Race Report – FOAM Victor Harbor Half Marathon and 10k

I always like to have a goal in mind. It might be a small one (getting through a triathlon without falling off the bike, for example) or it might be super ambitious (such as completing 100 miles in a 24 hour race).

And it might not even be sport-related. Such as, playing ‘Desperado’ by the Eagles on piano without needing to look at the music (sooo close!). And, writing a concise race report.

The Victor Harbor Half Marathon and 10k fell a week after Murray Man and two weeks after Heysen 35k – two of my ‘big’ events for 2018. So naturally, trying to be nice to myself after all that, I opted for the 10k. Not that I need to justify my decision. More on that later.

It was looking like a perfect day so I convinced Karen to come and have a swim in the lake with me afterwards.

It was the first 10k I’d raced in nearly 2 years. I didn’t really have a plan or a goal time (although I would have been disappointed not to get sub-50).

It was a nice civilised 9am start for the half, 9.15 for the 10k, so I had the luxury of a Sunday ‘sleep-in’ despite driving down from Adelaide that morning (approximately 85 minutes drive).

I had a shiny brand new Mekong singlet to run in, I hadn’t even tested it out yet other than on the 3 hour drive back from Barmera a week ago! The hardest part was trying to match it to a skirt or shorts! I ended up going with a green adidas skirt which in hindsight was QUITE short (and for that I apologise to those who ran behind me!) but the colours worked perfectly!

On arrival at Kent Reserve I ran into a well known photographer and encourager (who will remain nameless other than the fact his name starts with G and rhymes with Barry) who made a comment about me ‘slacking off’ by doing the 10k. I didn’t really have anything to say in response to that but actually I was fuming!

It happens often and I’m sure not just to me. “Why are you only doing the ….?”

GRRRRR!!!!

THERE IS NO ‘ONLY’! Every distance has its own challenges. I chose not to run the half but some people actually may not be capable of running the longer distances. And some people might just be really good at the shorter stuff, and why wouldn’t they do what they’re good at? (And, as I and other people have said before, who is going to ask Usain Bolt why he’s ‘just’ doing the 100m and not the marathon?)

Actually, if there had been a 5km distance, I probably would have done that…

The obligatory pre-race Gary pic 🙂

 

With fellow Mekong fan Julie before the start – modelling the brand new long sleeved running tops – I haven’t run in it yet (it hasn’t been cold enough!) but I’m looking forward to giving it a run soon! Thanks to Ian for this pic!

The half marathon seemed to be the more popular distance (running buddy Mark later commented to me, if you’re going to drive one and a half hours each way for an event, you might as well make the most of it and do the long distance – and I see his point, although I have driven 500km round trip for a 5km parkrun, so clearly that doesn’t matter to me!) so by the time we started the 10k, 15 minutes later, there weren’t too many people around. Just the way I like it!

I didn’t know a lot of the people in the 10k, as I mentioned above most of my Adelaide friends were doing the half. Julie was running the 10, as was Patricia who I knew from Adelaide and who I expected would be well ahead of me based on her recent City-Bay half marathon! There was another girl there Orla who I didn’t really know but I knew she’d be well ahead of me. And there were bound to be a lot of fast locals among that lot too! Karen and Daryl were both doing the 10k as well, and Karen and I were going to have a swim in the lake afterwards which we were both quite looking forward to! 12 year old Finn, son of Shane, was also doing the 10, and when I asked him what sort of time he was hoping for, he said he hadn’t trained, but was thinking around 50 minutes. Not too shabby!

I’m not sure exactly where I was positioned at the start. As always, people seemed to be very polite at the start line – no-one wants to put themselves at the front! Co-RD Simon quite rightly pointed out that if you started at the line you wouldn’t run any further than you had to! 10k was quite enough!

Looking focused, early on in the run. Official photo.

The 10k was a 2 lapper (the 21.1 being 3 slightly longer laps). We headed first along the Encounter Bikeway towards Goolwa (the bane of my existence – I’ve ridden on it twice and neither time ended particularly well, but luckily running on it was a different story), then a U-turn around a big tree where Sam was expertly marshalling, then back past the start, past the very familiar ‘Victor Harbor parkrun start line’ and eventually, after what seemed like an eternity, to the second turnaround point, back past the start, and then repeat!

Finn was well ahead of me for the first few kilometres – pacing it like a parkrun (except we were doing 2 parkruns) so I tried to keep him in sight as I got myself warmed up. I again opted to go with the ‘running blind’ tactic – not looking at my watch at all. I’d know how many kilometres I’d done as my watch would beep every time I ticked one off. And of course I’d know when I was halfway, because I’d go back past the start!

The 21.1k runners went the same way to begin with, but went a little further along the VH parkrun course (probably, about another kilometre!) Consequently, we did cross paths with the 21.1km runners throughout the race!

Another official pic, not quite sure where on the course this was.

I made a point of greeting Gary chirpily (is that a word? It is now) every time I passed him. He was of course doing the half marathon and did not seem particularly happy to see me! (I tried to get a high five at one point – I am sure he didn’t deliberately snub me, I’m sure he was just ‘in the zone’)

I really liked the course for the multiple out and backs – I got to see pretty much everyone out there, on multiple occasions! I knew quite a lot of the runners anyway, but with the names on the race bibs I made a point of trying to call out people’s names as I crossed paths with them. Being quite a small community event, it was a really friendly atmosphere.

At some point, I think before the halfway mark, I found myself sitting right behind one of the other female 10k runners, who I later found out was Lauren. I’m quite sure she knew I was there, I wouldn’t have been more than 2 metres behind her at any stage in the second half, and I was constantly calling out to people. Not like sometimes when I am running behind someone and I am trying not to let them know I’m there! (Mind games!) With the out and backs, there was no way she wouldn’t have seen me.

Sitting just behind Lauren – and this time I DID acknowledge the photographer! Another official pic.

At one point, I ran past Sputnik, doing the 21.1k, and he made some comment like “I didn’t stop, how did you pass me?” to which I responded as I passed, “It’s OK, I’m only doing the 10k” and I realised as soon as I’d said it, that I’d broken the golden rule! (It turns out Sputnik wrote a little something about this in his book, which I had read some time ago)

THIS.

So, all through the second half of the race, sitting behind Lauren, I was thinking to myself. I was pretty sure there was no-one ahead of us except Orla, who was well out of reach. So therefore I was in 3rd place, which would be a pretty good day at the office! I had thoughts about calling out to her, knowing that she knew I was there and probably thinking “Just pass me already!”, that I wasn’t going to try to pass her. But I didn’t. I was quite happy to sit behind her, knowing that if I DID pass her, she would probably pass me right back. All that effort for nothing. No, I would just sit right where I was.

I was also mindful that Patricia was not far behind, and expected her to make a move at any moment!

The end came as a bit of a surprise, in fact had Lauren not been so close in front of me, I could well have missed the tight turn into the finish line and just kept running!

There it was, the finish line, with Lauren a few metres ahead of me.

Were we 2nd and 3rd? Or was someone else in between Orla and us that I hadn’t seen? I wasn’t going to die wondering!

The following photos tell the story!

Aaaaand… done!

I did feel a tiny bit bad about letting Lauren do all the work for so long and then taking her at the finish line but, a race is a race after all! (And to be fair, I did call out to her before I passed her, so if she’d had anything left, she would have had a chance to pick up the pace!)

So that was it, I’d managed to sneak into 2nd place, which completely justified my decision (that needed no justification anyway) to do the 10k. I would have been nowhere near the top 3 in the half! My time was under 50 minutes – approximately 47:30, well outside my PB but given that I haven’t raced a 10k in so long, and didn’t really have a pacing strategy as such, I am very happy with that time.

And the new Mekong singlet, which I hadn’t run in before, did the job nicely! When you’re running along and not thinking about the top you’re wearing, that’s an excellent sign! (Can they please start making running socks? I am so in need of a decent running sock!)

It was nice to be able to go back out on the course and cheer on the other runners (including, of course, Gary! My encouragement MAY have bordered on heckling at one point – sorry Gaz!)

Karen finished under an hour which she was happy with, coming off the 6 day event (something that holds absolutely no interest for me, but good on her and all those who did do it!) and we decided to mark the occasion with a photo at the finish line.

…only to be completely upstaged by photobomber Sputnik getting some seriously impressive air!
After shot from Gary – volunteer Sam, and half marathoners Tania and Cassie.
The same crew again with Sputnik being inconspicuous in the background!
Thanks to Patricia, who finished not far behind Lauren and me, for this podium photo. Orla (in white) 1st, daylight second. With co-race director Isabella who did a fantastic job!
With ‘villain’ Gary and my very cool trophy! Environmentally friendly, carved out of wood, now has pride of place in my trophy cabinet!

I think I may have succeeded in my goal to make this a concise race report! I can’t finish though without thanking every one of the amazing volunteers who made this thoroughly enjoyable event happen – especially co-race directors Simon and Isabella, and MC Andrew. (The rest of you – you know who you are! Thanks again!)

Oh and well done to EVERYONE who ran, even the slackers who only did the 10k!

I definitely plan to run this one again next year – and I’m not gonna lie, it will probably be the 10k again!

A close up of the trophy. All the runners also got a Mekong tech band – a lot more useful than a medal!

Race Report – Murray Man Triathlon 2018

In November last year I completed my first triathlon, managed to win my age group and that was enough for me to call myself a triathlete! However I now don’t like using the ‘T’ word because that would imply I actually know what I am doing out there.

Then in March this year I took it up a notch, completing the Sprint distance at the Victor Harbor Triathlons – the standard was noticeably harder, the course significantly more challenging (especially the bike leg) and I realised I still had a lot to learn!

I’m not sure exactly when I decided I was going to do the Murray Man triathlon but the plan was to do the long course, which is a 70.3 (1900m swim/90k bike/21.1k run). I’m now very glad I didn’t do that, I was definitely not ready for something quite that big, but the fact I was not ready was actually not the main reason I opted for the Half distance.

I had booked the Friday and Monday off, the race being on the Sunday. My original plan was to go to the nearby Renmark parkrun on the Saturday (hence driving up on the Friday!) and to stay Sunday night rather than driving 3 hours home after a 7 hour triathlon!

But then, the greatest band in the world (well in my opinion anyway), Def Leppard, announced an Australian tour, which amazingly WAS coming to Adelaide, and the concert happened to be on that very Sunday! So that changed everything – I ‘downgraded’ to the half distance and planned to drive back to Adelaide on Sunday afternoon. That would make sure I had a bit of energy left for that night!

The half distance was 950m swim/45km ride/10.5km run. I didn’t really know what sort of time to aim for. Conservatively I thought 30 mins for the swim, 2 hours for the ride and 1 hour for the run, so altogether I SHOULD be able to do it under 3 and a half hours.

This was the first triathlon I’d stayed away from home for (Victor I drove down on the day) so it required a bit more preparation. I had a list and I double and triple checked it. It was a long way to drive back if I forgot anything!

I took a bit of a detour to visit the Woolshed Brewery for a tasting, a cider on the deck and a few takeaways (wish I’d bought more!)

Hydrating done right!

Then I checked into the Barmera Country Club where I had a nice room overlooking the golf course and even a bed for my bike!

My roommate!

Given the lack of obvious vegan options for dining in Barmera (I checked my trusty HappyCow app and it said ‘there is nothing here’) I decided to go for a bit of a drive to find dinner. I ended up at the Golden Elephant Indian restaurant in nearby Berri. It laid claims to having the ‘world’s finest Indian cuisine’. How lucky was I, in little old Berri, stumbling across the best Indian food in the world? (FYI it was actually pretty good)

The rest of the evening was spent hanging out in the caravan park, which seemed to be the place to be for triathletes and their families – so many bikes! Perfect location too, within walking distance of the start/finish area and right on the edge of Lake Bonney. I must admit I am not a camper, so I would always go for a motel over a tent, but the Porteous clan (all 10 of them) had a pretty sweet setup and I did spend quite a bit of time there over the weekend!

Saturday morning I joined in a social ride on the Murray Man bike course, keen to get a look at the course and also try out my brand new Mekong bib knicks – I was yet to find a really comfortable pair of bike shorts!

The ride was mostly good – the course was pretty flat and nice bitumen road (although a bit bumpy in parts). I was at the back of the pack, but when I reached the T junction on the road the rest of them had stopped so I got off and promptly fell off the bike. It was a controlled fall though, I have done it many times before and I had my gloved hand ready to save myself. No damage done! I didn’t realise that they had only stopped to wait for me – if I’d realised that I would never have attempted a dismount! So then we got back on to head back to town, and I fell attempting to get ON the bike. I had been practising getting on and off the bike over and over during the week so I was pretty sure I had it under control. Evidently not. Ah well, isn’t there a saying, a crap rehearsal equals a great performance? I hoped so! (Shane later said he was thinking about getting his phone out after I fell off the first time, in case it happened again!)

We made it back without further incident, and then a few of us did a little run off the bike – also on the Murray Man course, which has a nasty little hill right at the start! Oh well, rather a hill at the start of a run than the start of a ride – or even worse, at the start of a swim!

Ben, Shane and me on our little run – all rocking the Mekong kit of course!

Back at the caravan park I surveyed the damage, it was a bit ugly because it was on bitumen, but once I cleaned it up a bit it didn’t look too bad.

Ben took this photo while I was cleaning the blood off, and then said he probably should have offered to help rather than take a photo!

Ben, along with wife Dai, are the people behind the Mekong brand. I was also wearing a Mekong tri suit on Sunday. After this, I jokingly asked Ben “Are you sure you want Mekong associated with this?” pointing to myself.

There was a ‘Come and Try’ triathlon happening at midday on Saturday, not just for kids but also for anyone who was new to triathlon. Not long after that, registration and bike racking would open. We had to rack our bikes on Saturday and leave them there overnight. This was another first for me. At least I didn’t have to worry about anyone stealing my bike – I mean it’s a nice bike and all, but compared to the other ones in there…

The ‘Come and Try’ was great to watch, I noticed quite a lot of people (kids, mostly) opted not to do the swim, and instead run along the sand. I was pretty sure that was not going to be an option for me!

I stood near the dismount area as they were coming into T2 because I was interested in watching how people got off bikes and didn’t fall off. One kid had training wheels – I’m sure at least one person pointed that out and suggested that might be helpful for me! Some of the kids had some pretty fancy dismount techniques – but I wasn’t going to try a fancy dismount for the first time on race day, that could only end in disaster! No, I would just take my time and ideally stay upright.

One thing I would never have thought of, because I’d never needed to do it before, was letting some air out of the tyres when racking the bike. Because, it gets pretty hot in Barmera, and if you have high pressure in your tyres, and the air in the tyres heats up – well you can imagine what can happen! I took the caps off and unscrewed the valves but nothing – clearly I have never let air out of my tyres before, well not on purpose anyway! (Turns out you have to push down on it to make the air come out! I’m learning a lot here!)

