Adelaide Trail Runners Summer Series Race 1 – South Para Reservoir

This weekend was the first race of the newly expanded Adelaide Trail Runners Summer Series – technically it is still Spring, but this weekend we were treated to some lovely weather in Adelaide, so maybe Summer isn’t too far away!

Traditionally the series spans the Summer months, plus March, which is Summer-adjacent, with 4 events making up the series. After the first year of Adelaide Trail Runners taking on the series, an extra race was added, bringing it to a 5-race series and starting in November.

I ran the whole series last summer, for the first time (I’d done bits and pieces in previous years but had never been able to commit to the whole series) and I hadn’t planned to do it again this time around, especially with it starting so early – and only 4 weeks after Heysen! However I recovered very quickly from Heysen so looked at my calendar, put all the dates in and promptly signed up for the series. I was given some grief for entering the short course series again, it was seen by some to be somewhat of a ‘soft option’ but I was comfortable with my decision! Plus, the short course started a full hour after the long course, so why would I get up an hour earlier on a Sunday than I have to?

The first race looked to be the most ‘iffy’ of all of the dates in the series, with a friend’s bridal shower (in other words, day drinking!) the day before. This also ruled me out of attending the launch of the new Copper Trail parkrun, (temporarily) losing my newly-earned Statesman status in the process. (Last weekend at Naracoorte this was being discussed and I mentioned that I couldn’t go to Copper Trail because I had a bridal shower that day. Someone said (with great surprise) “You’re getting married?????”. I thought this was pretty hilarious because a) Nope, just nope!!! and b) As IF I would agree to have a bridal shower on the day of a new parkrun launch!

The way the series works, you have to run 4 out of the 5 events (previously it was 3 out of 4) to be eligible for an age group placing in the overall series. I figured if I was going to miss one it would be this one, and then I’d be all good for the rest of the series. However, I certainly did intend to run this one!

I didn’t do a lot of preparation for this one because it kind of snuck up on me, I tried to get a course map to put on my phone but I couldn’t figure out how to do that so I decided to just rely on my usual navigation skills, dangerous as that may be! I did read the briefing – I knew where to go (it was the same location as the newish South Para Reservoir parkrun) and I knew it was (approximately) 8.2km. That was enough!

On race morning I was putting something in the green bin outside and did that stupid thing that I think we’ve all done at one time or another, where you’re in a hurry and you scrape the back of your heel with the bottom of the screen door. There was blood, so I thought I’d better put a dressing on it otherwise peeling off my sock afterwards might result in tears! I made sure I didn’t put the tape on so tight as to restrict movement.

Screen door 1 Jane 0

It was about a 45 minute drive to South Para Reservoir – it seemed a long way to go for what could potentially be a less-than-45-minute run, but then I remembered all my parkrun adventures this year and thought this was entirely reasonable!

The parking was easy – I got there just before the medium course set off at 8:00, as I thought maybe I might have to park a long way away with the long and medium course runners already taking up a lot of the parking spaces. It wasn’t too bad (although I will admit that when it came time to get a post-run coffee, I could not be arsed walking all the way back to my car to get my reusable coffee cup so I went straight to Neil at the Stir coffee van and got my coffee in a disposable cup. *hangs head in shame*)

It was slightly chilly in the morning but I decided to go with just shorts and a T-shirt, and leave the arm warmers in the car, as the sun was out and it looked like it might be a pretty nice running morning. I did wear my gloves for hand protection – they did little to warm up my hands (they were pretty much numb at the start, and started tingling towards the end) but they were my insurance policy against potential falls!

This year we only had one wave start (last season there were 2 waves for each distance – presumably for COVID reasons) and no-one seemed to want to be at the front – we were lined up quite a long way back from the timing mat! We were to look out for the green signs (matching our bib colour – each course had signs matching their bib, to make it easier to follow) as well as the generic blue and white ones. I didn’t have any trouble following the course on this occasion, I know a few people who had some issues but somehow I managed to stay on course for a change!

Early on in the run I was passed by a girl (Isabelle) who looked to be quite young (15 as it turned out) and decided to try to keep her in sight. I saw her walk a couple of times up one of the hills so I figured if she’s doing it, so will I! The second time I saw her walk I decided to keep running, and somewhere around maybe the 5km mark, maybe a little later, I caught up with her and we chatted for a couple of minutes. Then she took off, I was able to keep her in sight but never quite managed to catch her again (she ended up beating me by about 20 seconds – way too much for me to even attempt a sprint finish!) My main thought was, “at least she’s not in my age group!”

Just before she got away from me! Thanks to Scott Olver for the photo.

The course was really nice, I had only run there once before (parkrun) so it was still relatively new to me. The scenery was magnificent and the weather was glorious – I couldn’t believe how lucky we got with the weather, especially since a lot of rain was in the forecast for Saturday which would have made it very wet underfoot (that rain ended up bypassing Adelaide which was very nice of it!). There were a few hills in there but as far as trail courses go it was a pretty fast one. The only part I had a bit of trouble with was the rocky section especially going downhill – a previous issue with my foot which generally does not cause me any problems, meant that I needed to be careful about how I stepped on rocks. Luckily not much of the course was like that so I was able to run comfortably for almost all of it!

I managed to sneak into 2nd place for the females behind Isabelle, and Vicky, who I had run with a lot of times before and who also volunteered as a car parking attendant before running (thanks Vicky!) came in for a well deserved 3rd place. Knowing that Isabelle was 15, for a moment I thought maybe just maybe the bottle of wine that the winners all got, might come my way – but in the end she got it to give to her parents! So close…

The female short course podium – Isabelle, me and Vicky. Thanks to Scott Olver for the photo!

I was really glad to have run this event, it’s always nice to try out a new course and the weather certainly helped! Thanks as always to Adelaide Trail Runners for putting on this fantastic event, and to all the volunteers who made it happen! Congratulations to all the runners out there, hope you had as enjoyable a morning as I did!

See you at Anstey Hill in December for the next one!

 

Megafest 2021

Last weekend I went on a little adventure to Naracoorte to participate in the Megafest – Naracoorte World Heritage Trail Run. The run was held for the first time in 2019 – 50 years after the fossil beds were discovered in the Naracoorte Caves, and 25 years after the Caves were put onto the World Heritage list. The 2020 event was postponed to 2021 because… oh, you know why! Hence this year’s bling was inscribed with ‘2020’ which I thought was pretty cool!

The added attraction of this event was that it would allow me to FINALLY do the Naracoorte Lake parkrun, my 39th different South Australian parkrun, and regain my ‘Statesman’ status, last gained in December 2015 and lost in July 2017.

For those unfamiliar, a ‘Statesman’ is someone who has completed all the parkruns in one state. As new parkruns launch, it becomes harder and harder to become a Statesman! When I first became a Statesman there were only 11 parkruns in the state! This year I worked out I have done well over 4000km driving, chasing new parkruns – I figured with interstate travel still being a bit problematic at the moment, this was the year to do it! As most SA parkrunners would be aware there is yet another new event launching next weekend, SA’s 40th, and due to other commitments on the day and this being a regional parkrun, unfortunately I won’t get to the launch so there goes my Statesman status after one lousy week…

Also, Coonawarra wine region.

I drove down on Friday, heading straight to Bellwether Wines in the Coonawarra, primarily because they have highland cows! I got to have a personal wine tasting with Sue, the winemaker, followed by a close encounter with the resident donkey! They also offer glamping which looks pretty cool, might try that one day!

Super excited to see Highland cows!
Up close and personal with my new friend!

Following that I detoured briefly to Penola, famous for Mary MacKillop, Australia’s first saint.

My accommodation was at the delightful Log Cabin AirBNB, complete with a bottle of local wine in the fridge and a huge spa bath! Highly recommend this place, the hosts Julie and Murray were excellent and the bed was SUPER comfy! And it is within easy walking distance to the city centre.

My home for the weekend!

On Saturday morning I drove to Naracoorte Lake, a man-made swimming lake (imagine a giant swimming pool) which at this time of year has no water in it. I must come back in the summer – would be great to jump in and cool off after parkrun on a hot summer day! Listening to the course description at the first timer briefing (there were a LOT of first timers – mostly tourists visiting for the Megafest and a lot of familiar faces among them!) I was a little dubious if I could actually follow the course but it was not too hard to follow with the marshals, painted arrows on the ground and local runners to follow! There were a few little hills in there but nothing too difficult. Turned out a couple of other runners, Tracy and Jackie, were also achieving Statesman status that day!

Action shot from parkrun
FINISH – not just of this parkrun but of my Statesman journey (for now!)

After the run I went back to the cabin for a shower and then headed out to the caves. I had been there once before on school camp in 1988. I didn’t remember much about it but did happen to find my journal – I was a bit of a nerd back then!

Back when we used to write with pen and paper! And CURSIVE!

I went on a tour where you got to watch a live stream of the bat cave (Naracoorte Caves is one of the only places where the southern bent-wing bat breeds) which was super cool – amazing how clear the images of the bats were, even zoomed right in!

A bunch of baby bats! (Ok they’re called pups but baby bats sounds way better!)
Another bat, just hanging out!

Following that we went for a walk through Blanche Cave – formerly known as the ‘Big Cave’ and they even book it out for functions such as weddings – now THAT would be cool!

From Blanche Cave, looking out
Blanche Cave
Excavation site, Blanche Cave

In the afternoon I booked a tour of the Victoria Fossil Cave which is where fossils were discovered that led to the Caves getting World Heritage status so that was definitely a must-visit – weirdly this was the first time I’d ever heard the term ‘megafauna’ – some pretty crazy looking creatures existed here many years ago!

The original entrance to Victoria Fossil Cave. Luckily we didn’t have to squeeze through here! If only the discoverer of the cave had found the stairway…
Victoria Fossil Cave
Victoria Fossil Cave
Victoria Fossil Cave
Victoria Fossil Cave

In between the two tours I had lunch and a bit of a walk around, taking note of some of the course marking for the next day’s race.

Part of the course for the run.
Dippy the Diprotodon – one of the Megafauna and the mascot of the caves

Saturday night’s dinner was a bit challenging to find, I had been invited to a BBQ by Steve, one of the Trail Running SA contingent visiting from Adelaide, whose parents live in Naracoorte, but I said I’d bring my own food as vegan BBQ food is a bit problematic. I Googled to find vegan-friendly food in Naracoorte and the first thing that came up was McDonald’s so I thought, I’m in trouble here! Eventually I managed to find a nice stir fry with noodles from one of the pubs, along with some sweet potato fries, and headed out to the BBQ to catch up with a large group of fellow Adelaide runners, many of whom had been at the inaugural event in 2019. The weather forecast was for 45 km/h winds, rain, hail and thunderstorms, with an overnight minimum of 5 degrees. Sounded like pretty ideal running weather!

I decided to go minimalist with my nutrition and hydration, I was only running 15km which I hoped to do in around 90 mins (apparently the course was not too hilly, 6 minutes per kilometre for a trail sounded a bit ambitious but potentially doable!) so I probably wouldn’t need much. I went with my trusty salted caramel balls (which I didn’t end up eating until afterwards), and just a bladder with water. Turned out my bladder was leaking a bit, where the hose connects to the bladder, which it had never done before, and I hadn’t brought any bottles so I was just going to have to deal with it, but I figured it was going to be raining anyway so what was a little extra water?

I ended up getting there quite early, collected my bib and went back to my car to put it onto my race belt. The 15km was due to start at 8:30, with the long (23km) starting at 8:00. It was around 8:00 that I got back to my car and that was when the heavens opened. I seriously considered driving back to the cabin and going for a spa instead… but when the rain eased off slightly I decided to suck it up and get out of the car. Standing under the verandah of the café with the rest of the 15km runners watching the rain, I openly admitted that the only thing I was thinking of was a hot shower – maybe this would make me run faster?

Run? Or back to the cabin for a spa?

Miraculously the rain cleared in time for our start. We were to follow the pink ribbons (there were also blue and orange, signifying the courses for the other distances) and the standard red and white arrows. No-one seemed to want to be at the front as the Race Director counted down to the start! I was hoping someone that knew the way would lead, and I could then follow!

Away we went, I fell into my usual trap of going out too fast (when will I ever learn?), trying to keep up with the girl in front of me, I wasn’t sure what place she was in, but she seemed to be going at a pretty good pace, albeit somewhat faster than me up the hills, but if I could keep her in sight I’d be doing OK!

The course was superbly marked. This is very important for me. I have a tendency to lose concentration and veer off course. Sometimes it’s because I’m chatting with someone else (in this case it was a relatively small field – just under 100 in the 15km, so we were pretty spread out and there wasn’t a lot of chatting other than when 23km runners overtook me) other times I’m just admiring the scenery or thinking of something else. Whatever it is, a well-marked course goes a very long way! There were 2 points in the run where I went slightly off – the first one was where I went to follow an arrow in the wrong direction (in my defence, when I got up close to the arrow I realised I had misread the direction, slightly blurry vision coupled with rain drops on my sunglasses contributing to this), and the guy behind me let me know I was about to go the wrong way, so I didn’t end up going off course. (Had I gone the wrong way there would have been a big red ‘X’ soon after which would have steered me back in the right direction!) The second time I went off course, it wasn’t by much. It was pretty close to the end, maybe the last few kilometres. I went along a trail that was parallel to the actual trail, and once again it was the awesome trail marking that made me realise quickly that I was off course – because I couldn’t see any pink ribbons! I retraced my steps and conveniently another 23km runner happened to be running towards me so I decided to follow him. I hadn’t gone too far off course but it was extra distance I probably didn’t need!

Action shot from the Megafest

In the end I finished in 1:24:14.90, well under my estimated time, which I was very happy with, especially since I’d probably added on 1-2 extra minutes with my creative navigation! I collected my medal and caught up briefly with the other Adelaide runners who had finished, before heading back to my car to go shower before heading home. I had made plans which necessitated my being home well before 4:00 – probably ambitious as it turned out, so I wanted to hit the road early. While walking back to my car it occurred to me to check the official live results where I was surprised to learn I’d finished 5th overall and 3rd female (the top two runners overall were the first two females) so I guess I wasn’t heading home after all – I needed to come back for the presentations, the trophies were super cool and I was excited that I was going to be getting one!

Selfie with Dippy and my bling!

