Clare Half Marathon 2022

I have a relatively long history with this event (relatively long insofar as I only started running in late 2012), and plenty of reports to show for it.

My very first ever half marathon was at Clare in 2014 (pre-blog!) and I have also run the half in 2015, 2016 and 2018 (as a pacer). 2015 was memorable for being probably one of my least enjoyable halves (well it certainly was my least enjoyable at that point, but has now been well and truly superseded by the debacle that was City-Bay 2019!). I won’t forget it, I went out too fast trying for a PB and by the second half when I was supposed to be able to pick up the pace (because it is allegedly downhill) I had nothing left and did even resort to walking at times!

In addition to this I have also gone all the way to Clare just for 5km a couple of times – in 2017 (not wanting to run a half only 2 weeks out from the Boston Marathon but not wanting to miss out on the event altogether) and 2019. (There was definitely wine involved on those occasions though, so they weren’t wasted trips!)

In case anyone reading was not aware, the Clare Valley is a famous wine region, most famous for its Riesling. The event itself is held almost entirely along the aptly named ‘Riesling Trail’ which connects dozens of cellar doors – you can hire bikes and ride from winery to winery. I’m not sure why I have not yet done this, every time I go there I think I must do that, and yet every time I just end up running along the trail and not even stopping at any wineries!

Having not run the half here since 2018, and not run it ‘properly’ since 2016 (with all due respect, running as a pacer, while not without its challenges, is not a physically challenging exercise – in fact if you’re working hard when pacing, you’re doing it wrong!), I was super keen to get out there this year. It was also an ideal stepping stone towards my one marathon for the year (and first one in 3 years) Pichi Richi in June.

I’ve done 2 half marathons since my return from injury, Murray Bridge in 2020 and Leconfield in 2021, the latter being almost a year earlier. Those 2 events I trained specifically for, and it showed in the results, my times were way better than I had predicted, and then I realised that I’d never trained properly for a half before (all my previous halves had been as part of a marathon training programme)

This one was also going to be another one of those ‘training’ half marathons, although I did also want to do a good time (as I always do if I’ve paid good money for an event!) I worked out a rough 16 week marathon training plan, and then extended it back so I could be in a good place for Clare in April, so eventually my combined training plan was 20 weeks long. I’d used a similar 16 week plan for my first few marathons, which incorporated ‘easy’ and ‘tempo’ runs, but given that I have now done a few marathons and also I’m not expecting a PB at Pichi Richi (it’s a tough course, so I’ve been told), I’m not too worried about the weekday runs, the main thing I am trying to do is gradually up my long run, eventually getting to around 35km.

I decided to make a weekend out of it, driving to Jamestown (via the Clare Valley) and staying there Friday night, visiting Jamestown parkrun on Saturday and then motoring back to Clare to stay Saturday, and then head home sometime on Sunday after the run. I booked accommodation well in advance, because in past years, even having booked several months ahead, I still couldn’t get anything in Clare! I think COVID may have helped this year, with people perhaps being a little more reluctant to make long-term plans!

Jamestown Swimming Pool

Having not done a half in a year, and having not written details of my taper in my last race report, I was kind of winging it a bit. The Sunday before Clare I really wanted to do an ‘easy’ 21km, because I am a bit behind where I had planned to be at this point in terms of long run distance, and I’d missed my long run the previous week due to the Cleland Summer Series event. Ordinarily you wouldn’t run a half marathon the week before a half marathon. Well I certainly wouldn’t. But I managed to get it done and at just the pace I’d hoped for, and most of it with other people (the last 7km on my own). I’m finding as the long runs get longer I am enjoying running them on my own less and less! I know when I did my first marathon I only ever ran with a group, but as I don’t have any other training buddies training for the same marathon it’s hard to find people wanting to run the same distance, so I think my best option is to try and find some buddies for at least PART of the runs!

During taper week I had a ‘drop down’ week, which I’d never done pre-injury but it had become quite a big part of my running routine once I got back into running again (every 4th week I’d drop my running distances back a bit). I probably haven’t done it in about a year but I thought I would try to do it right for once! Instead of the usual Tuesday and Thursday run of around 1 hour, I mapped out a shorter version of the run which should take about 45 minutes, give or take. I skipped my regular Friday run.

I was a bit undecided about parkrun on Saturday – on one hand I didn’t want to go into Clare having not run for 3 days, and I’d also spent a fair bit of time in the car (Jamestown is about 3 hours from home) so I felt like I needed a bit of a ‘leg loosener’. On the other hand, I’m not so good at the concept of an ‘easy’ parkrun. The Event Directors put me down as a second barcode scanner which meant that I could still run if I wanted to, but could decide on the day what I wanted to do.

In the end I decided to go hard and somehow ended up with a course PB – there were a few factors involved there. Firstly, I had been ‘encouraged’ by a running buddy (who sometimes gives good advice) to go hard – what could possibly go wrong? Secondly, I’d had an energy drink that morning – I had a new one for Sunday that I’d never tried before so I wanted to road test it before the day (it seems that it was effective!) Thirdly, local footy season had started and the footy players that I had been able to follow at the launch event, were not there (the attendance was only in the 30s as opposed to over 100 at the launch meaning I didn’t see so many people out on course to know I was on the right track – there was only one guy in front of me and he was a sub-20 runner, and I was desperately trying to keep him in sight for as long as possible! I’m still not sure if it helped or hindered my performance at Clare on Sunday but I guess we’ll never know!