Bike racked – no turning back now! (Because it can get windy overnight, they recommend racking the bikes by the handlebars and not the seat as it is more stable – in the morning when we came back, we’d turn the bikes around)

For dinner, I was going to get pizza from a place in Glossop, between Barmera and Berri (partly because I like saying the name ‘Glossop’ – it rolls off the tongue nicely! ‘Cobdogla’ is another good one!) but Julie invited me to have (vegan) pasta back at the caravan park – an offer I gratefully accepted!

I got all my gear ready for the next day before heading over there. I remembered all my gear, but not a bag big enough to fit it all in. Turns out I need a triathlon bag now. Just when I thought I had everything I could possibly need!

That’s my gear all ready for Sunday. I am not joking!

Dinner was great, and I got a few last minute tips about nutrition from Ben, which kind of freaked me out a little bit because I hadn’t planned on having anything other than breakfast, and just Gatorade during the ride and run. I’ve never tried gels, and I have never been successfully able to get food out of the back pocket of my cycling jersey or trisuit while riding. I did put a couple of Clif bars into one of my bags, I might have half a one during transition and then shove it into my pocket in case I needed it on the run.

After dinner I went back to the motel and set 3 alarms for the morning as I always do on a race day! Transition closed at 7:15 (the long course race started at 7:30 and we started at 8) so I’d need to be there well before then. I slept with my timing strap firmly attached to my ankle so I couldn’t possibly forget it!

One of my pre-race traditions (running, triathlon, whatever!) is to listen to my ‘get psyched’ song, “Let’s Go” by Def Leppard. It took on extra meaning on this occasion because I knew that I’d be actually seeing them live that very night! A bit surreal!

I headed down as soon as I had everything ready, better to give myself more time than end up rushing!

Race day! Pic thanks to Annie who was there supporting her daughter Belinda in the full Murray Man.

Shane pumped my tyres back up for me, and Ben lent me a bike computer so I could get some extra data on the ride without needing to look at my watch. Anything that doesn’t require me to look anywhere but straight in front, will be helpful!

Ready to roll!
Transition area with the swim buoys in the background. The buoys looked a LONG WAY AWAY!
Snapped by Annie putting my sunscreen on!

 

Annie got my best side!

 

“What the hell am I doing here?” moment captured by Annie!

I had to time everything perfectly. Sunscreen needed to go on before transition closed, as I wanted to have it in there in case I needed to reapply it in transition. Ideally, I would go to the toilet BEFORE putting the wetsuit on.

Probably around the time transition closed, the MC announced that the water temperature was very warm, so it would be a non-wetsuit swim. He had me going for a second there, he quickly said he was joking, but I did see a few anxious looks about the place!

I watched the long course start, before starting the fun process of getting into the wetsuit!

The Full Murray Man competitors getting ready for the swim start. Some of those guys were FAST!
I was so excited at registration to find out that the short course had PINK caps! Getting the feel for the water and watching the long course swim. Photo thanks to Annie.
It was quite nice in! I was hoping it would be sunny for the swim – I only have one pair of goggles and they are super dark tint. So if it was overcast I’d be pretty much blind! Thanks Annie for the photo.

The long course swim was 1.9km. They started half an hour before us. Some of them were out of the water BEFORE we started! Fast!

And before long it was our turn! I put myself near the back. I can swim OK but I’m not fast. And I prefer to have a bit of space around me if at all possible.

The swim started pretty badly because I couldn’t get my breathing right. Normally it takes me a minute or so to settle into the correct breathing pattern in an open water swim but this time it didn’t seem to be happening! Visibility wasn’t great because of my goggle sunglasses, but at least the cans were bright yellow so even I could see those.

I got to the first can, around the corner and then realised what was going wrong. I’d forgotten to put my head in the water and breathe normally like I would in a pool. I was so busy trying to keep the can in sight that I hardly put my head in the water! As soon as I put my head under, all was good!

I ended up doing the swim in just over 24 minutes. Because I like stats, I was in 63rd place out of 83 overall (so not last! Bonus!), 26th out of 37 females, and 11th out of 18 in my age group.

Coming into T1, relieved that the swim was over, pic captured by Sam who was there supporting her husband Stephen who was also doing the short course.

Now I know my transitions could use a bit of work but I figured as it was my first triathlon of this distance, I didn’t want to rush and forget something important. Wetsuit off, socks and bike shoes on, half a Clif bar eaten, helmet and sunnies on, and 3 and a half minutes later, I was ready to roll!

And finally, after what seemed like an eternity, leaving T1 – this photo was also from Sam.

I had a bit of a wobble getting on the bike but it was all good – away I went!

Within the first km or so I went past the Porteous clan sitting on the grass by the side, they cheered me, I did have thoughts of waving but I thought it was a bit early in the ride to be falling off, so I just called out instead.

I LOVED the ride. It was a nice flat course, with only a couple of turns. Where we’d stopped halfway on Saturday, we made a left hand turn and rode another km or so before making a U-turn and heading back. U-turns are the worst for me but I was glad the first one was without an audience. Once I got that first one out of the way, I was all good!

And FAST! I had estimated ‘under 2 hours’ for the ride, based on a 2 hour training ride I’d done a few weeks earlier, which turned out to be exactly 45km. The difference was, that particular ride was on the very hilly Victor Harbor triathlon bike course, and I stopped once and fell off once. So of course I was going to be able to go faster here!

Captured by Annie on the bike!

I thought maybe I’d gone out too fast, because I was going much faster than I was used to, but I think it’s just a fast course.

I even overtook a few people which I wasn’t expecting. I don’t fully understand the drafting rules, but there was a technical official on the back of a motorbike going back and forth along the course, presumably keeping an eye on this. All I knew was there was a set distance you had to leave between you and the rider in front – I wasn’t sure exactly how far that was, but I’m not a great judge of distance anyway so I’m not sure how useful it would have been for me to know that.

It’s a bit different from running, where you can quite happily sit on someone’s tail for a whole race if you want to!

Anyway, every time I got closer to someone (ie they were riding slower than me) I had to decide whether to drop back or pass them. Initially I’d pass them every time, and then I decided I really needed to save some legs for the run, so I started dropping back more. But if I had to drop back twice in a short space of time, the next time I got too close, I’d pass them.

A different angle on the bike – thanks to Annie for the photo!

Other than getting on and off the bike, U-turns were my biggest concern, and there was one right near the start/finish area, with a lot of spectators around – needless to say I took this one VERY cautiously!

As I approached the end of the bike leg I got a bit bold and decided to give the Porteouses a bit of a wave as I went past. There was a bit of a wobble so I decided not to persist with that! I had one very important job left to do before I could say “I got this” – get off the bike!

Luckily there wasn’t anyone coming up behind me as I approached the dismount line so I was able to take it very carefully. It wasn’t the most elegant of dismounts but importantly I DID NOT FALL!

My time for the bike leg was 1:37:25, an average speed of 27.7km/h, much faster than I had anticipated! Again looking to the stats, it was a slightly better picture than my swim. 55th/83 overall, 17th/37 females (top 50%!) and 9th/18 in my age category. Importantly I still felt relatively fresh by the end of it (some might say I didn’t go hard enough!)

T2 was naturally a bit quicker than T1 – swap shoes, swap hats, grab race number belt, grab drink bottle off bike (I hadn’t had anything to drink or eat during the ride) and away to do the bit I actually know how to do!

It wasn’t the most enjoyable run I’ve ever done – although I did enjoy the feeling of overtaking people. It was getting hot, and the course had a few little hills in it.

Snapped by Sam at the start of the run leg!

The run course was 2 laps. There wasn’t a heck of a lot of shade. The hardest bit for me was the bit where you run along a dirt road. There was zero shade there and it felt kind of like running through the desert.

I started a bit too quick, looking at a sub 50 minute finish (my conservative estimate was under an hour but I was seriously hoping I’d go well below that) and after a few kilometres I wasn’t able to keep up that pace.

There’s not much more to say about the run – I just put my head down and got it done. Compared to my ride when I didn’t eat or drink anything, I had an entire 500mL bottle of Gatorade on the run!

The run was just over 53 minutes, with an average pace of 5:01 minutes per kilometre. Now you can see why I call myself a runner rather than a triathlete. 20th/83 overall, 5th/37 females, 2nd/18 in my age category. So while it didn’t feel like a particularly great run, as part of a triathlon it was actually not that bad!

The finish line! I was very happy to see it and ring the bell to signify a PB (which was always going to happen, given that it was my first tri of that distance!) I was pleasantly surprised to be given a medal – I wasn’t expecting one for the short course! I later realised I didn’t have my timing chip on anymore and was worried I might have lost it – apparently it was taken off by someone else while I was getting my medal! Very sneaky, I didn’t even notice!

Oh and the time! My watch showed 2 hours 59 and seconds, but I knew I’d stuffed up my Garmin when exiting the swim, I’d pressed stop instead of lap, and I wasn’t sure exactly how long it was before I’d started it again. It wasn’t until quite a while later when I got my bag with my phone in it, that I looked up the official results and my official time was 2:59:45 – that was beyond my expectations!

Not hard to work out what my strongest leg is! But I will risk losing all credibility as a runner and happily admit that I enjoyed the bike leg the most!

The recovery area was great. They had everything – massages, food, drinks… you name it!

Bling and Coke! What more could you want? Thanks Annie for the photo.
Oh and they had ice baths too. Annie said to try to stay in for 10 minutes. I think I lasted 30 seconds…

I went out to watch the rest of the competitors (mostly long course but some short) still out on the course and was glad I’d opted for the short – it was really heating up by now, the forecast max was in the mid 30s.

Then I heard they had booze in the recovery area so I headed back for some more hydration!

The ciders were on ice, and now so was I!

Once the bike course was closed I was able to get back into the transition area and collect my bike and assorted crap – then I could hang out in the recovery area some more until I needed to leave to get back home.

I got to see Ben and Shane finish, they both found it pretty tough going, and Shane said he hated it from the first stroke of the swim, BUT he did keep going to finish his first (and evidently last) 70.3!

I left just after 2pm to make the long journey home. Often it’s a bit of a letdown at the end of an event you’ve been training for, it’s a bit like “what do I do now?” Except on this occasion I knew EXACTLY what I was going to do.

I was going to get rocked.

When the question “Do you wanna get rocked?” is asked, there is only one acceptable answer.

I got home, quickly showered and changed, and headed into the Entertainment Centre to finish the day in style!

The night kicked off with Scorpions on their first ever Australian tour. I only knew a few of their songs beforehand but they were great!
Amazing seats, right near the front and next to the catwalk!
And a few pics of the greatest band on earth 🙂

LOVED. EVERY. MINUTE. On my feet from start to finish!

Anyway, back to Murray Man (sorry for the little detour but it was important to the story!)

Thanks to all of the organisers and amazing volunteers for making this event happen. It was very well organised, it caters to all levels and although I am still a bit of a noob, I didn’t feel out of place at all there. Special thanks personally to the Porteous family for their amazing hospitality and to Shane and Ben for their help and encouragement to this newbie!

Well done to everyone who competed, particularly those doing their first triathlon, and/or first 70.3! And big kudos to ALL the long course competitors in particular because you guys copped the worst of the conditions!

I’m actually a little disappointed I won’t be able to come back next year but I will have to console myself with the fact that I will be in New York preparing to run the New York Freaking Marathon! 2020 I will return!

GREAT event. I will be back!

Race report – Heysen 105 (35k) 2018

2018 was my 4th consecutive year participating in the Heysen 105.

My first Heysen 105 was in 2015. A lot of things went wrong (lost car key, fell over, got epically lost, in that order) but I absolutely loved it and went back for more in 2016. I still don’t see how I can improve on how I went in ’16, so I haven’t been back to do the 105 again since!

I decided to give one of the shorter distances a crack last year – running the 35km. Again I managed to add a bit of distance to the course.

…or as I prefer to put it, ‘going the extra mile’!

This year my aim was to improve on my 2017 35km time and get under 4 hours. All I needed to do was not get lost and it should be a no-brainer!

I’m mostly telling you this for my own benefit if I run this again and re-read this report in preparation, my pre-race dinner was some excellent food from Pure Vegetarian at Adelaide Central Market. And a cider of course!

My day started early, with 3 alarms set for 3:05, 3:10 and 3:15. I had most of my gear prepped but allowed myself plenty of time to get ready before my departure time of 4:00am. I went for the exact same kit as last year’s 35km (because I couldn’t really blame the kit for getting me lost) except I used lululemon socks and my trail shoes were brand new (still Salomon Speedcross 4, just a new pair as the old ones were a bit worn!)

Spot the difference!

I made it to Myponga, the 35km finish line, by just after 5am, in plenty of time for the bus. I tried to have a little snooze on the bus but it wasn’t happening! Sam, who had run the 105km last year but had downgraded to the 35km this time, and I were having a chat about our plans for next year. The Adelaide 24 hour came up, and Sam said she was planning to do it, saying “sounds like fun!” A couple of guys in front of us turned around as if to say “WTF??” and I burst out laughing, saying “What’s wrong with us???”

We stopped in Victor Harbor for a toilet stop, given that there are no toilets at the start line.

Loo with a View!

Pretty soon we were at the start line at Newland Hill, plenty of time before the 7am start (in fact, we’d not long missed the 6am 105km start group – but we would see some of those runners along the way). I’d done my gear check the week before so all I had to do was collect my race number and I was pretty much ready to go!

At the start I caught up with Rebecca, who I had last chatted with at the pre-race dinner the previous week, who was doing the 35k too. When she saw me she told me she’d “had an accident” – what she meant was, she had ‘accidentally’ (a.k.a “my finger slipped”) switched from the 35k to the 57k, which would be her first ultra – and hadn’t even told her husband! Kate had talked her into it apparently – that didn’t surprise me, she ALMOST talked me into the Hubert 100 miler while we were walking laps together during the 24 hour race! (Rebecca had originally entered the 35km thinking that we were running the LAST 35km of the 105, not the first! The elevation profile of the last 35km is VERY different!)

Jacket courtesy of Uli – it was a little bit cold at the start line although it promised to be a beautiful day! Sam came prepared with a towel – smart! Photo by Glen.
Making sure my shoelaces are done up tight! Note the UTA100 tag still on my backpack! Thanks to Glen for this pic.

I said to Sam, with about 20 minutes to go before the start, that I only had 2 things I needed to do – “sunscreen and wee”. Sam laughed and said “I thought you said WEED!”

With fellow “Vegan Beast Mode Team” member Dave, who was running the 105km.
Getting ready for the start!
Aaaand the obligatory selfie!

One thing I really liked about this year was that the 35km runners started with the 57km and 105km runners at 7am, instead of at 6:30 like last year. Firstly, it theoretically meant an extra half hour sleep (although it didn’t, because the bus was still at the same time, plus I had a longer drive to get to the start line this year). Secondly and more importantly, it meant that there would be more people around throughout the run. Last year, with only a small field in the 35km and a separate start wave, it got a bit lonely out there at times!

Last year my plan was to run the first 17-18km to Checkpoint 1 at Inman Valley. After the navigational mishap I did end up walking a bit, but other than that I did manage to run the whole way, so there was no reason why I couldn’t do it this time.

We started just after 7am, I was about mid-pack. One thing that surprised me was how fast some of the 105km runners started! One of them was Kent, who had done a few very speedy 50k ultras but this was his first 100km. He ran behind me for a short while, saying I was stopping him from going too fast too early! He ended up passing me before long and I never caught up with him again!