I made it back to the cabin for a shower and to do a final pack up of all my stuff, and straight back to the caves for the presentation which I think started about 1 minute after I got back – just in the nick of time!

I found this to be a really enjoyable event – did I mention IMPECCABLY MARKED? The volunteers and other runners were super friendly, the scenery was beautiful and somehow I managed to avoid the worst of the weather (it hailed not long after I finished!) and it was really cool to be able to run in such a historic region, and also to have the opportunity to explore the caves while there. I can highly recommend this event and it’s definitely worth spending a weekend in Naracoorte, there’s so much to see, you could spend a day at the caves alone (and I didn’t even get to see all of the caves!)

Thanks to the organisers and volunteers for a superb day!

Race bling and super unique trophy!

Race Report – Heysen 50km 2021

This was my 5th Heysen event. I ran the 105k in 2015 (my first hundy!) and then again in 2016. I didn’t think there was a hope in hell of beating my 2016 time, so I figured I’d drop down to a shorter distance in 2017, doing the 35k (for a guaranteed PB!). A slight extension to the course caused by being too busy chatting, meant that I came in just over 4 hours, so I had to go back and do it again in 2018 to crack the 4 hour mark. In 2019 I was unable to run due to injury so I spent the day sitting in the rain at Mount Compass recording the runners coming in and out of that aid station. In 2020 I was nowhere near being able to do any of the distances (well, not to my standards anyway) so I gave it a miss.

This pic came up in my Facebook memories – sidelined 2 years ago, so happy to be back!

It wasn’t on my radar for 2021 either – my one big run for 2021 was meant to be the Melbourne Marathon. This is an event I’ve been keen to run ever since I found out that it finishes on the hallowed turf of the MCG! (Turns out, not entering Melbourne was a good decision – I had no way of knowing that at the time!)

In February, long before I would have even started training for Melbourne, one of my good friends told me to save the date for her 60th birthday bash, which happened to be the Saturday before the Melbourne Marathon was originally scheduled. After some thinking, I decided that Melbourne would always be there another year, and my friend would kill me if I chose a running event over her party! So I put a line through Melbourne and tried to think of another event I could do, to give me some focus for the year. (In hindsight this would have been a great time to pencil in the Adelaide 6 hour event, giving me ample time to train for it!) I was thinking of something around the same time (October), and I think something popped up in my Facebook news feed about Heysen and possibly super early bird entries about to close? (This is spooky – I know Facebook listens in on conversations and tracks search history but I wasn’t aware it is also somehow managing to track my thoughts – I hadn’t discussed it with ANYONE at this point!)

Heysen was particularly appealing because

  1. Relatively close to home
  2. No border crossings required
  3. 10 year anniversary this year with the usual course being reversed and extended to finish at Victor Harbor with a big party!

Quickly I looked at the options. The 105 had morphed into 115 and I am pretty sure my physio would have killed me (or at least disowned me) if I’d entered that one. The other options were 11km, 28km, 37km, 50km and 70km. So many choices!

I was toying with the idea of 37km – after all I had done this distance before, albeit in the opposite direction, so it would be familiar terrain. 50km was appealing because it was the shortest ultramarathon distance. 28km was also an option. 70km was a bit long and 11km was way too short to be travelling such a distance (I totally get the irony of this statement –  a couple of weeks after having driven 1300km+ round trip to do Port Lincoln parkrun). A quick chat to a few of my running buddies and I settled on the short ultra distance. It made sense, it was my one big run for the year and other than 2020 which was pretty much a write off, I have done at least a marathon every year since 2014.

After sneaking the Adelaide 6 hour into my programme, Heysen 2021 would now be my 20th ultramarathon – that had a nice ring to it!

I had lost a bit of love for trail ultras after my last one, Five Peaks in 2019. Nothing wrong with the event itself, I just found it a particularly hard slog and apparently at the time I said that was my last trail ultra. Give me loopy races any day! But as we all know, never never means never!

By committing back in February, I’d given myself plenty of time to train for the 50k. Lots of distance, hills, possibly back to back runs – I’d done all this before so I knew what was required.

Then the 6 hour got in the way, so long hill runs made way for flat loopy runs. So while distance wasn’t too much of an issue, I was definitely neglecting the other important piece of the puzzle – hills!

I hadn’t been running hills regularly since injury hit in September 2019. I gave myself a few weeks after the 6 hour and then at the beginning of August finally bit the bullet and resumed my Friday hill runs.

In terms of the long runs, my mission to complete all the parkruns in South Australia probably left me a bit short in this department – 3 long road trips with overnight stays to complete Port Augusta, Yeldulknie Weir Trail and Port Lincoln parkruns definitely robbed me of some long run time!

Following the 6 hour, here were my ‘long run’ distances: 14.5km, 22.4km (one of the Heysen training runs), 19.8km, 15.1km, 17.6km, 20.6km, 23.3km (another Heysen training run), Yurrebilla 28km, 16.5km and 14.6km. I was pretty consistent for the past few months but I don’t think the distances were anywhere near enough to prepare me for running 50km. I was meant to run the 33km ‘Park to Peak’ (the rebranded ‘Sea to Summit’) which would have been a decent hit-out but that was cancelled and I wussed out on doing the social run that was organised in its place, because the rest of the runners doing the social run were way too fast for me!

I managed to run 2 of the 3 official training runs that covered the 50km course. The 3rd one, covering the last section (part of which was new this year, hence I had never run before) fell on the night of my friend’s party, the very reason I was running Heysen in the first place! Given some prior planning and a willing running buddy, I would have tried to run it on another day but by the time I thought of it I had run out of time. (It was about 23km from memory – I wouldn’t have minded running it solo but logistically as a solo run I would have had to go out and back, doubling the distance – at least with a buddy we could have carpooled and had a car at each end!) I think the section I ran was more challenging than the one I hadn’t seen, and I was reasonably happy with how those training runs went, albeit with a lot more walking than I had anticipated!

Before I did my last ‘long’ run, one week out, I definitely had a few ‘WTF am I doing?’ moments. A nice Saturday afternoon run around Chambers Gully later, all of a sudden I’d shifted to ‘Yep – I got this!’

Lately I have been cutting my Tuesday and Thursday runs down from approx 1 hour, to 45 minutes, in the week leading up to an event. I did that on Tuesday and planned to do it on Thursday too, with that being my last run before the big day.

Then, just a few hours after my Tuesday morning run, disaster struck!

I like to go out for a walk at lunch time, it started when I was working in our call centre and I was stuck in the office all day and being around heaps of people. It was nice to get away from the desk and have some alone time in nature! Since returning to my usual job, which does involve getting out of the office, I’ve kept the lunchtime walks going.

About 5 minutes from the end of my walk, I probably wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing (listening to a very entertaining podcast) and somehow managed to find an uneven concrete paver and tripped on it, hitting it really hard with my left big toe. It caused me to almost fall (you know, where you break into a jog for a few steps, get back to your normal walking stride, then look around to make sure no-one saw, then carry on like nothing happened).

I got back to the office. Straight to the kitchen to find some ice. I’d pretty much jammed my 1st MTP joint (big toe joint) together. Put ice on it and elevated it under my desk. One of my colleagues said I had to report it as a work injury. My team leader told me to go see a GP and get an X-ray. I seriously thought I may have broken it. And then, obviously, no Heysen! Maybe this was the universe’s way of telling me I was kidding myself thinking I could do this?

I had an approximately 2 minute (if that long) consultation with the GP who assured me I didn’t need an X-ray, and even if it WAS broken, the treatment would be the same (rest!) I didn’t bother mentioning I had a 50k ultra on Saturday because at that point it seemed pretty unlikely that I would be running!

I went home and put my foot up with ice, and the next morning it was a lot better but bruising had come out. I was limping around when walking barefoot but when I put my running shoes on I could actually walk pretty OK!

I was still seriously considering pulling out. I emailed Shaun, the Race Director, on Wednesday morning to ask about it. The way I saw it, there were 3 possible outcomes (in order from ideal to unacceptable):

  1. Run it and finish it
  2. Don’t run it
  3. Run it and DNF

At the time I sent the email I gave myself a 20% chance of starting and I thought that was being optimistic. I had never DNFed and I did not intend to start now.

My plan was to go out and run Thursday at ultra pace (normally we run relatively quickly on a Thursday) and make the call after that. If it all went to crap it would be an easy decision to pull out of Heysen. And that was pretty much what I was anticipating, to be perfectly honest!

Thursday rolled around, I got out of bed and was still a bit limpy but once again once I got my shoes on I could walk OK! I taped my big toe to the second toe and put another strip of tape around the foot at the level of the MTP joint. It seemed to work OK!

The run went better than I could have hoped, and most definitely NOT at ultra pace. I could definitely feel it but it just felt bruised and when I was chatting I didn’t notice it! It looked like I was going to be able to run after all! (And as it turns out, I received a reply to my email to the Race Director to say I wouldn’t have been able to defer at this late stage)

It would have been quite devastating to be ruled out for something so stupid and seemingly innocuous!

With the crisis averted, and 2 days to go until the event, it was time to start getting prepared. I had all the mandatory gear from previous ultras, all I had to do was find it. I thought I had probably better do that before Saturday morning. Nutrition-wise I could not be arsed thinking of anything or doing any preparation, so while in general I avoid pre-packaged food wherever possible, on this particular occasion I went with 4 Clif bars and 12 salted caramel Snackaballs – I wasn’t going to use all of that but it would be enough to get me through and there was enough variety in flavours. That was based on having something to eat every 30 mins or so, either half a bar or 1-2 balls – and estimating 7-8 hours finishing time (hoping for sub 7).

Initially we were required to carry 1.5 litres of fluid but that was downgraded to 1 litre because of mild weather. That meant I could get away with just 2 bottles and not need to take a bladder. I decided to have 2 bottles of Gatorade and put 500mL of water in the bladder because sometimes water is what I feel like drinking. There were 4 aid stations on the 50k (not including the finish line) – I calculated based on a 50km distance that they would be 11km in, 21km in, 30km in and 38.2km in. Therefore the longest gap between drinks would be 11km and they got closer together the closer we got to the end. Perfect! I’d take my 2 bottles of premixed Gatorade and then 3 additional portions of Gatorade powder so if needed I could mix up an additional bottle at the drink stations. And I’d carry all the food I thought I’d need, so I wouldn’t need to rely on the food at the aid stations. (I would take Coke if they had it – I took a collapsible cup for that purpose so I didn’t end up with Gatorade-flavoured Coke or Coke-flavoured Gatorade.) I also took a couple of ‘fun size’ packets of potato chips in case I felt like something crunchy and salty!

It was probably the most half-arsed nutrition I’d ever prepared for an ultra. I keep threatening to consult with a dietitian before an event and plan proper nutrition but somehow it never seems to happen – I’d outdone myself with laziness this time! (I WILL do it… eventually!)

I had to get to Victor Harbor to get bussed back to the start line. Check-in closed at 10:35 so I aimed to be there by about 10:15 – leaving home about 8:45. That was a nice late start for a race day! 12:00 was a late time to be starting (the start times of the various distances were staggered to try to get runners finishing closer together) but it did mean a bit of a sleep-in in the morning!

This is what my left big toe looked like on Friday afternoon (I’ve tidied them up with a few flowers because they are truly not a pretty sight, even at the best of times – not a whole lot of toenails!)

My pre-race dinner was a bit different from my ‘normal’ pre-ultra meal – I decided to go with pizza and cider (typical pre road marathon meal) because a friend happened to be having a pizza night that night! Breakfast was normally a smoothie about 2 hours before the event, but 10:00 was a bit late to be eating breakfast so I ended up having it just before I left home. For an ultra it doesn’t matter so much if I eat breakfast too early because I planned to be eating every half hour or so during the race.

THAT’S how you fuel for an ultra!

It was nice to not have to get up at arse o’clock for once! Even though I was sure I would be awake in plenty of time, I still set my standard 3 alarms!

I was a bit unsure about taping my feet again like I had on Thursday – it’s always a bit of a gamble because it could lead to the 2 toes being squished together and cause more problems than the problem it was designed to fix! In the end I decided to go with it because who knows, that may have been the reason why Thursday’s run went so well!

Love this – the H is covered in bibs from previous years, and the 105 runners were invited to write on. The shadows are really cool too!
My contribution. A lot of thought went into this!

I got to Victor in plenty of time for gear check and bib collection, after which I returned to my car to pack my race vest ready to get on the bus. I had managed to get a rock star park just outside the Hotel Victor. For some inexplicable reason I put my car key (removed from the keyring so it was literally just the one key – I planned to carry it in my pocket and I didn’t want any jingling) into the ignition. Maybe I was planning on cranking some ‘music to pack ultra mandatory gear by’? Who knows? Anyway, long story short, I’d packed all my gear, had it all ready to go on the roof of my car, locked all the doors and then ‘Where’s my key?’. Still in the ignition, where I left it. GREAT!!!!

THANKFULLY I had everything I needed for the run. Getting back into my car after the race – that was Future Jane’s problem!

The 50k crew about to head for the bus. I’m way on the left of the pic.

ED Shaun gave a race briefing on the bus before we left to head to the start line at Myponga. He had us all recite an oath which was a pretty cool touch – I don’t remember all the details of it but there was something about ‘wiggly sticks’ and the last line was (something along the lines of) ‘if I die it’s my own fault’ – I thought that was very clever – I mean I’m sure we signed some kind of waiver when we signed up but it was a good way to reinforce this!

The bus got to the start line just after 1130 – less than 30 mins to start time – which was good because it gave me little time to think, but in hindsight I probably could have used another 5 mins to get ready – I still needed a portaloo stop, sunscreen and an energy drink.

Let’s do this!

RD Michelle with her boundless energy and enthusiasm gave a memorable briefing and we were away on the dot of midday!

Michelle, blending into the background as always!
Start photo thanks to Ian Lilburn.
Early moments of the 50km – thanks to Lachlan Miller for the photo.

The combination of crazy nervous energy and the aforementioned energy drink caused me to (as usual) go out too fast. The 50km started with a bit of uphill road and then straight into Yulte, the first of 2 big climbs within the first 15 or so kilometres. My breathing was all over the place, by the time I got to the 5km mark I thought “I’ve made a huge mistake – I’m only 10% of the way there and I’m cooked already!”

