Only a couple of times have I exited before the end. I had had a look at the directions the night before, and had somehow missed one crucial part of the directions which involved taking an exit. As I was driving down the expressway, thankfully I was paying attention to the names of the roads I was driving under (which I don’t normally do!) and noticed that I was driving under Majors Road – which I was actually supposed to be ON! Luckily I’d factored in PLENTY of time to get there so I took the next exit and made it to the start just on 7am! Must pay more attention next time!
The setup at O’Halloran Hill was great, everything was nice and close together, even the car parking wasn’t too much of a hike! I did end up in the portaloo that didn’t flush, but at least that was at the START of the day – I can only imagine what it must have been like by the end!
As always there were a lot of friends there (including quite a few that I didn’t even get to catch up with!) so the time leading up to the start went pretty quickly!
First up was the kids’ race, a new thing this season, to encourage the kids to get into trail running! Many of the older kids already do the events but it was great to see some of the younger ones getting involved, look out for more kids running with the ‘big kids’ in future years!
The short (13ish km) and long (18ish km) courses started together and there was no distinction between the two on the bibs. We would all run together for the first 12km and then we’d split. By then we (smart) short course runners would be nearly done!
I was a little concerned with the comment in the race briefing about it being a tricky course and easy to get lost. I’m pretty good at getting lost, but I’m not good at following maps, so studying the course would be of little value to me!
I had what was by now a fairly standard race kit. I’d decided on a pink theme today, even though my trail shoes are blue and purple. Pink socks, top and hat, as well as a pink buff around my neck. I wouldn’t normally run a short race like this with a buff on (unless it was particularly cold) but it became necessary because I had some pretty epic chafing on the back of my neck from trying out my new wetsuit during the week (which, other than this little problem, went perfectly!). Last thing I wanted was to get any sun on it! Hence the buff!
At the start line I was chatting with Jenny who had just been celebrating her son’s 18th so had had a pretty late night! She was talking down her chances, suggesting that I might beat her today, which I thought was pretty funny – she must have thought she was going to have a REALLY off day!
I hadn’t really looked much at the course profile but RD Ben said at the race briefing that it was pretty flat for about the first 6km and then we’d hit a few hills.
So we set off, and for the first 5km or so Jenny and I kept seeing each other! There was a bit of a pattern – she’d pass me on the uphills (yes, even in the ‘flat’ early section there were a few undulations!) and then I’d pass her on the down. Around the 5km mark she passed me for the last time, and not long after that I couldn’t even see her anymore. I expected that would be the last I’d see of her until the finish line!
Very early on we passed Tracey and Sheena’s drink station. Fresh from having easily the most fun at the 50km track championships, they went on to make volunteering look way more appealing than running! (And that’s no disrespect to the event or the course – they just manage to make EVERYTHING fun! These are the people who stopped at the pub during the Yurrebilla Ultra last year!)
We had to go through a tunnel twice. I found that a bit disconcerting as we had come out of fairly bright sunlight into a pitch dark tunnel. We could see the light at the end of the tunnel but what we could not see was what we were stepping on. And prior to the tunnel there was quite a lot of horse crap, so I can only assume the tunnel was full of shit too! (To the best of my knowledge I managed to avoid stepping in any!) This was the spot where Kate had tripped on an unseen obstacle in last year’s race, injuring her ankle quite badly. She was back for redemption this year, and had even upgraded from the short to the long course as part of her training for a 100 miler later in the year! I think in future I might carry a small handheld torch for this little section – tripping in a dark tunnel would be a very unfortunate way to DNF a trail race (especially if you end up landing in poo!)
After losing Jenny I started following father and son team Cliff and Sam (who it turned out were doing the long course, but as stated earlier, the short course was identical to the long course for the first 12km). I passed them a few times, but again it was on the uphills that they’d pass me. I’m not too bad on the downhill, actually I really enjoy it, but I’m still lacking something on the uphills. Maybe the 4000m elevation in the last few weeks was taking its toll…
And then I lost those two, and I found myself for the first time in the event, with no-one to follow! Luckily the course was impeccably marked, thanks to Michelle, Lauri, Damien and anyone else I may have forgotten who marked it yesterday! No danger of my getting lost out there today!
Behind me was he of the bright shorts, Matt, with a couple of people. I asked him “What are you doing back here?” (he’s a fast runner so naturally I would have expected him to be ahead of me all along) to which he replied “I started late. And I’m slow”. My response to that was, “You could have just said you started late – if you’re slow, what does that make me?” Also he was sounding way too cheerful going up the hills so I’m pretty sure he wasn’t working hard enough!
With him was one of the Adelaide Harriers, Bec, who I kept going back and forth with, with her having the edge on the uphills and me on the downs. When she passed me for the last time I thought that’s it, I’m not going to catch her now! And then we reached the split between the short and the long course, and she was long course so I was pretty happy with that! There was however a girl ahead of me on the short course who I was trying to keep in sight, and not long after the split another one passed me. That’s not right – no-one passes me in the last km of a race and gets away with it! Unfortunately for me I didn’t really have much left so I had to let them go, I could see them cross the line, it was a pretty tight tussle between the 2 of them (2 seconds difference!) and then 17 seconds back to me. I was 7th out of 68 females. (Jenny ended up 4th, 2.5 minutes ahead of me.) Melissa, who was 6th was also in my age group! I might have tried a bit harder at the end if I’d known that! 17 lousy seconds! I was 4th in my age group, that was a blow to my hopes of getting an overall age group placing for the series, but I happened to be born at a ‘bad’ time, with 1st and 3rd females overall also being in my age group! And I wouldn’t have been much better off had I done the long course, with the long course winner also being in the same age group!
When I started running 5 and a bit years ago at the age of 35, I realised I was in a tough age group when the top 3 women in my first ever fun run were all in my age group! And it doesn’t seem to have gotten any easier since I turned 40! Track, road, trail, parkrun, there’s always someone faster in my age group! A bit frustrating when you know you’ve done the best you can and it’s just not good enough. I know plenty of people who go out and run and aren’t fast and are completely OK with that, and love every minute. Don’t get me wrong, I love running (and trail running in particular) but I do have a pretty strong competitive streak! And I have had some success over the years but I still want to get better (as I’m sure we all do!)
However. Let’s not dwell on that. I can’t say I had a bad run. I managed to run all the way up the first 2 hills, before admitting defeat at the 3rd one and reverting to a fast walk. I completed the 13km in 1:13:49 with an average pace of 5 min 28 sec per kilometre, which with 369m elevation gain (according to Strava) is pretty respectable. And let’s also say it was EXCELLENT training for UTA 100km which is fast approaching!
Probably the highlight of the day for me was at the presentation when there was a special podium presentation for the first dog to complete one of the Trail Series events! (Luckily he/she wasn’t in my age group because I would be pretty shitty about getting beaten by someone with twice as many legs as me!) He/she even got up on the podium and posed for photos!
Thanks to Ben for putting on another fantastic event and of course to all the wonderful volunteers (too many to name but you know who you are)! And well done to everyone who ran, walked or a combination of the two – where else would you rather be on a Sunday morning?
This past weekend was the third running of the SA Track Championships, the brainchild of Yumigo!’s Ben Hockings.
An ultramarathon where it is impossible to get lost and where you are never more than 400m from first aid, hydration, nutrition and toilets!
Sounds pretty good, right? Yeah, until you realise that you’re literally running around a 400m track for 50km or 100km.
Still interested? Keep reading!
I ran the 100km at the first 2 Track Championships and if you want to read about THAT, you can read my 2016 and 2017 reports.
This year was a little different.
I had planned to run the 100 again. I had looked at my Strava for the corresponding time last year, to see what I did in the way of training. I recalled that I didn’t do too much specific training for this event (it’s pretty hard to train for this kind of event!) but I did see that I ran 30km along the coast the week before. I’d had a pretty good run in the 100k that year so I figured I’d better do the same again this year! So I went out and ran 30km on a pretty hot day last Sunday, and had a pretty crap run! I was walk/running by 10km, I wanted to call an Uber at 15km, and I was running a full minute per km slower than I’m used to!
So at that point I decided that I was definitely not in 100km shape, so I planned to run the 50km. However, with a forecast maximum of 420C on both Saturday and Sunday, so presumably not a particularly cool night on Saturday, I did consider the possibility of not running it at all! (I had missed the early bird cutoff date so I basically left it till the last minute to make the call! In the end I decided to bite the bullet and run the 50km.
50km is a different beast altogether! Whereas in the 100km I started having tactical walk breaks at about 30 minutes, theoretically I shouldn’t need to walk in the 50km. After all, it’s a marathon with a bit extra tacked on the end – and I have been able to complete most of my marathons without walking. Ordinarily, I would have expected to be able to run 50km in under 5 hours. My 30km run last weekend was JUST under 3 hours, so I wasn’t all that confident of the sub-5. Given the heat, I vaguely planned to do the run/walk thing like I had done in the 100km.
In the lead-up week I did my usual Tuesday and Thursday runs. Friday was Australia Day and I had a pretty cruisy day including the traditional Australia Day cricket at the Adelaide Oval which thankfully Australia managed to win (after being 5-8 early on, England almost came back and won it!).
Saturday was scheduled to be my 200th parkrun which was a pretty big deal! I’d been liaising with fellow parkrunner John who was approaching his 250th and we had worked out that we could do our milestone runs together, back where we’d both done the inaugural Torrens parkrun a little over 5 years ago. Although it wasn’t ideal preparation for a 50k, if I hadn’t done my 200th that day I would have ended up doing it at the Port Broughton launch next weekend, and I preferred to do it at ‘home’. So I decided to do my first ever ‘parkwalk’, and as luck would have it, another friend Ellen was doing her 150th on the same day, and we ended up walking it together!
Fellow parkrunner and entrant in the 50k track race, Graham, said to me when I told him I was going to walk, that he bet I wouldn’t be able to resist breaking into a jog at some point! So I was determined to prove him wrong, and crossed the line in about 49 minutes, a nice leisurely walk!
I also picked Graham’s brain about the 50km, which he had done last year, and he said he did a run/walk. I had already sort of planned to do that, and Graham’s words confirmed that it was a good ‘sort of plan’.
I re-read my reports from 2016 and 2017. I had taken mashed sweet potato last year but barely touched it, so I decided not to bother with that this year! I just took 2 sandwiches, one peanut butter and one chocolate spread. Along with that I had some almonds, a couple of nut bars and a couple of Clif bars. Hydration was going to be particularly important so I had 3 litres of Gatorade mixed up and ready to go in 6 bottles. That was the same amount I’d had for the 100km last year, so I didn’t think I’d need that much, but I figured it was better to have too much than not enough! Also in the esky I put a cider and a Coke for afterwards.
As I had done the previous 2 years, I had breakfast for dinner. About 2 hours before the race I had a bowl of cereal – the theory being that normally when I do a race, it’s in the morning, and my last meal pre-race is breakfast! For breakfast I had smashed avo and chickpeas (I had run out of bread and the previous day being a public holiday, my bakery hadn’t been open!) and for lunch my now traditional sweet potato mac and cheese (which I’d made for a previous ultra and had frozen the leftovers!)
After parkrun I went to Bakery on O’Connell to get myself a chocolate donut for after the race, and on a whim decided to get 4 donuts to share with my fellow vegan runners. They are enormous donuts so I cut them into quarters!
Due to the heat, the 50km event was put back an hour, from 7pm to 8pm. That worked out well because it meant that the sun would be almost gone by the time we started. It would still be hot, but at least we wouldn’t have the late afternoon sun beating down on us! The 100k start was left at 7pm, the thinking being that with a 14 hour cutoff, their cutoff time would be 9am. Should the start have been moved to 8pm, cutoff would be 10am, by which time it would already be pretty hot!
I arrived at the track about 6:30 because I wanted to see the start of the 100km. To my surprise (well actually it wasn’t that surprising given the weather conditions!) there were only 8 starters in the 100 and they were all men! I saw Sam and her husband Clinton at the track, I had thought Sam was doing the 100km but she’d opted for the 50km too. She jokingly said she should upgrade to the 100km for a guaranteed win! I wondered, if I’d seen the start list and realised that there were no females on it, if I would have been tempted to enter the 100km! It would be a guaranteed win, IF I finished! And in those conditions, and given my recent form, there were no guarantees!
Along with the 100km starters, 2 of the 50km runners, Merle and Trish, were starting at 7 as they needed to be finished as early as possible. I couldn’t understand why anyone would CHOOSE to start this particular event an hour early (given that the first hour would be probably the hottest!) but it made sense!
After the 100km runners and Merle and Trish set off, I went to get the rest of my stuff out of the car and set up my ‘base camp’. I seemed to have a LOT of stuff for a 50km run (actually more stuff than I had last year for the 100!). This year I was driving myself, whereas previously I had been picked up by Karen and Daryl, so I guess I tried to be a bit circumspect with how much stuff I brought! With just me in my car, I could bring as much stuff as I wanted!
I had 2 eskies – one larger one with all the drinks, a bag of ice, plus a spray bottle full of water, and a smaller one with my food in it. I also had a 1.5 litre container of water (why I felt the need to bring that, I don’t know – there’s ALWAYS plenty of water on hand at events!), a folding chair and a bag containing a few buffs, 2 pairs of running shoes and socks (I was wearing my Birkenstocks at the time), a change of top, plus a full change of clothes for afterwards. I also had my phone which this time I wasn’t going to carry with me. In previous years, although we had electronic timing, we couldn’t see the live results on the screen and had to rely on hourly updates on a whiteboard. Consequently I’d take a photo of the whiteboard every hour so I could see how I was tracking. This year there would be a big screen on the side of the track so we could see our progress at any time, negating the need for me to take photos! I’d also done roughly hourly updates on Facebook during my walk breaks, whereas in 2018 people could track us live online, so there was no need for that either!
And finally, given that music was such a big part of my 100km runs, I had my iPod ready to roll, all cued up on Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me” – I thought that would be a good song to start with if I did decide I needed some tunes! I wasn’t planning to use it – I’d only really started using it in the 100km late into the night after the 50km runners had finished. I’d never used it during the 2 6 hour events I’d done, so I suspected I probably wouldn’t need it. But in these conditions, who knew? Best to have it there, just in case!
There were a lot of unfamiliar faces in the 50k, and a few in the 100k! Familiar faces included the Vegan Beast Mode Team (Ryan, Kate, Sheena and Tracey, the latter choosing to spend her birthday running around in circles!) plus fellow vegan Ian from Melbourne, Sam and Clinton from Victor Harbor (Clinton entered because it would give him something to do while waiting for Sam to finish!), John who I’d met at the first 100km race and who had been back last year for the 50km, regular weekday morning running buddy Mark, Rachael who had been talked into entering by Kate only that morning, a couple of speedy runners Daniel and Toby (the latter having finished a few laps ahead of me in the 100k last year) and 2 very familiar faces in the trail running world, Kym and Mal, in an event that is about as far from trail as you can get!
Because of the heat, a few measures were put in place. At a couple of spots around the track were large tubs of iced water, with sponges in them that we could use to cool ourselves off. There was meant to be a misting station but that didn’t work out, so instead at the drink station the vollies were all armed with spray bottles of water – a human misting station!
In 2016 the 50km runners and the 100km runners were all mixed in together, sharing the same lane. In 2017 the two groups were separated, with the 100km runners running in Lane 1 and the 50km runners running in Lane 4, separated by a line of cones. 2018 was the same as 2017, with the 50km runners starting partway around the track so that we would still finish on the finish line. (Because Lane 4 is longer than Lane 1, the number of laps we would run would be less than half what the 100km runners did, and it wouldn’t be a round number of laps). I didn’t actually know exactly how many laps it was, I just knew it was less than 125!
This year, for the first time, there was an official photographer for the first few hours – Tracie from Geosnapshot, who also happens to be an old school friend! I had suggested to her to come for the first few hours when she’d be able to capture everyone, we’d all look relatively fresh, and she’d get a bit of daytime and a bit of night!
We started right on 8:00. According to the temperature reading in the stadium, it had dropped from 34 degrees at 7pm, to 33 at 8. I started with my sunnies on but wouldn’t need them for very long. I was also wearing a tiara, as were Sheena and Tracey, in honour of Tracey’s birthday. I’d never run in a tiara before!
It became apparent early on that I was going to have a huge battle on my hands in the form of a girl called Ina who I had never met before. But all I could do was just do my thing, and if it was good enough, then great, but if not, I could be satisfied in the knowledge that I could not have possibly done any more!
I decided to just run for as long as I could, despite what I had originally planned to do – it was a RACE, after all!
I started pretty comfortably, running consistent splits around the 5:20-5:30 mark. It was early days but all signs were looking good.
I ditched my sunnies early, however my aim was not that great so they landed a fair way from my base camp – I totally forgot about them, never to be seen again!
I got to 10k in just under 55 minutes (according to Garmin which we all know is not 100% accurate so you can take all these time splits with a pinch of salt!) which was the furthest I’d ever run on the track (ie without walking). I decided then to try to push through to the 2 hour mark, when we would have our first turnaround. The turnarounds were every 3 hours, presumably to break up the monotony of running laps around a 400m track! As the 100k runners had started an hour earlier than us, the first turnaround was at 3 hours for them but 2 hours for us. Our next turnaround would then be at 5 hours. I planned (hoped!) to be finished by then!