Also in the 105km were Steve, who was the brainchild behind the SA Five 50 Ultra series which has been generating quite a lot of interest! The series is 5 ultramarathons of around 50km in SA, some in Adelaide and some regional, and next year for the first time there will be medals for anyone who completes all 5, and prizes for those with the fastest combined times. As a current Board member of SARRC, the organisation which puts on the Yurrebilla 56k ultra, I am the Yurrebilla ‘rep’ for the series. One of the other races, the Federation Trail ultra in Murray Bridge, is organised by Morgan, who was also running the 105k (his first hundy!). The three of us had a bit of an impromptu ‘meeting’ in the early stages of the race before those two took off, another couple of very speedy 105k runners!

There was a fair bit of road in the beginning and as always I had a buff around my neck to pull up over my nose and mouth when cars went past on the dirt roads.

Early on I managed to catch up with Jenny (57km) and Dave (105km) who I had done a few trail runs with in the leadup to Heysen. Although they were running further than me, they left me to eat their dust very early!

After what seemed like an eternity, we reached my favourite type of trail, nice wide soft fire track through the forest. I was running with Ryan at this stage, also doing the 35km, and he agreed that this was the best kind of trail!

I was determined to avoid getting lost, particularly at the spot where I’d missed the turn last year. With many more people out on the trail than last year, that was less likely to happen, but also it’s a bit dangerous to follow people, assuming they know where they’re going! I certainly wouldn’t encourage anyone to follow me, unless they’re keen for an adventure!

Official pic by Colin (Geosnapshot) – just before CP1 at Inman Valley.

Anyway I was so busy trying not to get lost, before I knew it, I was approaching Inman Valley Road and the re-route to the hall which was the site of Checkpoint 1. It seemed kind of pointless running up the road to the checkpoint only to do a quick U-bolt and go straight back where I’d come from, but it was part of the course – the only thing I had to do was get my number checked off the list and I was outta there! (I had plenty of food and drink so there was no reason to stop) I later found out that Adam, who had infamously got lost with me last year, was at that checkpoint volunteering!

I forgot to mention I was running blind – once I’d started my watch at the start line, I had covered it up with my arm warmer and wasn’t intending to look at it again until I stopped it at the end! So I didn’t know how close I was to the checkpoint until I was practically there! And somehow I’d managed to miss the spot where I’d got lost last year – I’d made the turn without even realising it!

That was the easy bit done. The second half would be WAY harder.

The 35km elevation profile. A few little hills in the front half, but some big ones in the back half!

I managed to run the first few kilometres after CP1, and found myself actually hoping for an unrunnable hill so I could start getting some food in! (I hadn’t had anything to eat up to that point as I’d been running the whole way). Eventually I hit the uphill road bit I’d remembered from previous Heysens, and it was time to smash a Clif bar!

I was carrying: 1 litre of Gatorade plus enough powder to make another litre, 4 different Clif bars, a peanut butter sandwich and a different nut spread sandwich, and 2 small packets of sweet potato crisps. As always I had WAY more food than I was expecting to eat. Most of that would be eaten while I was sitting at the finish line later!

Selfie while walking backwards up a hill! Excuse the thumb!

I caught up with Daniel during this section and we ran bits and pieces together. He was doing the 105k (I think his second) and was smashing it at that stage! We chatted about the merits of sleeping in the back of the car (he’d slept in the back of his car the previous night, and his car was even smaller than mine! I was planning to sleep in the back of the car at the 105k finish line) among other things.

One bit I had completely forgotten about, and I have NO IDEA how, given that I’d done it 4 times  before, was the climb out of Myponga Conservation Park. It was NASTY! Beautiful, but nasty! I did grab a sturdy stick at one stage to help me up some of the climbs! Strava says that bits of it are a 30% gradient. Not sure exactly what that means but it is STEEP!

Somewhere along here I caught up with Merle who was one of the 6am starters in the 105km. She asked me how I was going and I said “F***ed!” I said it laughing though. I knew I could not have too much further left to go!

Daniel had told me that the last 6km was on road, so I knew roughly how much further was left, but I still didn’t look at my watch.

Somewhere during the climby bit, a fence jumped out at me. I went splat, but I had my cycling gloves on so I just grazed one knee and my hands were protected. I bounced, kept going, and forgot all about it until other people saw the blood and asked me about it!

The road bit wasn’t much fun but at least I knew it was ‘about a parkrun to go’ when I reached it!

Not long to go now – note the claret on the right knee! Official photo by Colin (Geosnapshot)
Can you tell I’m happy to be nearly done? Official photo by Colin (Geosnapshot)

Along the road I overtook a few people, mostly 105km runners. I tried not to let my excitement show – they still had a LOOOOONG way to go!

I caught up with a 105k runner called Sam. During the conversation he informed me that I had 2.5km to go – this was the first time I actually knew where I was in relation to the finish line! I picked up the pace a little after this – the end was in sight!

YAAAAASSSSS!!! Official pic by Colin (Geosnapshot)

Somewhere around here I distinctly smelled watermelon. It was so weird! I don’t even particularly like watermelon. I knew it would be at the finish line but I wasn’t craving it, watermelon doesn’t have a very strong smell, and even if it did, we were WAY too far away from the finish line for me to be actually smelling it! (I even asked the guy behind me if he could smell it, pretty sure he thought I was a bit strange!) Needless to say, there was no watermelon in sight!

Approaching CP2 and the finish line – photo by Briana.
Head down, getting it done – photo by Briana.
Finish line feels! Thanks to Estha for this photo!

I got to the finish line and stopped my watch – my time was around 3:55:30 (give or take a few seconds) – I’d cracked 4 hours! And someone told me I was in second place, I actually had no idea what place I was in, with the 3 different distances all starting together. I knew there were plenty of women ahead of me but I had no idea who was in the 35k! As it turned out, only one of them! She was already long gone by the time I finished, she wasn’t a local so I didn’t know her and I didn’t even get to meet her! (I later checked my previous Heysen results and was gobsmacked to find out that I’d actually run from the start to CP2 a few minutes FASTER when I’d run my first Heysen 105!

Only a few minutes after me, Tracey finished – she had also broken 4 hours and got 3rd place. We’d run together the week before and I knew she’d be around my pace as she was also hoping to go sub 4.

Trophy presentation with Tracey – thanks to Estha for this photo!

Then it was time to sit down, take off my shoes and socks, and raid my race vest for food!

It was a nice day to sit and just watch the runners come in! I was glad to be finished as it was starting to get a bit warm. I chatted all things triathlon with Shane for a while, he was waiting for his wife Emily who was also doing the 35km (dare I say it maybe a bit reluctantly) and was giving him regular updates via text of how much she was enjoying herself out there! (ie not very much!) At some point in the conversation I’m pretty sure he said he’d do the 105k again!

Thanks to Glen for this photo – taken as he passed through CP2 during the 105k. Talking Tri with Shane!
Twinning! Thanks to Kate for this photo – Kate was also doing the 105k.

After hanging out at CP2 for a while I then made my way to CP3 via the Sip N Save at Mount Compass where I got myself a six pack of cider. I hadn’t been to CP3 before except while running the 105, so it was nice to see it from a different angle!

I got there just in time to see Jenny finish, she got second place in the 57km! She later told me she had fallen (quite early on) and hurt her shoulder and a rib, and a few days later it was confirmed she had actually fractured a rib!

Because I hadn’t taken a finish line pic at the actual finish line, after I took a pic for Jenny at the CP3 finish line I decided to get one too. Bling in one hand, cider in the other!
With CP3 volunteer Simon. Thanks to Sam for this photo – Sam had run the 35k and then dashed off to CP3 to volunteer! A lot of people were volunteering/buddy running after running the 35km – I’d opted not to do this as I was pretty sure I’d be useless after my run! I was right!

I hung out at CP3 for a while – I saw Sirelle finish 3rd in the 57km and then dash off to buddy run Tina in the 105km – now that is impressive! I was tired just thinking about that!

Jenny had been waiting a while for the 3rd place finisher, so they could do a trophy presentation and Jenny could get going, so Jenny’s husband went for one last drive up the road to see if anyone was coming. If there was no-one there she was going to have to leave. As it turned out there were TWO 57km runners pretty much together. He leaned out the window and said to them, “One of you is going to finish 3rd!”

I was hoping to see Rebecca finish her first ultra but I also wanted to get to the finish line in time to see the winner, so I ended up having to leave before seeing her!

I got to the finish line where they had the couches and fires set up like last year. Michelle and Mark had done a lot of the work and it looked really great! A perfect way to kick back after running 105km (or in my case, 35km!)

I won’t write too much about the rest of the night, mostly because I slept through most of it, and I didn’t take very many photos.

Heysen 105 winner, Simon from Alice Springs!
2nd place and first local, Randell!

One ‘funny’ moment was when Joel, who had been an impromptu buddy runner for Steve for one section, had given me some car keys to look after for Sean, who was Steve’s official buddy runner. I thought that was quite funny as Joel obviously hadn’t heard the story of me losing my key in 2015! I told Joel in great detail where I was going to put the keys, so he could tell Sean, in case I happened to be asleep when he got back! I was actually awake when Steve and Sean finished, and I gave Sean his keys straight away, and then a little bit later on Sean came up to me and asked me if I knew where his car was – unfortunately I didn’t! So there you go, in 2015 I only lost my key, but at least I knew where my car was!

I went to sleep in my car around 10pm and woke up about 2:30, just in time to fall asleep in my chair! In between naps I got to see Dione finish her first 105k. I missed seeing Kim finish her second Heysen, and I also missed seeing Kym and Kate finish (Kym has done every single Heysen) but had a bit of a chat to all of them around the campfire!

I had brought my guitar along like I had done last year, but this time I couldn’t be bothered getting it out – it just took up space in my car, and made my sleeping quarters just a little bit tight!

In the back of the car – so comfy – not!
Whereas I had NO trouble sleeping sitting up in my chair, in broad daylight, with Mark, Michelle and Ben cleaning up around me! Thanks to Michelle for this pic – PS that beer bottle is NOT mine!

I had intended to help with the packing away, as I had last year, but I had somehow managed to sleep right through it! Sorry guys!

So that’s Heysen done for another year. I can safely say I won’t be back next year – I have just been accepted into the Chicago Marathon and I have also paid a deposit for New York. And in 2020 I think it will be my time to volunteer as I will be doing the full Murray Man which will be a week or two later and I will be wanting to save my legs for that!

Well done to everyone who participated, whether they finished or not – special congrats to all the people who completed their first Heysen, first ultra or first 100km!

And of course thanks to Race Director Ben and all of the fantastic volunteers – special thanks to the volunteers at CP2 where I spent a big chunk of the day – I don’t know all their names but Kirstie, Estha, Paul and Derek were a few of them – thanks to all of you! And to the first aid guy who cleaned up my knee!

I’ll finish with this. If you’re interested in a challenge but don’t think you’re up to an ultramarathon distance (or just don’t particularly WANT to run an ultra), definitely consider the 35km. But don’t expect it to be easy – it is definitely the hardest section of the 105km! You can walk it or run it – there’s plenty of time to finish. Heysen really does have something for everyone!

You won’t regret it!

A few words about the McLaren Vale Half Marathon – preceded by a whole lot of words about the week leading up to it!

Don’t EVER let anyone tell you a 5k run is easy!

I guess I had better explain myself a bit more here. Just a word of warning, it’s going to be a little while before I actually get to talking about the McLaren Vale event. (If you want to skip the lead-up just scroll down to the picture of my cat licking a chickpea can)

I’ve just come into a particularly busy period of running and multisport events. 7 events in 7 weeks (which also means a lot of blog posts coming up!)

The timing of the events is tricky. Trickiest is the one week gap between the Heysen 35k (which I also ran last year) and the half Murray Man triathlon (my first Murray Man event, and third official triathlon). Finding the time to train adequately for both of these, around full time work, has been a challenge to say the least!

For the McLaren Vale Half Marathon event this past weekend, I chose to do the 5k (the other options being 10k and the half mara). It was the final event of the 2018 Triple Crown, and this year for the first time there were medals for all distances, and the medals from the three events fit neatly together to make a pretty picture – I had done the first two events and I wanted to complete the set! Given my relatively busy schedule of events, and wanting to really be able to put in a good Heysen, I figured 5k was the best option. Somewhat naively I thought I could probably do a long trail run on the Saturday and still be able to put in a good 5k at McLaren Vale! (Whereas I wouldn’t have even considered that if I had been running the half!)

Common sense prevailed and I ended up doing my long run on Wednesday after work, taking advantage of the first week of Daylight Saving (giving me a good few days recovery) and managed to finish before it got dark! Not something I’d want to do all the time but it’s nice to know it’s an option!

Trying to fit in cycling and swimming around the usual road and trail runs has been challenging, especially swimming which I don’t particularly enjoy. Following the black line for lap after monotonous lap can be mind-numbingly boring, although that has become somewhat more tolerable since I splashed out (pun intended) on a waterproof iPod shuffle! Still, I’ll take boring any day over the alternative which is swimming in West Lakes, known to be fairly heavily populated with jellyfish which can grow to the size of dinner plates (my friend Karen ‘lovingly’ refers to West Lakes as ‘booger soup’ which I think is a pretty accurate description!) – I will hardly put my head under water there, let alone open my eyes to see ‘what lies beneath’!

So when the opportunity arose to take a road trip down to Victor Harbor (the location of my last triathlon in March) and have a swim in the much more pleasant Encounter Lakes, I took it!

Two weeks ago I’d had my bike fit done (FINALLY!!!) by Hamish at Complete Physio down in Victor, and Shane had very kindly offered to go for a little cruise along the coast the following morning after parkrun to test it out! (He’d also told me to bring the wetsuit down for a swim in the lake but I wussed out of that one – too cold for me!)

This past week Shane had posted on Facebook that he was planning a full on triathlon training session on Saturday including a swim in the lake, a 2 hour bike ride and 1 hour run, and invited people to come join. Initially I had planned just to come for the swim – I wanted to get at least one open water swim in before Murray Man – but I had thrown the bike in the car too. I wasn’t sure quite how that would work and I thought I’d be way too slow on the bike, but it didn’t hurt to have the bike in the car just in case!

I definitely wasn’t going to do the run. The plan was to do the Victor Harbor parkrun (because it would be rude not to!) then the swim, and MAYBE a little ride. Definitely not the run. I’d done plenty of running already for the week. Plus I was ‘racing’ the next day.

A beautiful day for a parkrun! Completely oblivious to the toy snake that the RD had placed near the finish line – focused only on the finish flags!

Anyway, I went a bit harder at parkrun than I ordinarily would the day before the race. Then I had a FABULOUS swim in the lake – I had my head underwater for most of it and eyes open too! The plan was to swim for 30 minutes and I was expecting to do about 1000m in that time (based on my only previous accurately measured 1000m open water swim) and actually according to my watch I did over 1300m – surprisingly faster than I swim in a pool! Must be a fast lake!

SO much nicer than swimming with dinner plate-sized jellyfish!