Quickly I got my head together and in the next few kilometres regrouped and set my sights on the first drink station – I wasn’t planning on stopping there because I was well equipped to get through at least the first half of the race, but it was a good way to break the run up into manageable chunks. According to my calculations this would be the longest section between drinks – 11km. As it turned out my calculations were based on incorrect information – we’ll get to that later!

In the early stages I ran short bursts with 2 runners I’d met through parkrun – Michael and Matty. Michael was going for sub 6 hours and Matty said he was hoping for sub 5. I thought that was super ambitious (as it turned out, sub 5 would have guaranteed a podium finish) and suggested as much, saying that while it’s great to have a goal, he might want to set a ‘B’ goal in case things didn’t go according to plan. He then made his B goal sub 6 hours which was a lot more realistic (and he made it!)

Somewhere along the way I picked up a stick to use like a hiking pole. I think it was after Yulte (in hindsight I probably should have tried to find one in Yulte – would have come in very handy there!). It was a bit too long and cumbersome so I broke it in half – perfect!

One of my favourite photos from the day – complete with stick –  thanks to Lachlan Miller.

Approaching 25km was thinking about belting out a little Bon Jovi (‘we’re halfway there’)– at the time there was no-one around me so was going to start singing ‘Here I Go Again’ because I didn’t want to go too early with the Bon Jovi! (Good thing I didn’t too, because as it turned out, 25km was not actually halfway!)

There was a fair bit of road on the course – the primary purpose of the buff around the neck was to pull up over my nose and mouth when cars drove past, bringing up dust. Thanks Lachlan Miller for the photo.

Around this time I took a wrong turn – my first and only one for the day! I crossed over a stile into a field, got distracted by a large pack of huge bounding kangaroos and went the wrong way along the fence line. I was looking at my map on my phone as I was unsure which way to go, and it looked like I was on the course. I came to a dead end so quickly realised my mistake – I was following the Heysen but in the wrong direction! I turned around and went back up the hill (yes, I’d unnecessarily added extra vert as well as distance – I think the distance was only about 750m so not disastrous but somewhat annoying as I’d been doing so well up to that point!) On the way back up to where I’d made the wrong turn, I faced a huuuge kangaroo bounding towards me which was super cool – so maybe the wrong turn was meant to be! (Thanks by the way to Sputnik who tried to message me to let me know my mistake, and also to ED Shaun who tried to ring me around the same time. Of course I wasn’t looking at my phone and didn’t see the messages until after I’d finished, and possibly being on Optus I didn’t have reception at the time anyway, but I certainly appreciate the effort!)

I blame these guys. (If it’s not clear from the pic – big arse kangaroos!)

After a small dummy spit I quickly got back on track and told myself I was well ahead of where I would have expected to be, 25km in 3 hours, with the hardest part of the course behind me, and sub 7 was looking pretty comfortable!

A bit further along, in the pine forest, walking up the hill, I was following David, who I knew vaguely but had never really run with before. David is very tall and looked like he was cruising, and I had to practically race walk to catch him! We ended up run/walking together on and off for a bit. David was the one who broke it to me that 50km was actually 52km (and with my detour I would be making it close to 53km). The distance came up in conversation because I mentioned that I couldn’t work out why the drink stations weren’t where I was expecting them to be. It hadn’t really been an issue as I hadn’t needed to stop at either of the first two, but the second one (Inman Valley, Checkpoint 1 on the old course) was about 2km later than I had expected. That was because I’d calculated the distances based on 50km being 50km and not 52km.

At about the 32km mark we reached the 3rd of 4 drink stations on the 52km course. This time I would stop. I had drunk all my Gatorade so I took my pack off to get out 2 portions of Gatorade powder to put in my bottles and then top up with water. I also produced my collapsible cup and requested my first Coke for the day – SO GOOD! I hung onto the cup because I planned to get some at the last drink station too. While I had my pack off I got another pack of balls out and another Clif bar – thinking that should be enough to get me through to the finish. I think I stopped at this drink station for about 3-4 minutes, I was trying to be as efficient as possible! In the process of stopping I’d put my stick down and it wasn’t until a few kilometres up the road that I realised I’d left it behind! I certainly wasn’t going back, and I was pretty sure I could get through the rest of the course without it.

I ran into David again who said he’d hit a bit of a wall at that drink station. We ran/walked together again for a bit and then I went on ahead. I met up with a guy (unfortunately I didn’t get his name or bib number so I can’t even check if he finished) who had entered on a whim 3 weeks earlier, having never run an ultra or even a marathon, and had gone out and run a marathon straight after he entered, to make sure he could! He also said he’d hit a bit of a wall at that same drink station, so I’m not sure what happened there! It certainly had the opposite effect on me – I was re-energised!

While running with the guy whose name I don’t know, chatting away, I heard a voice from behind, we’d missed a turnoff! Thanks to Tess, Shaun and Chris for calling out – luckily we hadn’t got too far down the road! Eventually I caught up with them and ran/walked with them for a bit – we were back off the road and running through nice open fields. (Apparently quite a few people missed this turn – at least I wouldn’t have been the only one! Thing is, missing this turn would have CUT OFF a bit of distance. My Heysen misnavigations always seem to go the other way…)

At approximately 41km on my watch, we arrived at the final drink station at Newland Hill. This was a very familiar place to me, being the old start of Heysen, and the 4 times I’d run it before, we’d started there. I wasn’t used to approaching it from the other direction! I got myself 2 cups of Coke here (the volunteers were doing their best to ‘flatten’ the Coke by shaking it up, and one of them ended up wearing quite a bit of it!) and saw RD Michelle. I was very much looking forward to this last section, as it was all new to me (well I had run part of it on a social run, but not for quite a few years). At this drink station I saw Sonja, who I assumed was leading the women’s race in the 115km, and also Michael, who had been aiming for a sub 6 but was now struggling and it was going to take some kind of miracle to get sub 6 from here – I think we were at about 5 hours at this point, with about 11km to go.

Heading back onto the trail, the trail was quite narrow and seemed to go along the fence for a long while. There wasn’t a lot of marking here or even official Heysen markers, but I figured I was probably on the right track – a lot of Heysen is following fences or roads, and there was a well worn track, so I just followed that. I was hoping no-one (especially Sonja) would need to pass me on this section because there was nowhere for me to go to get out of the way! After what seemed like an eternity running along the fence line, the grass started to get quite long and I started to wonder if I’d missed a turn, and also started thinking about ‘wiggly sticks’ and just decided to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible! Eventually the track moved away from the fence and I started to see Heysen signs again, and then we were back onto the road.

With I think about 10km to go, back on the road, the ocean came into view and I was reminded of the cliffs at Elliston, on Eyre Peninsula, where I had been only a few weeks earlier. I could see the Bluff and Granite Island – it seemed unbelievable that we were still 10+km away and yet it seemed so close! I caught up with a guy in front of me who was also in the 50km and we started chatting. Sam was visiting from Port Lincoln – not too far from Elliston, and I told him what I’d been literally just thinking about the cliffs! We got to chatting and the next 10km practically flew by! He was going to have to drive back to Port Lincoln (a long drive – 7+ hours if you don’t stop) the next day – he did have his wife to share the drive but she was volunteering from 10pm to 2am so he didn’t think she’d be doing the first driving stint! I thought that was pretty hardcore – I only needed to drive 1 hour 15 back home the next day and that was quite long enough!

Thanks to Sputnik for this photo – with Sam, and some breathtaking scenery!

The last section was just glorious. We even ran on the beach for a bit (thankfully not too far – didn’t really need soft sand at that stage of the run!). I could see Sonja and another girl behind us, I knew they’d eventually catch us because they would have been going faster than us, but I was motivated to try to go as far as possible before being overtaken!

We came into Victor Harbor – there were still quite a few kilometres to go but the end was in sight! I hadn’t registered up until that point that we were going to be running on the parkrun course – I commented to Sam that this section seemed very familiar and there in front of us was the parkrun turnaround marker! So it was 2.5km till the start/finish of parkrun and then a few more kilometres after that. I jokingly said to Sam that I would need to avoid going into autopilot when we approached the start/finish line and running off the path onto the grass where parkrun finishes!

50km came up on my watch before we hit 6 hours. I checked with Sam what distance he was showing, he was 750m behind me which is how I worked out how much my detour had cost me. Even so, when Sam hit 50km on his watch, we were still just under 6 hours. If you’d told me before the start that I would have run 50km in under 6 hours I would have told you you were dreaming!

A little after the parkrun, Sonja and her buddy runner Becky caught up with us. They said they’d been working hard to catch us for some time, so we must have been going alright!

Coming around to the Hotel Victor where my car (still) was, I started getting a bit excited because I thought I might get sub 6:10, so I took off. Turned out there was a bit longer to go than I thought, I’d started my finish line sprint a bit early but once committed, I had to keep going! I was trying to let Sonja take the glory and finish ahead of me but she told me to go for it – I guess she’s human after all – 115km must really take it out of you!

Running along the foreshore I could see the finishing arch and asked someone how we got there and they said I had to go around the park (I may have sworn, sorry kids!). I heard my name called and went into a final sprint across the line.

Finish line feels – perfectly captured by Sputnik!

Official (provisional) time was 6:12:18 – just managed to sneak in under 7 hours! So it’s safe to say I was pretty stoked with that! I was so grateful to have finished well inside daylight because the section leading up to the finish could have been quite confusing to navigate in the dark!

Thanks to the amazing Cherie for this fab picture at the finish line, moments before I disappeared to go rescue my car!

There wasn’t much time to soak in the atmosphere – I had to contact the RAA to break into my car! Not long after I finished it started spitting with rain – I was glad I had my waterproof jacket in my pack because I was starting to get cold and all my warm gear was taunting me from the backseat of my car – at least the jacket kept a bit of the chill off! I waited for nearly an hour for the RAA guy to come and rescue me – then I was straight to running buddy Simon’s place where I was going to crash for the night. He had told me he had Thai red curry – I was STARVING, but also desperate for a shower and the whole time I waited for the RAA guy I was tossing up whether to shower first or eat! (The shower won out in the end. I was GROSS and I didn’t want to soil his dining chair with my grossness!) I took off as much of my outer clothing as I could and laid it out in my car to hopefully minimise the smell and be less gross going into his house! (Driving home the next day I did need to wind down the windows – sweaty running gear left overnight in a car does not make for a nice-smelling car!)

So it seems a few Heysen themes have re-emerged from previous years:

  • Car key mishap (after losing my car key in 2015, never to be seen again!)
  • Taking a wrong turn in a field (after THAT incident in 2015 which led to a plaque with my name on it being put on the Heysen marker)
  • Missing a turn because I was too busy chatting (previously done on the 35km in 2017)

The shower was amazing and the curry was delicious (I inhaled it) – then I headed back to the finish line to soak up the atmosphere and cheer on the incoming finishers.

With Voula at the finish line, Voula was there supporting a bunch of running friends, and at this point it looks like the ‘1’ was supporting me!

I ran into parkrun buddies Ryan, Jeff and Jo who had all done the 70km (crazy people!) and went to the Hotel Victor with them – when we collected our bibs in the morning we had all been given a voucher for a free drink at the pub. It was nice to finish a very satisfying day out with a (free) drink at the pub – you couldn’t do that with the old finish line in Kuitpo Forest!

Rehydrating in style!

 

I thought it was a superbly well organised event and it was hard to fault any part of it. My only real suggestion would be to put names on bibs, it does help make it a lot more personal.

I absolutely loved the new finish and I would love to see this become the permanent finish line. It is so much easier for people to get to, there’s plenty of accommodation and parking nearby, and several pubs in the vicinity! I hadn’t planned to do it again next year but now I am seriously thinking that I might. And I would highly recommend it as a first ultra – Yurrebilla is also great but Heysen 50ish is just a little bit shorter and not quite as tough. Also the toughest part of the course is early when your legs are still fresh, whereas YUM has the hardest bit towards the end.

My foot didn’t end up causing me too much trouble – I just had to be careful on the rocky sections, quickly learning not to step on a rock on the wrong angle otherwise I was certainly reminded of it!

So many people to thank – firstly ED Shaun and RD Michelle (where do you guys get your stamina?) for putting on a stellar event. To the weather gods for putting on perfect weather (for the time that I was running, anyway!) – it was a truly glorious day! To all of the volunteers – I can’t thank all of you individually but special thanks to Cherie, Queen of the Village, who looked after the finish line village from start to finish (I’m hoping she managed to sneak a few z’s at some point!) and was never without a smile on her face and a friendly word. Also personally I must thank Simon for his hospitality – so good to have a hot shower and home cooked meal after a big day, and not to have to drive home to Adelaide until the next morning. And to all the runners I shared the course with especially David and Sam who I spent the most time with.

The finish line village around 7:30 on Sunday morning, just before I hit the road to go home! SO GOOD!

Of course, huge congratulations must go to all the runners in all the distances especially the 115km – you are all AWESOME, the atmosphere out on course was incredible and it was just the best day!

So who’s joining me next year?

Race Report – Yurrebilla 28km 2021

Last weekend was the Yurrebilla Ultra Marathon (commonly known as YUM)

I had run the 56km previously in 2015 and 2016 after having volunteered at the finish line in 2014 and deciding, “I need to get involved in this!” 2015 was my first trail ultra, and 2016 I had had a bit more experience but the last minute course modification made for a pretty hard day at the office (especially the last 12km!)

In 2017 and 2018 I MC’d the event, and it was pretty awesome to get to see every single runner start and almost all of them finish, without having to do any of the hard work myself!

In 2019 I think I was considering doing the 28k (newly introduced in 2018) but stress fractures put an end to that plan. 2020 of course was cancelled due to the plague.

Which brings us to 2021. It wasn’t part of my plan for this year. The only event definitely on the plan was the City-Bay half marathon, as I have some serious unfinished business with that event. City-Bay was scheduled 1 week before YUM, so I thought it would be a bit ambitious to do both. On 13 August the announcement was made to reschedule City-Bay to November, which got me thinking about potentially entering the 28k at YUM, using it as a training run for the Heysen 50k in October. I had been doing trails on the weekends pretty much every week since the Adelaide 6 hour event in July, and it’s nice to mix it up with an actual event. Plus, when doing an event rather than a solo run, I can’t plan on running 28km and decide 20km will do! I eventually entered the 28km on 24 August.

Having not planned to do it, I had missed all the training runs, and figured my weekly trail runs (plus I’d started back with my Friday hills group for the first time in 2 years) would be enough. I’d also done a couple of Heysen training runs. I figured that would be good enough.