I can’t go any further here without thanking the fantastic volunteers at the drink/food station. As one who didn’t have a dedicated support crew, I relied on them. I was relatively self-sufficient, providing my own Gatorade and all my own food, but I did partake in some Coke a few times! At one point I decided I felt like water, and I grabbed a cup only to find it was warm! I was running with Kate at the time and she gave me the tip to ask for a cup of iced water which I did on my next lap. I’d ask on one lap for iced water on my next lap, and then one of the volunteers would have it ready for me. The iced water was magic! I don’t really like drinking straight water much, and when I do I tend to prefer it room temperature rather than chilled, but on this occasion it was just what the doctor ordered!
Even more so than the Coke and iced water, the aforementioned misting station. Hopefully I don’t forget anyone here (and there was one guy there whose name I didn’t know, so apologies in advance!) but almost every time I went past the food/drink station, I would get squirted, initially just with spray bottles which was fantastic, but a little later Kim started shooting everyone with her big arse water pistol (which she was clearly enjoying VERY MUCH!) I remember getting sprayed at various times by Kim, Katie, Linna, Elle, Ken and Merrilyn. SO GOOD!
I was also wearing a buff around my neck by now, as well as one on my head, so when I got squirted/tipped a cup of water over myself/squeezed a sponge over myself, the buff would get wet and keep my neck cool for a while.
I was not watching the live tracker, and although I was using my Garmin to check my kilometre splits as the kays ticked by, I knew it wouldn’t be accurate. I quickly lost count of laps (which wouldn’t have been all that useful anyway given that I didn’t know how many laps we were doing!) and so I was just running, not trying to maintain any particular pace, just running by feel.
The first indication I had of where I was positioned was when Ben did a progress update over the PA system, all I heard was that I was 2 laps behind Ina, and as far as I could tell she wasn’t walking, so therefore neither was I! I didn’t hear who was in 3rd place for the women and how far behind she was, but it didn’t matter – as long as whoever it was didn’t pass me, I would stay in front! And as long as I kept running, she probably wouldn’t pass me!
At the 2 hour turnaround mark I was on a Garmin 21.3km (which was probably more like 20, but still on track for a sub 5 hour 50k). I was still relatively comfortable and I wasn’t going to die wondering, so I kept running. The next goal was 25km which was (for the mathematicians among you) the halfway point. Again, 25km on my watch wasn’t really 25km but it was close. I figured once I hit 26km on the watch I was probably halfway! And still running…
30km was the next goal. 30km was how far I had run last Sunday and I hadn’t been able to manage to run the whole distance then, so to be able to do it here would be a great mental boost. According to Strava, I reached the 30km mark in 2:49.
“Only” 20km to go!
The next goal was to tick off the marathon distance. In most of my marathons, I have run the whole way. I’d never previously RUN that far nonstop in an ultra, often because of undulating terrain that necessitates walking at times, and in the loopy ultras I seem to like, it’s about not going out too hard early and having nothing left at the end!
Tracie had left the stadium around 9pm and came back a few hours later to snap some photos of us looking not quite so fresh, and also there was the added bonus of being able to capture some of the 50km finishers. Not long after she came back, I was closing in on the marathon distance and just under 4 hours. Even though I know it wasn’t an accurate distance, in my previous marathon at Boston I had JUST missed the sub-4 by a matter of seconds, so to get a sub-4 here would be very pleasing! When I realised how close I was, I SPRINTED past Tracie and she wondered what I was doing – I explained it afterwards! I got the sub-4 by a matter of seconds – not bad considering I had done only one 30km run in preparation for this event and that’s it!
I knew I was getting close. Ina was getting further away and showed no signs of slowing down or walking, but despite the fact that I knew I was definitely going to get second place, I figured I’d come this far, I might as well go the whole hog and run the full 50km – something I’d never done before! Running the whole way would also be the best way to ensure a sub-5! I was talking to someone along the way who had had some walk breaks and had found it hard to get running again.
Given that I was treating it more like a marathon than an ultra, it’s not surprising that I didn’t eat anything during the run. I had enough Gatorade to last me (and a couple of bottles left over) and I ran the whole way with a bottle in my hand. I had the occasional Coke and that was it – just as I would in a marathon. It’s hard to eat food while you’re running (as it happens it’s also hard to drink Coke out of a cup – I managed to spill it down the front of my legs on one occasion so I had to ask the guy with the water pistol to shoot me in the legs to wash it off!) and I don’t do gels.
Not long after I reached the ‘marathon’ some of the faster runners started to approach the end. One of them, Justin, when I ran with him for a bit, was 2 laps ahead of me. It turned out he knew Tracie too – that is SO Adelaide! As we crossed the timing mat someone called out that Justin was on 100 laps and I was on 98. I managed to keep track of laps after that! At one point Tracie had asked me how many laps the 50km runners were doing, and I didn’t know but someone around me said 118. Actually it was 119 (the first lap being just a part lap, so it was really 118-point-something). I had around 20 laps to go – the end was in sight!
From then on I started counting up laps (I didn’t want to fall into the trap of counting down until I knew I was down to maybe 5 laps) and it was a good way of distracting myself!
In the 100k event there was a clear leader, Darren, who reached 50km in just 4 hours! I planned to stick around afterwards long enough to see him finish – it was unlikely that I would get to see any of the others finish! The rest of them were motoring along – Stephan was there to do it all again after coming up short by about 4km last year. The extra 2 hours should have made a finish a no-brainer for him, but the weather conditions were going to make it very difficult!
The rest of the girls in the 50k were looking good but the ones who were clearly enjoying themselves the most were Tracey and Sheena! Sheena was doing her thing that I remembered her doing last year, she would walk quite a lot, but then break into a sprint! On a few occasions when they came up behind me they would sprint to get past me, then back into a walk again!
The next thing I was waiting for was for the 3 runners ahead of me to finish, then I would know I was nearly done! Andrew was first, closely followed by Ina. Next was Justin, but when he came up behind me, I had caught up a bit, he had had a pit stop so when we crossed the timing mat Ben told us we both had 2 laps to go. Which was great, except that on MY previous lap Ben had told me that I had 2 laps to go! I asked him to check it because if I was on my last lap I would run it quite differently than if it was my penultimate lap! Imagine the devastation if you crossed the line having gone hard on what you thought was your last lap, and then being told you had a lap to go? Nope, it was definitely my second last lap. I took it relatively easy on that lap (2:25) and when I got to the bell lap it was on! I got to my chair, took off the buff I’d been wearing for the whole race, and put on my pink fedora to finish the race!
I had intended also to drop my drink bottle but forgot. Tracie was at the finish line taking photos, and I didn’t want my drink bottle in the photos, so I threw it off to the side of the track about 50m from the finish and sprinted my way across the line! I had finished in 4:53:43, only 23 seconds behind Justin in the end! My last lap was by far my fastest, 2:06. It’s amazing what you can pull out when you know you only have 400m left to run! (My average lap pace throughout was just under 2:29)
FINISHED ! So good! I was beyond stoked, I never would have expected to be able to RUN 50km nonstop in these conditions (it was still 32-33 degrees by the time I finished) with limited training, and although I had hoped for a sub 5 hour finish, again the weather conditions meant that it was hardly a foregone conclusion! Fastest 50km, first all-run 50km, could not be happier!
After getting my medals (one finisher medal and one 2nd place medal) my first thought was getting my shoes off! I went back to my chair and sat down, and everyone’s favourite first aid person Susan came over to me and offered to take off my shoes for me! How nice it was to finally get them off AND to find not one single blister on my feet! (I had put tape around both feet, at the arches, as I always do for long distance events, but I hadn’t bothered to tape my toes – I’ve only done that once or twice and I didn’t think it would be necessary for 50km) I had to remove my calf sleeves myself though – they were VERY tight! (They had been tight when I put them on!)
I had my vegan donuts ready and there was ample pizza this time (last year I had missed out, but then again I had run the 100km so it had been a lot later by the time I was ready for it!) – this year ALL of the pizza was vegan! ALL OF IT! We are taking over the world, one ultramarathon at a time!
But first things first, a quick photo op of the top 2 men and women in the 50km. Tracie’s camera battery was about to run out so she wasn’t able to wait for the 3rd placed man and woman to come in. We got to the podium, and Tracie wanted me to stand on the ‘3’ spot, to which I replied, “No, I was 2nd! I’m not standing on the 3” (I was already standing on the ‘2’ spot while I was saying this!) I presume it was to spread us out across the podium but I was having none of that! In the end we all stood on the ground in front of the podium. MUCH better!
Justin had a beer in his hand so I thought it was an appropriate moment to crack open the cider!
The 50km runners kept finishing. Matthew, Andrew and Toby finished in quick succession, followed closely by 3rd placed female Gabrielle, who I hadn’t met before. I went over to her picnic rug to have a bit of a chat and a photo.
Not long after that, Graham finished. I could see him coming (the hi-viz yellow top giving him away!) and for half a second I did think about chasing him to the finish (as he had done to me at the Tower Trail Run) but as I was in my Birkenstocks by now and comfortably sitting down, I quickly decided against it!
I eventually got around to having some pizza and donut – I started off just taking one piece of pizza (remembering how devo I was when I missed out last year!) and then realised that there was a CRAPLOAD of pizza. And did I mention that it was ALL VEGAN?
It was nice to be able to just sit back and relax, drink my cider and watch the world go by. And by ‘the world’ I mean ‘crazy runners’! I found a great spot, just near the finish line, actually on the long jump pit. Imagine lying on the beach, but on a towel so you don’t get sand all over you. That was what it was like – I could have stayed there all night!
A little while after fellow Team Vegan member Ryan, I was at the finish line to see Kate, who was accompanied by the ever-present Tracey and Sheena. Of course they were a fair way off finishing themselves, but they were there to join in Kate’s finish line party!
It was apparently pretty early on who the likely winner of the 100k event was going to be. Darren was going from strength to strength. Being separated by 2 lanes, I didn’t see him lap me as many times as he undoubtedly did, but when I heard speedy footsteps 2 lanes away, I knew who it was!
At 3:16am, in a super impressive time of 8:16:19, Darren crossed the line to win the SA 100km track championship. I didn’t see him walk once!
One thing I had wanted to do the last 2 years, and quite a few times during the 50k this year, was have a lie down on one of the high jump mats – they looked so damn comfy! Well eventually Kate and I decided to go and try it out, and were soon joined by super volly Michelle, taking a brief break from her marathon volunteering shift! Like the long jump pit, I probably could have stayed there all night rather than going home! Probably should have, actually! (Remind me next year!)
The main reason Kate and I were hanging around was because we had to see Tracey and Sheena finish – they were having a little bit too much fun out there! We kept moving though – at one point we considered joining the two of them for a lap, except that was against the rules, so we wouldn’t do that, plus there was no way we were going to do any jogging! Instead we just walked an easy lap around the outside of the track. I think the fact that we hung around for a while after finishing, helped my recovery. I may otherwise have gone straight to bed, but while waiting for the girls to finish, we moved around a reasonable amount! (Recovery Tip #1: try to keep moving as much as possible straight after, and keep lightly active the next day!)
Before too long, ultra running legend Kym finished (he has now done every Yurrebilla 56k, every Heysen 105k and every track champs 50k – a fairly exclusive club of which he is 100% of the membership!) leaving Tracey and Sheena with Lane 4 all to themselves!
Somehow Sheena was 2 laps ahead of Tracey. We wondered what they were going to do, because I couldn’t see any scenario in which they wouldn’t finish together! We soon found out.
At 4:16am Sheena crossed the line to complete the 50k, with Tracey still 2 laps behind. What did Sheena do? Well, she kept going, of course! After having run 50km (118ish laps) she went and ran another 2 laps to finish with Tracey! That’s friendship for you! (If it was me I would have taken a 2 lap break with 1 lap to go, and let her catch up! But that’s just me!)
It was so great to see the two of them finish together, what better way for Tracey to celebrate her birthday?
We stayed for a bit longer after that, chatting with a few of the volunteers and Susan. The conversation soon (as it always does) turned to hydration and wee colour. I made the mistake of telling Susan that I hadn’t been since before the race started (so this was about 9 hours later!) – she was horrified! Then when I did eventually go, she showed me a chart and asked me what colour it was – suffice to say I needed to drink a LOT of water to rehydrate!
I had one last look at the live results before leaving. Looking at Colin and Stephan, it looked like they should be able to make cutoff time but it would be a near thing – there wouldn’t be time for much resting!
Then I realised that I could have packed all of my stuff into the car while we were waiting for Tracey and Sheena, my 2 eskies, chair, bag of clothes and shoes, and all the rest! Luckily super volly Ziad was happy to help me carry my stuff so I only had to make one trip to the car! The security guards (who were there all night – what a boring gig for them!) escorted us to my car – apparently some weirdos hang out at the athletics stadium on a Saturday night! I wouldn’t have thought they would be any weirder than the weirdos INSIDE the stadium!
And then, just before 5am, I headed home. After unloading the car, having a shower and donning the compression tights (Recovery Tip #2 – put compression tights on ASAP after the event, ideally for 24 hours!) I finally got to bed at around 6am. If anyone had asked me how my Saturday night was, and I started by telling them I got to bed at 6am, they may have had quite a different picture of how the night went!
Sleeping is overrated as all ultrarunners know, so I was awake again by 9:30. First order of business (after making sure my legs still worked) was to check the final results – cutoff time was 9am! I was so happy to read that Colin and Stephan had both finished within the last 10 minutes. Stephan had made it with just over 4 minutes to spare! After he had missed out narrowly last year, I was over the moon for him! I would have loved to have been there to see it! In hindsight, I probably would have slept just as well lying on a high jump mat at the stadium than I did at home (especially on such a warm night!) I’m certainly not hoping for another night like this next year, but sleeping at the stadium would have been quite pleasant this time around!
And now for the thankyous.
Firstly, congratulations to everyone who turned up to run this year – much respect for braving the heat and getting out there and doing it anyway – in fact this year was a record field which is amazing!
And THANKS too, to all the runners, everyone as always was very encouraging and supportive, and it was great having the company out there!
Thanks to all the support crews, who were mostly there supporting other runners but were always happy to give anyone a cheer as they went past!
To all the people who came down to support us – it’s always good to see friendly faces on the sidelines and cheering – even though they probably would rather have been in the pool or inside with the aircon cranked up!
To Susan for helping me with my shoes and making sure I was rehydrating appropriately – and for everything you do for our running events! Always great to see you out there and even better to not require your services!
To Tracie, official photographer – it’s great to have some photographic evidence of the different stages of the race! Hope watching us run around in circles wasn’t too boring for you!
Then of course, all of the FABULOUS volunteers who kept us hydrated and as cool as possible in the conditions!
Oh and let’s not forget Race Director Ben. I’ve kind of run out of words! Another wonderful event (seriously I think I could cut and paste this bit and put it in EVERY race report!) and I don’t know how you do it, but please keep doing it! (Even though you did let me think I was on my second last lap when I actually had three laps to go!)
So I’m not even going to go down the ‘never again’ road. I am pretty sure I will be back again next year. I may give the 100km another crack (if the weather forecast is favourable) or I might try to improve on this year’s 50km! Actually I think the 50k was harder than the 100k (possibly due to the weather conditions this year, or the fact that I pushed harder in the 50k, or probably a bit of both!)
I can highly recommend this event to anyone who wants a challenge. The 50km is very doable for anyone – with a 13 hour cutoff time this year, you could walk it quite comfortably! Support is never more than 400m away and you don’t need maps, compasses or snake bandages! If you want an even bigger challenge give the 100km a crack – this year’s 14 hour cutoff is a lot more achievable and I can’t imagine you’ll ever find a flatter 100km race!
I can sum up Thredbo Fun and Fitness Week (TFFW) in just a few words: a brilliant week with fabulous people in an amazing location!
But you know me, I can’t write a 25 word blog post!
2018 was my third consecutive TFFW. I am now officially a regular!
TFFW is put on by the YMCA of Canberra Runners Club and is a week of events (many of them running, but a lot of other non-running activities too) which appeal to people of all ages and abilities, including Olympians and world champions! People come from all over Australia to participate, well by ‘all over Australia’ I mean mostly Canberra and Sydney, plus a not insignificant number from South Australia!
It’s a pretty long drive to Thredbo from Adelaide, approximately 1100km. Consequently, most of the SA contingent break up the drive with an overnight stay in Albury.
You have to be prepared for anything. And by anything, I mean, hot, cold, rain, hail, snow, March flies. To illustrate this point, the day we left Adelaide it was around 38 degrees (and in Albury as well) and the night before we left Thredbo to start the journey home a week or so later, it snowed! Consequently it’s kind of hard to know what to pack!
We arrived in Thredbo on Saturday around lunchtime, having decided this year NOT to do the Albury/Wodonga parkrun (the only parkrun in Australia as far as I know, which crosses a state border!). It was what you might call ‘hot’ in Thredbo, although by reports it was actually only about 24 degrees. The altitude may have made it feel hotter, maybe! Adelaide is about 50m above sea level, Albury about 150m, and Thredbo around 1300m. It’s a bit of a contrast!