The bike ride did end up happening – it was meant to be on the Victor Harbor triathlon bike course, and started out that way, but I managed to get myself super lost right near the end and did a Tour of Victor before eventually finding my way back to the car, a little over 45km in just under 2 hours with some challenging hills (45km being the distance of the half Murray Man bike leg so that was a great confidence booster!) and it felt great – really getting a feel for the new bike setup and the seat having being raised approximately 7cm!

Spot the difference – my ride on the left and the one I was SUPPOSED to be doing on the right!

I decided still not to do the 1 hour run but ended up doing an ‘easy’ 3km run off the bike because it’s always good to practise that. And then of course smashed a Coke in record time and ate ALL OF THE FOOD!

So now we move on to the McLaren Vale event on Sunday.

This year was my 5th consecutive McLaren Vale, having run the half marathon the previous 4 years (2015 and 2016 as a 2 hour pacer, and 2014 and 2017 for myself!) so this year it was kind of weird to be watching the half marathoners getting ready and just standing off to the side knowing it was still an hour before I would start running! (And some of the lead half marathoners would be nearly finished by then!)

Numbers were great, with almost 1300 entrants across the 3 distances including over 800 in the half marathon. Even the 5k, which usually has quite a small field, had 177 entrants and eventually 149 finishers! It goes to show that if you put on quality events, the people will come! The weather was also not terrible – it had rained a fair bit overnight and more rain had been forecast for Sunday but it looked like that would hold off until the afternoon. It was pretty warm too – even when I arrived at about 7:15am I hardly needed my hoodie! The only issue was possible strong wind – it was enough of a factor to stop the finish arch being put up for fear of it blowing away!

I got to see the half marathon and 10k starts, as well as the half marathoners coming back through the finish area at about the 7km mark before heading back out again. This is the point in the half where if you’re not having a particularly good run and are having any thoughts about pulling out, it is a bit too easy to pull out – after all, why run another 14km if you’re already at the finish line after 7?

At the start of the 5k I was near the front. In the front line of runners there were 5 females and a couple of guys. Generally if you line up at the front you mean business, either that or you’re just way too ambitious! So I pretty much knew I was in 6th place, and it would be nice to be able to improve on that, but at least hopefully no-one would overtake me and I’d be able to hold on to 6th!

Very early on! Official photo from Colin (Geosnapshot)

This was the first SARRC event to introduce age group medals, similar to what they have in triathlon and duathlon events. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd male and female in each 10 year age group in each of the 3 events would be awarded a special medal (along with the finisher medal everyone gets!) I thought it was a great initiative – it gives those of us who aren’t likely to win overall trophies, a chance of winning something! I didn’t know the 5 girls ahead of me but hopefully they weren’t all in my age group and I might be a chance!

At the start I very nearly tripped over a kid in an Adelaide Harriers singlet who started just behind me but then passed me straight away but after managing to avoid falling before the start line, I got into a bit of a rhythm and tried to keep the lead pack within reach. There was an uphill bit pretty early on but then it seemed reasonably flat. There was a 42m elevation gain overall in the 5km which is something but not huge. The elevation map on Strava makes it look like a mountain!

It felt like a mountain at times but this profile is a bit misleading!

Trying to keep up with the fast runners was a mistake, I definitely went out too fast in the first kilometre (4:20) and then paid for it in the next two (4:51 and 4:53) and never really managed to get back to the pace I should be able to run. I’d call it a rookie mistake but after 6 years I probably can’t use that excuse anymore! It was warmish but the sun really didn’t come out for real until after we’d finished, and the wind wasn’t really a factor. So the conditions were probably as good as could be expected.

Another early pic from Colin (Geosnapshot)

We encountered some of the half marathoners – it hadn’t occurred to me that we shared the same course, and realised that running with my head down was probably not the best option! I managed to keep the 5th female runner in sight thanks to her bright pinky purple SARRC top, and I don’t think she really got away from me but I never seemed to be able to make up any ground either!

Towards the end I saw Gary with his trusty camera, he managed to catch a few action shots and also got a bit of language from me – apologies to the man with the kid in the pram who also got to hear the fruity language! Who knew 5k could elicit such a reaction from a normally mild mannered person?

Guess what I’m saying here? Thanks to Gary for the pic!

I managed to hold on to 6th place, and finished in an official time of 23:49 (50 seconds slower than the previous day’s parkrun!) – seriously that was hard work!

Finish line feels! Never again will I say ‘only’ and ‘5k’ in the same sentence! Official photographer Colin (Geosnapshot)

Had to sit down for a few minutes to catch my breath after that one, before ‘recaffeinating’ and taking the obligatory bling shot with the 3 Triple Crown medals together against the backdrop of the vines. (Shout out to Stir Express for the outstanding coffee!)

Clare at the front in purple, Greenbelt in the blue, and finally McLaren Vale in the orangey brown.

After this I helped out on MC duties for a while – it was challenging with so many people out there, I found it too hard to read the names off the iPad as they approached the finish line so ended up just reading the names off the bibs – and I definitely missed a few but hopefully managed to capture most people! (The ones without names on their bibs were a bit harder!)

The kids fun run, a relatively new addition to the programme but now a firm fixture at SARRC events, was a bit of fun too – Race Director Ben asked me to be a marshal – luckily it was a pretty easy gig because as I am known for being a bit ‘directionally challenged’, I’m probably the last person you’d want to rely on to ‘tell people where to go’! Pointing is actually pretty hard work – I noticed a bit of muscle soreness in my right shoulder but I’m assuming that was from the swimming and probably not from what had to have been only about 6 minutes of pointing!

I hadn’t looked at the official results but was still hopefully I might sneak in for an age group placing – in the end I was second in my age group behind Leonie who I’d kept in sight for the whole 5k but hadn’t quite managed to catch – there was only 15 seconds between us too! Still – bonus bling is always nice!

With my second place age group medal along with my collection of 3 Triple Crown medals – thanks to Gary for the pic!

Congratulations to all the runners especially the majority of the half marathoners who had to deal with the warm conditions later in the morning! Also as always a huge thanks to the volunteers – extra special thanks to Voula who was supposed to be running but gave up her run at the last minute to give out medals at the finish line, and her husband John who had the unenviable and I can imagine difficult task of being the sweeper for the half marathon – on a bike! I would DEFINITELY have fallen off! Last but not least well done to the event team Ben, Sheena and Malcolm for putting on another great SARRC event!

Race Report – City-Bay Fun Run 2018

City-Bay has been a staple in the SA running calendar for over 40 years now. When I first started running a little under 6 years ago, my first goal event was the City-Bay 12k (as it is for many new runners) and I completed it 4 times, in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. 2016 was a bit disappointing as I didn’t get close to my 2015 PB (which I now realise was significantly wind-assisted!) so I opted not to run in 2017.

I hadn’t really planned to run it again, and then in 2018 the half marathon was added. I was a bit dubious at first, but then I realised, “Hang on, this could be a fast one!” The last 12k, the same 12k that the 12k runners do, is essentially all downhill. Yeah, the first 9k is kind of uphill, but it’s not really THAT uphill. The only thing that could possibly make it not a fast course would be strong winds!

So I decided to run the half, my first ‘proper’ road half for the year, my last one being McLaren Vale in October 2017, which was not as fast as I would have hoped.

My half marathon PB was a touch under 1:38, set in the Australian Masters Games nearly 3 years ago. I kind of ignore that when I’m thinking about PBs. It was the only time I’d ever broken 1:40 in 18 half marathons, and I hadn’t got close since. My next best half was Barossa in 2016, 1:41:45.

The only downside I could see to the half marathon was the arse o’clock start, scheduled for 6:15am at Morphettville. That was to ensure that all the half marathon runners were well past the city and on their way back to the Bay by the time the 12k kicked off at 8:00. There would be nothing worse for an elite 12k runner trying to win one of the not insignificant cash prizes, or any runner wanting to go for a good time or a PB, than having to dodge tiring half marathoners!

My hope was to be finished by the time the 12k started – that would be a sub 1:45 time, which I had just missed at McLaren Vale. The coolest thing would be standing near the finish line watching the elites (and other friends not far behind them) finish! I’d never seen the ‘pointy end’ of the field before, apart from at the start line and at the presentations!

During the week I had happened upon an old ‘pace band’ from a previous half marathon (not sure which one!). The 21k split was 1:41:17. I would be happy with that! I contemplated wearing it but decided against it – I’d just go by feel.

The pace band!

I was lucky enough to get a lift with regular running buddy Riesje and her family (I say running buddy but I can’t keep up with her these days – I’m usually eating her dust!) so we didn’t have to worry about parking at Morphettville. We got to the start area at around 5:45 which just gave us enough time to queue up for the toilets and JUST make it to the start line in time! (We later found out there was a large block of portaloos at the main Morphettville carpark on Anzac Highway, but by the time we found that out there would not have been enough time to get there and back for the start. I must remember that for next time!)

I opted not to wear my compression shorts as I normally would for a half marathon, because they would have looked weird under the floral skirt I’d decided to wear. I’d worn the same skirt for my last City-Bay and thought it was time to give it another run! I also went with the compression socks I’d worn for my last City-Bay, it was a bit of a risk because I have been known to get black toenails from said socks, but I liked the look of them!

Nutrition/hydration wise I’d just bought a bottle of Gatorade and hoped that would be enough to get me through. That’s no different really from what I would normally do in a half, except normally I mix my own Gatorade and use my own handheld bottle. This way, I figured I could ditch the bottle once it was empty. The only thing I hadn’t factored in, was trying to drink out of the Gatorade bottle (a wide-mouthed bottle, rather than the pop-tops I’m used to) while running. A pop-top water bottle may have been better, although I did find the bottle shape fitted nicely into my hand.

The start was delayed a bit, possibly due to the toilet queue, and possibly waiting for a tramload of punters to arrive? I caught up with Amelia, told her I would see her at the finish, to which she responded she was just up for a ‘jog’ today, bearing in mind that her jog is faster than my sprint! I also saw the 2 pacers, Coralie was pacing 1:40 and thought I might be near her, I thought she was out of her mind as sub 1:40 is pretty far off for me at the moment, but I thought it might be nice to try to keep her in sight at least for the first km or two! I didn’t know the 1:45 pacer but I did know I wanted to stay in front of him!

And soon we were away – I started my watch and then covered it up, not to be looked at again until I crossed the finish line!

One of the first things I noticed was the ’20km to go’ sign – I’ve never seen that before! I know they have ‘x km to go’ signs throughout the 12k but I’m not sure if I like being told I still have 20km to go!

The first 9km was uphill-ish. I needed to avoid getting caught in the trap of going out too fast (like I did once in the Clare half marathon). Of course, it was hard to gauge that without looking at my watch!

In the first few kilometres a LOT of people overtook me. That was not right! I wasn’t going THAT slow, was I? Eventually I worked out that they had probably started late (maybe stuck in the toilet queue) and were naturally faster than me anyway, so ordinarily they would have started ahead of me and I would not have seen them. Once I figured that out I forgot about them and settled into my own rhythm.

Early days!

Despite the road being supposedly closed, there were a few cars trying to get out of driveways onto Anzac Highway. ‘Oh no you don’t!’ I thought to myself (OK maybe I said it out loud, and maybe those weren’t the EXACT words I used…)

We were also overtaken by a couple of cyclists at one point, out for their morning ride and not to be deterred by the road closure and thousands of runners! They DEFINITELY were not meant to be there! This was OUR day!

The turnaround point was just before North Terrace, a few hundred metres away from where the 12km runners were undoubtedly gathering. The clock on the Town Hall as I passed showed about 7:02 – I’d hoped to turn around by 7am but as we’d started late, I supposed 7:02 wasn’t too bad!

The run up King William Street was where we got to see most of the other runners for the one and only time in the race! (In the other distances you don’t get that at all, as they’re all ‘point to point’). On the way to the turnaround we saw the people ahead, and on the way back towards Glenelg we saw the runners behind us. Happily the 1:45 pacer was still a fair way back!

The last 12k was relatively easy – apparently there was a bit of a head wind on the way out, and a bit of a tail wind on the way back, but it wasn’t really noticeable. The weather was perfect – actually you could almost say it was warm when the sun came out! Once we were ‘homeward bound’ the ‘x km to go’ signs didn’t seem so daunting!

One thing I noticed about the half marathon that I hope can be changed somehow next year, was the lack of atmosphere. The volunteers were all there and I tried to thank as many of them as I could, but the crowds that generally gather to watch the 12km, well they were probably still in bed like most normal people! I don’t expect to see crowds that early on a Sunday morning, but it would be nice to have a bit of music to get us fired up! There were a number of bands along the route, and many of them were setting up as we ran past, but they wouldn’t actually start playing until later. And that’s fair enough, it’s a long day for them already. Perhaps there could be a PA system with a radio set up in a few spots along the way?

The kilometres ticked by pretty steadily. When we reached the ‘5km to go’ sign I was just behind Sonja and another girl who I didn’t know, and I said “Just a parkrun to go!” The other girl said “I prefer to break it down into laps of the Uni Loop!” To which I responded “Yeah I have a love/hate relationship with that place!” Plus, for me, a parkrun generally equals a relatively fast run, however most of my Uni Loop running is slow and steady and interspersed with walking. Probably not a helpful analogy for me, but as I said at the time, “Whatever works for you

I was mindful that I had neglected my high fiving duties (to be fair, there were limited spectators to high five!) so when we turned off Anzac Highway into Brighton Road in the last kilometre I made up for it by high fiving as many of the CFS volunteers who lined that part of the course, as I possibly could!

And then we turned into Jetty Road where I really picked up the pace as the finish line was really close now! And finally I managed to find a kid to high five (my ‘policy’ is to try to get at least one high five from a kid in every race!) just before turning the corner to the finish line where I saw the time clock.

Game face!
Not quite sure what face this is!

From memory I thought it said 8:02 – not too far off my planned finish time of 8:00. The 12k leaders were probably a kilometre in by now!

I crossed the finish line, stopped my watch and only then did I look at it – 1:41:33 (my official time was a whole second quicker!) – I was pleasantly surprised! My second fastest out of 19 half marathons! Admittedly it WAS a fast course. But I think if I’ve ever got a chance of breaking 1:40 again, this would be the event to do it!

Finish line feels!
VERY happy with that consistency!

After catching up with a few other half marathoners and collecting my gear bag, I headed back to Jetty Road to watch the elites finish – that was one of the highlights of the day!

A surprisingly NOT blurry pic of 12km winner Jack Rayner approaching the finish line. His time was the second fastest by an Australian in this race! A privilege to see!

After seeing the elites with their accompanying flag bearers, I got to see quite a lot of friends finish the 12k too, including Kristie who was 2nd female in the elite walker category (behind an Olympian, so that’s not too shabby!)

Then it was time for some R&R – first stop was the Westpac Red Zone – a VIP area for customers and staff, where everything was laid on including food, coffee and free massages! Thanks Westpac!

It had turned into a beautiful day, and what better place to hang out?

I caught up with running buddy Kate who had cracked the sub-60 in the 12k, and we grabbed a coffee and sat down at a table to get a massage!

 

Ahhhh!!! Magic!