The weekend before, I’d done a Saturday afternoon Heysen training run, there was a lot of walking with one especially big climb, and I’d managed the 23km (700+ metres elevation gain) in about 2 hours 45. YUM 28k had an elevation gain over 900m so probably overall similar, or so I thought!

In the week leading up to the event I was driving around Athelstone for work, caught a glimpse of Black Hill, and for a moment I thought “What the actual F was I thinking?” (That thought would recur throughout the race!)

Saturday I fuelled up like a champion – a winery lunch with a few glasses of wine, then watching the AFL Grand Final at a friend’s place with curry and a couple of ciders (everyone knows curry is the best pre-race fuel, the spicier the better!) The 11am start on Sunday was good, I’d been used to having to get up at arse o’clock on Sunday for YUM so it was nice to be able to go out and not having to worry about getting up early!

It was chilly in the morning – I was glad not to be doing the 56km – even at 11am when we started, my toes were still numb! It was going to be a warmish day, with no chance of rain, but to start with it was hard to believe! My kit was similar to what I wore the last time I ran YUM 5 years ago – green T-shirt, black skirt, rainbow arm warmers. I also wore my fingerless cycling gloves for hand protection. Food-wise I had 2 Clif bars and some Tom and Luke’s salted caramel balls, I wasn’t expecting to need any more food than that. I had 2 bottles of Gatorade, and because it was going to be warm, about 1 litre of water in the bladder. I also took a tin of mints in case I wanted to get rid of the Gatorade aftertaste (and as it turned out, annoy everyone around me with the constant noise of mints on tin!)

I got to the finish line in plenty of time for the bus back to the start at Ashton. The bus ride almost put me to sleep! It was an interesting ride up Greenhill Road, anyone that has driven up there on a weekend, especially on a nice day, would know it’s a favourite place for cyclists so we had to avoid a few of those, and it’s quite a narrow road so overtaking is problematic. We had to stop twice for a convoy of motorbikes –  I wondered if we’d ever get there! Just as I was about to doze off, the bus PA system started playing the acoustic version of ‘Hotel California’ from the ‘Hell Freezes Over’ album which woke me up instantly – such a great song! And if that wasn’t enough, for some reason we got to hear it twice in a row (not that I was complaining) and it was the song I had stuck in my head for the first little bit of the race (you could definitely do worse – those around me should be grateful I didn’t start singing!)

Having never done the 28k before, and having not run on the course for 5 years, I didn’t really know what to expect, people asked me about my time goal, I didn’t really have one, other than to finish under 4 hours so I didn’t have to reapply my sunscreen (I figured that was realistic – I’d run the 56k before twice under 7.5 hours, and the second half is the hardest, but you never know, having not done it for so long! I had a little bottle of sunscreen in my pack just in case.

It started with a nice little downhill section into Horsnell Gully and then the first of 3 big climbs to get back out again. Very early on the run I was going back and forth with Riesje and Zorica, two very fast runners who I have at times been able to keep up with. Zorica had been planning to do the 56 before having a stack on a trail run the previous weekend. In typical runner fashion, the ‘not running’ option was not even on the cards, instead ‘upgrading’ to the 28k. Zorica had kindly worn a fluoro singlet so I could easily spot her and attempt to keep her in sight!

I didn’t know too many other people in the 28km, other than Nick who I’d met the previous week on the Heysen training run and we’d run together for most of that run, so I figured we would probably see each other! We crossed paths a few times but he ended up finishing a good 10 minutes ahead of me!

I instantly regretted the mints. Firstly, the rattling would annoy the hell out of me for the next 28km, but secondly, IF I happened to be in a position to overtake someone near the end, I could hardly do it in ninja fashion – they’d hear me coming from a mile away! I figured if that situation arose I could always tip out the mints! So, my apologies to all those who were running near me on Sunday!

From around the 12km to the 14km, running through Morialta which is quite technical, I seemed to be tripping and/or almost rolling an ankle every 30 seconds or so. It became very annoying! Around the 14km mark I nearly fully rolled my left ankle and had thoughts about potentially DNFing at the next drink station but nothing came of it and I’d forgotten all about it by the time I got there. Sometime just after 14km (past the Bon Jovi moment – this time there was no singing) I properly tripped and went down (thank you cycling gloves, I landed on my hands and only ended up with minor grazing on my left arm and thigh), and somehow that seemed to sort me out altogether, there were no further incidents after that!

I didn’t stop at any of the drink stations other than the last one when I really felt like some Coke. The volunteer there offered to fill my bottle but with only a few kilometres to go, and the promise of icy cold, fizzy Coke at the finish line, I figured half a bottle would do! (Note to self, Coke has bubbles in it so if you put the lid on too tight, the result can be explosive!)

There were 3 big climbs, the last and the biggest being the notorious Orchard Track which was part of the course when I last ran it 5 years ago. I’d forgotten what a b*tch it was! Lucky for me I had managed to pick up a sturdy branch earlier in the course (I’d been looking for a suitable one for a while) but by the time we hit f***ing Orchard Track, it didn’t quite cut it. So I offered the guy in front of me $20 for his hiking poles. In hindsight I should have offered more (He did say he’d let them go for $200 but I only had $20 on me) but I think he was doing the 56km and probably needed them more than me.

Can I just give a quick shout out to the volunteers, one of the great parts of this event. It seemed that I knew almost all of them (along with a lot of the runners) which is one of the things that makes this event so awesome. I’ve been on that side before and it can be a long day but very very rewarding and enjoyable. (Almost certainly more enjoyable than crawling up f***ing Orchard Track!)

After Orchard we finally got to some downhill, I may have got a bit excited at the prospect of actually getting to run, I could feel my quads screaming at me but I didn’t care too much, it was so nice to be making some forward progress!

I decided to get rid of my branch with about 1.5km to go, surely there couldn’t be any more uphill?

WRONG! (There may or may not have been some more swearing at this point)

And then we approached the finish line, this was the first time I’d experienced the new finish line, it was quite nice, plenty of cheering going on (being a lovely day to be out on the oval!) and the unmistakable sound of cowbells!

And there was Zorica again, I hadn’t seen her for some time, and in the finishing chute I decided to give it a crack, she must have heard me coming with my rattling mints, but afterwards she said she didn’t have anything left by the end. It is a rare occasion when I get to finish in front of her (and it takes her being injured for me to do it) so I have to take it when I can!

Official time was 3:23:52, so I was pretty happy with that. And I LOVE the cowbell medals!

There was carnage out on the trail – heaps of people with blood dripping off their legs, dressings all over their arms and even bandages on their heads – I definitely got off lightly! Morialta was a popular place for falling, as was Horsnell Gully.

I first got myself a Coke, then some Vegemite sandwiches from the lovely RMA ladies, and finally a special vegan pizza. I was a tad disappointed that there wasn’t a bar there this year, but I had probably had enough drinks the previous day that I didn’t need any more on this occasion!

Congratulations to all the participants in the 28km and 56km and thanks again to the volunteers and also the weather gods for turning on a cracker. It was a fantastic day!

Next time (and there will be a next time) I will do the training runs. It is always worthwhile, if possible, to train on the actual course. Nothing I had done in my training could have prepared me for Orchard Track. Also, I will make sure I take some photos, because all words and no photos makes Jane a dull blogger!

Other than that, I think things went as well as could be expected, and you can expect to see me lining up for the 56km next year!

 

Race Report – Adelaide 6/12/24 Hour 2021 – The End of an Era!

I’d like to start by saying that this is my favourite running event of all that I have done. It’s hard to fathom for those that haven’t done it (even some seasoned ultra runners) but it is genuinely the best. Even when it can be the worst! I don’t think I can do it justice but I’ll give it a crack.

For me, the last 2 years since the last ‘proper’ Adelaide 6/12/24 even in 2019 has been a long and bumpy ride, but I don’t think I’d change any of it! It would have been rude not to be a part of the final running of this event in its current form…

As regular readers of this blog will know, I have a (relatively) long history with this event, having participated in the 6 hour in 2015 and 2016, the 12 hour in 2017 and 2018, and the big one, the 24 hour in 2019, which I later found out, pretty much broke me!

Due to COVID the event took on a slightly different form in 2020, with it being later in the year than the traditional wet, cold July, and with just the 6 and 12 hour events taking place. This time I was NOT involved, although I did put in a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ cameo appearance, courtesy of ‘dropping in’ for half a lap during my own training run for a half marathon. Given that I was focused on said half, and was nowhere near ‘match fit’ enough for a 6 hour, there was never any temptation to get involved. Plus, if it’s not raining, is it really even the same event?

2021 was an entirely different story. Since the 2020 event I had done 2 half marathons and a bunch of shorter (mostly trail) events. I didn’t really have the 6/12/24 in my sights this year, even though I knew it was going to be the last one in its current form. I just did not have enough training behind me to do it justice. And then…

On 27 April, (74 days before the event) ED Ben announced a special memento for all runners, in addition to the finisher bling, given that it was to be the last event (and the 10 year anniversary of the first 24 hour). That was all it took to pique my interest.

Could it be done? Normally (and especially given my recent history) I would want a solid 4-5 months to get my mileage up gradually. 10 weeks was less than ideal. (If I had more time, I would have seriously considered giving the 12 hour a crack, but the only realistic option at this point was 6 hours or nothing)

The cut off date to get the memento personalised (as well as the early bird cutoff) was the following Wednesday so there was only one thing to do. Get my arse down to the Uni Loop on the weekend and run some laps!

 I managed just over a half marathon distance in 2 hours and decided yes, I could definitely do this so quickly got my entry in, after checking with Ben that I could keep my name off the start list because I wasn’t quite ready for my physio to know about this yet! I sent fellow runner Kate a private message to let her know and that she absolutely could NOT tell Beck, and after very little arm-twisting, she decided to enter too! (Unfortunately it wasn’t to be for Kate, with an injury preventing her from lining up on the day)

This (assuming I would complete more than a marathon distance!) would be my 19th ultra,  2 years after my previous one. It would be my 11th track ultra, so you can see I like the loop format! And 12 of those 19 ultras will have been Ben’s events, so he must be doing something right!

In the coming weeks I upped the time by half an hour each week, each time estimating how many laps I would do and reversing the distance at about the halfway mark, and using a 28 min run/2 min walk strategy. This would be my first time adopting strategic run/walk in a 6 hour (I had previously successfully used it in 100k, 12 and 24 hour track events). During each walk break I would eat something – half a Clif bar, a couple of protein balls, a 1/4 sandwich or a brownie. I would have a few different options so I could keep it varied and avoid the dreaded flavour fatigue!

Distance wise I was not even contemplating the possibility of a PB – in fact I was pretty sure it would be a PW, with my previous 6 hour distances being 61.436km and 62.199km. I was pretty sure the magical 60km was a bit ambitious but it was still good to aim for. Just being there was all that mattered.

I kept my long runs private on Strava because there is only one reason I would be doing runs like that, and if anyone saw it, they’d know straight away what I was up to. However, Adelaide being Adelaide, and the Uni Loop being like Rundle Mall for runners (only Adelaide people will get that reference!), people were bound to see me and wonder what I was up to! If I saw a fellow runner once, they wouldn’t bat an eyelid, but if they saw me again, and again, and again, and then possibly going in the opposite direction, then they’d know!

I had planned to tell physio/running buddy Beck once I got up to 4 hours. One Tuesday, after having done a solid 3.5 hours on Sunday, I was having the traditional post-run coffee with Kate, Beck and Leanne, and Leanne, having seen me in passing on Sunday, asked me how many laps I had run. I casually responded ‘a few’ and then Beck asked me what I was up to – the jig was up! I still decided to keep my long runs private on Strava – some things should remain mysterious – but I didn’t need to worry anymore about Beck finding out from someone else!

After Beck found out, I didn’t really need to stay anonymous on the start list, and I gradually let a few people know I was doing it. A few people questioned the wisdom of doing this event, and I decided, you know what, I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life. I wouldn’t do it if I thought I might end up in the same situation as a few years ago, it was a long time ago and I have rehabbed very well and been über sensible ever since, so yeah it was a risk but a calculated one. And I decided to leave myself as anonymous.

At the time of writing, I haven’t seen Beck but I’d be interested (after the fact) to hear what she REALLY thought when I told her I was doing it. I guess it was a win-win for her – either everything went well, or if it didn’t, I’d be throwing more business her way!

6 weeks out from the event I did a 4 hour run, which was so close to a marathon distance I had to do the extra little bit to make it up to the 42.2 (I was only 500m off the marathon after 4 hours, and I was coincidentally also 500m from my car!). Surprisingly, the next day, my legs did not feel the same as they have in the past after running a marathon – it was ‘just another long run’ and I am sure that the walk/run had a lot to do with that.

It’s not on Strava (well, not publicly anyway) but it did happen!

As had been the case in the past, my training runs would all be on the Uni Loop, with my car parked next to one of the distance markers on the War Memorial Drive side. There were several reasons for this. Firstly, so that it was easy to do a quick stop off at my car to grab a full water bottle or a snack, and not waste too much time. Secondly, because history shows that GPS is notoriously inaccurate on multi-loop runs, and ALWAYS gives you a longer distance than you actually run. This way, I was able to have an accurate measure of my distance (I could easily count laps – I have become pretty good at my 2.2 times table over the years – and then if there was a part-lap at the end I could work that out reasonably accurately.

A beautiful misty morning at the start of one of my training runs!

I had initially planned to do my longest run as 5 hours, then I decided that was unnecessary and that 4.5 hours would be plenty. Then, after having run a marathon distance in my 4 (ish) hour run, I realised that a marathon was the longest distance I’d ever run leading up to a 6 hour, so there was no need to go any further this time. (This was the first time I’d actually trained for a 6 hour event. The previous 2 times I had done it on the back of a marathon training programme).

Following on from the ‘marathon’, I backed it up with 3 hour runs for the next 2 Sundays.

Adding up the 7 training runs prior to taper, it added up to a total of 21 hours and 220km (exactly 100 laps!). It was a steeper curve than would have been ideal, but hopefully it would be enough!

On the Sunday before the event, after a few weeks’ break, I did a 2 hour reccy around the Loop, just to re-acquaint myself with every piece of gravel, blade of grass and minor undulation/mountain on that track (I ran with Cecile, doing her first 6 hour, so I could impart some of my ‘wisdom’ and as a thank you she treated me to a glass of sparkling wine after the run! I’ll run with you any time Cecile if it ends like that!)