The first event of TFFW involves gaining a little more altitude. The Crackenback Challenge involves running (or in the case of us mere mortals, mostly walking) up a fairly steep hill. The race is approximately 2km which doesn’t sound so bad until you find out that there is about 600m elevation gain over that 2km. Most normal people would ascend that particular hill via the conveniently located chairlift. Now where’s the fun in that?
We have some pretty steep hills in the Adelaide region, and even some hills that are almost as steep as that, but I am sure that the high altitude adds an extra degree of difficulty to this event, especially considering it’s held just a few hours after most of us arrive in Thredbo! Still, nothing like jumping straight into it – no time to get settled in!
This year was the 50th anniversary of the Crackenback Challenge so a top field of athletes had assembled at the bottom of the chairlift, along with a few ‘legends’ of the event who were the official starters. At the time of writing I don’t know exactly how many participants there were in 2018 but the number 66 rings a bell.
We were off and running!
Well, maybe not running. I might have run the first few steps. It’s not what I would call runnable. The leaders were running though!
There’s not really a lot I can say about this race. You just have to put one foot in front of the other and hope you don’t go so slowly you end up going backwards. There are a couple of very short flat bits which it’s best to try to run if you can, but other than that, the average person will be walking the bulk of the 2km.
The course is not marked as such, and in fact there is no set course. You can pretty much go whichever way you want, as long as you get to the finish line. Straight up, following the course of the chairlift, would be the shortest option but I don’t think I’ve seen anyone successfully go that way. The shorter the route, the steeper it will be. If you want to flatten out the gradient a bit (good luck with that!) you’ll add on more distance. It’s all part of the fun!
Last year a few of us did ‘Crackenback’ a couple of times during the week, just for ‘fun’. I do recall during this year’s event, thinking to myself (and maybe even saying it out loud!) “I’m never doing this again!”. By that, I meant, never again until next year!
My previous pacesetter, David, was in his usual spot just in front of me. As long as he stayed there, I would just be able to follow him. There are a few points along the way where people take different routes and it’s hard to know which is the right way to go! (At one point one of the other South Australians, Harry, went a slightly different way. I wasn’t convinced that his way was the best way, but he later pointed out to me that I’d passed him twice, which would tend to suggest that his way was quicker!)
I did end up passing David about halfway up, so I had to find someone else to follow! Everyone was going around the same pace, and I even managed to pass some people while walking! Everyone was pretty much horizontal. (I’m told by people who were up at the finish line, that the eventual winner, stair climbing champion Mark Bourne, was about the only one that was vertical by the end!)
Even though it felt quite slow, for me it ended up being a marginal PB! I was pretty happy with that. I don’t know what position I was in, at the time of writing only the top 10 male and female results have been published. I was probably somewhere around mid pack. My Strava time was 35:12, compared to 36:03 and 35:40 in 2017 and 2016 respectively.
The presentation took place in the local pub, and it involved a bit of a panel discussion with the aforementioned legends which was really good to listen to. And I won a bottle of wine in the barrel draw – kicking off the week in style!
On Sunday I went for a hike up Merritts Nature Track with Karen, Daryl and David, approximately 4km with the same elevation as the Crackenback Challenge (essentially we started and finished in the same place). Merritts was quite the tough climb, including more stairs than I remembered! After a coffee at Eagles Nest (the highest restaurant in Australia) Daryl and I went back down in the chairlift to participate in the traditional 6km fun run, while David and Karen ran back down via a different track.
It seemed pretty warm for the fun run, although it probably wasn’t any warmer than last year! It was actually my slowest time for this event, a good couple of minutes slower than when I first did it in 2016, although I did manage to stay under 30 minutes. Maybe I should stop doing a 4km uphill hike before doing the fun run! And then next year someone will suggest doing Merritts on Sunday morning and I’ll be like “Yeah, why not?”
A little later in the day Karen, Daryl, David and I went to the swimming centre for a few laps (Karen and I were planning to do the aquathlon later in the week and David had told us that swimming at altitude is very different to swimming at sea level, so we thought it would probably be best to get accustomed to it!) and most importantly a few goes on the waterslide! (Access to the swimming centre and the waterslide was included in our chairlift pass – I only made it down there once but it was a great option to have!)
On Monday most of us went to do the ‘Big Walk’ – a 30km loop starting and finishing at the top of the chairlift. This was the first time for the week that I actually went UP on the chairlift! There were 10 of us at the start, but David took off pretty quickly so we didn’t see him for the rest of the day! Karen and Mandy were also a bit too quick for the rest of us, so for most of the day it was 7 of us, and the great thing was that I got to walk and chat with all of them at one time or another (we were out for about 6 and a half hours including a few breaks for food). The flies were less of an issue than in previous years (probably because it was quite cool and windy) although I did manage to get a few March fly bites during our lunch stop! And I didn’t see any snakes this time!
After lunch, we were checking the weather forecast and decided we needed to get moving – thunderstorms were coming, and we needed to make it back to the chairlift before then, as the chairlift would be closed in a thunderstorm or high winds.
By the time we got back to Rawsons Pass, we put our rain jackets on (Sue’s idea being that if she put her rain jacket on, it definitely wouldn’t rain! It didn’t work!) and not long after that the rain started. It wasn’t super heavy but there was a bit of thunder. We definitely picked up the pace a bit after that! We were walking on a very slippery metal walkway (slippery at the best of times, and even more so after it had rained!) so running was not an option! (Daryl managed to fall over on it twice even though he wasn’t running!)
After what seemed like an eternity we made it back to the chairlift to the sight of Sally waving her arms frantically – we had 5 minutes before they closed the chairlift! So much for a post-hike coffee at Eagles Nest! I looked back behind me, Harry and Marg weren’t far behind and I called out to them to hurry up. We all got onto the chairlift and it was definitely the fastest ride I’ve ever done on that chairlift!
There was some talk of stopping for a coffee at the coffee shop but we opted instead to go straight back to the lodge. And it was a good thing we did, because we hadn’t been back more than a couple of minutes before the heavens really opened!
On Tuesday Karen, Daryl and I went to nearby Jindabyne for a bit of shopping, and while we were there we headed down to watch the Australian Waterskiing Championships for a while – that was pretty exciting to watch! We made it back to Thredbo in time to watch the Invitational Mile which is always a fun spectator event – it’s a handicap event and they run sweeps to make it even more interesting! I drew two women in the sweep, Elizabeth and Elisha. Elisha was looking pretty good but then former Olympian marathoner Marty Dent (who started off scratch!) passed her and I reckon with another 100m he would have ended up finishing first! The invitational mile was followed by the fun run mile which last year wasn’t really a mile (I think maybe 1.3km) so I’d convinced Sue and Mandy to enter because the barrel draw prizes were pretty good! They were cursing me apparently because this year it actually was a mile! I walked the first 2/3 of the run and then decided to jog the last bit. I ended up winning a T-shirt in the barrel draw.
Wednesday was a big day. It started with the women’s run and the men’s run. I really like this event, partly because it is a beautiful course (approximately 4km), partly because it is SO well marshalled (getting lost is pretty much impossible) and partly because the way it is set up, with mostly men marshalling the women’s race and vice versa, everyone gets to run if they want to! It’s a yacht handicap, so you have to estimate your finish time, with the runners with the slower predicted times starting first, and the idea being to finish as close to the ‘zero’ mark as possible. And of course you can’t wear a watch! This year I was about 30 seconds too fast – I’m actually pretty hopeless at this kind of thing and this was probably one of my better efforts!
After the women’s run, a group of the girls, plus David who didn’t do the men’s run, did the ‘Run to the Resort’, following the Thredbo Valley Track, a shared walking/MTB track going from Thredbo Village to Lake Crackenback Resort. (I actually think it goes further than that now, but that was as far as we were going!) Harry, who was marshalling both the women’s and the men’s races, wanted to go as well, so I said I’d wait for him and we could meet the others at the resort. We ended up starting about an hour and 20 minutes after the rest of them, so we didn’t catch up with them, but they were well and truly settled in at the cafe at Lake Crackenback when we arrived! It’s a nice run – about 19km from our lodge to the cafe, and the path is really good to run on, and most importantly, mostly downhill! (That’s why the mountain bikers like it!) We didn’t encounter too many MTBs and most of them were going our way, but most of them were very courteous! (Harry came up with an evil plot which involved asking MTB riders if they were on their own – ostensibly to make sure we could look out for anyone else behind them – only for one of us to mug them and the other to steal the bike! We never quite managed to pull it off, though!)
I managed not to get lost at all along the way, which was an improvement on when I ran this trail last year – the trail is very well marked! It wasn’t until we got to Lake Crackenback itself that we lost the trail and ended up on the road, but that was only about the last kilometre. And then we saw Sally waving to us and we knew we’d reached our destination!
After a very well earned Coke, a few of us wandered down to the lake where there were a bunch of kayaks on the shore, so we decided to go for a little paddle!
That evening was the official TFFW dinner, which most of us in our lodge went to. It was a great night, with another panel discussion and some very entertaining speeches (and some fairly expensive wine!)
On Thursday, while another group went off to do the Cascades run, I went off to do the 10km Dead Horse Gap hike with Karen, Daryl and David. It was another tough climb – the third time for the week that I walked up a hill when there was a perfectly good chairlift available! It’s a beautiful hike though, the snow gums are simply spectacular! (We did miss out though – the girls who went to Cascades saw a dozen brumbies! I’d never seen a brumby! Unless Wild Brumby gin distillery counts?)
Later in the day I finally made it to the bobsled track for the first time this year. Our chairlift passes included 16 bobsled rides and I intended to make the most of it! On my first ride I took back my Strava course record. At the time when I originally set the CR (last year), it wasn’t even a segment, but then someone went and made a segment out of it AND had the audacity to beat my CR!
Then it was time to get ready for the aquathlon – a 200-300m swim in the lake followed by a 2-3km run. No-one quite seemed to know what the distances were! I had brought my tri suit as had Karen, although most people seemed to be swimming/running in bathers. Neither of us particularly fancied doing that!
The lake was quite a pleasant temperature, and being a freshwater lake, was mercifully not infested with jellyfish, unlike my usual swimming hole in Adelaide!
We swam from one end of the lake, around a red buoy, around a yellow buoy, and then to a large buoy which signified the exit point from the lake. I’ll happily admit that as a swimmer, I make a very good runner. I was well back in the pack (which sounds a bit better when I reveal that a lot of the swimmers in the event were actually elite NSW swimmers, who happened to be in town for the week for training). Now I have some issues seeing with my goggles, which are very darkly tinted, ideal in sunny conditions but not so good when the sun isn’t too bright. As I approached what I thought was the red buoy, it started talking to me, and I realised that either I was hallucinating, or what I THOUGHT was the red buoy was actually one of the marshals, who happened to be a fellow South Australian, Jeff, wearing an Arsenal hat! I wasn’t the only one who made that mistake though!
I quickly got back on track and eventually found my way to the edge of the lake where I ran out and put my shoes on (no socks) and hit the Pipeline track for the run!
The run was pretty uneventful – for me at least! I would have had to be one of the last out of the water but I was able to overtake quite a few people on the run. Probably all the elite swimmers! I don’t know how many were in the event, what position I finished in, or what my time was (I was wearing my Garmin and I ALMOST managed to get it right!) but I am happy with whatever it was – especially because a large black snake made an appearance on the track not long after I had gone past! Good thing I wasn’t a bit slower!
The prizes in the barrel draw were great! I won another bottle of wine (and I think David did too)! Karen won some socks so it was winners all around from the South Australian contingent!
Friday was probably the highlight of TFFW, the Veterans Run, also known as Eric’s Run, after a former TFFW regular and huge contributor to the SA running community. This run is organised by the SA crew each year, with probably the best barrel draw prizes (I may or may not be biased) including wine and a ridiculous number of T-shirts! (And by ridiculous, I mean that everyone got to go up twice and there were STILL shirts left over!)
I had done the run twice and this year I was one of the marshals. Tradition dictates that if it’s your first TFFW and you meet the age requirements (35 and over for women, and 40 and over for men) you run in the event, and all those who don’t run, are the marshals. Every year the marshals dress up to a particular theme and this year it was ‘Let’s Get Physical’. The guys were resplendent in bright orange Corporate Cup T-shirts (some spares from the barrel draw!) and matching headbands knitted by Mandy, and the girls went all out with bright colours and leotards and legwarmers!
Sally had come up with the idea of doing a group warmup, to the tune of ‘Nutbush City Limits’, an idea she had got from a winery fun run a few months back. Marg and I were the aerobics instructors and we managed to get the majority of the runners involved!
I then had to run to my marshalling point, just in time for the first runners to come through. It was a challenging run course – lots of hills and quite a few steps! The way it works is, as the last runner goes past, the marshal at that point follows them, and at each marshalling point they ‘collect’ the marshal from that point. That way, the marshals get to experience the course (which changes every year) and are back at the Village Green just after the last runner.
After the barrel draw came one of the nicest traditions, where all the SA crew (plus quasi South Australian Ryan, who this year was eligible to run the event for the first time, having previously been one of our marshals) gather at Eric and May’s bench by the river for bubbly and snacks!
After this a few of us went back to the bobsled – Marg, Mandy, Sally, Harry and myself. Sally required a bit of convincing but ended up loving it and getting back in the queue like the rest of us for another ride! The second ride was quite eventful – as we were being towed up to the top of the track, Marg, who was just in front of me, had got out of her bobsled and was signalling at me to do the same! I didn’t know what was going on, I assumed there had been some kind of pileup on the track, so I threw myself out of the bobsled (easier said than done!) only to find that there had been a snake on the track, which by the time I found out what was going on, had sensibly made its way back into the bushes! (It’s OK though, as we were repeatedly told by the bobsled attendants, it was ‘only a copperhead’!)
There were storms on Friday night, which played havoc with the tennis finals, and there was also some talk of the following day’s Kosciuszko Classic possibly being called off. Last year’s Classic was run in pretty challenging conditions, and I couldn’t see it being worse than that, so I was optimistic! I definitely wanted to run it if it was on! I hadn’t been up Kosci on this trip, and even though it was unlikely I’d be able to see anything from the top, there was no way I was coming up to Thredbo and NOT going to the summit!
The plan was that TFFW organiser and Kosci race director Phil would go to the bottom of the chairlift at 8:30 and make the decision then, and announce via Facebook if it was cancelled. Most of the people at our lodge had decided that they weren’t going to run it even if it was on. There were only 4 of us planning to go up – the usual suspects, Karen, Daryl, David and myself. Karen had said that if it was called off she was going to go up anyway at some stage during the day. I planned to do the same!
With no announcement by 8:40 we assumed it was all systems go, so the 4 of us went to the chairlift where the crowd was gathered. Phil said he was going to wait until 9 to make the call, at which point he decided we would proceed up the chairlift to Eagles Nest and reassess from there. Before we left to start the 4.5km walk to Rawson’s Pass, he did a head count – there were 17 of us. (I’m not sure if he was including himself there). We would reconvene at the Kosciuszko Lookout along the walkway, and make a final decision about whether we would go ahead (although it could still have been called off at the last minute if the weather turned ugly!). With no storms on the horizon and no rain, the only concern was the cold winds which could result in hypothermia if people weren’t suitably dressed. Phil said all along that he reserved the right to call the race off at any point if he deemed it unsafe, which we totally understood – I was just grateful that we had got this far!
A few people turned back at the lookout, including South Aussie Peter, and also Marty and Elisha, who had both been in the Invitational Mile and Elisha had finished in the top 10 in the Crackenback Challenge. That left just 3 women in the 13-strong field for the race – I liked my chances of a podium finish!
We made it to Rawson’s Pass and all congregated in the toilets – the only shelter in the place! I asked “Are we going to leave our shit in here?” to which Kosci record holder Rob replied (something like) “I think that’s where you’re supposed to leave it!”
Phil organised for each of us to ‘buddy up’ with someone else, to make sure that we all made it back! My buddy was Rhys, who is a fellow South Australian and we are around the same pace, so it made sense for us to team up! Rhys was wearing his Adelaide Harriers singlet over the top of a long sleeved top, which made me decide at the last minute to put my SARRC singlet on over my T-shirt – I couldn’t let Harriers be the only SA club represented on the mountain!
While hanging out in the toilets (as you do!) one of the two other women in the field (ie the one that wasn’t Karen), Michelle, was having a few issues with the cold – she couldn’t quite manage to undo the cord on her hood to be able to take it off! While discussing the effects of the cold, Rhys suggested to Michelle to eat a Mars Bar (or maybe it was a Snickers, I forget!) to keep warm. (One of the other runners had a bag of fun size bars and was handing them out to those who wanted them.) I wasn’t going to eat a Mars Bar but I did have a Cool Mint Clif bar in my pack. I had planned to eat it afterwards, but what Rhys said made a lot of sense (and he is experienced at being out in the mountains in the cold!) so I thought what the hey, I might as well eat it now, just before the race! (This particular variety of Clif bar also contains caffeine – double whammy!)
A few of the other runners, Karen, Daryl, David (ie the rest of the South Australians) and one other man whose name eludes me (because at the time of writing the official results have not been posted) had set off early – that is traditionally an option for those who are mostly going to be walking, to save Phil et al waiting too long for them at the top of Kosci!