I probably could have stayed there all day but I had places to go and people to see, so after the presentations I headed off with Maree (who had also done the half marathon) to find her car at Morphettville and then she gave me a lift home – thanks Maree!

The half marathon has definitely got me interested in this event again! While a great event, I felt I’d given the 12k all I could and the chances of getting another PB there were pretty slim. However, I definitely believe I can improve on my half marathon time so hopefully the 21.1km will become a regular part of the City-Bay!

JOKING!

Thanks to the organisers and fantastic volunteers for putting on yet another fantastic event! I look forward to running it again next year and hopefully getting another PB!

Archie the cat approves of the bling – and he’s a hard man to please! A great medal and a great event!

Race Report – Triathlon SA Winter Duathlon Series Race 3

This was my 3rd duathlon of the season. All 3 were exactly the same course, so the idea was that I’d improve my times from Race 1 to Race 3. Of course, that was before Race 2 happened!

Race 2 was done on, as it turned out, not one but two flat tyres. So it could only get better from there!

The weather conditions were significantly better than last time – it was still a bit windy but it was a lot warmer.

It was clearly the bike leg that needed improvement. All I needed to do was have both tyres adequately pumped up, and use my gears properly. Simples!

The day before the race, I got a parcel from Mekong which included my brand new tri-suit! There was nothing wrong with my old one, but the Mekong one was just so pretty, plus I had been assured by several people that it would make me go faster, so naturally I had to have one! And this duathlon would be the perfect opportunity to try it out!

It fit perfectly and was uber-comfy!

On arrival at Victoria Park, I racked my bike and coach Kent (the one who pointed out my flat tyre last time!) came over and checked my tyres – they both got the thumbs up!

There were a few familiar faces out there, notably ultra running mother/daughter team Heather and Ally, both doing their first duathlon. Kristie was back again, and Karen and Daryl were there as spectators this time (Karen having had a bike mishap during the week).

After the race briefing we were split up into our waves – Open and Under 40 athletes in the first wave, 40 and over in the second, and Short Course in the third. (I was doing the long course again – 4km run/16km ride/2km run. The short course was half those distances.)

It was quite warm out there, for the first time in any of the duathlons I did take advantage of the cups of water near the start/finish line on most of my running laps!

On the first run I started reasonably conservatively on the first of 4 laps but then my competitive side kicked in and I decided to try to pass as many people as I could on the run. I would probably pay for it later but it was my chance to get a bit of a head start on the bike leg!

First run leg – so far so good! Official race photo by Colin Graham (Geosnapshot)

According to Strava I finished the first run in 17:59 and got through the first transition in 13 seconds – I’m not sure about that T1 time but I’ll take it!

It took me a few hundred metres for either of my feet to click into the pedals, which was a bit frustrating, but eventually I did get them in! Riding past the grandstand (with wind assistance) I went into a higher gear (as per Shane’s advice from the first duathlon) which really helped to stop my legs from going too fast!

Looks like I’m going really fast here! Official race photo by Colin Graham (Geosnapshot)

The trickiest part of the course as always was the ‘hot dog’ hairpin turn (so named because on the map it kind of looks like a hot dog – they probably could have called it something else but it is a family-friendly event!) It took a few laps before I got it sorted – and as per previous races, as the laps ticked by, there were less and less people left out there to potentially be trying to pass me!

I did get passed on my left a couple of times but mostly people were really good and called out as they were about to pass me on my right.

All in all, the ride went pretty smoothly. My Strava time for the ride was 37:46, compared with 44:08 in Race 1 and 47:43 in Race 2. It was all because of the suit!

Concentration face! Official race photo by Colin Graham (Geosnapshot)

Then I went through T2 just behind Kristie (T2 was 39 seconds according to Strava) and headed back out for 2 more laps of the run course. Kristie didn’t use bike shoes so her T2 was a lot quicker than mine, giving me something to chase in the run!

The second run was a bit slower than in Race 1, maybe because I’d really pushed hard on the bike. Thankfully, it was significantly better than Race 2 (EVERYTHING about Race 2 sucked!)

Can you tell I’m nearly finished? Official race photo by Colin Graham (Geosnapshot)

Gosh, 2km feels like a long way!

On the second lap I decided to try to pass as many people as I could. Although my legs felt pretty heavy, I guessed everyone else would be in the same boat! When I got to the last few hundred metres there were a couple of girls I decided I needed to at least try to pass. I actually ended up passing one RIGHT on the finish line, that was a good feeling – for me at least!

Almost there! Official race photo by Colin Graham (Geosnapshot)

My overall time was 11 minutes faster than Race 2 and around 6 minutes faster than Race 1. So it was an overall PB as well as a bike PB – a great way to end the series!

Thanks to Triathlon SA and all the volunteers for putting on the series, I have learned a lot from the 3 races and I know I still have a lot to learn! One of the things I love about the triathlon scene is that people are really friendly and encouraging, and always willing to offer a tip or two to help a newbie like me!

I’m still deciding whether to go to the final race in the Barossa Valley (there’s a hill in the bike ride, but there is wine in the Barossa…). Decisions, decisions!

Race Report – Barossa Marathon 2018

I thought I was done with marathons?

The last marathon I ran was in April 2017, that was the Boston Marathon and that probably would have been a good one to go out on.

The original plan for 2018 was to run Gold Coast and qualify for Chicago in 2019, with the ultimate goal to (eventually) do all 6 majors and get that epic medal. But 17 weeks out from the Goldie, when I was contemplating the start of the training programme and dreading the long road runs, I thought to myself, ‘Why am I doing this if I clearly don’t want to?” and consequently Gold Coast fell off the programme. If I really wanted to run Chicago I could go in the lottery or worst case scenario, pay my way in. (I justified this by thinking of the money I would save by not doing Gold Coast – flights, accommodation etc).

The idea of running Barossa came into my head in May, at the Adelaide Marathon. One of my regular running buddies, Dean, had decided LITERALLY AT THE LAST MINUTE to run the Adelaide Marathon, and had done quite well. “Maybe, just maybe…” I thought, “I could run a Chicago qualifier at Barossa!” That sounds good in theory, but you have to know that Dean is a committed road runner, and does long road runs every Sunday, whereas you’d normally find me out on the trails, or doing some kind of event. I can’t seem to commit to one kind of running! Add the multisport stuff to that, and you can see why 16 weeks of long road runs does not compute for me!

So anyway, in June I bit the bullet and entered Barossa, but for the first time ever I purchased the insurance that would allow me to get a refund if I decided running Barossa was a terrible idea. And I wasn’t going to tell anyone I was doing it, but over the coming months people somehow managed to get it out of me!

At the time I entered I was 100% focused on the Adelaide 12 hour which was my ‘A’ race for the year. After the 12 hour I had 5 weeks to get myself up for Barossa. 1 week after the 12 hour I was pacing the 10k at Greenbelt, so effectively that meant I was going into Barossa with a 4 week training programme, instead of the traditional 16. If I could make it work with a 4 week programme, maybe marathons weren’t so bad after all!

So, in other words, this was probably one of the most ambitious things I’d ever attempted!

Now I wasn’t going from ‘couch to marathon’ in 4 weeks of course. Having run over 100km 5 weeks ago, the distance was never going to be an issue. (I’d also run 3 runs over 30km in the leadup to the 12 hour). It was the speed that I was concerned about.

In the weeks leading up to the 12 hour speed was the last thing on my mind. I did all my training runs at comfortable pace and it was only the odd parkrun where I would really try to go for it.

After Greenbelt I had a chat to club coach Kent about what sort of training I should be doing for the 4 weeks (normally taper time, but it’s hard to taper when you haven’t really started training for real!) He said that I didn’t need to do anything big, just join the rest of the Marathon Mentor training group runs and do whatever distance they were doing.

The first Sunday run was meant to be 32km, but I found myself running on my own (and hadn’t thought to bring music with me) so ended up cutting it back to 30km which was plenty. I’d forgotten how different long road runs were, compared to runs around the Uni Loop where I could keep everything in my car. 2 weeks out I ran 21km with Beck (also doing the marathon, although at the time she still hadn’t entered – her goal was more around finishing and it was likely we wouldn’t be running together) and then last weekend it was a very enjoyable 16km with Kent, and 2 other runners who were doing the marathon, Lachy and Kristina.

I started doing tempo runs once a week – usually on a Thursday, as Tuesday was more of a recovery pace.

Pace wise I wanted sub 3:45, which, last time I checked, would qualify me for Chicago – even one second under would be enough. With time being of the essence, I decided to go back to what I was doing a few years back when I ran my first Barossa Marathon – I made myself a pace band, using the MARCO calculator. (Start slow, then gradually build up the pace and allow for a little drop off in pace at the end). Last time I’d used a pace band I decided to ignore it from quite early on, but it was worth having just in case it might be useful and keep me on track!

My pace band – all I had to do was check the time on my watch as I passed each kilometre marker! Simples!

The weather was looking fine albeit cold – I would need layers at the start!

As I will always do if I am able to, I had ‘special drinks’ organised for the drink stations. It was only Gatorade, but the reason why I would always opt for bringing my own drinks, is because I can just grab a bottle at the drink station, rather than drinking from a cup and then having nothing until the next drink station. This way I could grab a bottle at the first drink station and hang onto it until I reached the next one, and have a drink whenever I felt like it! As always I also had to make my drink bottles distinctive so I wouldn’t waste time looking for them – I went with blue and yellow electrical tape. (I’d attached straws to my bottles at the Adelaide Marathon in 2016 but although that made them easy to spot, I noted in my race report that they were very annoying to carry! So I wasn’t going to do that again!) There were 3 drink stations where we could have special drinks, and we’d pass each one twice (once on each lap) so I had 6 x 250ml bottles. Given the cool weather I thought that would be enough, and there was always water at all the drink stations if I needed anything more.

Race eve fuelling was as per tradition – pizza and cider! This was my 7th marathon and every single one of them had been preceded by the same race-eve meal! The pizza was from Sonny’s Pizza Bar – highly recommended, with an extensive vegan menu!

Dinner of champions!

Gear-wise I went with tried and true – from the top down, I had a white 2XU hat, Mekong ‘Vegan Beast Mode’ top, rainbow arm warmers, 2XU compression shorts with black lululemon skirt over the top, 2XU ‘Run Boston’ calf sleeves, lululemon socks and my last pair of Brooks Ravenna 6 shoes (no longer available, and the new Ravennas are all wrong for me, so after over 4 years in Ravennas I’m going to have to find a new road shoe after this!)

I kept an eye on the weather forecast, and although there was little chance of rain (excellent!) it was looking like being very cold, especially in the morning! Last time I checked they were forecasting a maximum of 13 degrees in Tanunda, and an overnight minimum of about 4. There was a real possibility I might need to wear gloves at the start. I had not quite decided whether to wear a T-shirt or singlet – I wore the T-shirt but took the singlet with me, in case I changed my mind. I had never run a marathon in a T-shirt before!

I got a ride to Tanunda with Kirsten and Nigel, Kirsten was going for around 3:45 too, and husband Nigel happened to be the 3:45 pacer! So hopefully we’d all be running together, although my plan would have me only overtaking him right near the end. But then, I rarely stick with a plan in a marathon…

It was pretty cool when we arrived in Tanunda but not as cold as I thought it might be, so I decided not to bother with the gloves, but I did stick with the T-shirt rather than the singlet.

At the start I positioned myself near Chantel, the 4 hour pacer, with Nigel and his pink 3:45 balloon in front but in sight. The plan was to run the first 3km at 5:30 pace, whereas Nigel would be running even splits, aiming for 5:20 minute kms from the outset.

I’d had a toilet stop as soon as we’d arrived at the start, and had planned on another but after I took my bag to the bag drop area, I looked at my watch and it was 7:21 and the race briefing was about to happen – with a 7:30am start, I would be pushing it to get to the toilet again and make it to the start in time! Oh well, I thought – there’s always portaloos out there if I really need it! I’d never had to stop in a marathon before but then again there were a few other ‘firsts’ in this particular marathon!

My first few kilometres were spot on pace. The first drink station was only about 2.5km in, and I didn’t need a drink at this stage but this was one of the designated ‘special drinks’ stations so I grabbed my bottle which was easy to spot! Not long after this I saw the first portaloo and decided to go for it – I’d got a bit ahead of time by now (from memory this was the 4km mark) and just passed regular running buddy Sarah. I eventually found the door (the portaloo had been positioned so the door was AWAY from the runners – which made sense I guess!) and when I checked my time afterwards it was less than a 50 second stop. Plenty of time to make that up, and definitely worth it!

I’d already passed a few other familiar faces – Lachy and Kristina, Annie, doing Barossa as a training run for Berlin and Chicago marathons, as well as Chris (doing his 100-and-somethingth marathon) prior to my pit stop so I could use that as a bit of a gauge as to when I was back on track. I was about 30 seconds behind pace at 4km, but I’d got to 30 seconds ahead by 6km. Hopefully that wouldn’t come back to bite me!

I’ve said this every time I’ve run Barossa but I’ll say it again. I love how you get to see everyone multiple times! The nature of the course means that sometimes you don’t get to see everyone on every ‘out and back’ but over the course of the marathon I reckon I saw just about everyone! A lot of my friends were doing the half marathon so I got a real boost when I started to see them!

The prize for ‘having way too much fun for a marathon’ has to go to Jenelle, celebrating her birthday (and what better way to do it?) and her running buddy Anthony. We saw them multiple times and they ALWAYS looked like they were having a ball!

Probably around the 10km mark I was starting to move further and further away from the pace I was SUPPOSED to be running. I was actually approaching 5:20 average pace, which was meant to happen right near the end. Clearly I am not disciplined enough to follow such a specific pacing plan! So I decided to ditch the plan and instead to try to catch Nigel and then let him do all the work!

By now I could see the 3:45 pace group and although I seemed to be getting faster in relation to my plan, I didn’t seem to be making up any ground! At one stage I decided to time how far behind them I was – at one stage I was 25 seconds behind, and a few kays later it was 13 seconds. My new goal was to catch them by the halfway mark. It did eventually happen around the 20km mark – Kirsten was still on the ‘bus’ along with quite a few others.

We reached the 21.1km mark in 1:51:50. Double that and you have 3:43:40 – perfect pacing so far! (And I would expect to negative split, given the time I’d lost on the toilet stop!)

What I hadn’t factored in was the wind. More on that later!

We noticed that the 4 hour pacer had lost her balloons, as had the 3:30 pacer (the latter actually before the start!). One of the other runners in our group, Bart, was asking me about alternatives to balloons to make pacers more visible, given that balloons are annoying (both for the pacer and for those right behind!) and often do pop or float away! Bart had the idea that the pacers should wear a distinctive colour, “one that no-one else wears” and we decided we needed to invent a colour, we could call it ‘Pacer’ and it would be ‘hi-vis mustard’. As well as that, to make the pacers visible to people a bit further away, in lieu of balloons, they should wear Viking helmets. So take note Race Director Ben and organiser of pacers Kent!