Prior to the aforementioned 2 hour run, during the week my UTA 2016 buddy Anna talked me into teaming up with her for the Adelaide Trail Runners Winter Teams Challenge on Saturday afternoon, which meant I was running on tired legs on Sunday – back to back runs is something I’ve been steering clear of lately but as it turns out it was probably not a bad idea – presumably at some point in the 6 hour I would be running on tired legs!

With Anna during the Winter Teams Championships. Photo: Lachlan Miller Photography

After the Sunday run, I did an easy solo 45 minute run on Tuesday and that was my only run prior to Saturday.

On Wednesday prior to the event I got a massage – prior to the 24 hour I had a massage on the day before, but that was not ideal as my massage therapist (and fellow runner!) Amanda was not able to go as hard on my muscles as she would with a bit more time. So consequently she held nothing back! Glutes, hamstrings, quads, calves, they all got the treatment!

I also did a bit of a caffeine detox. For the 24 hour 2 years ago, I went off coffee for 1 week prior to the event, so that the caffeine I used during the event to keep me moving, would have more of an effect. Now I don’t drink as much coffee now as I was drinking back then (1 cup a day, occasionally 2) but I had a bit more time to wean off so unlike last time I did not have to go cold turkey. I started about 4 weeks out, dropping back to 3 cups a week, then 1, and then for the 11 days leading up to the event I existed on decaf (a.k.a ‘brown sadness water’). Which can be surprisingly not terrible!

I re-read my 6 hour race reports from 2015 and 2016, specifically to see what I ate the night before (see – if it’s not of interest to anyone else, at least it pays off for me later on down the line!). In 2016 I had been to my favourite stall in the Market Plaza Food Court at the Adelaide Central Market – Pure Vegetarian. And that was a 6 hour PB, so naturally I decided to replicate that this time!

It’s not exactly ‘Insta-worthy’ but damn it was good!

The alarm was set to go off at 4:10 (and 4:15 and 4:20, just in case) with a view to getting to the Loop at 5am for the 6am start. The only reason for getting there so early was to get a good parking spot, as I was planning to use my car as my base, like I did in 2016. I was fortunate enough to snag a rock star park right outside the (one and only) aid station and also close to the start/finish line. That was good because the aid station would be attended throughout the event, so my car could safely be left unlocked, and also because the aid station was easy to spot so I could be prepared to grab and go as I went past!

It was amazingly not as cold as I expected (I was prepared with layers as well as a change of clothing in the unlikely event of rain) so I was able to start in a thin long sleeved top over a T-shirt, and a skirt. I also had fleece gloves on just for the start (because I needed my hands to work in order to get snacks!) and a fluoro pink headband, as the event had a ‘retro’ theme. I had my hat and sunnies ready to go on the back seat of the car, as well as my rain jacket.

On the front seat I had my snacks – 3 Clif bars, a bag of salted caramel balls, a couple of PB sandwiches and some brownies. There was also an esky with a bunch of bottles of Gatorade and also a few of water in case I felt like a change. (As it turned out, somewhere between 3 and 4 hours I got sick of Gatorade and switched to water for most of the rest of the event – I normally have to force myself to drink water but on this occasion it tasted like liquid heaven!) There were also 3 shots of cold brew ready to go – I downed one of those about 15 minutes before the start, the others I would have at 2 and 4 hours or thereabouts.

It was an amazingly foggy morning! Normally you expect to see fog in the hills, not on the flat. It was foggy for my whole drive and it stayed foggy for quite a few hours during the run. It made for a really cool atmosphere!

I started with super speedy Jenny and Sandy for the first couple of laps, it was way too fast and I knew it, but I also knew that at 28 minutes I would be walking and then probably wouldn’t see them again (until eventual winner Sandy lapped me BEFORE the halfway turnaround!). It was nice to have a chat and run while getting warmed up (it didn’t take long to warm up – the gloves came off pretty early, but I was glad to have had them!)

Not long after I dropped Jenny and Sandy (OK OK OK, they dropped me), other ‘randoms’ (I use the term to refer to people who were running on the Uni Loop but were not part of the event) started to come out for their Saturday morning runs. I ran with one such group for a (very) short time, they are a fast bunch but to be fair were only warming up, and as luck would have it one of the awesome volunteers Brenton happened to come by with his camera at the right time to capture me ‘leading the pack’!

It’s a bit hard to see in the fog, and because we’re so fast we’re a blur, but that’s me on the right in the pink! Thanks Brenton for this photo!

I could probably sum up my run in a couple of sentences. I managed to keep up the 28 minute run/2 minute walk for 5 1/2 hours, and then ran the last 30 minutes (because, who needs a walk break with 2 minutes to go?). Everything went according to plan. Most importantly, I DID NOT BREAK!

Just a few little milestones because I like numbers! Based on my electronically recorded lap times, I reached the half marathon distance in a little under 1:59:24. I hit the marathon distance just under 4 hours (I completed 19 laps in 3:54:53 and the marathon distance was 400m past that.) 50km was a little under 4:49. I’d like to compare those times to when I last ran the 6 hour but unfortunately that level of data is not available – Event Strategies only started timing this event in 2017. All in all, I was happy with those numbers!

To be fair, really I was happy just to be there! I actually enjoyed every minute. I had a mini slump between 4 hours and 5 hours (because after 4 hours there’s still 2 hours to go, and that seems like an eternity!) but the introduction of the 24 hour runners was a welcome distraction! David and Colin were the only two to have run every 24 hour run since Ben’s been putting them on, and there were a bunch of other familiar faces from previous years. I was NOT sorry not to be among them on this occasion. (I do, however, reserve the right to have another crack at a 24 hour one day!)

In the zone, definitely did not see the photographer here! Photo credit: Ian Lilburn

The field was pretty big (helped by the fact it was our last chance to run this event, but hindered by COVID-related border closures) – with 58 starters in the 6 hour, 14 in the 12 hour (traditionally the smallest of the 3 events, but definitely my favourite!) and an impressive 40 in the 24 hour. Yep – 40 people who were insane enough to want to run for 24 hours. 4 of whom (Katie, Jac, Stewart and Tamas) had also been insane enough to run a 200 mile trail race a little while back. Insane is probably not strong enough a word – but in all seriousness, much respect!)

One of many great things about this event is there are no DNFs – if you start, you get a medal. There is no ‘finish line’ as such, the finish line is wherever you choose for it to be! And that is what makes this event so special. For some people it might be running a marathon (often a first marathon) or maybe cracking 50km for the first time. For some it’s just about getting out there and socialising (I’m looking at you Kym Williams, one of two runners to have participated in every event since the first 6 hour way back in 2009 – Colin being the other. A third, Graham, was missing for the first time this year, being interstate, potential snap border closures made it too risky to make the trip)

Border closures nearly robbed Tash of her chance to be part of this event but as luck would have it she got let out of home quarantine just in the nick of time!

With Tash, fresh from home quarantine! Photo: Lachlan Miller Photography

For me, it was a bit of trying to test myself to see where I’m at compared with pre-injury, but mostly just wanting to be a part of it one more time. It’s always been about more than running! Really, a fun, social day out with a bit of running thrown in!

Thanks to Brenton for this photo from when the fog had somewhat cleared. Behind me is his wife Karen who would have to have been one of the best dressed, really getting into the ‘retro’ spirit of the event!

The field, owing to the aforementioned border issues, was a lot more ‘local’ than usual. This event has always been held in high regard and attracted a large field from interstate, many elites. That in itself is pretty cool, getting to share the track with some pretty big names, but I am more interested in the ‘ordinary’ people like myself. With the exception of a couple of Victorian entrants who had been regulars over the years, it was mostly a SA-based affair.

Thinking of wine perhaps? Photo: Lachlan Miller Photography

The supporters were fantastic. I think the excellent weather helped, it encouraged a lot more people to come out and support particular runners or just everyone! One guy, Stuart, who everyone probably knows by now, was the guy doing the one-man Mexican wave pretty much from the start! I very much looked forward to seeing what he would come up with each time, and I definitely noted his absence when I missed him for a few laps when he went to get a coffee (how dare he!)

There was another group of ‘Mexican wavers’ on the other side of the track, where there are generally less spectators, so it was nice to see them and to have some distraction on the ‘dark side’ for a few laps!

Getting back to some of the other runners, Cecile, who I had done my last training run with, had a goal in mind and didn’t quite make it but she was having some major hip issues and somehow managed to push through to the end! There was also Marc, who had been told by his physio that he should be running no more than 10km but still managed to crack 50km! (Apparently the physio knew he was doing it, so I haven’t just outed him!)

I love my music, it’s a big part of my life  and it is a non-negotiable on my solo runs, but I use it intermittently during these events (I only ever use music in track events, not road or trail, for safety reasons). This time I grabbed my iPod just before the halfway turnaround. The first song was ‘Life In The Fast Lane’ by the Eagles, closely followed by the obligatory ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ to signify that ‘we’re halfway there’ (I tried not to sing too loud in case some of the runners around me were in the 12 hour and were most definitely NOT halfway there). I don’t have a specifically curated playlist, just a list of about 1000 songs because I never really know what I will feel like listening to! Some of the slower songs that I would skip when running, might be just perfect to listen to while walking. I would just run with one earbud in when going past other runners so I could still chat and hear what was going on around me. It was a nice mix! One of the songs that was ‘just right’ for me this time was ‘Karma Chameleon’ – so much so that I had to play it twice back to back, and yes, there may or may not have been some singing! Another great one was ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’ by Blue Öyster Cult – perfect running tempo! Conversely, I regrettably had to skip one of my all-time faves, ‘Wasted Time’ by The Eagles because it’s just too slow for running, and Pink Floyd’s ‘Comfortably Numb’ because that would have resulted in some serious air drumming, and I don’t think air drumming while running is the best idea! The last song I heard before I ditched the tunes with about half an hour to go, was ‘Everlong’ – I think we can all agree that is a pretty perfect song – for running or otherwise!

Approaching the end, getting a bit silly… Photo: Lachlan Miller Photography

Getting back to numbers again (sorry I’m a bit all over the place, it’s a while since I’ve done one of these!), once I got to 50km under 5 hours the 60km was looking pretty comfortable so all of a sudden the possibility of a PB was on the table! (my previous PB being 62.199, almost exactly one lap over 60km). Dare I even contemplate the fairytale ending? Whatever happened, it was as good as I could have hoped for!

As it turned out, I managed to complete 28 laps for a total distance of 61.677km (just over 500m short of a PB, but I could not have cared less at this point!). I had grabbed my sandbag with about 15 minutes to go, not sure if I’d make it around one more time before the 6 hours was up. As it turned out I just made it back past the start/finish and as luck would have it the air horns went off just as I got to Cecile’s car, and right near where a few of our supporters, Ryan, Naomi, Heather, Peter and Christine had been enjoying a wine while cheering us on over the last little while. The bottle was empty by the time I got there but happily Cecile had some in her car and we had a celebratory glass while we waited for the final measurements to be done.

Rehydrating with Naomi!

The weather was perfect, the early morning mist really added to the vibe and the sun came out just in time for us to collapse in a heap and rehydrate while watching the 12 and 24 hour runners continue on their merry way! And not having to get my raincoat out, well that was just a bonus!

After the presentations I went home to get a few things done. Remember my detox and subsequent race-day caffeination strategy? Well, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that it WORKED. I’m not sure exactly how much it helped my run, but when I got home I powered through the unpacking, bottle washing and laundry and a really solid drum practice session, then couldn’t get to sleep and as a result got up to watch Ash Barty win Wimbledon! I had rather ambitiously told Ben I could volunteer from 5am for the end of the 24 hour – I’ve had such a great time over the years running this event, it was my last chance to see ‘the other side’ of the event! Finish running at 12, home by 2, in bed by 9, up at 4 – too easy, right? Turns out 3 x 50ml shots of cold brew, 2 caffeinated Clif bars and some caffeinated brownies is not a good recipe for a restful night’s sleep!

I got back down to the Uni Loop at about 5 after a sneaky bakery stop for donuts and coffee, and had the rather easy job of sitting at the aid station, eating potato chips and occasionally making a coffee or washing a cup. (I made myself a couple of PB and chip sandwiches – so good! It should be noted that I did make sure there was enough food left for the runners) It was great to see the runners in action, some rarely stopping, some stopping on almost if not every lap. Thankfully there hadn’t been any rain and it wasn’t even all that cold – perfect overnight running weather! I was there with Adam and his son who had also been there for the duration of the 6 hour but I hadn’t actually made a stop at the aid station during my event (which was why I figured it was OK to be eating the food now!) Also there was Ian who had been there for the duration of the event, maybe slept an hour or two, and took a bunch of photos throughout.

AND most excitingly I got to see my name engraved on the perpetual 24 hour trophy from 2 years ago – now THAT was a fairytale (closely followed by a nightmare!)

See! My name! It’s official, it really happened!

Many of the 24 hour runners were still out there – some were resting, others had already gone, things having not gone to plan. Sonja was leading the women’s race by a long way, but the men’s race was an exciting battle that went down to the wire! When I arrived, Travis was leading, but within the last hour or so he was overtaken by David, one of the originals, and David managed to hang on but only by a bit over 100 metres – I don’t believe I’ve ever seen such a close finish in a 24 hour race! And how fitting that after being one of only two runners to complete every 24 hour race over the 10 year history of this particular event, he would win for the first time at the final event! Now THERE’S the fairytale ending! He’s a sneaky one, he doesn’t look like he’s going hard but lap by lap he just wears you down and keeps going like the Energizer bunny! (I know this because he did just that to me in 2019!)

Two of the four 200 mile crazies (Jac and Tamas) incredibly managed to finish top 3, and Stewart still managed to rack up 100 miles. Tamas was incredible because he seemed to be smiling and just loving every single minute – his enthusiasm was infectious! Katie had pulled the pin early (a sensible decision by the sound of it!) but still managed a not too shabby 50km before doing so!

Another honourable mention must go to Hoang, who managed both her first 100km and first 100 mile – I don’t think in the history of the event any woman has completed 100 miles and not been in the top 3!