Our ‘official’ start time was 11am but Phil had told us to start whenever we got to the start line – not to hang around getting cold! As long as we all started at the same time, and then told him what time we’d started, he could work out the times based on that.
We jogged the 3km to the Snowy River to start the ascent to the summit. The 3km was all downhill, so the astute readers may have worked out that the Kosci Classic is pretty much ALL uphill. But compared to Crackenback, it’s a walk in the park!
On the way down, I was running with Ryan and we heard this noise behind us which sounded EXACTLY like a car (not something you see often in these parts!) – turned out to be just a HUGE gust of wind!
After my now traditional splashing of the face with Snowy River water (the water was surprisingly not all that cold – maybe something to do with the air temperature!) we lined up on the start line for the ‘official’ start line pic (thanks to some random passer-by for taking the pic!)
And then we set off. Rob was off like a shot! I was ahead of Michelle for a little bit, and then before long she passed me.”OK that’s it” I thought to myself, “Second place it is!”
But it wasn’t too long before she started walking and I passed her. We went back and forth a few times like this (Rhys was also around the same pace) before I decided to take a punt.
“So… how competitive are you, Michelle?” I said to her.
I can’t remember her exact words but the gist of it was, on this particular occasion it was just all about finishing.
So I made the suggestion to her about a dead-heat finish, which she seemed pretty happy with!
After that, I was a bit more relaxed in my running – all we had to do was get past Karen (who, having started early, probably would be slower than us anyway, but if we passed her then that would put it beyond doubt) and first place was ours!
As we approached Rawson’s Pass, I thought I heard a car behind us. I turned around, expecting to see nothing, but sure enough, it WAS a car! It was a ranger in a ute, I never quite figured out what she was doing there, but I assumed she was just keeping an eye on things, as the conditions were quite hazardous for the unprepared. Rhys later told me that when he saw her at Rawsons, she told him that she had measured the wind speed at 90 km/h and 5 degrees Celsius (which would, with wind chill, be effectively minus 5 degrees Celsius).
At Rawsons, I decided to ditch my gloves, putting them behind a rock so they hopefully wouldn’t blow away!
Every now and then Michelle would start walking, so I’d walk a bit. Last year, and the year before that, I’d managed to run the whole thing. This time, there was really no need to push it too hard. (Rhys, on the other hand, was determined to run the whole thing, having never done this before).
We passed Karen, Daryl and the other gentleman, and along the way we also encountered a number of very well rugged up hikers. I hated to tell a large group of tourists on their approach to the summit, that they probably weren’t going to see anything!
Not long before we reached the top, we encountered who we presumed were the top 3 men in the race, Rob, Ryan and Chad. We didn’t know what order they’d finished in but clearly Phil was serious when he said we weren’t to linger at the top for long – cross the line, quick photo, and straight back down to put some warm clothes on!
The finish line came as a bit of a surprise – partly because the visibility was so poor that it was kind of hard to see! You also come around a corner and there it is, so even on a good day it kind of sneaks up on you! Rhys was just ahead and then Michelle and I crossed together. At the time of writing I don’t know what my ‘official’ time was but according to Strava it was 34:10, EXACTLY the same as last year (to the second!) which was surprising considering I did have a few walk breaks this year unlike last year!
We had a few happy snaps (including the obligatory “I’m the highest person on Australian soil at this moment” one) and then were sent back down the mountain.
Then it was back to Rawsons, put on ALL OF THE CLOTHES and then a leisurely walk back to the chairlift, back down to the village, a quick ride on the bobsled (no snakes today!), a quick bite of lunch and then the presentation! It seemed quite appropriate that there were only 2 mugs for the women – for the purposes of the photo Michelle and I ‘shared’ one! I got to take it home but she would have got her mug eventually! And at the presentation I found out that Ryan had had his first win in the Kosci classic, with brother Chad in 3rd and Rob ending up 2nd.
That was the last official event of TFFW. Many of those in our lodge, with bad weather predicted for that night, had taken the opportunity to leave on Saturday. The rest of us stayed Saturday night and started the journey home (over 2 days, with a night in Echuca to break it up) on Sunday. Thredbo farewelled us in style, with an overnight dusting of snow. Now snow in Thredbo is not unusual (it is a famous ski resort, after all, and there are patches of snow up on the range all year around) but it IS the middle of summer so you don’t often have snow FALLING at this time of year!
AND I saw my first brumby on the drive back down the Alpine Way as we headed for Echuca!
Thanks to all involved in organising another brilliant week – see you all again to do it all again in 2019!
I’ve written about parkrun before, but just in case you have been living under a rock for the last little while, here’s a brief rundown.
parkrun (ALWAYS one word and a lower case ‘p’) is a global phenomenon. The concept is simple – a free, timed, 5k run every weekend, same time, same place, until the end of time. (Side note: if you haven’t registered yet, go to www.parkrun.com and get on board!)
Australia first got parkrun in 2011 and South Australia followed close behind in late 2012 with Torrens parkrun. I was there along with 43 other runners and 4 volunteers. Now, Torrens is regularly getting over 300 runners and at the end of last year SA got its 20th parkrun.
parkrun tourism is a thing. There is a list on the parkrun website of ‘most events’ – the parkrunners who have done the most different parkruns. It is a great honour to get your name on this list (you have to do a minimum of 20 different parkruns to qualify for the Australian list, and 30 to get on the global list). I am on the Australian list and am working towards getting onto the global list by the end of the year. With parkrun exploding in SA as it did last year (jumping from 11 to 20 events in just one year) I don’t think that will be too hard!)
parkrun tourism is also a great way to see places you might not otherwise go to. For example, when in Washington DC last year I decided to do the Roosevelt Island parkrun and if not for that, I never would have known that Roosevelt Island existed! I’d also been to Renmark for the first time because of parkrun!
Anyway, this weekend SA welcomed its 21st parkrun, at seaside Edithburgh, on Yorke Peninsula. I hadn’t been to Yorkes since I worked at Minlaton in late 2008, and it didn’t hurt that Adelaide was experiencing 40+ temperatures at the time – perfect weekend to get out of town!
As always with new parkrun launches, there is always a large contingent of tourists. Usually the tourists outnumber the locals! Week 2 is probably the best indicator of what the ‘usual’ number will be, where you get to see how many of the locals will be there week in and week out.
Edithburgh is about 250km away from Adelaide, approximately a 2.5 to 3 hour drive. With parkrun starting at 8am, I didn’t fancy leaving home before 5am (therefore probably getting up at 4am – on a Saturday!) to get there in time, so I decided to stay overnight on Friday. At the semi-last minute I managed to book a cabin at the Coobowie Caravan Park, an easy 5 minute drive from the parkrun location at Edithburgh.
By the time I arrived at about 6:30pm on Friday the temperature had dropped considerably – a welcome relief! There is a tidal pool at Edithburgh – I did go for a quick dip in there but it was actually a bit too cool by the time I got in!
On Saturday morning, I got up around 6ish, thinking to myself that I would already have been up for 2 hours if I hadn’t stayed overnight! NO THANKS!
Some crazy people (actually quite a lot of crazy people) HAD made the drive up on the morning. Admittedly some of them live a bit further north than me, so it wasn’t QUITE so long a drive, but some of them live even further away than me! And some of them were driving back home the same day!
A lot of people had decided to make a weekend of it, with SA’s 22nd parkrun, Port Broughton, which is launching in a few weeks, having a trial run on the Sunday. Port Broughton is quite far from Edithburgh but a bit closer to Adelaide.
There were 70-odd people there for the inaugural event, with just under half of those being locals. That’s a great sign – what you don’t really want in a parkrun is a huge crowd of tourists at the launch, and then NOBODY the next week!
It is a simple out and back course, mostly along the coast. We had a tail wind on the way out and consequently a head wind on the way back. The finish was a little bit brutal (if you can use such a word to describe a beautiful seaside parkrun!) in that you could see the finish line from about 500m away, and also you had to go up a hill into the wind to finish! Funny, I didn’t recall running downhill with the wind at the start! Funny how that happens!
I managed just over 23 minutes but made the rookie mistake of stopping my watch without looking – Garmin made the distance 4.98km, which of course would be rounded down by Strava to 4.9km! Of course that’s just GPS error as I’m certain that the course IS really 5k!
After a bit of socialising at the finish line and a few group photos – I’m sure wrangling 70+ parkrunners (plus doggos) for a photo is akin to taking a school class photo – we headed to the local coffee shop for the obligatory post-parkrun coffee.
Location Café is a perfect place for coffee – plenty of space for parkrunners, great coffee, inside AND outside options, and looked like a pretty good brekky! I made my way around the tables and didn’t leave there until nearly midday (I think that’s a new record for me and post-parkrun coffee!)
From there I took the long route back home – stopping for lunch in Moonta, a quick dip in the swimming enclosure at Wallaroo (actually just a paddle – the water was divine!) and a coffee. (I wasn’t going in the water but I heard someone calling my name – I thought I was imagining things but it was fellow tourist Kelly, stopping for a dip on the way to Port Broughton, so I went down to say hi!)
All up I covered 550+km (on a single tank of petrol!) but it was well worth it!
Congratulations to Edithburgh parkrun EDs Zoe and Danielle for this fantastic new event! Hopefully I’ll make it back down there again soon!
Boxing Day 2017 saw the 30th and final running of the Sam White Memorial Aquathlon – see this link for a bio of Sam White and the history of this event.
I had participated in this event once before, in 2015. It was my first multisport event and I managed to win my age group (admittedly not a huge field!)
I know what some of you are thinking.
“What the fudge is an aquathlon?”
Swimming and running, my friends. Swimming and running. Kind of like a triathlon without the cycle leg.
The format of this particular event was simple. First up were the Enduro aquathlons, consisting of 1, 2 or 3 reps of the following – 250m ocean swim and 1.7km run. After this was the Elite event, 1.7km run/500m swim/1.7km run/500m swim/1.7km run. I wasn’t able to stick around to see this event on this occasion but I do remember watching it 2 years ago. From the dead calm waters I’d swum in earlier that morning, the wind had picked up considerably by the time the Elites got out there! It was great to watch!
Anyway, back to 2017!
I entered the Medium course – 2 swims and 2 runs. In 2015 I went for the Small course, but given that this was the last event, I wanted to take it up a notch this time around! It would be my first time running and then going back into the drink!
Karen was there too, doing the Small course, and David was there again, going for the Large course! He told me before the race that he’d broken a toe last year when he kicked a rock! I asked him at what point in the race that had happened – he replied “Near the end!”
I had to figure out how to attach my race number – it was waterproof but I couldn’t imagine it would be that easy to swim with a race bib pinned to your front! Then I remembered my race belt in the car (probably about 1km away) – perfect! I could attach my number to my belt, put it in the transition area and just put it on when I went into the run leg.
Luckily I had arrived very early which gave me plenty of time to go back to the car. I was early because I had decided I also needed to do a ‘normal’ Tuesday morning run, I had gone out to run with the Semaphore running group at 7am, just a little way up the coast from where the aquathlon was held at Glenelg at 11am. Originally I’d planned on 10km because “I don’t get out of bed for less than 10km” (unless it’s a parkrun, a race or a hilly trail run) but quickly revised that to 8km.
As well as my race number I also had to get my age group written on the back of both of my legs, and pick up my swim cap. This time around I got a green cap – I really wanted a pink one but that would have meant I had to do the Large course. OK, I didn’t want a pink cap THAT badly!
And then I had to attach my timing band, taking extra special care to follow the instructions, because a lost timing band would cost me $55! I’d used bands like this before but never in a swimming event, so the possibility of losing one had never really been an issue!
I decided to wear my tri suit because it would make transitions easier. Plus it would make me look kinda sorta professional (until I got into the water!)
It wasn’t long before race organiser Malcolm did the race briefing and summoned us all down to the water’s edge. It was a wave start, with the men setting off before the women in each of the distances (presumably because they’re meant to be faster so wouldn’t have to swim over the top of us!) The Small course went first, followed by us in the Medium course. Next behind our wave was the Large course men. I fully expected to be overtaken by some of them during the swim, even with a couple of minutes head start! (And I was!)
I was trying to do a sneaky peek at the back of the other ‘green caps’ legs to see if there was anyone else in my age group. I was looking for numbers starting with a ‘4’ but didn’t see any. I should also have been looking for ‘3’ numbers as my age group (for trophy purposes) was actually 35-49! (My age group in the Small course would have been 16-49!)
There were plenty of spectators – it was a beautiful morning!
Before long we were away! But not before I kicked a dirty big rock right before the start line, causing my toe to look like this:
The swim was much the same as the one I’d done in the triathlon last month. Out, across and back. Like 3/4 of a square. The water wasn’t too choppy but there were some waves. I don’t have much experience in ocean swimming (although since this event I have had a very productive ocean swimming lesson where I learned about swimming under waves!) so I wasn’t expecting any great things from the swim. Like the triathlon, it was all about ‘just getting it done’.
The ‘out’ part of the swim was the hardest, swimming against the waves. Then it was straight across, which wasn’t too bad, and then swimming back to shore WITH the waves. One thing I did know about open water swimming was that you keep swimming until your hands touch the sand. No sense running through water, wearing out your legs, when you could be swimming and predominantly using your arms!
Then it was into transition, where I had my race belt, cap, sunnies, running shoes (with elastic laces) and socks. I decided for the first run not to wear the socks, and then depending on how that went, I might decide to wear them for the second run. While giving my feet a quick dry off, I managed to get my goggles full of sand, but I figured I could always wash them off in the ocean as I ran in for the next swim!
I grabbed my shoes, ran up off the beach, dusted off the sand and slipped into the shoes. Some people had buckets of water ready to wash their feet but I didn’t bother with that and didn’t have any issues. Maybe for a longer run I would do that but not for 1.7km.
The run was good. I had no worries about the run. I always expected to pass people on the run, which I did.
We were directed down some stairs back onto the beach for a bit, where I re-entered transition. I left the shoes on until I got back to my towel. I’m not sure if it would have been any easier running barefoot (you’re allowed to run barefoot on the sand but have to put your shoes on when you get off the beach)
Experienced triathlete Neil, down as a spectator for this event, had told me at the start that I didn’t have to wear my swim cap for the second swim. Although there were a few guys in white caps (Large course) doing the whole thing with caps on! So all I had to do was ditch the shoes, race belt, cap and sunnies, grab the sandy gogs and head back to the water (preferably without kicking any rocks!)
The second swim was harder and subsequently slower – mostly because my legs were a bit cooked from the run, and of course the start of the swim involves more running, but this time through water and against the waves! At times I did do breaststroke kick with freestyle arms (mostly when I encountered waves and when going around corners). And I did get smacked in the head for the first time ever, on the approach to shore! The guy didn’t even seem to notice that he’d smacked me!
This time, I went through transition, grabbed my sunnies and shoes and was away! Didn’t even bother trying to dry off my feet this time. And opted to go sans socks again. I also opted to go sans race number, which the marshal at the jetty pointed out, so I had to go back and grab that, at which point I also grabbed my cap which I had also forgotten. Probably cost me about 20 seconds if that. In the overall scheme of things, it wasn’t a big issue and definitely a mistake I won’t make twice!
A slightly slower second run, still overtaking people along the way, and then back on the sand, this time to go through the finishing arch! I could hear someone behind me, I could tell it was a guy, so not someone I could potentially be competing with, but still, I didn’t want to be passed at the finish line – by anyone!
I later found out that I won my age group! (I also finished last in my age group, go figure!)
Time is probably inconsequential, but I finished 4th female (out of 9) and 11th out of 22 overall, in a time of 31:12, ‘only’ about 5 minutes behind the 3rd placed female! (The top 3 females were all in the under 16 age group!) That’s why I said my transition error didn’t really cost me anything!
The splits were interesting but not really surprising.
Overall I was pretty happy with how it went, it’s all a great learning experience!
Karen won her age group too!
Thanks to all of the many volunteers who made this event possible, to organiser Malcolm (whose timing company Event Strategies is very well known among trail and road running events in SA!) and to the White family! And well done to all who participated – what a great way to start Boxing Day!
Seems an appropriate time to reflect on what has gone down during this year, and have a sneaky peek ahead to 2018!
Because I’m in lazy mode, this post is probably going to be full of links to other posts! Why reinvent the wheel?
Let’s go right back to the start. My first big event of the year was the 100km track championships. It was my second year in a row competing in this event. I probably said ‘never again’ afterwards. Well, I haven’t entered yet, but needless to say I WILL be going back to do it all again next month!
Running-wise, probably the big highlight of 2017 would have to be the Boston Marathon. You might want to make yourself a cup of tea before reading that one – it’s a bit of an epic!
Qualifying for Boston was the main focus of the first half of 2016. It (and the accompanying coast to coast USA trip) would be my 40th birthday present to myself! So I guess it’s appropriate that the story of the race itself was a big one!
Boston was not, of course, the only highlight of the trip!
From New York to San Francisco, I had a ball! Sport, music, culture, you name it, I did it! And the food, oh the food!