As had happened the last time I ran Barossa, one of my drinks somehow went missing! The special drinks were at drink stations 1, 4 and 5. After picking up my first drink at the 2.5km mark, I was never without a drink in my hand. One of the drink station volunteers, Naomi, actually had my drink ready to hand to me as I approached the drink station! (As an aside – the TOTAL amount of stoppage time I had during the marathon was 48 seconds. That would have been entirely accounted for by the pit stop. That meant I did not have to stop for one second at the drink stations – having my own bottled drinks ready to grab definitely saved me a good amount of time!) Still, I had 5 drinks throughout the race and that seemed to be enough. I don’t do gels, I did carry a Clif bar ‘just in case’ but I didn’t end up using it. My fuel consisted entirely of Gatorade. It was a bit of an adjustment from the ultra mindset where I eat when I’m walking – given that I try to avoid walking in marathons!

There were a few people ahead of us that I kept seeing on the turnarounds and seemed to be getting closer to us. One was my old ‘nemesis’ (meant in the nicest possible way!) Graham, and the other one was Leon, who had not done much running at all since the 24 hour, hadn’t run at all in the last 2 weeks, and had told me at the start he was aiming for 6 minute/km pace, and around 4 hours 15. He was WELL ahead of the 3:45 pace group for the first half of the marathon! It would be interesting to see if I was able to catch either of them!

Did I mention the wind?

So we were faced with 40km/h wind gusts for much of the second half. It seemed that we were running into it more than we were running with it. It was the only thing that was going to stop me getting my goal time, as I was otherwise still running very comfortably. Barossa is a flat course but when we were running into the wind it was like running up a really steep hill. Or into a brick wall. (You hear about ‘The Wall’ in marathons – that point where you’re running really well and then suddenly, usually around the 35-36km mark, you just lose it! Well in this particular marathon it wasn’t a metaphorical wall, it genuinely felt like we were running into a brick wall!)

When the wind hit us, I dropped back from the pack – I couldn’t seem to keep up! Thankfully there were periods where we had the wind behind us, so I was able to pick up the pace a bit and catch up with the group. There were only a couple in the group by this stage – Kirsten had dropped back, and Bart had gone on ahead.

I did eventually catch up to Leon – he said he had been running well up to about 20km but then started to feel it!

I had stopped looking at my watch altogether when I’d caught up to Nigel at the 20km mark. It was easy to do as my watch was under my arm warmer. Consequently, when I was a bit behind him, I had no clue if I was on pace or not! (He was trying to run just ahead of 3:45 pace, and he had started ahead of me, so I had a bit of a buffer, but I wasn’t sure if the wind would prove to be my downfall – the effort required to push against it might leave me with nothing left at the end!)

If there was ever a metaphorical wall for me in this marathon, it was at the 40km mark. I’d just gone past a drink station, we were still running into the wind, and Nigel seemed to be getting further and further away, and with him, my hopes of getting a sub 3:45. Even though I’d told myself (and others) at the start that I was hoping for sub 3:45 but not expecting it, I’d got this far, and it would be pretty devastating to miss out only by a few seconds! I told the people at the drink station “I’m done! I’m finished!”. Even though I had only 2.2km to go (or, in terms I understand very well, one lap of the Uni Loop!), the finish line seemed very far away…

Pretty soon after that I saw running buddy Nat, not running this time but just there to support all of us, so that gave me a little boost!

All smiles (I think – it’s hard to tell!) when I saw Nat!

The countdown was on – less than 2km to go. And not too long after that, FINALLY, that stupid wind went away! Or maybe I changed direction. Either way – happy days!

We turned a corner, onto a bike path, where I realised I was making ground on Nigel and did eventually catch up with him! THAT was a good feeling!

Just before I caught Nigel I saw Graham, running just ahead of the 3:45 bus. I called out to him to warn him I was coming after him – I didn’t want a repeat of last year’s Tower Trail Run where I’d passed him just near the finish, then he’d chased me down! No, I was MORE than happy to let him stay ahead of me! (When I saw him afterwards he said he hadn’t heard me call out to him, but he had heard Nat call out my name a bit earlier and realised I was getting a bit too close for comfort!)

Rather than the marathon and half marathon markers, in the final kilometres I used the 10km race markers as my main gauges – when I saw the 9km marker I knew we were into the last kilometre! I reckon I got this!

The finish line was different from when I last ran the marathon – previously it was on the road, but this time it was actually in the school which was the home base for the event. As we ran along the road I saw a whole lot of familiar faces – my friends who had done the half marathon, kindly waiting for Kirsten, Nigel and me to finish our marathons before heading off for lunch!

High five from Beck, just before entering the finishing chute! Thanks to Ali for the pic!

And then I heard MC Ryley on the mic, and I heard him say “3:43” which was the time on the clock, and at that point, with the finish line in sight, I knew I had my sub 3:45!

I crossed the finish line in an official time of 3:44:07, and got my sweet, sweet bling from Oliver before going over to the baggage tent, with thoughts of my vegan donut from Bakery On O’Connell at the front of my mind. There I found Graham and decided a ‘post-marathon-collapsed-on-the-ground-in-the-baggage-tent-selfie’ was in order!

Very happy with that bling!
A better shot of the bling!

Leon and Kirsten were not far behind me, and Annie and Sarah both also finished under 4 hours. As we were getting a bit cold and the half marathoners had been waiting for us for AGES, we left just as the presentations were winding up, and headed off for a lovely lunch and wine at the South Australian Company Store in Angaston.

Refuelling done right! Kirsten (far right) looking like she’s just run a marathon! Oh, wait…

I was getting a lift home with Beck and James, and I asked Beck if we could stop off at my favourite Tscharke Wines in Marananga, as my stocks were getting a bit low! She very kindly obliged – thanks Beck! Although I was a bit disappointed that they had sold out of the 2016 Cab Sav, apparently the new vintage is ready for bottling so I guess I’m going to have to plan another trip to the Barossa soon – oh well, if I must!

The view from the toilets at the delightful Tscharke Wines!

So, after a 16 month break between marathons, nothing has changed. They are still HARD! They still kind of suck! But I was so happy with how this one went, both for me personally, but also the event in general. The wind was the only down side, but the weather overall was pretty great, making the finish village a cool place to hang out while waiting for the rest of my friends to finish (except Neil – sorry Neil, we couldn’t wait for you! Neil was the sweeper. He would be a good couple of hours behind us!)

Thanks to RD Ben and the equally awesome Sheena for a great day, as well as all of the many volunteers who helped both on the day and in the leadup. I felt a bit bad that I couldn’t help out at all on this one, but I really wanted to focus 100% on me this time, and it paid off! Well done to all of the runners – you well and truly earned your bling in those conditions! Hope you’re all recovering well and planning for your next event!

So there’s a post script to all of this. Remember how my goal was to run sub 3:45 and qualify for Chicago? (And I FREAKING DID IT!) Well, out of curiosity, after I got home, I got on the Google and looked up ‘Chicago Marathon qualifying times’. And guess what? It’s changed!

NOW they tell me!

So that’s me done with marathons for quite a while – I don’t think I’ll do another one again until Chicago in October 2019. No, might just stick to ultras for a while!

Race Report – Triathlon SA Winter Duathlon Series Race 2 (aka ‘The Race That Sucked’)

Well, that sucked!

I didn’t want to write about this one, because it sucked. But then, you do have those days, and it would be unfair not to write about the sucky races, because they happen!

The first race in the series went reasonably well after Shane gave me the tip about my gears. I had decided to try to do the whole series, if only to try to improve on my own times. Race 2 happened to fall the day after a very entertaining work function, so consequently I left it until the day to enter, just in case!

It was a windy day but thankfully not raining, so I decided to give it a crack.

The first (4km)  run was just OK – a bit slower than last time, but as I was managing to overtake quite a few people, it still felt OK.

Transition 1 went as well as can be expected. 22 seconds to change shoes and hat, grab the bike and head off onto the cycle course. 8 x 2km laps. Sounds pretty easy, right?

Well let me tell you it wasn’t. The bits where I was riding with the wind were just OK. The bits where I was riding into it were not. On a few laps I was almost blown sideways off the track! That wasn’t helped by the fact that on the first few laps people were passing me on my left – luckily there were no collisions, there could easily have been!

EVERYONE passed me. Almost everyone. The wind was a factor, sure, but everyone else had to contend with that too!

Not many people passed me on the last few laps. That was because almost everyone else had finished by then!

The one positive I could take out of the bike leg was that the hairpin turn seemed a bit easier this time. I had sort of got the hang of it at the last duathlon. I had learned that if you take it as a sweeping bend it’s a lot easier than trying to do a 180 degree turn! That didn’t stop one person from passing me on the inside as I was making the turn! (I would always check over my right shoulder 3-4 times as I approached the turn, to make sure no-one was approaching, and if I saw someone out of the corner of my eye I’d let them past so I had a bit of space. What I wasn’t doing was checking over my LEFT shoulder. Grrr!)

I knew to use the harder gears on the faster parts of the course but on this occasion the gears were just not working for me – the bike was not sounding normal, and I knew there was something not quite right but I wasn’t about to stop, I just wanted to Get. It. Done.

After what seemed like an eternity I made it back to transition. T2 sucked as well. The spot where I had had my bike, now had someone else’s bike in it, so instead of there being a nice gap for me to put my bike, it took me a while to actually find my ‘spot’! I had to wrangle the bike onto the rack and try not to get tangled up with other bikes, which wasted a bit of time. Then because of how the bikes were racked I had to get on my hands and knees to retrieve my running shoes and hat. In the process of taking my long sleeved top off I dropped my sunnies and one of the lenses fell out. Oh well, luckily it wasn’t sunny, I could manage to run 2km without them!

After what seemed like an eternity (59 seconds according to Strava) I was finally out on the last run leg to finish the race. My second run wasn’t too bad although my legs were completely like jelly to start with, more so than last time! When I look at my time for the second run leg I averaged 4:34 pace which is not too terrible. It certainly felt slower than that. I am sure I would have been able to overtake some people if there’d been anyone left out on course.

So that was it – Race 2 done and dusted. Not my finest moment by any means but a good learning experience!

Everyone else did well. Karen and Daryl placed again, as did Ros, who had done the short course. Cherie had successfully completed her first duathlon.

Karen insisted on a group photo, ‘because if there’s no photo it didn’t happen’. (I would have been quite happy to pretend it DIDN’T happen, but as I was in the photo, I guess that means it happened – plus it’s on Strava too so I guess that confirms it!)

Evidence!

As I was back at the bike rack putting my warm clothes on, chatting to fellow athlete Kristie about how much I hate sucking at things and should really stick to running, my club running coach Kent (also an experienced triathlete and Ironman) pointed out that my back tyre was flat (and had been for a good part of the race, if not all of it!) Which was nice because it means maybe I don’t suck quite as much as I thought I did! I suck at knowing and maintaining my bike but if I can get the bike right who knows, maybe I can become an adequate cyclist one day! (It wasn’t DEAD flat, just much flatter than it should be!)

Karen and Daryl showing off their bling. Me, the unwitting photobomber in the background!

So there you have it. Shortest race report ever! Thanks to all the organisers, volunteers and other athletes out there, and I guess I’ll be seeing you again at Race 3!

Oh and as a post script I was out today, got caught in the rain so stopped to look at a bookshop while I waited for the rain to clear. Found this. Think the universe is trying to tell me something!

Race report – SARRC Greenbelt Challenge 2018

Greenbelt Challenge was an appropriate name, as it turned out, in more ways than one!

This year for the first time, the traditional Hills to Henley (30km run along the length of the Torrens Linear Path from Athelstone to West Beach) was combined with the Greenbelt Half Marathon (formerly starting at the same place at Athelstone and finishing in the city). It made a lot of sense from a logistical point of view, I know there were some people who weren’t happy about the change (as there always is!) because they like to run both events. However, in the current climate, with a very congested running calendar, there are always going to be clashes.

The Greenbelt half had to change. One of the recent innovations at SARRC events is the finish line village, complete with food trucks, music and a stretch station. It’s a great way to keep people hanging around long after they’ve finished running, meaning that the later finishers still have a bit of a crowd to cheer them on!

Because of this, it wouldn’t make any sense to have the Greenbelt finishing where it used to, in the city. The finish line village meant that there needed to be just one finish line, and if need be, multiple start lines. The plan was for Greenbelt to start at Klemzig or thereabouts, and run to West Beach. It would still be a one way half marathon, but just on a different part of the river.

There would also be a 5k and 10k, as well as a 1k kids’ fun run, and if you ask me their medals were even better than those for the rest of us!

Medals are a big thing – I have to admit that I was strongly motivated to enter this event because of the unique ‘Triple Crown’ medals. This year, at the three Triple Crown events (Clare, Greenbelt and McLaren Vale), all finishers of all distances get medals, rather than just the half marathon finishers in the past. (In fact, two years ago, the only time I ran the 30k, back when it was ‘Henley to Henley’, the 30k runners didn’t get medals – I always thought it was a bit strange that you could get a medal for a half marathon and nothing for a 30k!)

I really like the inclusiveness we now have, EVERY finisher gets a medal, regardless of whether you’re a back-of-the-pack 5k’er or an elite half marathoner. What is really great about it is, it’s a fantastic way to progress through the year – start at Clare with a 5k, run the 10 at Greenbelt and build up to a half at McLaren! (I’m going the other way!) Or do a 5k at all 3 – the possibilities are endless!

The really cool thing is that the 3 medals link together to form a combined Triple Crown medal. And now I’ve done the first two, there’s no way I’m missing out on completing the puzzle at McLaren Vale! (And I bet I’m not on my own there!) Again there were complaints when the announcement was made – “What, I only get 3 medals for running 3 half marathons? Where’s the 4th medal for the Triple Crown?” It’s actually not that long that medals for half marathons have become a thing – I remember in 2014 doing my first half at Clare and there were no medals – imagine that? (And the Triple Crown has only been a thing for a few years – anyway, let me get off my soap box now and start talking about the actual event!)

The puzzle is 2/3 finished – just waiting for McLaren Vale to complete it!

The ‘Challenge’ came in due to the seemingly never ending road works on South Road and along the path. For one, an unprecedented ‘dead zone’ had to be created as 30km runners had to stop along the path due to the road works. The idea was (and I don’t know the full details of this so apologies if I got it wrong) that the time clock would effectively be stopped while the runners were stopped, and then start again once they got going. Kind of like when you use ‘Auto Pause’ on your watch. (There was talk of a temporary bridge but the cost of that would have been astronomical!) By all accounts it seemed to work quite well thanks to Malcolm and his timing gear!

The other issue was that parts of the path were closed, necessitating a late change to the half marathon course. It ended up having to be an out and back, although a lot of people I spoke to got PBs so although theoretically the traditional net downhill course would be faster, it didn’t seem to affect some people!

The beautiful weather probably helped – a bit crisp in the morning but not a hint of rain. It was a bit windy at times – at one stage after I’d finished my 10k two of us were holding down the SARRC tent to stop it blowing away despite it being pegged into the ground, and despite the best efforts of a number of staff and volunteers the finish arch had to be taken down before all the runners had come through – better it be taken down early than actually collapse on a finishing runner! I was lucky enough in the 10k not to be affected by the wind – we were told it would be a headwind on the way out and a tailwind on the way back, although I didn’t really notice the wind much at all!