After the presentations Jenny came back down and with Ian and Ben we managed to get the gear all packed and loaded before a few light drops of rain began to fall – it was like Ben had made a deal with the universe to keep the rain away for this one last time, and the universe held up its end of the bargain – so very fitting!

So this event as we know it is now over, but maybe someone might decide to take the challenge of putting it on in future. I hope so, as I said at the start it is my favourite (the 12 hour is my favourite favourite, the 24 hour definitely has some great memories for me, but I am not sure I’d want to run another 6!) If not, I can definitely see myself, once border closures are a thing of the past, going on the occasional ‘runcation’ to do a similar event interstate. But there’s really nothing like running an event like this in your home town!

To the runners that I have shared the track with, encouraging others as you work towards your own goals, this year and in previous years, you are my kind of people, you just GET IT. I don’t have to explain to you why I love this event.

To all the volunteers that have put in countless hours to make all these events happen, well you know we wouldn’t be here without you.

And last but definitely not least, to Ben for putting this event on for all these years with your ever growing family commitments not to mention everything else, I still have no idea how you do it, but I am so grateful that you do! It has been a privilege to run so many of your events over the years, thanks for everything!

SO many fantastic memories – 5000 words doesn’t even scratch the surface!

And if you’ve lasted to the end – well done, it’s been quite a ride!

Punkt Zu Punkt 2021 (aka ‘Will Run For Wine’)

This weekend I took a cruise up to the Barossa to participate in an event I’d never done before. Punkt Zu Punkt (German for ‘Point to Point’ is a trail run presented by Chaffey Brothers Wines with Adelaide Trail Runners as part of the Barossa Vintage Festival. This was the third running of the biennial event. The 2017 event had only the 33km from Bethany to Angaston, which I opted not to do as I was in Washington DC at the time, having just run Boston (has it really been 4 years???). In 2019 an out-and-back 7km was added. This time I was in peak training for the Adelaide 24 hour, so I’d decided to go and run the 5k at Clare instead.

I was keen to run it this year, until i realised it was the week after McLaren Vale. This year another shorter distance, 14km, was also included. That was the one I had been looking at. I knew that the 33km participants all got wine at the end, but I was nowhere near ready for that sort of distance! The tipping point was when I realised that 14km runners ALSO got wine (1 bottle, with the 33km runners getting 2 bottles) and that was when I threw reason out the window and thought, WHY THE HELL NOT run back to back events?

After McLaren Vale I just had the one run during the week. My pre-race meal consisted of paella and a cheeky glass of red wine while watching the final episode of The Sopranos (I have mentioned before that I have a history of being late to the party when it comes to TV series – this time I was only 14 years late!) – how about that ending?

Gear-wise, I decided to leave the bottles at home and get my bladder out of storage – I figured, while 500ml (2 x 250ml bottles) was enough for the shorter distances of the Summer Series, I should probably have a bit more fluid on board for a longer event, plus the VERY CIVILISED 10am start time meant it would likely be a bit warmer than I was used to! (As always, for anything less than an ultra, I prefer not to have to stop at the drink stations).

For once I decided not to wear pink (2 events 2 weeks in a row, I can hardly wear the same outfit now, can I?), instead I went with a nice green T-shirt which would go nicely with my purple race vest (green and purple in a wine region, how appropriate!). I also pulled out my rainbow arm warmers for a pop of colour. What I didn’t realise at the time, until I looked at my Facebook memories on race morning, was that it was exactly 4 years since Boston, AND I had worn the very same arm warmers that day too! Spooky!

The 10am start was a bonus – I didn’t need to leave home until around 8am! As I was on the way there I was kicking myself for forgetting to bring a change of shoes – if it was muddy out there, I could hardly walk into a cellar door afterwards with muddy trail shoes! However there hadn’t been too much rain so I was hopeful it wouldn’t be too bad.

I kind of wanted to know what the course was like – I had been assured that it was very well marked, and there were maps on the website that meant nothing to me, not knowing the area, but what I really wanted to know was the elevation – I knew the 33km had a lot of elevation near the start, but we wouldn’t be running that bit. At the start line, I saw Mal who always has all the info (distance, elevation, etc) and he told me it was around 200m and showed me an elevation plot – nothing too dramatic, being out and back it was a mirror image, and there was a bit of up and a bit of down both ways.

Doesn’t look too gnarly! Bit of a climb at the start but a nice downhill finish!

There was a fair bit of road in the course but the website showed it was 85% trail and 15% bitumen. The roads weren’t closed so we had to give way to traffic, but being a Sunday morning in the country, there wasn’t a heap of traffic.

There were 42 runners in the 14km, a nice smallish number, so no wave starts this time, we all set off together. No-one seemed to want to be at the front! But when you see someone in an Adelaide Harriers singlet you know you’ve got someone to chase (if you can keep them in sight for long enough, that is!). Early on, the top 3 females were clearly a long way ahead of me, so I just tried to keep them in sight for as long as I could. With a few stretches of open road, it was easy to spot them. It wasn’t too bad running on non-closed roads – given that I was in trail shoes I tended to try to run on the gravel shoulder wherever possible. There were a couple of road crossings, and I was kind of hoping a car might come along to force the girls in front of me to stop and give me a chance to catch up, but no such luck! It wouldn’t have made a difference anyway, they would have been well ahead of me soon after!

Near the start. Official photo by Lachlan Miller.

The course was well marked, and there were plenty of times when I was running on my own and often without being able to see the runner in front, but I never took a wrong turn or missed a turn. There was one section, in a field, where the 2 lead females had taken a wrong turn, the 3rd female was far enough behind to see their error and not make it herself, and of course I was well back enough to do the same! I can see where they went wrong, the signage could have been confusing given that there were arrows to mark the course in both directions, and it made perfect sense when I came back through the same section. Just goes to show that blindly following the runner in front of you is never a good plan!

There was one non-runnable hill, a bit of rock climbing. I saw the girl in front of me start walking and that was my cue! I tried the ‘8 step run, 8 step walk’ technique but eventually realised that was futile and just walked until I got to the top of that hill. The other hills on the course, I either ran or walk/ran.

On the way out to the turnaround, the faster 33km runners started to come through (the 7km and the 14km were out and back along the same course that the 33km followed, which made perfect sense in terms of minimising the amount of marking and drink stations required, plus it meant the runners got to see more people out there which is always nice especially in a small event) – of course they were all wearing red and white!

When we reached the turnaround, I was a bit pleased to see that we hadn’t quite reached 7km so that meant it would be a little bit shorter than 14km all up. No problem for me! I was pushing fairly hard trying to maintain my position so 13.5k would be more than enough, thank you very much!

On the way back I saw the rest of the 14km runners coming towards me, there was a guy and a girl who seemed to be a little bit close for comfort and I didn’t want to be overtaken by anyone else (since the start I had so far only been overtaken by the 2nd and 3rd male in the 14km, as well as the fast 33k runners, and I didn’t want any other 14k runners to pass me!) so I had to keep working!

I swore I could hear a conversation quite close behind me and I could hear a female voice, so I picked up the pace a bit.

I think it was on the last road crossing, after I went through I heard a voice very close behind me, and event though you NEVER look back, I did – there was a guy only metres behind me! This would not do! I picked up the pace again.

Before too long the finish was in sight and he eventually caught up with me, he said he’d been following me for the last 40 minutes! Turned out he had run the first half with his brother and then taken off on his own, and had been running 4 minute kms to catch me – I told him he definitely deserved to be ahead of me, ultimately he finished 4 seconds ahead of me and I ended up finishing 8th overall in a time of 1:09:46. And that female voice I heard? Probably not my imagination, the next male finished only 9 seconds behind me and the next female just 13 seconds behind me.

Not quite sure what I was thinking here! Official photo at finish line by Lachlan Miller.

The finish line atmosphere was great, with lots of stalls set up, including a wine bar (which I may or may not have checked out before the start of the run – just looking to see what I would have afterwards, I did not indulge in a pre-race tipple!) so I hung around there for quite a while, waiting for the other runners to finish (there were a lot of familiar faces out there!) and watching the presentations. (I was a solid 1 minute 30 behind 3rd place so I was pretty satisfied that I could not possibly have done any better than I did!)

I didn’t end up stopping for a wine after all – a few of us popped down to the main street to get a coffee, and by the time we’d finished there, I needed to head back to Adelaide for a Zoom conference so I didn’t even have time to stop off for a wine tasting while I was in the Barossa! (I did, however, make a quick stop at the Barossa Valley Chocolate Company)

I heard some talk about this becoming an annual event – I hope it does, and next time I might even think about doing the 33km (2 bottles of wine AND a sweet medal might just get me across the line!)

Congratulations to all the runners, and thanks to all the fantastic volunteers as always! Well done to Daniel (Chaffey Brothers) and Brett (Adelaide Trail Runners) for making it all happen!

(This is probably going to be my last post for a while, with no events on the immediate horizon!)

I will very much enjoy drinking this, knowing that I earned it!

Great Southern Runs Leconfield McLaren Vale Marathon – The Running Company Half Marathon

Official photo from Marathon Photos

Last weekend was the inaugural running of the Leconfield McLaren Vale Marathon, presented by Great Southern Runs. It seemed like an age ago that I entered, so I checked my emails and yeah it was 4 September 2020. I’m pretty sure “Early bird entries closing” and “Winery” got me over the line! It was the first event I’d entered since the stupid injury (the Murray Bridge half happened back in November, but I entered that in October).

The event took place over 2 days, with the shorter distance events being run on the Saturday (in pretty gnarly weather!) and the half and full marathons being run on Sunday.

I had entered the half marathon, with plenty of time to train. I got mixed up in the ATR Summer Series so that made it a bit challenging to fit in the longer runs, but I managed to get up to 20km a couple of weeks ago. I had never really done this before but I did a few long runs combined with parkrun (because I am rapidly closing in on 300 parkruns and I didn’t want to miss a parkrun if I could avoid it!). Because I like to socialise after parkrun, I didn’t want to have to do a parkrun and then keep running, so I decided to suck it up and start at arse o’clock to get the bulk of my long run in, and then finish it off with the parkrun. (And to time it so I had a short break between the two runs, but not so long a break as to cool down too much!). Having now done the half, and with no more events to train for for a little while, I am QUITE glad that I can go back to ‘just’ running 5k on a Saturday!

Great Southern Runs, if you recall, is the same mob that put on the Great Southern Half Marathon. Probably most memorable for its RIDICULOUS bling!

I was back in the vicinity of that very event earlier in the weekend. I have recently signed on as an Event Ambassador for parkrun in SA. There are quite a few of us now (I’m not sure of the exact number) and each one supports a number of existing parkrun events as well as helping set up new ones. This weekend the group of us were volunteering at Aldinga Beach parkrun, spending Friday night in a lovely beach house (a stone’s throw away!) for a little team bonding! It bucketed down with rain just before the parkrun start at 8:00, making me VERY glad I had opted for the half marathon over one of the shorter events, as I would otherwise be running in that! I was assured the weather would be better on Sunday!

RD Michelle multitasking like a boss!
The tail walkers are in – time for coffee!
A sea of purple!

The half started at 7:15, so I was up at 5 for breakfast before hitting the road just before 6. I didn’t put too much thought into what I would wear – in the end, because I haven’t done a lot of long stuff recently, I thought it would be safest to wear the same gear I wore for Murray Bridge. Plus, fluoro pink against an overcast sky, surely that would pop in the photos? (OK I didn’t think of that, I’m just thinking that now, but I’m definitely glad I opted for pink over black!)

After the Belair leg of the ATR Summer Series, you’d think I would have been more prepared for the cold start (and ESPECIALLY since I’d been down that way the day before!) but no. Still no gloves in the car! I did however have a hoodie and a beanie, so that’s something!

Not long before the start time, the half marathon runners were called over to the start. I had checked my bib and I was down for Wave 1 which I presumed would be the first wave. Malcolm, the timing guy, invited those in Wave 1A to step forward, the idea being that there would be approximately 50 runners in each wave (for COVID reasons, of course!). I figured Wave 1A would be followed by Wave 1, but he then said Wave 1B runners could line up behind Wave 1A. So where was Wave 1? In the end he said it didn’t matter which wave you actually started in, and I was getting cold standing around, and there was space in Wave 1A, so I decided to go. I crossed the timing mat which signified that there was no turning back, at which point I realised I may have just made a huge mistake.

What was I doing here? This was no Summer Series, with 2 waves, and me quite rightfully belonging in the first one.  In the half marathon there were 321 finishers, and with max 50 per wave, presumably at least 7 waves. I definitely did not belong in the first one! Plus, with the rest of them all being fast, I would be at the back of the pack, so all by myself! For the sake of 2 minutes (the time between waves) I could very well have waited for the second wave.

Anyway, I was committed now, so there wasn’t anything left to do but run!

I didn’t know much at all about the course. I seemed to recall someone mentioning hills, and it was cold and windy. So, I decided there was no point setting a goal time, although sub 1:45 did have a nice ring to it. I had had a shockingly good run at Murray Bridge and there was no way I was going to replicate that, so I might as well forget it! Just go out and run, and enjoy it! (I had arm warmers on, which conveniently covered my watch, so that made it easy for me to not look at my watch and ‘just run’!)

If you use your imagination it kind of looks like an emu with a really tiny head…

I wasn’t right at the back of the pack (The Running Company, the sponsor of the half, posted a video on Facebook of the first wave start. I was probably about three-quarters of the way towards the back). I was hoping that I would not end up last in the wave! I knew that I had to be relatively conservative at the start and not get dragged along by the fast ones (not that I had a snowflake’s chance in hell of keeping up with them!)

Looking back at my splits, I probably would have been a bit alarmed had I known at the time but my first 2  splits were 4:34 and 4:39. Looking closer at the analysis on Strava, they were both quite cruisy downhill kilometres so that seems about right! The 3rd kilometre brought the first uphill bit. This, I think, was when I started getting overtaken by people from the later waves. Every time someone passed me I died a little inside and it confirmed my hypothesis that I definitely should NOT have been in this wave! Looking ahead I could see Erin, who is a much faster runner than me, but I figured if I could keep her in sight on the straight bits, I would not be doing too badly! I actually almost caught her on that first hill but knowing my prowess (or rather, lack thereof) on hills, I figured there was no point as she’d only cruise straight back past me, as a lot of the other later starters were already doing!

Quite early on (arm warmers in use). Still reasonably happy at this stage! Official photo from Marathon Photos.