But if I had to pick just ONE highlight from the trip, it wouldn’t be running-related at all. (Well, there was some running involved. I practically had to run to make my bus back to NYC the next morning!) Finally getting to see Def Leppard live was one of the highlights of the whole year, I had been wanting to see them for 25 years and after not being allowed to go at the age of 15, the timing had never worked out before. When I found out that they were touring North America at the same time as me, even though our itineraries did not quite match up, I did manage to make a little side trip to Connecticut! Hopefully the next time I see them will be in Australia, otherwise I can see more overseas travel coming up!
So getting back to Australia and more active pursuits, I had a couple more gigs as a half marathon pacer – firstly at the Barossa Marathon and then at Adelaide where I also had my 15 milliseconds of fame!
I ‘upgraded’ at the semi-last minute from the 6 hour to the 12 hour, at the Adelaide 24 hour festival. Very happy with that decision, I finished 2nd behind the remarkable Amelia who smashed out almost 130km in 12 hours!
After 12 months or so of avoiding hills, I got my hill legs back in the second half of the year. It started with the Tower Trail Run in Mount Gambier, a fantastic weekend away and a surprisingly good run (meaning that I was surprised with how well I ran – I never doubted that it would be a great event!)
My other big hilly run for the year was the Heysen 35. Many ‘accused’ me of being ‘soft’ but I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to top my 105km from last year, and I preferred to do something different where it would be a guaranteed PB! Plus, it gave me the opportunity to be part of the awesome finish line party! (Incidentally, the 35 contains about half of the elevation gain of the 105. So it’s far from an ‘easy’ option!)
I finally got a bike! I’m still very much a newbie at it, but since getting the bike in July I’ve managed to master cleats, starting to get the hang of gears, and I’ve ridden in my first community ride and also conquered the famous Norton Summit! I’m not signing up for the Tour Down Under just yet though! Early days…
Once I had the bike, I had pretty much run out of excuses not to get involved in multisport events, namely duathlon and triathlon!
I did my first duathlon after only a couple of rides on the bike, and because it was only a very short ride, I decided to do the ride in my running shoes, to make transitions quicker! I was nowhere near ready to race in cleats, and I figured it was better to jump in not quite ready, than to wait until I was ready, by which time the duathlon season would be over!
The next step was my first triathlon, which I completed in November and absolutely loved! I had hoped to do more triathlons this season but each one clashed with a running event! And I am, after all, a runner first, triathlete second! I do have one more tri planned before the end of the season, and am eyeing off Murray Man in 2018.
Back to non-running things, I had a few changes in my appearance during the year! In February I had my head shaved as part of the Leukaemia Foundation’s ‘World’s Greatest Shave’ which I had done twice before. I actually quite like the ‘buzz cut’ look – and talk about low maintenance (not to mention aerodynamic!).
Then, when it grew back long enough for me to get my first haircut, I decided on a dramatic change and went blonde for the first time in my life! (It was inspired by a mullet wig I wore to the Guns N’Roses concert – a few people commented that the colour suited me, and the seed was planted!)
I’ll finish off by talking a bit about being involved in races ‘from the other side’!
This year I MC’d my first race at Mt Crawford and then was asked to MC the Yurrebilla 56k Ultra which was just the best fun EVER! I’m a bit torn because I think I’d like to run Yurrebilla in 2018 but if for some reason I can’t, or choose not to, I’d love to MC again!
Obviously that’s just a taste of the year that was 2017 – just a few of many highlights! And a few hints of what is to come in 2018!
What were YOUR highlights of 2017? Could you pick just one?
This Sunday was the first race of the 4 race Yumigo! Summer Trail Series. There is a race every month from December to March, each with short and long options, and each one getting progressively longer! At the end of the series, points from each race are added up and prizes are awarded for the top 3 males and females overall in both the short and the long courses, and also the top 3 males and females in each age group.
I have only ever run a couple of races in the series. In 2015/2016 I ran Anstey Hill in December and then the final race at Newland Head in March. Last season I didn’t run any of the races (being interstate for the first 2) although I did volunteer at the last one. This summer, I plan to run 3 of the 4 races, as I will be away for January’s event (unfortunately the one that is closest to home for me!) It will mean that I miss the last 2 Gatti Triathlons, as unfortunately they clash with the last 2 races of the trail series!
This season I have decided I want to try for an overall age group placing. Both the Yumigo! summer series and the Trail Running SA winter series have series awards and I have never run enough of the races to be in contention!
I’m not sure exactly why, but I decided that this season I was going to focus on the short courses. I had always gone for the long course before, but this time around I decided that short was the way to go! Sure, I am doing a 100km trail ultra next May (and probably a 58k warmup in April) which I need to train for, but speed is still important! And how do you get speed? Well, in part, by running shorter events!
I had a great week of running in the lead-up. A fast, flat 10k on Sunday, a fastish hilly 11k on Wednesday and a fast flat 10k on Thursday. No trails, and not a whole lot in the way of hills, but I was very happy with my pace!
On Saturday I decided to make the trip down to Victor Harbor for parkrun, a nice change of scenery, and I picked a great day for it too. It was my 10th Victor parkrun (and the 7th time I’d driven down on the day to run it) and probably the best conditions I’d ever run there. Sunny, mild, and very little wind! I ran it with Simon, who was taking it really easy (hence the reason I was able to run with him) and we chatted the whole way about triathlons, as he was doing his first one on Sunday. It worked out well for me too, because I was able to run at a relatively fast pace, but slower than I otherwise would have, and I really needed to save my legs for Sunday!
I hadn’t really thought about what I was going to wear. I gave myself an hour to get ready in the morning, so that gave me time to decide what to wear and change my mind once or twice. It was an early start, 7:30 for both the short and the long course, so I was up at 5:30.
I ended up going with pretty much the same kit as I wore for Heysen. That was a good omen, as Heysen had gone pretty well! The only real difference was that instead of wearing my large race vest, I went with the smaller one. I probably could have managed without a vest altogether, given that the short course was supposedly only 8.5km, but it was going to be a relatively warm morning, and I wanted to have drinks on hand so I didn’t have any need to stop at the aid stations. This event was going to be all about speed! I had 2 x 250ml bottles of Gatorade in the front pockets, and the only other things I had in there was a nut bar (left over from the last time I’d used that vest!) and a snake bandage (which most likely would not be required, but it’s always good to have on hand!)
Even though it was relatively warm, my outfit was looking a little bit bland with the blue Mekong ‘Vegan Beast Mode’ top, black skirt and calf sleeves, and white hat. So I put my rainbow arm warmers on, just on my wrists, just to add a bit of colour!
As I got in the car ready to head up there, I got a text from Beck asking if race day entries would be accepted. The official word was ‘no’ but at a previous race, when I was on the registration desk, I had taken a late entry literally as everyone was lining up at the start! (And he ended up getting a placing!) She had always intended to enter, but just didn’t get around to it!
As always at these events, there were a lot of familiar faces, including the Adelaide Running Paparazzi (aka Gary) who ensured there were at least a few pics for me to use in this race report (my phone memory is almost full so I hardly have any room for any more photos!). Beck was there too, and managed to sign up with no issues.
Given that we all started at the same time (short and long course) I didn’t quite know who I was ‘competing’ against! As a relatively late entrant, my bib number was in the 1000s. Theoretically the long course runners had the lower numbers and the short course runners the higher ones, but the late entrants were a mystery! I kind of assumed that the more elite runners would be doing the long course (another reason why I was doing the short course!) but I saw Jenny at the start and she was doing the short course. Other than Jenny and Beck, I wasn’t sure which other females were in the short course. Jenny I had met at this very event 2 years ago – on that occasion I had finished ahead of her, but that feat was unlikely to be repeated – she has certainly gone on to bigger and better things since then!
The race started with a little 500m loop around the start/finish area – I wonder if that was to try to spread the field out a bit before we hit the single track? It was a new course this year, significantly different from when I had run it 2 years ago.
Just over 1km in, we hit the first steep uphill bit. Almost 1km straight up, before we’d even got warmed up! New course designer Justin loves his hills!
Not long after we’d gotten over the first hill, we had another (shorter) uphill section and then it flattened out a bit.
Early on in the race we were on single track, making it difficult for anyone to pass. It wasn’t really an issue for me, I was quite comfortable sitting where I was sitting! I could sense at times people ‘breathing down my neck’ but I figured if they wanted to get past they would either call out, or wait until we reached a wider section of track and just go. I would have let them past if they’d asked (unless they were a female, especially one aged 40-44, in which case it would have been elbows out!) (That was a joke by the way!)
Early on in the race I was running alongside Cliff and his 10 year old son Sam, who were doing the long course. They were not racing, said Cliff, just taking it easy. I’d like to see their ‘racing’ because not long after our little chat, I couldn’t see them anymore! Which was particularly impressive as Sam was wearing a fluoro orange cap that was hard to miss!
Another familiar face I saw at the start was Adam, with whom I’d shared most of the Heysen 35k (actually, come to think of it, probably the last trail run I did!). He was just ahead of me for about the first half of the race, every time I got close we’d hit an uphill and I’m not so good on the uphills (but getting better!). Eventually I caught up with him, and in the approximately 30 seconds we were running together, I stepped on a rock and nearly rolled an ankle. After our little navigational mishap at Heysen I decided that us running together was a bad idea so I wished him all the best and went on my way!
Around the same time (before or after, who knows?) I was on a single track section, kicked a rock and was nearly sent flying, but managed to catch myself. I heard a voice behind me, I recognised it as Uli (not quite sure what he was doing behind me!) and called out “See, that’s why you don’t want to run right behind me!” Pretty soon after this he passed me on a wider section. He (like Adam) was of course doing the 14km. He said he wouldn’t tell anyone about my little almost-stack but really, if I didn’t mention this, I wouldn’t have much to write about in my blog! Races where everything goes perfectly don’t make for particularly interesting race reports!
Another familiar face out there was Claire, one of the Trail Running SA committee and a very good trail runner, especially going up hills (which I may have mentioned is not my forte!) I passed her early, then she effortlessly passed me going up a hill. She wasn’t carrying any hydration so I kind of assumed she was in the 8.5km, but when I did eventually catch up with her I found out she was doing the long course!
I was pleased that I was able to run most of the course. I walked a little bit on the early hill (only because I could see EVERYONE in sight ahead of me was also walking, so I figured it was OK!) and then towards the end I walked a couple of times, firstly on what I believe was the steepest part, up the bricks, approximately a 15 degree gradient. Amazingly a guy, who I didn’t know, who I had passed not long before this, passed me, RUNNING up the bricks! (It was kind of like Ambers Ridge in Yurrebilla 2016). After about the first half of the bricks I moved across to the left hand side of the bricks and was able to resume running, as it was not quite so steep.
Just after this, at the 7.5km mark, the short and long courses split. Up until then, we were all running together. Now I would know for sure who I was ‘competing’ against! (I made sure I followed the right path, as the long course runners would soon go up a hill known as ‘Torture Hill’. I had no desire to go up ‘Torture Hill’ – I’m sure it was as pleasant as it sounds – especially given that it was not part of the course I was meant to be running!) Theoretically that meant I only had 1km to go! (I didn’t know what the terrain was like though – for all I knew it could have been 1km straight uphill!)
I walked one more uphill bit after this, right near the end. I couldn’t see anyone ahead of me, and the people behind me were far enough behind that I was pretty confident they wouldn’t catch me, so I figured it was OK!
Although I was keeping an eye out for arrows and the magic red and white tape that showed that I was on the right track, I was also following people. It is helpful to make you run a bit faster – “I’ll just catch up to that person” – and of course also good to know you’re still on track! That is, assuming that the person you are following is in the race!
The last person I followed, as it turned out, was not. I recognised him, elite runner Matthew Fenech, who I would never be that close to if he was racing, plus he wasn’t wearing a bib. I had a quick chat to him, telling him I had been following him (to which he said he should have had a sign on his back saying “Don’t follow me!”). He said he was just trying to find the quickest way to the finish line, as a couple of his teammates were running the long course. I said that I was also trying to find the quickest way to the finish line! At this point I was sitting on about 8.2km so only had about 300m to go.
Or so I thought!
Trail race distances are notorious for not being exactly what you think they are going to be. And by this I mean they are ALWAYS longer. (Even if you don’t make an unscheduled detour!)
There was a bit more uphill, and then with the finish line in sight I commented to a marshal “This is the longest 500m I’ve ever done!” That last 500m turned out to be 1km – no wonder it felt long! My Garmin put the distance at 9km. I think that was reasonably accurate, because every kilometre there was a marker, and my watch was pretty close to the mark every kilometre! (This was probably one of the best marked courses I’ve seen – thanks to all the fantastic course markers for making it pretty much impossible to get lost!)
I crossed the line in 48:58 (according to the official provisional results) which was an average pace of 5:45 (my Strava tells me my average pace was 5:26, probably because Strava tells me I ran 9km whereas the official results are based on 8.5km). I was told as I crossed the line that I was in 4th place. I didn’t really have any expectations before the race, but when I found out I was 4th, I wondered how far off 3rd I had been?
Jenny finished 2nd and she said she hadn’t seen the 1st or 3rd place finishers (ie they were quite widely spaced apart!) I hadn’t seen anyone in front of me either, so I guessed I must have been a fair way back! Still – 4th place is not too shabby, I had gone one better than in my previous Ansteys run 2 years ago!
Just after I finished, a little kid in a race bib (he had done the newly introduced kids’ race just before we had started) came over and handed me a cup of water. A little later he gave me another one. Later again, while I was standing around chatting to a few people, he came back with a cup of Coke! “Now you’re talking!” I said to myself. “You know me well!” I said to him – nothing beats a Coke after a solid run!
When the presentations took place, I found out that I was about 2 and a half minutes behind 3rd, so that explained why I hadn’t seen anyone! (3rd was also in my age group so I ended up 2nd in the age group). Looking at the official results later, 5th was only 40 seconds behind me which is not much!
So, all in all I was pretty happy with how the race went. I am extremely happy with how I’m running at the moment. It was, as always, a fantastic event all around and great to catch up with so many running friends!
Thanks to Race Director Ben for putting on another brilliant event (I am seriously going to get RSI from typing that phrase so many times, but it’s true!) and to all the wonderful volunteers for making it possible for me to run it! Thanks also to Justin for designing a very enjoyable and challenging course!
And thanks to all the fantastic people who were out there running both the short and the long course (I loved how we all ran together for most of it!), it’s always a great, friendly, community vibe, and everyone is so supportive of each other!
So it happened. I entered my first triathlon! (Spoiler alert – I am now officially a triathlete!)
It’s something that has been on the cards for a while. I’m not sure exactly when I decided I wanted to do a triathlon, but it was late 2015 when Nat first gave me lessons in riding a road bike and using cleats, and when I first started going swimming semi-regularly (I had been a swimmer in the past, not a particularly fast one but a competent one, but I just found it incredibly boring so I gave it up and didn’t start again for many years!
That year, 2015, I competed in my first multisport event, the Sam White Memorial Aquathlons, at Glenelg just after Christmas. As a first timer, I opted for the short course (250m ocean swim and 1.7km run). There was also a medium and a long course (2 times and 3 times the short course). I managed to win my age group and also 10 passes to the local swimming centre which made it a pretty worthwhile exercise!
Then, a few months ago, not long after I finally got myself a bike, I did my first duathlon (run/bike/run) which you can read about here. (Another age group win – probably helped by the fact I was the only one in my age group!)
Now I had a bike, I had decided that this summer I was going to bite the bullet and get that first tri done. The Gatti series was a perfect choice – not far from home, and catering to a wide range of abilities. There were several distance options ranging from the Mini (100m swim/6.5km bike/1k run) to the Challenge (800m swim/26k bike/6k run). For my first one, I decided on the Tinman (300m swim/19.5k bike/3k run). The Mini was a little bit too short – I suspected my transitions would take longer than the actual swim/bike/run bits! And the Challenge was a bit too long – especially 800m in open water. I was pretty confident I could swim that far but I’d never swum more than about 400 in open water.
Because I wanted to look like a triathlete, at least until I got into the water and started to swim, I bought myself a tri suit online. I went with a 2XU one, I got it cheap and I knew the 2XU sizing from other stuff I have. It took a bit longer to arrive than I’d hoped, not arriving until the Monday before the race. I wanted to swim, ride and run in in before the day.
After my Glenelg Classic race on Sunday, I met up with Karen and Daryl, who were doing a long bike ride, for coffee. I also casually mentioned Sunday’s triathlon to Karen and said “You wouldn’t be interested in joining me for the triathlon on Sunday, by any chance?” Now she will probably tell the story differently but I can assure you there was no arm twisting. Let’s just say she required minimal convincing! (I hadn’t even entered by this stage!) We’d decided to keep it relatively quiet (ie not broadcasting on Facebook) but by Sunday evening we’d both entered and it was all over Facebook! (Hint: it wasn’t me who posted it!)