I had offered to pace the 10k as I had at Adelaide, once again 1 week after an ultramarathon (for the 3rd event in a row!) and had my services not been required I would have run the 5k. No way was I doing a half marathon the week after an ultra although Glen managed to do just that after doing the 24 hour!

I had no costumes left to run in that I hadn’t already used, and being a coolish but dry day, I decided to go with the tiger onesie. I had previously done a few parkruns in it, but never 10k – I figured it should be fine! (In case anyone is wondering, the idea of the costume is to make me easy for other runners to spot out on course, especially if, as often happens, my balloon happened to pop or blow away!)

The before shot – with Voula (also doing the 10k with me) and Tahlia and Gary (doing the 5k). Pic by Tracie of Geosnapshot.

I had the week off from running after the 12 hour and had my first run back on Saturday at parkrun, a nicely paced just-under-30-minute 5k – perfect preparation for Sunday’s 60 minute pacing gig!

Coach Kent asked me to organise the pacers for the half marathon, as he was running the 30k, so he would be up at Athelstone in the morning. There were 3 pacers, and I just had to organise the helium balloons for them. There wasn’t a heck of a lot of helium in the tank so I thought I’d better do their balloons first, and if there was any helium left I’d get one for myself. Actually I would have been more than happy to run without a balloon and I figured people would be able to see me anyway, but as it turned out there was just enough helium to do me a balloon too – damn it!

Due to potential congestion on the course, both the half marathon and 10k were wave starts. I wasn’t sure what implication that would have for my pacing but it worked out perfectly as I was at the front of the second wave, so I started my watch on the gun (although there wasn’t an actual gun for the second wave – you know what I mean!)

The course was impeccably marked – there was no way I could have got lost! Where there was a fork in the path there was an arrow clearly marking which path to take. The only slight issue I had was looking for the kilometre markers – not that they weren’t there but I didn’t actually see one until the 4km mark – they were spray painted in green on the path. I spoke with Harry from the event team afterwards and he explained that they’d decided to just use the kilometre marker signs for the half and the 30k, because they were put out the previous day and it can get quite windy in that neck of the woods! Which makes perfect sense to me – I’d rather have spray painted markers (as long as I know what I’m looking for) than stand-up signs that have blown into the wrong place!

Running in the onesie was OK – although I did have to make an adjustment early on. My top button kept coming undone which meant my tiger head kept slipping off – I took one of the pins out of my bib and pinned the costume at the neck to hold it together. Rather that than running with one hand holding my head on and the other with my arm extended, continually looking at my watch!

I managed to pace it pretty well once I got into a rhythm – I did get confused at times, starting to follow the 30km signs on the way back, then seeing the green spray paint on the ground a minute or so later, and neither of those coincided with the distance on my Garmin! I had alerts set to go off if I went faster than 5:55 and slower than 6:00 (for the mathematicians among you, a 60 minute 10k equates to 6:00 per km)

When I had a few friends around me! Pic by Craig of Geosnapshot.

It’s a challenge, this pacing caper! I do enjoy it, I’ve now done 6 half marathons and 2 10ks (and a couple of parkruns, informally). It was pretty quiet out there this time, I didn’t have too many people running with me but I did have a few people thank me afterwards. I ran with a young lad called Jack for a little while in the second half who is a regular at West Beach parkrun and ended up finishing a few minutes ahead of me – not a bad effort for his first 10k (although he did tell me he’s done City-Bay, and I told him that when I was his age I couldn’t even run 1k!)

Once I had my wardrobe all sorted out and could concentrate on running! Pic by Craig of Geosnapshot.

Towards the end there were a couple of kids offering high fives so I high fived both of them, jokingly saying “I need to power up!” and then one of them gave me a second high five! I always try to get at least one high five in!

And then RIGHT near the end, around the time my balloon popped, there was another kid with a sign that said “Tap here to power up” so of course I had to get that last little boost to get me to the finish! I ended up just under 59:30 so I was pretty happy with that.

Pacing or racing, the finish line is always a welcome sight! Pic by Tracie of Geosnapshot.

I ended up staying for a good few hours after I finished my 10k, the atmosphere and weather were great and it was fantastic to catch up with a whole lot of running friends – what else would you rather be doing on a beautiful Sunday?

Tiger with a medal, on a beach, in the middle of winter. Nothing to see here!

Thanks to all the volunteers who made this event a fantastic experience, and well done to all the runners/walkers who took part!

And a special thankyou and congratulations to Ben and the event team for overcoming all the obstacles to make this event happen – the goal posts kept moving but they didn’t let that stop them! HOPEFULLY (and I think I say this every year) next year the roadworks will be done and we can go back to a one way half marathon (and, dare I say it, I might even attempt the 30k!)

Lapping it up – Adelaide 6/12/24 Hour Event 2018

This was my 4th consecutive year participating in the Ultra Runners SA (formerly Yumigo!) Adelaide 6/12/24. It also marked the 10th anniversary of the first 6 hour event (back then, if you’d told me this event would later become a staple on my calendar, I would have strongly encouraged you to seek psychiatric help!)

My first 6 hour was three years ago in 2015 – it also happened to be my very first ultramarathon. (The 2018 12 hour was my 14th) After having gone into it without a clue or a plan (backing up from a marathon, at least I had the training in my legs), I went back to do it ‘properly’ in 2016. Last year I made a last minute decision to do the 12 hour and I learned a lot, so I decided to go back and do it again, to try to do it better!

Here’s the short version. Ran for 3 hours, turned around and ran the other way for 3 hours, turned again and ran the other way for 3 hours, turned once more and ran the other way for 3 hours, then finished.

There shouldn’t be too much to say about a race like that, should there?

I’d prepared a lot better than last year, given that 12 hours was in the plan since, well, the day after last year’s 12 hour!

Since UTA100 8 weeks ago, my focus had been on this event. It really was my ‘A’ race for the whole year. I had done 4 solid training runs over the past 6 weeks, broken up by a trail half in Mount Gambier and a duathlon. My training runs were 3 hours, 4 hours, 6 hours and 3 hours. I used the strategy of 25 min run/5 min walk throughout all of those runs. My first 2 training runs were way too fast (30km in 3 hours and 40km in 4 hours – not sustainable over 12 hours!) but I nailed it on the 6 hour run, covering 55km, and then ran the last 3 hour run with 6 hour first timer Gary.

My pre-race dinner was from Pure Vegetarian at Adelaide Central Market – pumpkin, chickpeas, spicy eggplant and noodles – lots of carbs! And a glass or two of red wine to wash it down.

Race fuel was similar to last year – a mix of peanut butter and chocolate spread sandwiches (3 of each), Clif bars and nut bars. I also had some mashed sweet potato with salt but didn’t end up using any of that during the race. The plan was that on every 5 minute walk break I would eat either half a bar or a quarter of a sandwich. I had 6 bottles of Gatorade and 2 extra serves of powder. I’m not much of a drinker especially in cooler weather so I was confident that would be more than enough.

I’d also included a caffeination schedule – a shot of cold brew just before the start, at 2 hours, 6 hours and 10 hours, an energy supplement at 4 hours and an energy drink at 8 hours. Caffeine every 2 hours. I’d done a couple of the training runs with cold brew and it seemed to work well. In previous years I had enlisted running buddies James, Leanne, Kate and Beck to bring me coffee at strategic times. This time I wanted to be self reliant, to have coffee ready when I needed it, and to be able to quickly down it rather than have to waste time slowly sipping it and/or burning my mouth! I’d put the coffee in empty vanilla extract bottles, which was an interesting conversation starter when people saw me drink it!

I had music – my waterproof iPod that I use for swimming, with a nice upbeat playlist on it. I was only planning to use that for short periods, mainly between the end of the 6 hour and the presentation. I’d never run in this event before with music, but that was mainly because it had always been raining and I didn’t want my iPod to get wet! This year, I not only had a waterproof iPod, but amazingly it looked like it was going to be a fine day!

I’d gone with toe socks which I’d only just started using, they had worked well on a trail run last weekend and people seem to like them, so I decided to give them a go (instead of taping my toes like I did last year).

It was pretty chilly at the start so I had my beanie, gloves and Boston Marathon jacket as well as my normal race gear. I was set up in a tent with the ‘Vegan Beast Mode Team’ – consisting of fellow 12 hour runner Ian from Melbourne along with another Melbourne runner Cheryl, and the awesome 24 hour trio of Kate, Tracey and Sheena, being ably crewed by Sheena’s daughter Elle. I had all my food and drinks set up within easy access so it would just be a matter of ‘grab and go’. I didn’t want to waste time on fuel stops! Consequently I had a bit of sandwich in the pocket of one Spibelt and a nut bar in the other one. Ready to go on the first walk break, so I wouldn’t need to stop at the tent for an hour or so! I’d managed to get a car park just next to our tent – winning!

With Kym, Annie (using the 6 hour event to get her long run in!) and Gary! (Thanks to official photographer Gary D for most of these photos!)
I think I’m just trying to keep warm but it kind of looks like I’m praying! Annie looks relaxed and focused!

To fit with the theme, I wore my brand new Mekong ‘Vegan Beast Mode’ T-shirt. (I had never run in this particular top, but I had run in a lot of other Mekong tops before, so I wasn’t concerned about the whole ‘don’t try something new in a race’ thing! (As it turned out, Sheena, Tracey, Kate and another vegan runner Ryan were all wearing the same thing! (I had spare tops to change into later, as I had never run 100km before wearing the same top throughout!)

The 6 and 12 hour runners kicked off at 6am, after the briefing from Race Director Ben and a special mention for 6 hour runners Kym and Graham, two of the three runners to have completed every one of the 10 6/12/24 events. (the other one was Colin, who would start 4 hours later in the 24 hour). Initially the event started as just the 6 hour, and eventually the 12 and 24 were added to make it the event it is today!

And away we go!

My goal was to beat last year’s 102.7km. I was aiming for 105km, as this would be the furthest I’d ever gone in one hit (my previous best being Heysen 105 in 2015, which actually ended up being around 104km). I’d aim to be on 55km at the 6 hour mark, giving me a bit of a buffer, expecting I would slow down in the second half. Last year I did 57km in the first half and just under 46 in the second – I was aiming to be more consistent this time. Last year I also had to change my walk/run strategy after 8 hours – I wanted to try to keep the 25/5 going as long as possible this time.

I started out running with Gary, who was utilising the same run/walk strategy as me (after we’d successfully used it on the run we did together) and he had alerts set on his watch, so while I was running with him I didn’t really have to look at my watch! Intermittently we were joined by Belinda who was also doing her first 6 hour.

Early days with Gary! A great way to kick off the day!

I hadn’t looked at the 12 hour start list. It’s my thing. I prefer not to know who else is going to be there until I’m actually out there! I knew one of them, Kay, who I’d met on my first training run this year. She was aiming for 56km, her first ultra! Other than that, I didn’t know who I’d be up against! I was fully expecting to see Amelia, who had thrashed me (and the rest of the field) last year and it wasn’t until a few laps in when I hadn’t been lapped yet, that it occurred to me that she wasn’t there, and I had no idea who I was competing against! Actually I did know who I was competing against – 2017 me! I had to follow my plan to the letter, and I wasn’t going to let what other people were doing, interfere with that. I wasn’t going to look at the computer screen at all – I would keep track of my laps (47 was the magic number) and that would be all that mattered!

In the 12 hour we also had Randell who was aiming for a sub 10 hour 100km. So the only way I’d be seeing him would be when he was lapping me! Uli was there too – he just never looked like slowing down, I did tell him at one point that he made me feel totally inadequate as a runner, and he was always so damn chirpy (much like Randell!)

One of the few times I was actually running alongside Uli and not chasing him!

We had a few visitors during the morning – the Uni Loop is a very popular place for runners especially on the weekend, and it’s hard to go for a run there without bumping into someone you know! Nat and Beck came past on their long run quite early on, and then again on their way back – it was great to see them!

You never know who you’ll ‘run’ into on the Uni Loop! Thanks Nat!

Another visitor was Voula who came to support Gary and myself with coffee and donuts! Voula and a few other regular Sunday runners were going to have lunch with Gary to celebrate Gary finishing his first 6 hour. Of course, I wouldn’t be having lunch with them – I’d still have another 6 hours to run!

The first 3 hours went pretty smoothly and I was running with Gary for most of it, until he dropped the pace a bit and I went on ahead. I was conscious of not going out too fast, but I still wanted to be on 55km by halfway.

3 hours marked the first turnaround. Sally and another girl, in giraffe onesies (because, why not?) informed me that I had 15 seconds to go before turnaround time. In other words, I could keep running another whole lap before turning around, or I could stop, wait 15 seconds and turn around now. I was all psyched up for the turnaround so I decided to go with the latter (I was walking anyway at this stage).

The turnarounds offer a change of scenery of sorts, as well as the opportunity to see a lot of the other runners that might be just behind or ahead of you, who you otherwise might not see!

From 9am we started to see some of the 24 hour runners arrive and get set up – they would start at 10. There were a lot of familiar faces there. Each time I went past our tent I tried to relay the message to the girls that there were some donuts on the table if they wanted any – I’d made a trip to the nearby Bakery On O’Connell for some of their famous vegan chocolate donuts!

10am came and we were joined on the track by the 24 hour runners. It was a record field for this event – possibly due in part to it being the Australian 24 hour championships. Consequently, along with being a relatively large field, it was also a star-studded one – including 2018 UTA100 champion Brendan Davies. I wondered how long it would be before he started lapping me! Also among the 24 hour field was Felix, an international runner and fellow vegan!

And it would be remiss of me not to mention the most distinctive person in the 24 hour, Thor! Actually his name is Stewart but he ran the 24 in full Thor costume complete with wig and hammer! And even when I saw him in the late stages of the 24, he was still in full Thor costume! Now that’s dedication!

Thor!

Just after the 24 hour runners started I decided it would be a good time to visit the portaloo. Silly me had to choose the broken one with no water – by the time Michelle told me this, I was already committed!

As 12:00 and the 6 hour finish approached, I encountered Gary again. He was on track for his goal of over 50km and doing well! When I calculated I was on my last lap before the siren signalled the end of the 6 hour, I picked up my iPod so I could drown out the sounds of the presentation, and focus on getting through the next few hours!

The iPod worked really well to distract me, however unfortunately somehow I’d unknowingly started it earlier and I ended up only getting just over an hour and a half worth of tunes before the battery died! Oh well, it was enough to get past the presentation! (I’d got a solid 6 hours out of it during my training run, so I was expecting to get a bit more than I did!) And I had brought a mobile charger so all was not lost – when I went past the tent again I plugged it into the charger for a few hours to bring back out again towards the end!

I’d made it to my goal of 55km at the halfway mark. From memory it was 25 laps, which equates to EXACTLY 55km (one lap being 2.2km). I got pretty good at calculating how far I’d gone based on the number of laps – I couldn’t rely on my Garmin watch, as they are always out by some margin especially on a loop event like this! So to get my 105 I just needed to get 50km in the last 6 hours. Simples!