One of the things I really liked about this course was the multiple out and backs, where we got to see all the other half marathoners, and later, some of the marathoners!

Loved the out and back aspect! Official photo from Marathon Photos

I think it was around the 6k mark where I realised there weren’t any kilometre markers, and then I got a bit excited to see one with ‘7’ on it – had I somehow run 1km more than I thought I had! (Don’t you just LOVE it when that happens? It doesn’t happen very often, I can tell you!). No, the sign actually said ‘7km TO GO’. And it was LYING! We had at least 15km to go!!! (Turned out we’d go past that sign again, and this time it would be telling the truth!)

I actually liked the ‘to go’ markers. With a marathon being 42.2km and a half being 21.1, markers that tell you how far you’ve gone, let you conveniently forget about that pesky extra 100 or 200m!

Meanwhile I was trying to break the half down into parkruns (keeping up the parkrun flavour of the weekend!) by listening out for the beeps on my watch and trying to keep count. Until we started seeing the ‘to go’ markers at which point I started counting down the kilometres.

At the 10km mark I started to notice a light drizzle. I was weirdly hoping it would stick around but it didn’t last. I definitely remember at 15km willing it to start up again! It wasn’t exactly warm but a few light spots of rain definitely helped to cool off a bit!

I ran with my hydration vest as I had at Murray Bridge, the thinking there being that not having to stop at the drink stations should save me a little bit of time. As it turned out I didn’t end up drinking anything until after I’d finished, probably not the smartest move. Ironically, I reckon if I’d not carried hydration I would have drunk more! This time I only had water because I couldn’t be bothered mixing up any Gatorade – perhaps I may have been more inclined to drink if I’d had something other than water? Certainly it was nowhere near as warm as it had been at Murray Bridge, so hydration was less of an issue.

Towards the end there was another biggish hill (there were quite a few little ones, with two main ones, at the 3km mark and right near the end. I’m not the best going up hills. I may have mentioned that before.

YAY for hills! NOT!

I was pleased to see that Erin was still in sight, therefore I was keeping consistent. I had a bunch of people breathing down my neck and I was trying desperately to stay ahead of them, and in the process I actually managed to catch up with Erin!

Right near the end, within the last kilometre, I saw some bunting which I was sure signified the turn into the finish area, however I could also see a bunch of runners ahead of me who did NOT turn there! (You will just have to imagine the words that went through my head at that point!). Thankfully the turn was not too much further up the road (up, of course it was up) and then we were onto the grass to pretty much run a lap around the entire finish line village before finally hitting that magical finish line! (Forgive the self indulgence with the photos but the different facial expressions really tell the story!)

FInish line feels! Official photo from Marathon Photos.
FInish line feels! Official photo from Marathon Photos.
FInish line feels! Official photo from Marathon Photos.
FInish line feels! Official photo from Marathon Photos.
FInish line feels! Official photo from Marathon Photos.

My finish time was 1:42:24 (official time was 1:42:23.29 so presumably that would be rounded down to 1:42:23?) – given that I would describe it as not the easiest course and definitely not flat, I was shocked to realise it was nearly 20 seconds quicker than Murray Bridge – I’m sure the cooler weather conditions had something to do with it, maybe the fact that there were a lot more runners out there and I had people to chase/try to keep ahead of, not to mention the fact that I have an extra 5 months worth of training under my belt. Whatever, I’ll take it! This was half marathon number 26 (not counting trail halves as you can hardly compare the times!) with 7 of those being as a pacer. Of those, this was my 4th fastest (after 2015 Masters Games, City-Bay 2018 and Barossa 2016 – and all of those were significantly flatter according to Garmin. So yeah I have to be pretty happy with that!

With Kate and Tom at the end. Me looking very happy because I gots my coffee!

After the obligatory post-race coffee (because the wine bar was not open at 9am) I went to have ‘second brekky’ with regular running buddy Kate, her workmate Tom (doing his first half) and former running buddy Alison, back in town for a visit. And then of course, being in McLaren Vale, it would be rude not to stop off for a sneaky wine tasting on the way home…

OK it’s not the sponsor but to be fair, they weren’t open when we left the event – will have to come back another day!

A big CONGRATULATIONS to all the runners in all the events, especially those doing their first marathon/half/running event! And of course a huge thanks to all the organisers, sponsors and volunteers! I reckon I’d do this one again 🙂

Adelaide Trail Runners Summer Series Race 4 – Belair

Yesterday was the fourth and final race in the 2020-2021 Adelaide Trail Runners Summer Series. Just to explain the series briefly, it consists of 4 races across the summer, at Anstey Hill, Cleland, Onkaparinga and finally Belair. It was originally put on by Yumigo! which then became Ultra Runners South Australia, and this was the first year it was under the Adelaide Trail Runners banner. The 4 events have short, medium and long courses, and each event is a stand-alone event but participants also accrue points towards age group awards at the end of the series. It is a great incentive to enter the whole series rather than individual races, especially for those who are unlikely to be at the ‘pointy end’ of the field! I have run a number of events in the series in the past, and once I managed to run 3 of the 4 races which allowed me to scrape in for 3rd place in my age group (1st and 2nd in my age group also happened to be in the top 3 overall for the series – tough age group!). I don’t quite understand the point system but all I know is that going into the final event I was 1st in my age group for the short course and the points system is designed that only your best 3 points scores are counted. Which basically means that I would still win it even if I didn’t show up to Belair. But where’s the fun in that? I’d already paid for it, plus, I’m training for a half marathon and if I didn’t run the 10k at Belair I was going to have to do a road 19km. So naturally I went to Belair!

I hadn’t run recently at Belair – I think probably my last time running there was 2 years ago at the end of Five Peaks. Belair was also the site of my very first trail race in 2015, one of the very first events put on by Trail Running SA. My run itself was not particularly memorable (14km in 1:31:12, average pace 6:30 per km. 126th out of 188 and 44th female out of 96). Sadly I had only just started my blog then and I didn’t write a report on this one – I’d love to read it now! I was, however, lucky enough to win the random draw prize for a pair of Salomon trail shoes – and I’ve been running in Salomon trail shoes ever since! (I’ve paid for the rest of them, by the way!)

As for the other events in the series, the short course started after the long and medium so theoretically we could get there later, however I did get there about an hour before my event was due to start, to ensure I was able to get a car park. It also gave me time to go for a little wander to loosen up the legs, and not have to rush around.

With a bit of rain having fallen on Saturday, I was expecting it to be somewhat muddy out on the trails so I had decided against debuting my brand new trail shoes which have been sitting in my wardrobe patiently waiting since August 2019! What I was NOT expecting (but could quite easily have known, had I checked the weather forecast) was that it was COLD at the start! I even contemplated running in long sleeves (luckily I’d put a thin long sleeved top in my car as an afterthought, as well as a thicker one) and was annoyed to find that my fleece gloves were not in the car!

Standing at the start line, I was probably towards the middle of the pack (as per the other 3 events there were 2 waves and I was in the first wave) and there were quite a few women in front of me at the start. I had my long sleeved top on over my singlet at this stage and with a couple of minutes to go, decided that I would take it off and shove it in my race vest. That ended up being a very good idea – it gave me an extra layer to put on at the end, and it didn’t take long once we started, for me to warm up!

Given that we all finish at the same place and all courses share one common drink station, there must have been runners from long and medium courses that I encountered along the way. It was difficult to tell as I came up alongside someone and (hopefully) passed them, whether they were in my event, whether they were long or medium, or indeed whether they were just members of the public out for a nice run/hike on a Sunday morning! And I was trying to hold onto the ‘don’t look back’ philosophy so I couldn’t very well turn around once I’d passed them to see if I was in fact competing against them! So I just went with the assumption that they were ALL in my event and I would try to pass any female I happened to see (and hopefully not let them pass me again).

Pic courtesy of official photographer Lachlan Miller. Steve’s arm just in front of me (we’ll get to that!)

One such person was a girl in a dark green long sleeved top, who I later found out was Amy. I knew she was in the short course as I had seen her at the start – I’d noticed because she was wearing the same long sleeved top (albeit in a different colour) as I now wasn’t wearing. She seemed to be just that little bit too far in front of me but I decided to keep her in sight and hope for a bit of a surge at the end. As per the previous races I didn’t know what position I was in, although I did know that Anna and Rosie were both ahead of me again, so I was well and truly out of medal contention even if there were no other ladies in between Amy and the other two.

I was also trying to stick close to Steve, who I knew from many previous running events, and who had been within sight of me throughout the whole event. We had gone back and forth, sometimes I’d lead for a while, then he’d lead and I’d try to keep him in sight.

Pic courtesy of official photographer Sputnik. Again Steve setting the pace!
Pic courtesy of official photographer Sputnik.

I reckon around the halfway mark I did eventually catch Amy and pass her but I knew she was not far behind. Uphills are not my strongest point and there was a bit of uphill in the course, and I think she passed me a couple of times on the uphills (I went with the 8 step run/8 step walk strategy again – that seems to work well for me)

There wasn’t so much single track as at Onkaparinga so I didn’t find myself in the same situation as last time where I’d either be stuck behind someone and unable to pass, or have someone breathing down my neck (and often both!). There was really only one spot where I remember it being a bit of a bottleneck and that was the infamous Echo Tunnel at around the halfway mark. I hadn’t realised that the tunnel would be part of the course, but when I found out during a conversation with Heather and Peter at parkrun the previous day, I thought it would be a good idea to take my head torch to navigate through the tunnel. Well it doesn’t really require navigation, it’s a straight tunnel but VERY dark so a little light would make things a lot easier! (At the start line Heather said she also had brought her head torch!) As I saw the sign indicating that the tunnel was just ahead, I opened up the pocket on my race vest and took out the head torch and put it on. What a difference that made! I’m not sure why I didn’t run/walk on the low side of the tunnel (often filled with flowing water, but on this occasion it was bone dry) – not only would I not have to bend like a pretzel to avoid bumping my head on the roof, I could also theoretically overtake the conga line of people feeling their way through the tunnel! Anyway, if anyone is reading this in preparation for doing this event in future, if you take nothing else from this race report, TAKE A TORCH! Even your phone torch will do!

I had been thinking prior to this event, trying to guess what theme the RMA ladies would go with at this event (following on from Christmas in December, cricket in January and tennis in February) – and when I saw them I thought ‘OF COURSE! How did I not guess that?’ – they had gone with an AFL theme, with the AFL season due to start this week. Bravo ladies – definitely a welcome sight as always!

This pic was taken at the end – captured this shot of official photographer Sputnik taking a photo of the RMA ladies doing a jump shot at the finish line. I think it turned out pretty well (bet Sputnik’s shot was better though!)

The last little bit of the course was fun! Lots of downhill! Keeping Steve in sight became a bit more challenging because he was going SO FAST. At one point I thought I saw someone on a bike flying down the hill, but no, it was just Steve! It was great to have him to follow because it made me run faster to try to keep up, and forget about the potential threat of Amy looming behind me!

Pic courtesy of official photographer Sputnik.
Pic courtesy of official photographer Sputnik. All smiles because we’re near the end and it was literally all downhill!
Pic courtesy of official photographer Sputnik. All smiles because we’re near the end and it was literally all downhill!

And, just as I had at Onkaparinga, when I saw the finish line I had a sneaky peek over my shoulder and couldn’t see anyone. Whatever position I was in now, that was where I would stay!

As soon as I crossed the finish line, my first thought was ‘coffee and a brownie’! It was Caravino, the same coffee van as last time, and last time I had opted for an almond croissant over a brownie, so I decided this time I needed to test out the brownie! (Spoiler alert, it was TO DIE FOR!) I was also pleased to see that they had compostable coffee cups, one small piece of feedback for next time, it would be good to have some kind of sign that the cups are compostable so that people know they can take them home and put them in their green bin. I saw the rubbish bins overflowing with cups at the end, and I know trail runners are generally pretty eco-friendly types (most trail runs now having moved away from plastic cups at drink stations) so I am sure that many of them would have taken them home if they’d known.

When I did eventually look at the results I saw that Amy was less than 14 seconds behind me! If not for me trying to keep up with Steve, she probably would have caught me!

Overall it’s been a really great series, and well done to Adelaide Trail Runners and all the fabulous volunteers for making it happen! At the end of Belair I was KIND OF glad it was over (only because I had to work so damn hard at the end!) but now in hindsight I kind of wish there were more events as I feel like I have been improving throughout the series. Which I guess is what you want! I definitely feel like I earned my bling at Belair more than at any of the other events! I look forward to running it again in future, and I think now that I have a bit of trail momentum I might have a go at the Trail Running SA winter series!

Until next time…

Just a cat wearing a medal…

 

Adelaide Trail Runners Summer Series Race 3 – Onkaparinga River

Pre-start pic stolen from Scuba!

Never before had I run at the site of Race 3 in the 2020-21 Summer Trail Series – Onkaparinga River. In fact, I didn’t even really know where it was, other than ‘way down south’. I was pretty sure I’d seen once from a winery at McLaren Vale but that was about it, so it was a bit exciting to be running in parts unknown! As usual I didn’t pay much attention to the map or elevation, although at the start, Mal had a printed map that indicated the short course was 9.4km (so in other words, somewhere between 8 and 10km!) and the elevation was less than Anstey Hill and Cleland. Plus the finish was uphill. I didn’t really want to know that but it was helpful to know.

Numbers were good again – almost 400 finishers all up, with 147 in the long course, 127 in the medium and 122 in the short.

As I did for the last event at Cleland I had a bit of a ‘taper’ week – I did my usual Tuesday and Thursday runs but abbreviated, aiming for about 45 minutes – and then gave parkrun a miss on Saturday.

Being Fringe time I went to shows on both Friday and Saturday night – Saturday night’s thankfully was not a late one and I was designated driver. I was seriously craving Coke when I was on the way home and was planning to stop at a servo to get one after I dropped my friends home, but one of them, Chris, suggested that Coke just before bed was probably not a good idea. I thank her for that because she was right, and when I got home I drank some water which tasted pretty damn good and did not interfere with my pre-race sleep! (If it matters, pre-race dinner was a mushroom pizza from Anchovy Bandit. So good. Didn’t need to eat the whole thing but did anyway. Even though I was only running 9.4ish kilometres the next day!)