On Monday, which was quite a hot one, I went out to my usual cycling haunt, Victoria Park. Unfortunately my usual track was blocked off with a equestrian event being set up, so I had to ride a shorter loop (and consequently a lot more laps!). I’d opted to put a T-shirt on over my tri suit – the tri suit is sleeveless and I didn’t want to have to put sunscreen on my shoulders. I would of course do that on race day! I’m not sure if I would have wanted to ride much further without extra padding in the shorts, but 20k was relatively comfortable. I then racked my bike (by ‘racked’ I mean I took the front wheel off and locked it up in my car) and changed my shoes before setting off for a 3k run. Although it was quite hot, the tri suit was still relatively comfortable. I’d also gone with different shoes to normal – I had an old pair of Asics which I never run in anymore but they have the advantage of being really easy to slip into. For 3k it wouldn’t matter too much that they were no good for my feet! I’d also put elastic laces in them to further speed up transition. I calculated I did the transition in about 3 minutes which I was pretty happy with. All up, from the start of the bike leg to the end of the run leg, it took me 65 minutes. So, based on that, plus maybe 10 minutes for the swim, and add on another 5 minutes, I should be able to finish the triathlon in under 1 hour 20. It didn’t really matter, but I like to have some kind of rough idea going into an event!
I then had to fit in a swim somewhere. I needed to swim in the lake or the ocean – apparently chlorine is not particularly kind to the kind of fabric tri suits are made of! I decided to swim in the lake because that was where I’d have to swim on race day! Plus, there had been a shark sighting earlier that day. No sharks in the lake! Plenty of jellyfish, but no sharks!
Wednesday afternoon I headed to West Lakes only to find NOT ANOTHER SOUL there! I went in anyway, and did 2 laps around the buoys which I worked out would be probably around 400m. I touched 2 jellyfish! I had new goggles as I’d had issues with my previous ones leaking. However, I wasn’t particularly keen to see what was underwater so I pretty much swam the whole thing with my head out of the water (but still swimming freestyle, sort of!) The tri suit felt quite comfortable to swim in, so I was happy that it would work for the triathlon!
Thursday was a regular running day, and at post-run coffee I picked the brains of 2 experienced triathletes, Neil and Sarah, wanting to get some last-minute tips. Sarah mentioned something about not swimming in West Lakes after it had been raining, adding “do you know that rule?” Err, no, I didn’t know that rule. And it HAD been raining! Maybe that’s why there was no-one else there!
Friday was another running day, I had a particularly good hills run. (I wasn’t bothered about ‘tapering’ for this event – I didn’t have any time goals, and regardless of how much running I did, I knew I was going to be able to manage the 3k run relatively comfortably.) I then went to work and proceeded to fall up the stairs, landing quite heavily on my right knee (for the anatomically minded, right on the tibial tuberosity!)
On Saturday I went out to Mawson Lakes parkrun, I had no issues with the run, there was a bit of bruising on the knee but it didn’t impede my running at all.
Then I got home and got all my kit organised for the big race – there’s quite a bit more involved in prepping for a triathlon than for a running event!
Sunday morning was an early start. I got up at 5:30, leaving home at 6:15 to be at West Lakes by 7. Registration was from 6:45 to 7:45 and as a complete n00b I wanted to give myself plenty of time!
After collecting my race number and yellow swim cap, I headed over to the bike compound to rack my bike. I had to try to find a spot where I would easily be able to find my bike! In the end I went with row 7 (thinking ‘lucky 7’) and as it turned out, Karen and Ros had the same idea! I’d first met Ros at the very first South Australian parkrun, way back in December 2012, and she was the person who put the idea in my head that I wanted to do a marathon one day! Ros was doing her first Tinman, but was a ‘veteran’ of a number of shorter triathlons. Her husband Roger was her support crew and ‘official’ photographer!
Running buddy and Ironman finisher Sarah, doing her first triathlon since having a baby, came over to make sure I was all sorted!
There were quite a few familiar faces there, most of them doing the Challenge (Karen, Belinda, Sarah, Luke, Rob and Matt) and also our regular running buddy Neil doing the little-known ‘Swim and Spin’ – essentially the Challenge distance tri but without the run! In the Tinman, other than Karen and Ros was Naomi who I’d met at a few running events over the years!
Most people opted to get into the lake before the start of the event, to acclimatise to the water temperature. Many were wearing wetsuits. Probably not so much in the Tinman and the Mini, but certainly in the Challenge most people seemed to be in wetties. I had opted not to wear a wetty, firstly because I don’t have one, secondly because I didn’t think it would make a significant difference to my 300m swim, and thirdly because I was sure any potential gains in the swim would be lost in transition!
Pretty soon we were all called out of the water for a race briefing. The director explained the course for the swim, bike and run, and I tried to take it in, but I figured I’d always have someone to follow!
The Mini competitors went first, followed closely by the Tinmen (is that what we are?)
I had my Garmin all set up in Multisport mode so all I had to do was press ‘Start’ as we crossed the mat to start the swim leg.
Although it was really quite slow, I was really happy with how the swim went. It was essentially three-quarters of a square – straight out, around one buoy, across to another, and then straight back to shore. I didn’t get kicked, I didn’t kick anyone, and miraculously I even passed a few people! I felt very comfortable throughout. I probably could have gone faster, but as it was my first triathlon, the last thing I wanted to do was burn myself out on the swim! A lot of people had told me that they often panic in the swim and can’t get their breathing right, but I didn’t have any such issues. And I didn’t end up drinking too much of the lake so I’m counting that as a win!
There were a lot of people doing breaststroke which was my Plan B but I had been swimming freestyle exclusively for the past few years. I’m sure I can swim breaststroke faster than I can swim freestyle at the moment, and the added bonus of being able to look straight ahead AND breathe, made it quite a tempting option, but I was determined to stick with freestyle which is what I did. Again, as I didn’t really want to see what was down there, I didn’t actually open my eyes underwater, and I did have my head out a lot of the time (mainly to see where I was going!), but technically it was still freestyle! (Apparently someone was even doing backstroke! I didn’t see it, but I thought that was pretty brave!)
The hardest bit was the swim into shore, because we were looking RIGHT into the sun! Even though my gogs are very darkly tinted (a godsend in this case!) I still had trouble seeing the yellow caps in front of me! I saw people start to run while I was still swimming, and I remembered 2 pieces of advice I’d been given. First, start kicking with about 20-30m to go. Then your legs won’t be so jelly-like when you get out of the water. I don’t normally kick when I’m swimming freestyle, but apparently that’s not particularly unusual! And that goes to show what an advantage a wetsuit, with its super buoyancy, is – your legs don’t sink when you aren’t kicking! The second piece of advice was to keep swimming until your hands touch the bottom. It’s much easier to swim than run in water! My swim time was 11:23 which was 81st out of 103 competitors overall, and 29th out of 44 females. I had a bit of work to do!
I made it to shore, and my legs felt OK. I pulled off my cap and goggles and made my way to transition. I had never practised the swim to bike transition, and had no idea how long it would take. I had my towel laid out so I quickly dried off, mostly my feet so I wouldn’t be putting socks on wet feet. Firstly though I put on my helmet and race number, the 2 things that were made very clear at the briefing! I got my socks and bike shoes on, and was ready to roll! T1 took me 1:47, I was relatively happy with how it went, I know a lot of more experienced triathletes have their bike shoes clipped into the pedals already and just slip into the shoes as they mount the bike, so that could possibly have saved me some time or maybe caused me to stack it right in front of all the spectators – who knows? On T1 I was 51st overall and 20th female. Bit better than my swim!
Then came 3 laps, 19.5km, on the bike. On my last ride before the triathlon I’d noticed the bike was making a noise that didn’t sound right, so I’d asked Nat, from whom I’d purchased it, if she wouldn’t mind taking a look at it for me. She suggested that her son Fraser, whose bike it had been, would be better able to assess it, so I’d left it with him for a few days to take a look at. In the end it was just the bike seat was a bit loose (probably from when I’d been gradually easing the seat height up, as recommended by my cycling buddies!. When I had got the bike back on Saturday, Fraser had told me that he had adjusted the seat height so I’d need to adjust it back. As I hadn’t marked where the seat height HAD been, I had to guess a little bit. It was way too high, so I was gradually lowering it, sitting on it in my lounge room, holding onto the couch! I got it to a height that felt comfortable and I could clip in on both feet, so I guessed that would be OK. I hadn’t actually ridden it since I’d adjusted it, though.
My biggest concern with the whole triathlon, and one that I pretty much didn’t have any control over, was the possibility of getting a puncture. Given the distance of the ride, and the fact that I haven’t practised changing a tube, my plan if I got a flat was to pull out. Most people I have spoken to since would have the same plan. In a longer ride, different story. I certainly don’t plan to pull out of Murray Man 2018 with a flat. (Did I just say Murray Man 2018?)
So I ran the bike to the ‘mount’ line and hopped on board. The seat height seemed OK. It took me a little while to clip in (maybe 100 or 200 metres?) but once I was in it was all plain sailing. And there was no more of that noise – the only time the bike made any noise was when I stopped pedalling, for example to go around a tight corner and especially if there were other riders coming up behind me.
The ride was a surprise! I felt entirely comfortable throughout, I managed to overtake a lot of people, and going around corners was made SO much easier by being clipped in. I did use my brakes on one or two corners, but compared to when I did the duathlon in running shoes, well there was no comparison.
I did not use gears. I have mastered the cleats – gears are the next lesson!
I did see quite a few forlorn figures walking up the road with their bikes. Clearly they had the same ‘Plan B’ as me!
With some relief that I hadn’t gotten a puncture, I completed the ride and ran back into the bike compound to rack my bike and get ready for what I always expected to be my strongest leg, the run. I had completed the bike leg in 40:57, which was actually the fastest ride (other than short sprints of course!) that I’d ever done! So that was a pleasant surprise when I found that out! I was 67th overall on the bike leg, and 19th female.
T2 was pretty quick, as I’d practised that one (albeit ‘racking’ my bike in the car, which would presumably take longer than racking it on an actual rack!) – I got through it in 48 seconds but I did have a few false starts putting the bike on the rack, so I can still improve on that! I was 47th overall on T2 and 19th female. All I had to do after racking the bike was swap helmet for cap (I didn’t want to be ‘that’ person who started their run still wearing their helmet!) and bike shoes for running shoes. I noticed quite a few people riding in running shoes, which would have made their transitions much quicker than mine, but unlike wearing a wetsuit in the swim, I knew that wearing bike shoes on the ride would make me much quicker on the bike, and more than make up for the slightly slower transition. The elastic laces on my running shoes helped a lot! I did somehow get a rock in one of my running shoes in the process, which did not make for a particularly comfortable run, however with it being only 3k AND my best leg, I pressed on regardless. I heard occasional running buddy and very accomplished triathlete Piet praise my transition! I was pretty happy with it myself!
As I pressed the ‘lap’ button on my watch for the last time, I realised that I hadn’t actually pressed ‘Start’! (Well I HAD pressed it, but obviously not hard enough!) So I went into the run with no way of knowing how far I had to go!
Running off the bike is always hard. I had practised this a number of times. But it’s hard for everyone, so despite my legs feeling a bit like jelly, I still managed to pass a lot of people on the run.
Because the last part of the run leg was the same route as the bike route, which I’d ridden three times, I was aware when I was getting closeish to the finish line. It certainly felt like a long 3km!
And then there it was, the last turn, and I could see the finishing arch! I saw Shelley and Piet who had come down to watch (Piet has been trying to talk me into triathlon for years, and later told me he thought it wasn’t my first triathlon, he said I looked like I knew what I was doing!) and with a huge smile I ran, arms aloft, through the finishing arch!
I AM A TRIATHLETE!
I had completed the run in 13:32 which was an average pace of 4:31 per kilometre. My 5k race the previous weekend was 4:30! So given that I’d swum and ridden before that, I had to be pretty happy! (It definitely did not feel that fast!) My run split was 18th overall and 4th out of the females. It was a great way to finish!
First things first, I took off my shoes and socks – stupid rock!
Then Justin, who had been down there all morning taking videos of Karen and myself to capture this epic moment, stuck a camera in my face, I gave the thumbs up, thinking he was taking a photo and then he started interviewing me! Luckily I didn’t swear! He later put together a bit of a compilation video as a memento of the day, which was really great – thanks Justin!
It wasn’t long before Ros crossed the line to complete her first Tinman (and also win her age group – well done Ros!)
Then we were all waiting for Karen – she hadn’t been far behind Ros in finishing the bike leg. There was an out and back section in the run leg, I’d seen Ros heading out as I was heading back, but I hadn’t seen Karen. And in her fluoro tri suit, it’s not as if I could have missed her!
And before too long I spotted Karen approaching the finish line! And in true Karen style, she nearly got lost at the finish line! I’m not sure how she could have missed that HUGE YELLOW ARCHWAY but she looked like she was veering right, perhaps to follow the Challenge course and do another lap of the run course? Maybe as an ultramarathoner, 3k was just not long enough? Anyway, we all yelled out to her and she did manage to find the finish line! (And thankfully she loved the event too and is already planning her next one, otherwise I may never have heard the end of it!)
As I had pre-existing lunch plans, I wasn’t able to stay long after the event, and consequently missed the presentations. As it turned out, I kept up my tradition in multisport events and won my age group! (And before you ask, YES, there were other people in my age group!)
My overall time was 1:08:30, which doesn’t really mean a lot to me because I don’t have anything to compare it to. It was significantly faster than I was expecting, though! The swim was a little bit slower, the ride quite a bit quicker, and the run probably about what I would have expected (maybe a little bit quicker). I think I was 10th female overall which was almost certainly thanks to my run leg (and a good T2!)
So! Triathlon! I loved every minute! This definitely won’t be my last!
Things to work on for next time.
Pressing ‘Start’ on my Garmin.
Racking my bike a bit quicker.
Swimming a bit faster.
Maybe even some gear changes on the bike leg!
So for anyone who’s thinking of trying a triathlon. You don’t need to be a great swimmer, cyclist OR runner. Piet said to me at the finish line (after asking me when I’m going to join his Tri club!) that triathlon is a very inclusive sport. Which I agreed with, then adding “AND VERY EXPENSIVE!” But you don’t have to have all the latest and greatest gear. This really is an event for everyone!
Thanks to everyone involved in putting this event on, and congratulations to all participants, especially those fellow ‘triathlon virgins’! Hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did!
Ahh, the old ‘anniversary’ run! Everyone has one – the first ‘Fun Run’ they ever did. There’s always something special about running that event each year.
For those who find my race reports a bit long-winded, I’ll save you some time.
Glenelg Classic Race Report 2017.
Went out too fast.
OK for those who are still reading, I’ll elaborate a bit.
I won’t rehash all of the history of me and this event. I’ll just direct you to my report from the corresponding event last year. Read this and you’ll be up to speed!
This year I haven’t done a lot of 5k races. In fact, from memory, I think my last 5k race was way back in April, at the Clare Valley Half Marathon! That was even before Boston – seems a lifetime ago now! Other than this, I’ve had plenty of practice running 5k, doing parkrun most weeks.
A few weeks back, I ran my fastest parkrun in 18 months, at Mount Barker (I believe it to be SA’s fastest course – I’d love to hear from anyone who thinks otherwise, because if there’s a faster one, I’ll be there next weekend!) – just a touch over 22 minutes.
My major events this year have been longer distances – 100km in January, Boston Marathon in April, the 12 hour in July (another 100km) and the ‘mini Heysen’ 35k just a few weeks back. But I still think I should be able to run a fast 5!
Yesterday I decided to give the fast Mt Barker parkrun a miss – would just be too much of a temptation to try to run fast and break 22 minutes! Instead I went to Aldinga Beach, which was very similar to the Glenelg Classic course in that it was a 5k out and back along the coast. I paced it VERY conservatively – running 5:30s into the wind on the way out, and then couldn’t help myself on the way back, running 4:30s (admittedly with the wind behind me, but I definitely pushed a bit harder in that back half). I remember thinking, “this is what I need to do tomorrow” (albeit a little bit faster!)
Today’s weather conditions could hardly have been a bigger contrast from last year’s wind-fest (and for the 10k runners, bonus sandblasting!). It was warm (warm enough for the start time to be brought forward from 9am to 8am) and there wasn’t much in the way of wind.
It seemed like there were more runners out there this year than last, which wouldn’t be surprising given the less than perfect conditions of the 2016 race! Today there were 105 runners, 67 of them female, in the 5k, all of whom finished. (I can’t confirm the number from 2016 because I can’t find the results!) Consequently I had to park further away than I remembered parking last year, but it didn’t really matter as I was there in plenty of time and a nice walk along the coast was a good way to loosen up the legs!
Just before the start of the 10k the start/finish arch decided it didn’t want to play, but with minutes to spare it was up again and ready!
I had a chat with SARRC manager Cassandra who commented that since she’s been on board the weather has always been good for our events. I said that’s kind of funny because RD Ben has a reputation for bringing the WORST possible weather! So I guess they cancel each other out!
After the 10k start I had 15 minutes to get ready for my start, so I went out and did the same warmup I did last year, past the marina up to the Buffalo restaurant and back. It felt pretty good!
I didn’t recognise any fast females at the start, actually there weren’t many people I knew in the 5k at all! (Most of the people I knew were either running the 10k, or volunteering) One familiar face was Patricia, from West Beach parkrun, who I also remembered seeing at the McLaren Vale half, wearing a particularly funky looking crop top. It stood out to me because I have the same one! And today, she was wearing it again, and I just so happened to be wearing mine!