8 hours was the next big hurdle in my mind, as this was the point last year at which I had had to revise my run/walk strategy. I’d started doing 13/2 and quickly realised that 2 minute walk breaks were useless, so had reverted to 10/5 from 9 hours to the finish. I really didn’t want to have to do that this time, but I had in the back of my mind that whatever I had to do, the walk breaks would need to stay at 5 minutes. No more, no less.

One of the great new innovations this year was the motivational signs – I believe Michelle was responsible for these! I’m not sure exactly how many of them there were, over the course of the first few hours they were gradually put up around the loop. All of them were double sided so it meant we had something to look forward to when we changed direction! Some of them put ideas in my head that weren’t there before (eg “Your feet hurt because you’re kicking arse” or words to that effect – well my feet didn’t hurt before that but once I had the idea in my head…)

This was one of my favourites!

I had the idea early on to get my ‘RUN LIKE SOMEONE JUST CALLED YOU A JOGGER’ sign out of my car. That sign had been pretty much living in my car since I’d made it for the 2014 Adelaide Marathon. Coincidentally, it was in almost the exact same spot as the start/finish area for this race, that I stood in my tiger onesie and cheered on the runners 4 years ago! As Michelle was going around putting up the signs, I told her where my car keys were and where my car was, and suggested if she wanted to she could use that one as well. And sure enough, a few laps later, there it was, conveniently displayed right near our tent – it was a good landmark so I wouldn’t miss my tent (although I did nearly run past it once!) – our tent was a bit set back from the path due to the ground being a bit uneven, so it was hard to see until you actually reached it. But with the sign there, you couldn’t miss it!

Early in the 24 hour I noticed that lap after lap, Merle and Stephan were running together, sometimes with Merle’s running buddy Trish. I jokingly said “People will start to talk!” – they were chatting constantly the whole way! And then later I encountered Merle and Trish but no Stephan – apparently he’d ‘ditched’ them and gone on ahead – so later on when I ran into Stephan again I jokingly had a go at him for taking off! It’s this kind of camaraderie and good fun that makes this event what it is – a great fun day out!

10 hours came and I was still on my 25/5 run/walk, and relatively comfortable although the sign that said ‘Blisters are braille for awesome’ was starting to speak to me – I was certain there were at least a few blisters on my toes, and was thinking maybe the toe socks were a bad choice! It was at this time that I decided it was time for another hour of tunes, so I grabbed the iPod but to my horror it hadn’t charged at all – absolutely NO battery! Devastated! However thankfully I did have a backup – I had my prized iPod classic with its 9000-odd songs, and had thankfully also thrown in a normal set of running earbuds (the earbuds that went with the waterproof iPod only had really a really short cord, which was perfect when I had the iPod clipped to the back of my hat, but would not work with the Classic that I would need to carry in a pocket. So next time around the loop I grabbed the Classic and the normal headphones.

This was the only time when I really got shitty during the race, and it was only because of stupid technical issues! Sheena was near me at the time and she commented that she’d never heard me swear, I got all my swearing for the day out in that couple of minutes! The iPod was fine, it was the ear buds I just couldn’t get in! They were those ones that hook over your ears and I was getting really frustrated having tried seemingly every way to get them in! Sheena’s suggestion of stopping to do it properly was a great one and I did acknowledge that but I wasn’t having any of it – no stopping today!

Eventually I did get them in and decided that the appropriate track to kick off this part of the race was ‘Detroit Rock City’ by Kiss. Boy did that give me a huge boost! If anyone had seen me a minute earlier and then once the music kicked in, they would have thought I’d had an injection of something really good! As the first song finished I saw Ben sitting on a bench, I now think that was the 100km mark and he was waiting to record someone’s 100km split – possibly Randell (who got the 100km in only a few minutes over the 10 hours he was hoping for).

I had my playlist on shuffle for a little while until I got to the next walk break when I had a bit of time to mess around with the settings and I put on my favourite running album, Def Leppard’s ‘Adrenalize’ which kicks off with ‘Let’s Get Rocked’. That usually makes me run too fast but luckily I was on a walk break for that one! I knew it was about 45 minutes worth of music which would take me through to 11 hours 20, and from then on I’d reassess whether I still needed music or whether I’d ditch the iPod for the closing stages.

The end of the album also coincided with around the time I reached the magical 100km mark! I remembered roughly where the little sign was last year, and had been looking for it but hadn’t seen it – I later found out that a few of the signs had been stolen, including that one – so it wasn’t just my lack of observational skills! Michelle’s husband Mark was sitting on the bench next to where the sign had been, and one of the other 12 hour runners, John, with whom I’d been going back and forth for the past 11 or so hours, was just ahead of me. I remembered him saying at some point he was going for an age group record. It was possible to get milestones recorded officially if you thought you were in line for some kind of record (age group or overall) but as I wasn’t in that league, I wasn’t doing that. However, John was, so that was when I realised that must be the magical 100km mark (which I confirmed with Mark)! A brief moment of celebration as I continued on! Last year I’d reached 100km with 20 minutes to go, this year it was more like 40. To get a PB I only needed just under 3km in that 40 minutes. To get my 105 I needed 5. And I was still hanging on to the 25/5, although I know my running pace was getting slower. Every now and then I’d switch to a ‘shuffle’ where I’d really shorten my stride and pick up the pace, barely lifting my feet. It worked well – really saves a lot of energy! Not really recommended on a trail ultra where you can easily trip over something, but on a track ultra it’s a great way to conserve!

With around half an hour to go, I was on 46 laps. I was hoping to get 2 more in that last half hour which would be well beyond my expectations! Even 47 laps would be 103.4km and a clear PB. Helping me was the fact that I wasn’t planning to take a 5 minute walk break in this half hour. I’d used up the last of my Gatorade but it wasn’t worth stopping to mix up another bottle now! (I’d been carrying a  bottle from the first walk break onwards! I’d taken between 3 and 4 hours to drink the first one but then somehow I’d managed to get through them all!)

When I got to 47 laps I saw my parents waiting at the finish line for me, I wasn’t expecting to see them as I knew they had dinner plans, so it was a nice surprise! Voula also came out again, this time with her puppy Bob who was a bit excited! I went to get my rock (each runner is given a personalised rock which they drop when the siren goes off to signify the end of the race, and then the volunteers measure the distance covered since the last full lap. That way you get a measure of the whole distance, not just the full laps) and Ben jokingly told me he couldn’t find mine! Luckily he WAS joking because I wasn’t about to stop and wait for him to find it! I had about 15 minutes to go and I was pretty sure I could get around again but I didn’t want to get 2km into the loop when time was up and not get credit for that 2km!

Voula and Bob ran with me for some of that loop although they did cut across the grass so they didn’t go the whole way! I knew I was going to get my 48 laps (105.6km) and probably then some!

I crossed the timing mat for the last time, still with a few minutes left, so I tried to pick up the pace a bit – no sense leaving anything in the tank! The siren went off, I dropped my rock and made my way back to the finish line!

Bob the puppy chasing me on my last lap!
Nearly there!

My official distance was 105.91km which was very satisfying! The plan worked perfectly and I was able to keep the same run/walk schedule going for the whole 12 hours which was extremely pleasing!

DONE!

And the top lasted the whole day – not a single issue, no chafing, no nothing! Kudos to Mekong for a great product!

This was early on but the top served me well all day!

I went to greet Mum and Dad (turned out Dad had been attacked by a possum which thought he was a tree and tried to climb him – luckily the first aid lady was there ready to attend to him – not that she was expecting to deal with a possum attack!) and Voula and Gary who had come back to see me finish.

COOOOOOOOKE!!!!

After Mum and Dad left it was time for me to grab some Coke (I’d managed to hold off drinking any during the 12 hours – MAN that tasted good at the end)! and a slice of vegan pizza, and then go see the first aid lady to look at my blisters. I probably had blisters on most of my toes and I put it down to the socks – I had managed to wear a hole through the bottom of one of them, although I didn’t get a blister where the hole was, strangely! Just everywhere else! (Toe socks are not for me, apparently!) While the lady (I can’t remember her name!) was examining my feet and patching up the bits that needed patching, Michael (who was also the course measurer) was very helpfully telling me that I should pop the blisters (which went contrary to what the first aider was telling me – I was pretty sure I was going to follow her advice and not his!) Michael also told me I was 2nd female which I didn’t realise up until that point – I was 5-6km behind 1st, which was far enough that there was really nothing I could have done to beat her. It was weird because I’d barely seen Kerrie (who was 1st) all day! Actually there weren’t many people in the 12 hour – only 20 in total, a much smaller number than either the 6 or the 24.

You don’t want to see a photo of my feet. This is much better!

After that I went back to the tent to get changed into some warmer clothes and have some wine and donuts! We then went back to the start/finish area for the presentations. This was the first time I could remember having an official photographer at the 12 hour presentations – being at night time, often we only get people’s phone photos, but this time official photographer Gary was there to capture the moment! Cheryl also got over 100km to finish 3rd (another runner I’d hardly seen!) and the men’s podium consisted of Randell, Uli and another guy Ben who I hadn’t met before.

Getting my bling from Ben!
The 12 hour podium photo – Cheryl, Randell, Kerrie, me and Uli
To the winners go the spoils! I’m behind Kerrie, I think telling Kay (obscured, in a meerkat onesie) that she’s in the photo!

I was also lucky enough to win a $100 voucher for The Running Company in the random prize draw – I guess the odds of winning are pretty good when there’s 5 prizes and only 20 runners in the event, of which a lot of them had already left (and you had to be there to be eligible for a prize!). Looking at my shoes at the end of the run, (and they were past retirement even BEFORE the race) I have a feeling I’ll be putting that voucher to use sooner rather than later!

I hung out in the tent with Elle for the next few hours, refuelling (I had about 2 of my 6 sandwiches left, which were quickly consumed – that meant I’d eaten pretty much an entire loaf of bread that day on top of several Clif bars and nut bars!) and cheering on the 24 hour runners especially Kate, Tracey and Sheena. I wasn’t really doing much in the way of supporting (to be fair, I wasn’t really capable of much at that stage other than cheering) but Elle was doing a stellar job supporting the 3 girls, along with Lachlan who came down and did some laps.

I tried to have a sleep in Tracey’s tent out the back, but that wasn’t happening, so eventually I decided the best thing to do was go home for a few hours sleep in my own bed, which also meant I got to have a shower (THE BEST!). I woke up around 4am and headed back down to the Uni Loop around 5:30 to watch and support for the last few hours. When I arrived, Lachlan informed me that Elle was asleep in the tent, Sheena was about to get taken off in an ambulance, Tracey was finished, and he hadn’t seen Kate for a number of hours. My plan had been to do some laps with the girls, as long as they were only walking, and I’d left my running shoes at the track along with a fresh pair of socks (WITHOUT holes) in preparation. Oh well, it looked like that wasn’t happening, so I went to hang out with Vicky (who was backing up with a volunteer stint after finishing 2nd in the 6 hour – machine!) and Dione at the food tent. Where they also had a heater. Best place to hang! I brought what was left  of the donuts from the previous day, and also made a quick trip to the bakery for coffee and a sausage roll for Ben!

Fresh as a daisy after a shower and a couple of hours sleep in my own bed!

Not long after this, Kate surfaced – she’d had about a 7 hour rest break and was ready to go for the last 3 hours! I offered to walk a few laps with her, and my offer was gratefully accepted! Her mission was to get to 110km and she was on 99 – just 5 laps in 3 hours!

A beautiful time to be out walking!

We were walking at a reasonably brisk pace, every now and then Kate would break into a shuffle and although I tried I couldn’t go with her, so at times I’d cut across the grass to catch up with her! There was a fair bit of socialising going on as well as a bit of coffee drinking, so consequently we had to pick up the pace in the last few laps otherwise she wasn’t going to get her goal! Not only did she get her 110km she actually kept going after crossing the line for her 50th lap, until the siren went off! (Although she didn’t reach the distance she’d done last year, she also didn’t end up in hospital this time so surely that’s a win!)

I think it was great for me too, partly because I needed to keep moving and stretch my legs after the 12 hour, but also I got to see what the end of a 24 hour looks like, from a runner’s point of view rather than just a spectator! In previous years I have always gone to see the end of the 24 hour, and even when I’ve had thoughts about wanting to do the 24 hour one day, watching the runners stagger around in the final hours has made me never want to even contemplate it! This year was different. Firstly, I think I’ve achieved as much as I can in the 12 hour. I don’t think I can improve on this year’s effort. Maybe if I dedicate myself to this event and train specifically for it for the whole year, but if I want to continue running trails and road races as well, I don’t see how I could possibly do a better 12 hour. Kate is one person who has been egging me on to do the 24. She said it’s not for her, and she never wants to do it again, but she thinks it would be right up my alley. And I think she may just be right…

Also encouraging me to ‘step up’ is Glen, who ran the 24 hour this year as well. I had no idea until afterwards that this was his first time doing the 24! So he was encouraging me based on NO experience! (I asked him afterwards if he still thought I should do it and if he’d do it again – the answer to both questions was a resounding ‘Yes’!)

Last year, when I stayed all night and saw a lot of the 24 hour runners at various stages, I had no desire to do the 24. Here is a direct quote from me from last year: One of the pluses of staying overnight after finishing the 12 hour was getting to see the 24 hour runners through the middle of the night. Watching them made me decide I NEVER want to run the 24 hour. Although, I do want to do a 100 miler one day and I’m sure a trail miler is not in my future, so I guess I will have to do it eventually. Give me a few years!’

Now – I think I might just give it a crack next year!

How’s this for an elevation profile for 48 laps of a 2.2km track? Something wrong with this picture methinks!

It was great walking the last 5 laps with Kate because we got to see most of the other 24 hour runners who were still going. Felix was going from strength to strength, never looking like slowing down, and ended up winning, and in doing so, obliterating the course record to finish on just over 260km! Second place was a runner called John who just looked super strong and smooth throughout, and his distance would have been good enough to win most years! In third place was Brendan, who Kate and I passed on our last lap, and I said to Kate “We just passed Brendan Davies – you don’t get to see that too often!” OK, admittedly he HAD done more distance than both of us combined, but still… small win!

In the women’s race, the winner was Heather who had passed me fairly regularly while I was still running, and looked super strong. Second place went to Anna (another vegan on the podium!) for the second year in a row, followed closely by a runner I hadn’t met before called Melissa, who astounded me with her crazy fast walking pace!

Congratulations to everyone who participated, particularly to those who dipped their toes in the 6/12/24 water for the first time, and I hope to see a lot of you back next year! It was a pleasure to share the track with you all! I always have to thank the volunteers and this event is no exception! The volunteers who had the ‘witching hour’ shift deserve special thanks and I’m sure I will be appreciating them even more next year! Thanks also to everyone who cheered us on, whether they were there supporting other runners or just out to give everyone a boost! (Special thanks to the crew with the maracas and clappers – you guys were one of the highlights of every lap and I really missed you when you weren’t there! I’m not sure who you are but I hope you’re there next year!)

And as always big congrats and thanks to Ben for making this such a fabulous, inclusive, fun, challenging, brutal, delicious and enjoyable event!

So who’s going to come out and run with me next year?