Given that I didn’t know where it was, plus as usual the short course started after the long and medium, meaning that I would need to allow more time for parking and walking to the start, I allowed plenty of time to get there, meaning that I arrived early enough to see the medium course runners set off before joining the (at that time non-existent!) portaloo queue. I mean the queue was non-existent, the portaloos were very much existent. Plus they were the fancy ones with the mirrors so I could check my hair on the way out – bonus!

Again the weather was pretty good – it had been a hot week but thankfully had cooled down by the weekend. It was sunny – which wasn’t so much an issue during the race, more so on the drive down, on a narrow windy (not to mention unfamiliar) road where there were times I was driving straight into the sun!

As in the other 2 races, there were 2 waves for each distance. Having started in the first wave at the first two events, I figured that was the go again! We all lined up by the timing mats only to be told that we were starting in the opposite direction – if the race director wasn’t sure about which way we were going, I’m not sure there was much hope for me being able to find my way (especially as a virgin in these parts!)

Anyway, we eventually set off in the right direction and I figured I’d just follow the crowd as I normally do, except then I couldn’t, because they all took off and I knew better than to try to keep up. That would only end badly for me!

I was on my own for a little while before encountering some of the longer course runners. That was when things started to get interesting!

You see, one thing I didn’t know beforehand (not that it would have made much difference) was that this course has a lot of single track. A LOT. While I don’t mind a bit of single track, what I don’t like so much is being caught up in congestion on a single track, which was exactly what happened. For the longest time I was either wanting to overtake those in front (but not being able to) and/or having people breathing down my neck (but with no room to overtake). I figured I’d best just suck it up and wait for the trail to open up a bit. Some people did stop on the side and let others through – I thank them for that but it’s not my style to do that myself – unless I personally need to stop for some reason, I’ll just keep moving.

Given that people were behind me, I didn’t feel like I could do my ‘walk/run’ that I normally do on some of the longer/steeper hills – I felt like I had to keep running. So that took a bit more out of me than I would have liked, but conversely the times I got ‘stuck’ behind someone, I was able to have a bit of a rest and give the legs a break. So it probably all evened out in the end. Not that it mattered. The lead pack was so far in front at this stage (I assume – I hadn’t seen them since about 200m from the start) there was no chance of getting anywhere near them this time!

Having never been here before you’d think I would have taken a moment to take in the views – but nope! After the race several people were commenting on how lovely the scenery was. Luckily some of them had stopped to take photos otherwise I would have had NO IDEA! I must go back there one day and just walk it.

Even though I was watching my feet and straight ahead of me instead of admiring the scenery – I did trip on a rock once. Luckily I managed to maintain a vertical orientation and hopefully helpfully pointed said rock out to the person behind me. I didn’t hear a crash or any swearing so I am assuming they didn’t trip on it! (There was a bit of carnage on show at the end though – quite a few people had gone arse over, possibly admiring the view? Susan and her first aid team had a bit of patching up work to do!)

Official race photo – Thanks to Lachlan Miller!

There was only one drink station on the course (for all 3 distances) which was pretty smart – given that we don’t do cups anymore, many people take their own hydration, and given that due to COVID now we aren’t allowed to fill our own bottles/flasks/bladders, drink stops take longer than they used to, so a lot of the faster runners don’t stop. Therefore, it was manageable having only one drink station and it meant less volunteers were required. It was the RMA crew again and this time they had adopted a tennis theme, given that the Australian Open finals were on that weekend. It was also quite funny for me because prior to going out on Saturday night, I was at a friend’s house and his son asked me if I wanted to play tennis with him. Having not played tennis (and I use the term ‘played’ VERY loosely) in… at least 20 years, it could have ended in disaster but I sort of remembered how to hit a ball. Still can’t serve to save my life though! So that was a bit of a highlight for me!

Did I mention that there was a lot of single track? For quite a while in the back half I was following a guy in black with blue socks (I believe his name was Sam) and at one stage he asked me if I wanted to pass him – I didn’t at that stage, he was running at just the right pace for me so I sat behind him – not too close, mind you, but he must have got sick of it after awhile because just as I was thinking about possibly making a move next time I got enough space to do so, he took off! He ended up finishing about a minute ahead of me. Not long after this I was overtaken by Darren, who I encouraged to try to catch him but he didn’t quite get there – he must have had a very strong finish!

Now I try to go by the rule “don’t look back” MOST of the time. There are a few reasons why it is not a good idea. One, you might trip over if you try to look back while still moving forward. Two, you’re letting the person behind you (if there is a person behind you) know that you’re aware of them and that you might see them as a threat. Maybe I am over thinking this but I know if I was following someone and they kept looking back, that MY first thought would be, “I’ve got this!” So I try not to do it.

On this particular occasion though, I DID do it. I looked back 4 times in the final stretch – there were definitely people behind me but estimating the distance to the finish line and the distance that they were behind me, after the 4th look I was confident that there was no way they were going to catch me. If they were fast enough to overtake me now, they would surely have done it earlier. And there was always a good chance they were not even in the short course event, as the finish was common to all 3 distances. So long story short, I was pretty comfortable with my position at that stage. And those in front of me (nearest were Sam and Darren) were too far ahead for me to even contemplate catching.

So I made my way up the hill to the finish line. For me it was probably the most challenging of the 3 races so far, even though elevation-wise it is technically the easiest. And I’m not the best going up hills so generally less elevation is good for me! In terms of average pace it was the fastest, but again with less elevation you’d expect that. I was pretty spent by the end so I just kept walking back to the car to get my reusable coffee cup, because, will run for coffee! (Unless there is also wine, in which case wine might win out!) When I got back to the coffee van (a new one to me – Caravino) – I was super excited to find that not only did they use Sublime coffee but also they had a number of different vegan goodies! I asked the girl to choose for me between an almond crème croissant and a chocolate brownie. She chose the croissant for me and it was way delicious!

Not long afterwards they started the presentations, I had only just got back from dropping some stuff off at my car and didn’t realise until then but I had managed to scrape in for 3rd place behind Anna (doing her first race of the series) and Rosie (who beat me in Race 1, but pleasingly I had closed the time gap slightly – from close to 3 minutes at Anstey Hill, to about half that here at Onkaparinga. I was surprised to find out that 4th place was only about 20 seconds behind me – she must have been in that pack that I kept seeing when I looked back – I could have sworn they were further away than that! Out of all the races so far I think I definitely earned my place most in this one!

With 2 of the fabulous tennis-themed RMA ladies at the finish line – look how colour coordinated we are!

Thanks again to all the fabulous volunteers and Adelaide Trail Runners for putting on another fantastic event – as I said before I definitely intend to come back and actually appreciate the scenery (although I may have to supply my own coffee and croissant next time!)

Race 4 is only 3 weeks away at Belair – can’t wait!

Happy days!

Adelaide Trail Runners Summer Series Race 2 – Cleland

This weekend was the second race of the Adelaide Trail Runners Summer Trail Series, at Cleland. You can read my report from Race 1 at Anstey Hill here.

I have run this event once before, in 2019. Last year I was volunteering – it would still be a few days before I was cleared to start running again after 4 long months! So it was good to be back out there again running!

This is my closest event in the series, and an area where I run pretty regularly. As per last month I hadn’t done quite as much trail running as I would have liked in the leadup to the event. I think I did maybe 2 trail runs?

Prior to my half marathon in November, I was in a pretty good routine of having a ‘drop down’ week every 4th week. After the half the routine kind of fell apart as I had a very easy 4 weeks to recover from the half, and never really got back into the ‘3 weeks on 1 week off’ routine. So I decided at the start of this year to get back into it again, and this week seemed as good as any to have a quiet week. So I ran 8km Tuesday and Thursday (aiming for around 45 minutes where I would normally run for about an hour) and then volunteered at parkrun on Saturday, hoping that this would lead to fresh legs on Sunday!

I entered the whole series, short course, and as per all the other events the long course started at 7, medium at 7:30 and short at 8. I still needed to get there early though because there were a lot of medium and long course runners, therefore the carpark would have been pretty full had I got there after 7:30! (Plus it turns out a lot of people don’t know how to park between two white lines, so there were less parks than there should have been!)

Earlier in the week I had to clean my front windscreen as I could hardly see through it. I did a really crappy job of it, leaving streaks right in my line of sight. I thought to myself, next time I go for petrol I’ll fix that. Then, on the drive up to Cleland, it started raining lightly so I put my wipers on. And then it dawned on me – why did I not think of doing that a few days ago! Windscreen = clean! *facepalm*

The light shower on the way up was all the rain we got, and really the conditions could not have been better. I had my arm warmers on as it was a bit chilly at the start, but while standing on the start line with about 2 minutes until go time, I quickly took them off and put them in my race vest. I had my sunnies on my head but it was overcast throughout and I didn’t actually have to put them on my face until well after I’d finished running.

Being there so early I went for a short walk to loosen up my legs, and taking note of some of the course markers along the way. While walking back through the carpark to the start line, I came across a marshal with 2 big foam hands and asked her about the course, she informed me that the medium course runners were about to come through. So it was good to see that part of the course in action (tight turn past a red car) before having to run it myself half an hour later!

I ran into Robin, a regular runner with the Sunday group that I occasionally run with, who was also doing the short course. I realised that I didn’t know how long the short course was (other than that it should be less than 10km) so I asked him, he said 8.6km. My response was that I would estimate the distance to be anything from 7km to 10km given the notoriously approximate distances on trails!

Once again we had a 2 wave start, and I went in the first wave. This time I was closer to the middle of the pack. Race director Brett warned us of a ditch about 100m in, so we wouldn’t trip on it. And I remembered the tight hairpin turn a little further along, from running the event in 2019.

‘Don’t trip on the ditch!’ Official photo courtesy Lachlan Miller.

The start was pretty kind, a bit of downhill and some small hills which were runnable. There were 2 main big climbs which you can see from the elevation map. I ran/walked all of the steeper hills – instead of 20 steps walk/20 steps run, I went with 10 and 10 – I’d managed to conquer the ‘Big Dipper’ on the Chambers loop using this method and it seemed to work relatively well on this occasion as well, although a lot of people did tend to pass me on the uphills. Uphills have never been my favourite! I think maybe overall there wasn’t as much climb as at Anstey Hill.

For a lot of the race I was following Troy, who was wearing a dark green shirt and therefore blended quite nicely into the background, making him a bit difficult to follow! (Meanwhile I, in my fluoro pink top, would have been quite easy to spot for whoever was behind me!) He ended up finishing about 30 seconds ahead of me, and despite the camouflage I was able to keep him in sight for the most part!

At one of the drink stations the volunteer told me I was in 2nd place, I said ‘let’s keep it that way!’ I knew there was one short course runner, a young girl in an Adelaide Harriers singlet, who was ahead of me. At the time I thought it was the same girl who beat me at Anstey Hill and she beat me by a number of minutes, so I wasn’t expecting to catch her and 2nd place would do nicely (even though only 1st place got a bottle of wine – a very nice drop from Chaffey Bros!). I later found out she was a completely different person!

I intentionally didn’t look at my watch the whole time – no idea how far I’d gone, or how far I had left to go. I think that added to my enjoyment – I was just appreciating the moment and taking it all in (wank wank!)

The first photographer I actually saw (Lachlan was at the start line as well as later in the course but I was too busy telling myself not to trip over on the ditch to notice!) was Sputnik. As I ran past him he told me I could use his photos in my blog, I always ask for permission before using official race photos in my blog but he thought he’d save me the trouble!

Captures the mood perfectly! Official photo courtesy Sputnik.

Later on down the road I saw Lachlan and I thought I might as well ask him while I saw him, he of course also said yes, and the photo he took captures me asking him if it was OK to use said photo in my blog!

How very meta! Official photo courtesy Lachlan Miller.

Probably the highlight of the race for me was the RMA drink station, they were all dressed up like Test cricketers! Not only was it extremely entertaining but as a huge cricket fan it totally made my day! (As per normal in the shorter races, I prefer to carry my own drinks so I don’t have to break up the momentum by stopping, but I still appreciate them being there!). As I approached I asked Voula, who had a bat, to hit the imaginary ball to me, and I took what I can only say would have been described as a ‘classic catch’! So much fun!

Best drink station EVER! Thanks to Michelle for the photo!

At one point in the race I passed Emily, who was leading. Not long after that, we came to a sign that had 2 arrows, one pointing left and one right. This indicated that two of the distances would go one way and the other distance would go the other. I wasn’t able to see until I got right up to it, which way we had to go. I couldn’t rely on following the person in front of me, (not that you should ever do that in a trail race because it assumes they know where they’re going) because by this stage all the distances were mixed up. I worked out that we had to go left, which was uphill and a bit of a tight turn, and in the process of slowing down to take a look at the sign, Emily passed me. Oh well, it was good while it lasted!

Around the 5km mark we started going downhill, and that was really fun! I was fully expecting more uphill, having not studied the course. At one stage during the downhill section I passed Emily again, knowing that she would pass me on the next uphill section. Then I got a bit confused when I went past the volunteer who had told me I was in 2nd place, and he told me I had held my spot – then I thought maybe someone ELSE was also ahead – oh well, I can only do what I can do, let’s just enjoy all this delightful downhill because at some point we’ll start going up again!

Coming back along Steub Track there were signs indicating how far to Cleland Wildlife Park (the first one I saw was 1.8km) which is not far from the finish line, but I didn’t know whether the course designed had added on an extra loop at the end so I didn’t assume we were close to the finish. But when I came back into the carpark and saw the volunteer with the foam hands again, I knew we had to be near the end – and miraculously we hadn’t had any more hills! The last kilometre or so I’d been trying to follow Troy while occasionally taking a sneaky look back and not seeing anyone, so I thought there was no way Emily was going to catch me now (unless there was a big arse hill right near the end). As it turned out there was a slight hill near the end but a short and runnable one and I managed to hold off Emily who must have finished quite strongly as she was only 15 seconds behind me!

My time was 44:47.58 – having never run this particular course before I had no idea what to expect but I was pretty happy with how it all went. And most importantly, I enjoyed every minute – yes, even those damn hills!

As always it was great to be able to catch up with some fellow runners I haven’t seen in a while (most since the last race at Anstey Hill and some since long before that!) and have a coffee from Neil at Stir.

All in all another fantastic event, thanks to Adelaide Trail Runners and all the fabulous volunteers!

Wine and bling – a pretty good day!

See you at Onkaparinga in February!