We lined up at the start and it was a bit of a ‘surprise start’ as I was expecting “On your marks…” but one minute I was chatting with some of the other runners and all of a sudden the gun had gone off and we were away!
At the start, one girl was already ahead of me and another soon passed me, so for a fleeting moment I was in 3rd place.
The first kilometre felt OK, but when I got to the 1km mark, where one of my regular morning running buddies Trish was marshalling, my Garmin went off to tell me I’d just run 4:05 for the first kay. (This was just after Tracey had passed me to move into 3rd spot). I said hello to Trish and also that I’d done the first km WAY too fast! I’m not sure if Tracey heard me, and I don’t know if she plays mind games like I do, but if the roles were reversed and I’d heard the person I’d just passed say they were running way too fast, that would have filled me with confidence!
I’d have to say that I didn’t really enjoy my run much after that, although I did make sure I posed for official photographer (and old friend!) Tracie, both on the way out and on the way back, and Coralie snapped this pic of me as she filled the Sweeper role admirably!
I kept Tracey and the 2nd placed girl in my sights, and on a positive note I don’t think they got much further ahead, but I didn’t seem to be making any ground, so I set my sights on holding onto 4th spot. At the 2.5km turnaround I got to see how far behind me the other runners were, and I thought I had a reasonably comfortable buffer, but I didn’t take it easy (although my split times might suggest otherwise!)
I did have thoughts in the last kilometre of trying to make a move on Tracey with a view to a sprint finish, but even though I think I made a bit of ground in the last little bit, it wasn’t enough for me to give it a really good crack.
In the back half I was greeted by Race Director Ben on his bike, not just RDing but also Lead Bike for the 10k – is there anything this guy can’t do? I did ask him for a lift but he told me I’d have to run faster to catch him! Just behind him was 10k winner John. In the last kilometre (just as I was contemplating a late push for a podium spot!) I was overtaken by 10k second placegetter Piete. (Just to put that into perspective, they’d started 15 minutes before me but run 5k more!)
Once I’d established that there was no way I was going to get 3rd, I had a sneaky look over my shoulder to see if there was anyone breathing down my neck. I couldn’t see anyone, so I took my foot off the pedal a little bit. It was pretty hot out there, and whatever I did now wasn’t going to change my placing, so I figured there wasn’t any point in busting my arse!
In the end I finished in just under 22:33 which was 9 seconds SLOWER than last year! Yes, it was quite hot today but I would have expected to beat last year’s time given how challenging those conditions were.
In the end Tracey ran just under 21:50 to take third place. To beat her I would have had to run my fastest time in 18 months. Could I have done that if I’d paced better? Probably not! We’ll never know!
And 5th place was 25 seconds behind me, so really, 4th place was where I was meant to be this year! (Pity, because I really liked the look of those trophies!)
Annoyingly, the girl who finished in 2nd place was also in my age group!
So now in hindsight this is what I SHOULD have done. I should have run at 4:30s in the first half. Then I would have had something in the tank for the second half. And even if I’d stayed on the 4:30s and not picked up the pace, I STILL would have done a better time than I actually did. Essentially what I did (start fast and then get slower) was the OPPOSITE of what I should have done.
My 5k goal for some years has been to crack 20 minutes. I got close, way back in August 2015. It’s still a goal but since then I’ve discovered an affinity for stupid long loopy runs and also more recently I’ve rediscovered my trail legs. I am sure I can do it IF I train for it. The problem is there are so many running events that I love doing and I can’t seem to focus on one thing! (And just quietly, it’s not just running events either, but that’s a topic for a future blog post!)
After the race I sat down on the grass and stretched for a bit, at which point the physio providing the free massages asked me if I’d like to be her first ‘customer’ – an offer which I quickly accepted! She massaged the backs of my legs, gave me a few tips on exercises and stretches (which of course I knew but don’t actually do – maybe I will this time!) and then had to wring out the massage table after I sweated approximately 1 litre all over it! I really need to start getting regular massages – I know after I had one a few weeks ago from friend Wendy who is training to become a massage therapist, I had 2 of the best runs I’ve had in a long time!
Another great way to recover after a race is a dip in the ocean – I didn’t take advantage of that this time around but plenty of people did!
Well done to all the runners in the 5k and the 10k and thanks to all the fantastic volunteers as always for making it possible for us to run! Special mention to SARRC marketing guy Harry who was up at arse o’clock (along with other SARRC staff Lee-Ann, Paul, Cassandra and Ron, to name just a few) on what happens to be his 21st birthday! Hope you had a fantastic morning Harry and enjoyed the rest of your day!
After the race was over, Lee-Ann was telling me about how they made sure every single runner was informed of the time change (from 9am to 8am). Firstly an email was sent out to all participants (as well as the information being posted on social media, which was where I first saw it, as I can be a little slack at checking emails). Then, a list was generated through the wonders of modern technology of those who had NOT opened the email. And Lee-Ann then personally texted ALL of them (over 100 I seem to recall).
The move from 9am to 8am was great for the runners but I did spare a thought for the volunteers who, as a result, had to get up an hour earlier. And they were ALREADY going to have to get up at arse o’clock! (A few people had suggested a 7am start would have been even better – sure, it would have been good for us but the volunteers – not so much!)
And congrats again to RD Ben for another great event, and I think he has well and truly made his peace with the weather gods, although he really COULD have slowed down a bit on the bike and given me that lift…
First let’s get this out of the way. Why the 35k? Even the event briefing booklet describes the 35k (and to a lesser extent the 57k) distance as a ‘taster’ for the ‘big one’, the 105k. I’ve done the 105k twice (in 2015 and 2016) so why would I now want a ‘taster’? Surely that would be like buying a bottle of wine, drinking it, and then paying for a tasting of the same wine!
Well, actually it’s not as silly as it sounds. (The bit about the wine IS as silly as it sounds)
According to the race briefing, the 105k has about 1600m of elevation gain. (To put it in perspective, that’s less vert than the Yurrebilla 56k. Walk in the park, right?) The 35k on the other hand, has about 1000m. In other words, more than half of the overall elevation gain of the 105 is in the first 35. So it’s not exactly an ‘easy’ option!
I didn’t really want to do the 105 again. Not this year. Everything fell into place last year – I managed just under 13½ hours and I didn’t see how I could have improved on that this year.
Truth be told, the main reason I entered in 2016 was because I had ‘unfinished business’ after notoriously getting lost just after leaving Checkpoint 3, costing me a good half hour. That point has now been permanently marked with my name as a reminder – I challenge ANYONE to get lost there now!
Justin and Vicky paying the appropriate respect to ‘Jane’s post’!
I didn’t really start training for this event until late September, so I probably wouldn’t have been prepared for the 105k or even the 57. 35 seemed like the perfect distance! Also, it would allow me to be at the finish line to see the 105k runners finish (and that promised to be quite an epic party!) and also do a bit of volunteering.
Other than my usual diet of road running, my training for the 35k consisted of 3 long trail runs, punctuated with the McLaren Vale Half Marathon. I was also doing a bit of flat cycling, mainly just to get used to the bike and the cleats in preparation for dipping my toes into the triathlon world. I’m not sure if this was a help or a hindrance!
I didn’t make it to either of the official training runs for the 35k due to other commitments. I also couldn’t be arsed driving all the way down there to do the runs by myself on another day. I’d run the 105k twice (so theoretically I had also done the 35k twice) plus I’d run the course in training runs in previous years.
My training runs were all the same. Adelaide trail runners would probably be quite familiar with this route. I would start on Waterfall Terrace, just at the end of Waterfall Gully Road, run up to the start of Chambers Gully, follow the Chambers Gully Track, Bartrill Spur Track, Long Ridge Track and Winter Track back down to Waterfall Gully Road, then run down the road, do that loop all over again, and then run back down to the coffee shop for a well earned coffee and vegan Snickers! It was around 23-24km (depending whether or not I went up to the Long Ridge Lookout) with about 700m elevation gain.
As I kept doing the same route again and again, I got better at it, including being able to RUN the whole loop on two occasions, AND, finally overcoming my fear of running down the steep bit of Winter Track just after the hairpin corner! You know THAT bit – where you have to decide whether you’d be better off faceplanting on the gravel or diving headlong into blackberry bushes. (Interestingly enough I’ve never done either of those things!) I would normally be quite hesitant here and try to almost walk down, but the first time I did the ‘double Chambers’ run, a switch must have flipped in my brain and suddenly I realised I could run straight down!
In the lead-up my last ‘proper’ run was on Tuesday, followed by a swim on Wednesday and a slightly abbreviated run on Thursday.
On Friday I went down to Myponga to mark part of the course with Kate. Kate wasn’t running in the event this year but she was going to be buddy running with SA trail running legend Kym for the last 30km. Our section was only 10km but took us well over 3 hours! The section we marked was just after Checkpoint 2, which was the finish of my race. So neither of us were going to be running ‘our’ section on the day but we still wanted to make sure it was impeccably marked! We may have been overzealous with the markers especially in the beginning, but personally I think it’s better to over-mark than under-mark. (The person who had to de-mark the section may have other ideas!)
Just part of the beautiful section we marked!
I can highly recommend having a go at course marking if you get the opportunity. Especially on such a well-marked trail as the Heysen. Generally you do it in pairs so you can meet up at the end of your section, take one car back to the start, and then when you get to the end you have a car to drive back! Last year I marked with the experienced Tina, this year I was the ‘master’ and Kate was the very able ‘apprentice’ – it’s definitely a good idea to go out with someone who’s done it before!
Nope. Definitely do not attempt to walk this trail. It’s truly awful! I do not recommend it!
One thing I took from last year’s experience was the idea to bring a pair of secateurs to trim back bushes that were obscuring signs, and also tidy things up where they were really overgrown, to make it easier for the runners to get through!
Kate doing a little gardening!
Before meeting up with Kate I had my first blonde moment of the weekend. I went to Myponga for a toilet stop, and while I was there got a message from Kate to say she was running late. So I decided to get myself organised and get out all the stuff I needed from the boot, including my old trail shoes which I put on the roof of the car. You can see where this is going, can’t you? Heading back down the main street I noticed a shoe in my rear window. That was weird! Then I remembered! I quickly pulled over and found just the one shoe, so I turned around and went back towards the toilets, sure enough there was my other shoe right in the middle of the road! Fortunately it hadn’t been run over! I wasn’t too bothered about the shoes themselves – they were retired, and I had brand new ones to run Heysen in, but I DID need the orthotics that were inside, and I DID need the shoes to do the course marking – I don’t think my pink Birkenstock sandals would have cut it, somehow!
The 45km sign that marked the end of our section. It wasn’t until we got to the end, where my car was parked, that I realised we could have left this sign in my car rather than Kate having to carry it the whole 10k!
Because we took so much longer than I’d anticipated to mark the course, it was a bit of a rush to get back to Adelaide, run a few errands, gather up all my stuff I needed for the next few days, and drive back down south to Victor Harbor where I’d be spending the night. It also meant that one of the items on my list, a trip to the Bakery On O’Connell for vegan chocolate donuts, unfortunately didn’t happen! I always feel like I’m organised, even when I’m really not, if I have a list to work from. It helped that I had done the 105 twice before, so I had my list from last year as a guide!
Friday night was a vegan pasta carb loading feast at Simon and Clo’s place, around 10 minutes from the start line. They had kindly invited a lot of running friends to come for the feast and stay the night if we wanted! For me, even though my first port of call on race day would be my finish line at Myponga, from Victor it would be about a 25 minute drive versus just over an hour, so it was well worth it!
At dinner were fellow Heysen runners Sam, a Victor local doing her first 100k and Tyler, last year’s 57k winner back to do it again. Volunteers Tania (also Tyler’s mum) and Liam were also there for the dinner, and super volunteer Tracey popped in for a while before heading down to camp at the start line. I had to hold myself back from going crazy with the pasta (and falafel, and hummus, and Sam’s bliss balls, and Tracey’s raw carrot cake, and the rest!!!) as I had to remind myself I was ‘only’ doing the 35k!
I put the cushions from the couch on the floor, set my alarm for 4am and had a very comfortable night’s sleep, under the watchful eye of Whiskers the cat! To be woken by a cat sniffing my face was nothing new for me – I felt quite at home! I woke naturally just after 3:30, then closed my eyes for a bit and when it was 3:45 I decided I might as well get up and start the day – I had to leave around 4:45 to get to Myponga.
My outfit for the day was a bit of old and a bit of new. Starting from the bottom, I had my new trail shoes which I’d christened on last Sunday’s trail run, and old white Nike socks (I prefer black for the trails but my only pair of black Nike socks had a hole in them and I hadn’t been able to find a replacement pair) and black calf sleeves. I’d gone with a black skirt over black compression shorts, and I forgot to bring my usual running undies (because they weren’t on the list!) but luckily I had a spare pair that would hopefully do the trick. On top I had a BRAND NEW TOP which I had only received on Friday night, a very awesome ‘Vegan Beast Mode’ top which was organised by Simon and made by Mekong Athletic, the clothing company started by Simon’s brother Ben and his partner Dai. I love their stuff – and the fabric on this top in particular was so luxurious! (I’m not sure if I would have run the 105 in a brand new top but I figured I was pretty safe in the 35k. In previous years doing the 105 I’ve changed tops at the 57k mark anyway so I’ve never ever worn the same top for a whole 100k) I also had my rainbow arm warmers, cycling gloves (to protect my hands from electric fences, barbed wire fences and possible falls!), a hat, sunnies and a buff around my neck (mostly to pull up over my nose and mouth while running on a gravel road if a car went past).
Mandatory start line selfie!
I had originally planned to wear a different outfit, similar to my Boston outfit, until I found out that the Vegan Beast Mode tops would be ready! I brought the original outfit with me anyway and showed both outfits to Tania at the dinner to see what she thought. Tania immediately chose the new top with the black skirt. So if there were any issues with the new top I had someone to blame!
After brekky and getting my gear together (I’d done most of it the night before) I was out the door just before 4:45 and off to Myponga for the bus.
In my pack I had: 2 bottles of Gatorade, 2 extra scoops of Gatorade for a possible refill, 2 nut bars cut into pieces, 2 Clif bars, a Zip loc bag of sweet potato chips, one peanut butter sandwich (in quarters) and one chocolate spread sandwich (in quarters). I wasn’t anticipating needing anywhere this much food but I always like to have a variety of flavours and textures, plus I would want something to chow down on after I’d finished! Mandatory gear-wise we had a lot of the same stuff as the 105k and 57k people, only we didn’t need hi-viz vests and head torches!
Given that the first checkpoint where we could have drop bags was at CP2 (our finish line) I would have to carry all my stuff on me. As my car would be at CP2 I didn’t bother with a drop bag, I just left everything in my car that I would need afterwards. As the weather forecast was for a relatively mild morning, I was hoping not to have to stop at CP1 at all – the only reason would be to refill my bottles, but if (as I expected) I didn’t drink much in the first half of the race, I’d have enough on board to get me through to the end. As I was hoping to be done under 4 hours, I hopefully wouldn’t even need to reapply my sunscreen (but I did have it in my pack just in case).
I hadn’t looked at the 35k start list. It was the same last year with the 105 and also this year with the 12 hour. I prefer not to know who else is on the list! Whatever plan I have is based on me running my own race, and knowing who else is out there shouldn’t change that.
It was only a small busload of people leaving from CP2 – familiar faces Dione and Toni, Tim and Adam, and one other guy (Kevin) who I hadn’t met before.
The bus called in to Victor Harbor for a toilet stop, as there were no toilets at the start line. (This is a very important piece of information for people running in this event, particularly those who are getting dropped at the start rather than catching the bus. THERE ARE NO TOILETS AT THE START LINE. Make sure you stop off on the way!)
Victor Harbor at arse o’clock!
We arrived at the start line in time to see the 6am 105k runners head off, and I had enough time to collect my race number and mandatory map (as if I was even going to refer to that – I had the offline maps app on my phone which I would be far more likely to use), sneak into the bushes for a last minute pit stop, and at the very last minute put sunscreen on while Race Director Ben was giving the briefing.
Snapped by Glen doing my sunscreen!
On the start line, other than those I’d seen on the bus, were familiar faces Luis, Atsushi, Laura, Candice, Marlize and Lauren. Lauren had won the 35k last year and Marlize had won the first 6 hour event that I did. There were quite a few people there that I didn’t know, but I could safely say that 3rd place would be the best I could hope for!
Ready to go! Thanks to Ziad for this pic!
Just minutes before the start!
Right on time at 6:30 we set off. Luis, Atsushi, Tim, Marlize and Lauren were off like a shot, and I ran briefly chatting with Candice and said “My race plan is NOT to try to stick with those people in front”. I didn’t see most of them again until after I’d finished!
I was expecting to be mostly running on my own. I expected to pass many of the 6am 105k starters, as they were going 3 times as far as me! I expected to be passed by many of the 7am57k and 105k runners. But I wouldn’t be running WITH any of them. That didn’t bother me – I’m quite happy running on my own especially for a relatively short distance. I kept Adam in sight, I have run with him before and he’s probably just a bit quicker than me but he had just got back from a 2 week overseas trip so he was, by his own admission, a little undertrained! Also ahead of me after passing me quite early on was Derek, in hi-viz yellow so he was easy to spot!
The first people I passed were Ros and Mal, which confused me a bit as they were fellow 35k runners and I hadn’t seen them at the start! Turned out that they had started at 6, along with another group of runners who I passed shortly after. I then started to pass some of the 105k runners including Kym and Kristy, and another group including first timer Linna, also in hi-viz yellow (it seemed to be a popular colour!). Also early on I ran past Kim, who was doing the Heysen 105 for the first time, and after having had to pull out of UTA 100 last year, it would be her first 100km.
I made a decision that I was going to try to run the whole way to CP1, approximately 18km, with about 400m elevation. I figured it couldn’t be any harder than a Chambers loop!
Eventually I caught up with Adam and we ran together for quite a while. He had run the 57km last year and had been entered in the 57 again this year but after a less than ideal preparation had ‘downgraded’ to the 35. Having fully expected to be on my own for the bulk of the race, it was nice to have someone to run with for what turned out to be a fair chunk!
During one particularly long road section, I commented “I don’t remember there being this much road in this section!”. Some time later, Adam remarked “I always get nervous when I can’t see someone in front”. You can see where this is going, can’t you?
A little further down the road we saw our first and only kangaroo for the day. It was some form of consolation, as we soon found out that we were never meant to see that kangaroo. Because we were no longer on the Heysen Trail!
Luckily it wasn’t a very long road (for the record, the road is called “Roads Lane” in Inman Valley) otherwise it could have been quite disastrous! Looking at maps after the event, I am estimating it was around a 2km detour.
We were running and chatting, and failed to notice that there were none of the distinctive red and white Heysen Trail markers on this road, nor was there any of the red and white tape flapping in the breeze, signifying that we were on course. It wasn’t until we reached the T junction with Inman Valley Road that we knew that we had ventured off the Heysen! Quickly I got out my MAPS.ME app (thankfully I had re-downloaded it, after having previously deleted it to free up space on my phone!) and could easily see we just needed to head back down Roads Lane, and we would meet up with the trail again. And as we ran, me consulting my map frequently, we were quickly approaching the missed turn off. I would guess it cost us about 10-15 minutes all up.
When we eventually found the turn off, we realised one thing that had contributed to us missing the turn. (Along with not paying enough attention, of course!) There was a big ‘X’ sign attached to a pole, signifying that Roads Lane was NOT the correct way to go. However, that part of the trail had been marked 2 days earlier, and somehow the X had swung around to the other side of the pole, so it was only visible to us when we were coming BACK from our detour! (It could also have been done deliberately, there are some people out there who do deliberately flip signs around to mess with people, but let’s give people the benefit of the doubt here!)
Anyway, we did get back on course, and fortunately it appeared that no-one else had followed us and missed the turn! (There was an earlier turn that I WOULD have missed, had there not been a group of people not far ahead of me, that I had seen turn off. Adam wasn’t with me at the time, but when I mentioned it, he said he also could easily have missed that turn!)
Despite planning to run the whole way to CP1, I did walk for a bit after that. My watch showed about 16km but I wasn’t sure at that stage how far off course we’d gone, so therefore I didn’t know how much further CP1 was!
One positive thing I can say about the whole experience, and it probably has something to do with the fact that I wasn’t alone at the time, is that I didn’t let this little ‘mishap’ ruin the rest of my race. After my notorious misadventure just past CP3 in 2015, I did lose the plot a bit and it probably cost me a sub-14 result. This time I was a little annoyed but was able to refocus my attention on the job at hand! One thing I had no idea about though, was if I was still in 3rd place. Someone could easily have slipped past unnoticed while Adam and I were on our detour!
One funny thing was when we passed people for the second time! Firstly we passed Linna and co, and then one of the Southern Running Group, Sue. On both occasions, Adam was ahead of me. When I passed Linna, I jokingly said “It was all his (Adam’s) fault!’ to which Linna replied “He said the same thing about you!”
We did eventually reach CP1. CP1 is a weird one, you have to take a right turn, run to the hall where CP1 is located, do a U-turn back to where you turned right, then turn right again. Even though I wasn’t going to stop at CP1 I still had to do this little manoeuvre, to get my name checked off at CP1. Adam made a stop here but I just went straight back out. I had a bit of ground to make up! Adam ended up catching me not long after CP1 and we ran together for probably 3/4 of the next section.
CP1-CP2 is what I believe to be the hardest section of the whole 105. Many would say CP2-3 is the hardest, being 22km between aid stations, and with some quite challenging terrain and exposed sections, but as someone who is not the greatest at uphill running, for me it’s 1-2.
I managed to run the first little bit but then I came to this section.
Adam was just ahead of me at this stage. This was where Tyler, leader of the 57km race, came flying past us. A little further up the hill though, I saw him walk!
And not too long after that, I was passed for the first (and as it turned out, only) time by a 105km runner. That was Dej, looking in great form after having to walk much of the 105 last year due to injury.
There was quite a bit of single track in this section. Adam was just behind me, and I kept asking him if he wanted to pass, but he said he would probably drop back a bit, and for me to go on ahead, which I did. Not long after this, I ran into Justin and Vicky, who were aiming for sub 16 hours, which would earn them a belt buckle. (The belt buckle is a relatively new concept in Heysen but it’s been around for a long time in large international ultras. Last year all the 105 finishers got a buckle, this year only the sub 16 finishers would get one, and the remainder of the finishers would get a medal). I ran and chatted with Justin for a while, and told him about my little ‘adventure’. He was the one who had put a permanent plaque with my name on it, on the pole where I had got lost in 2015, so I did hesitate to tell him the story, but I figured he’d find out eventually! There wasn’t much chance of him getting lost out there, as the organiser of the training runs this year, he knew the trail like the back of his hand!
And then came quite a lot more road as we approached CP2 and the 35k finish line! On the approach to the finish line I passed quite a few more 105k runners including Bec and first timer Cherie (who got a quick good luck hug from me, I was getting pretty excited as I knew I couldn’t have long to go! I then saw Stephan up ahead, I almost caught up with him, I got close enough for a quick chat and then I decided to walk a bit, I could see there was no-one anywhere near me that could pip me at the post, so I figured I had nothing to lose! He was still looking pretty strong at this point, although he has always been much better than me on the uphills!
Heading into the checkpoint I started to see some funny signs that were a welcome sight – I was already pretty happy given that I was almost done, but I’m sure they would have been even more welcome for the 57 and 105 runners who still had a long way to go! (They probably wouldn’t have been quite as excited as me to see the sign that said “35km runners – 1km to go!”) The signs were the work of one of the amazing volunteers at CP2, Brenton. He told me he had measured it out in his car! It was the first real indication I had had, after my detour, of just how close I was to the end!
I saw Luis and his distinctive red calf sleeves up ahead, and I tried to catch him, but he turned around, saw me, and found another gear! He later thanked me for giving him a bit of a push at the end!
And there it was – CP2! Although there was no finish ‘line’ as such, this was the end of the road for me! And what a good feeling that was! (Especially when I was told I was 3rd! Marlize was 23 minutes ahead of me, I’m sure that we didn’t lose that much time on our detour, but it might have been a little bit closer if I’d been paying attention!)
The volunteers at CP2 were amazing – all dressed up in Halloween theme and happy to do anything needed for the runners! Thanks so much to Karen, Debbie, Brenton and Penny in particular – you really made me want to hang around there longer! Such a fun atmosphere!
I had to have a laugh at one of Brenton’s signs, ‘Susan’s checklist: Eating? Drinking? Weeing?’ – this was a reference to the head first aid officer Susan at the 24 hour event who would ask the runners these 3 questions at regular intervals! Unfortunately in relation to the 3rd item on the list, there was no toilet at CP2!
My first priority was getting my shoes off and getting my chair out of the car to sit down and watch the rest of the runners come in! Tania offered to go and get stuff out of my car for me but I said thanks but no thanks, she’d never find ANYTHING in there! So I went for a slow walk to the car, and wow did it feel good to get my shoes and socks off!
We had the presentations soon after, another piece of silverware for my collection, to go with the beautiful looking medal!
I had hardly eaten any of my food, and I always expected to have plenty of leftovers, but I think during the race itself I only had 2/3 of a nut bar, 1/3 of a Clif bar, and 1/2 a sandwich. I did drink about a litre of Gatorade, definitely not enough but I had another litre ready to go for afterwards!
I got to see a lot of the runners come through CP2 which was great. After finishing just after 10:30 I didn’t leave until about 1:00! I decided to stay and wait for Mal and Ros to finish, as there was no hurry for me to get to the finish line. In the 105 I saw the first 2 women, Bronwyn and Kazu, who were unbelievably close together – it was going to be a great race! Not far behind was regular running buddy Zorica who was smashing it!
I started to get a bit cold so I decided to do a full wardrobe change in the car. This was a bit challenging as the car was parked on James Track, and the 57 and 105k runners had to run straight past me as they left the checkpoint. So I had to time my manoeuvres in between people coming through! Particularly challenging was getting my post-race recovery compression tights on! I was halfway through putting them on when I could see Graham (doing the 57k) approaching. I quickly wound the window down and gave him some encouragement, hopefully he didn’t notice that I was only half dressed at that stage! I also saw Glen, doing the 105, and he asked me what I was doing – I told him I’d done the 35 and was now finished, he responded by (jokingly I hope!) calling me a “slack b****”!
I went over to Merrilyn, who had her own little aid station set up, waiting for husband Mal. She offered me a coffee which I gratefully accepted! Also there was Maurice (the maker of the brownies!) who was waiting for his wife Sue who was also in the 35k. Maurice also asked me “why the 35k?” I had a feeling I’d be asked that a lot! I was having absolutely no regrets about my decision, no FOMO whatsoever!
I saw Kristy and Kym, still going strong. Kristy had pulled out at this point last year so she said she would be much happier once she’d got PAST this checkpoint! Around the same time, Candice finished, she thought she had beaten her time from the 35k last year, and she needed to be reasonably speedy as she then had to go to work! Now that’s dedication!
Mal and Ros finished not far behind, as did Dione and Toni, all having had a good day out, and I then decided it was time to make a move!
Eventually I made it to the 105k finish line in Kuitpo Forest. Things were starting to take shape, with Race Director Ben and super vollies Michelle and Tracey getting things set up. Michelle and Tracey were in the middle of an incredibly long day – after having been at the start line from arse o’clock until after the last runners had set off, they then had to mark part of the last section of the course! You see, generally the course marking is done on Thursday and Friday in preparation for Saturday’s race, however Friday was a total fire ban, meaning there was no access to the forest. (It also meant that the people who had intended to camp in the forest on Friday night had to make other arrangements at the last minute). Fortunately the conditions on Saturday were ideal!
The finish line was an awesome setup, with lots of lounges and warm blankets, and little fires to gather around.
I borrowed a tent from Tracey, and thought I’d better set that up straight away, before it started to get dark. I’m not a frequent camper, so I didn’t fancy trying to set it up in fading light! With admittedly a little bit of swearing, I can happily report that I did eventually manage to get it set up all by myself!
There wasn’t a huge amount for me to do – helping to set up gazebos, and cutting up watermelon on the world’s smallest chopping board! And eating Michelle’s amazing chocolate hummus – OMG!
The finishing arch was put up, and with high winds expected, it was decided that it needed to be secured with ropes. Unfortunately the ropes needed to be attached to the top of the arch, and we didn’t have any 10ft tall people handy! So as Tracey and I walked back from having put some fairy lights along the track to guide the runners to the finish, it was quite amusing to watch people trying to throw ropes to catch onto the hooks! (I think generally the ropes are attached BEFORE the arch is put up, but where’s the fun in that?)
A ranger vehicle pulled in to the carpark opposite where we were. He advised us that there was a total fire ban from midnight! Fortunately we were allowed to stay but we were told we had to vacate by 9am, and all our fires had to be out by midnight.
And then it was time to wait for the first runners to come through! Having had the privilege of seeing practically EVERY runner cross the finish line at Yurrebilla, it was exciting to be at the finish line before dark and able to watch the pointy end of the field come through!
And because there wasn’t an actual podium for me to stand on at the end of the 35k, I decided to get me a podium pic while I was waiting!
First across the line in 11:18 was the very popular winner in Dej (along with his buddy runner Daniel) who still looked remarkably fresh!
He then had a brief sit down on one of the recliners, but there wasn’t much time for resting as the first female finisher was hot on his heels!
Bronwyn was the first woman across the line in 11:21, backing up her win in 2016. Quite a dramatic improvement from 2 years ago when she finished 3rd in around 13 and a half hours! Bronwyn was accompanied by her buddy runner, Howard, who won Heysen in 2016!
Next to finish was 2017 Yurrebilla winner Kazu, with her buddy runner Tracey. Kazu also finished second to Bronwyn last year. She is having a great year!
There was a bit of a break after that before the male podium was complete, thanks to the familiar faces of Shaun and Chris, who frequently run events together. I THINK it was Chris who finished second in a sprint finish, with Shaun close behind in third!
I was starting to get a bit tired (soft, I know – I only ran 35k!) but decided to wait for the 3rd female to cross the line before hitting the tent for a nap. It was close between Linda and Zorica, in the end Linda took the podium spot (accompanied by her buddy runner and husband Brenton) with Zorica not far behind in 4th place. After the presentation for the women (Bronwyn and Kazu were both still there, nearly 2 hours after finishing!) I decided to hit the hay.
Sleeping in the tent was not super restful – I couldn’t really get comfy and I was mostly either too hot or too cold, and kind of could have done with a pit stop but just could not be arsed getting up! Throughout the night I heard bells, happy voices, and Michelle yelling at runners approaching the finish, “TURN YOUR LIGHTS OFF!” (to make finish line photographs better!)
Eventually I heard Kym’s voice at which point I decided I needed to get up. If Kym was there, that meant his buddy runner Kate was also there, and I’d promised her some vegan Baileys. It was 3:30am! I’d been in the tent for 7 hours and missed the bulk of the finishers including first timers Cherie and Sam who both smashed it, along with Vicky and Justin who earned their belt buckles, as did (a different) Kate. Uli was also there, wrapped up in a blanket looking very relaxed on one of the couches!
Good thing I got up when I did, because I was just in time to see Kim finish her first 100k! And here is my favourite story of the day.
Kim had missed out on ordering an event T-shirt, as they’d sold out quickly. She was doing her first 100, and had wanted to mark the occasion with a T-shirt! Undeterred, she went about designing her own T-shirt. She traced the outline of a kangaroo from the Heysen shirt from a couple of years ago, with her finger on her phone. She described it as looking like a kid drew it. She then got it made into a transfer and managed (with some difficulty) to find a white running T-shirt to transfer it onto! And so she had her own, unique, incredibly special memento of her awesome achievement!
Gradually the other runners crossed the line, Kim was happy she’d finished, AND as a bonus didn’t finish last!
And then, the only runner left out there was a guy called Tass. I’d met him at the 24 hour earlier in the year (I think he was in the 24 hour event) and when I saw him all those hours earlier at CP2, I thought he was already looking a little bit wonky! He was accompanied overnight by the sweeper Beck (if you’d read my report from last year, Beck was the buddy runner for George, and also ran Western States and UTMB last year, as well as being the overall winner for the inaugural Hubert 100 miler earlier this year! This was a bit of a contrast from that! Unfortunately Tass didn’t quite make it, he had to pull out with only about 4km to go, apparently he just could not walk another step!
Once Tass was out, that was the race over! Ben went out to pick up Beck (Tass had been picked up by the first aiders) and the huge process of packing up the site began! It was probably 5:30ish by this stage – so I decided it wasn’t really worth going back to bed!
Many hands make light work as they say – Ben, Michelle and Tracey who had been there for well over 24 hours, did the bulk of the work but there were a few of us there to help load the gear into the trailer and Ben’s car! Remarkably, one of them was Uli, who had run the 100k, had a bit of a nap and then was there right to the end, helping to pack up!
We eventually got out of there about 7:40am, well before our deadline of 9am.
So now, I guess it’s time to give some thanks. I apologise if I miss anyone – there’s just so many!
Firstly, as always, to Ben for putting on another amazing event. I am running out of things to say about Ben! Luckily he does not require sleep because I seriously doubt he gets much around event time! Thanks Ben for everything you do for the running community – it is hugely appreciated! (And thanks to Ben’s wife Courtney for letting us steal him for days at a time!)
Next I have to thank the volunteers, special thanks must go to Michelle and Tracey who put in a ridiculous amount of hours to making this event happen! You girls ROCK! I don’t think I can put into words how grateful I am for everything you’ve done!
Also I must thank the CP2 team for being awesome. So much fun!
Merrilyn, who already does so much for the running community, for making me a coffee after I finished. Never has an instant coffee tasted so good!
Simon and Clo, for giving me a place to stay on Friday night and a bloody amazing vegan feast to fuel up for the run! And Whiskers the cat for making sure no-one attacked me in the night!
Kate, for coming out course marking with me on Friday. It was such a great day out! We must do it again!
To all the runners in all the events for being so friendly, encouraging and supportive of the other runners. That’s what I love about this community!
And finally to Adam for being an awesome running buddy, even though he did get me lost 😉
Such a great day. Such a great event. See you all there next year!