Glorious sunrise at Jamestown Golf Course!
Jamestown Golf Course parkrun
The obligatory ‘selfie frame’ shot – and if you look closely you can see the wind turbines in the background

Going back a step, because it is an important part of my reason for being there, Friday’s journey to Jamestown via the Clare Valley involved a couple of stops along the way, firstly to stock up on my whites at Taylors (given that I was driving I had to be selective about tasting, so I opted not to do a tasting there) and then to one that had been recommended, Jeanneret which also happens to be the home of Clare Valley Brewing Co. What a delightful place that was, I had a tasting sitting on a comfy chair in the sun, listening to nice chilled music and ended up going home with a lovely Botrytis Semillon. I will definitely be back!

The lovely setting of Taylors Wines
Jeanneret Wines – because it would be rude not to!

After parkrun I checked out of the caravan park and had coffee at the ‘official’ parkrun coffee place, the intriguingly named ‘Ek-Wi-Tee’ with fellow tourist Mark, and because the rules state that if the parkrun coffee place has vegan cakes/slices, it is mandatory for me to have one, I also had a delicious lemon slice. It’s a really cool café which also doubles as a bit of a foodie store.

En route to my motel at Clare I did another winery stop, this time at Sevenhill, where I had stopped previously on my way to Jamestown but didn’t have a lot of time, and I’d planned to come back and explore a bit, including the church and the cemetery, such a lovely place, and so much history there! It didn’t hurt that it was another glorious day!

WIne tasting at Sevenhill
‘Madonna of the Vines’, Sevenhill
St Aloysius Church, Sevenhill
My haul as of Saturday night – I would add a bit more on Sunday arvo! (not all for me!)

Now one of the downsides of an ‘away’ event (meaning one where I have to spend at least one night away from home), is that you have to be prepared well in advance and if you forget anything it can be problematic. Also I hadn’t done a half in a year so I’d kind of forgotten what my usual prep was. On this occasion I forgot to bring a drink bottle and Gatorade, and also layers for the morning, as it can often be cold in Clare at this time of year! Other than buying a new drink bottle just for this one event, and buying additional layers, I would just have to go without. As it turned out it was another stunning morning on Sunday and I didn’t even need to wear a jumper to the start, so I needn’t have worried about that! Possibly having some carbs on board during the run may have helped, but grabbing cups of water from the drink stations was not a drama and I am sure did not cost me any significant amount of time.

Saturday night I caught up with regular running buddy Sarah and her Ironman mates Mel and Peter for a pub meal and some sparkling shiraz. I was impressed that the pub had a separate vegan menu and I was tossing up between the tofu burger and the pasta. The pasta didn’t really excite me so I ended up going for the tofu burger which was substantial (a LOT of tofu in there, and a side of chips – plenty of protein and carbs!) but maybe could have been a bit more flavoursome – but again, if a pub has gone to the trouble of having proper vegan items on the menu, I am not going to complain!

Daylight saving ended on Sunday morning meaning an extra hour’s sleep which was ideal leading into an event (even more ideal for those who were driving up from Adelaide on race morning!). Many people I know prefer to sleep in their own bed the night before an event but I find that I sleep way better when I’m NOT in my own bed! Interestingly I vividly remember dreaming that I ran the half in 1 hour 42 which may have been a good omen? (1:42 was my PB for this event). My goal was sub-1:45 which equates to roughly 5 minutes per kilometre. I wasn’t convinced that it was going to happen – I hadn’t run at that pace for anything longer than 10km, for a good 12 months, but I had done my two most recent halves in under 1:45 (albeit with proper training) so it was not out of the realms of possibility! Still, I was confident I could do sub-1:50. I just needed to remember DON’T GO OUT TOO FAST!!!

Given that check-out time for my motel was 10am, it was going to be a bit impossible for me to run the half (with an 8am start), get back to the motel, have a shower and be checked out by 10, so I packed up the car (with all the wine and beer I’d accumulated over the past few days!) and drove the 1km to the start line. (Yes, I could have walked and a 1km stroll probably would have done me good!)

As I mentioned earlier it was a beautiful morning, I put my hoodie (which I was intending to wear to the start but ended up not needing) and thongs in a drop bag for the finish. I also left my phone in there as I didn’t want to carry it. I caught up with Beck, Kate, Sarah and a whole bunch of other regular running buddies who had also made the trip.

Start line selfie with Kate and Beck, stolen from Beck!

The finish line was at a new location this year, at the primary school instead of the main oval, due to renovations at the oval. The oval was an ideal location, firstly being very close to the main street, but most importantly because we had access to the gym changerooms for a post-run shower! It was a bit of a walk to the start but it was a good way to get the legs loosened a bit more! There were plenty of toilets – the school toilets as we came in off the street, and then 2 lots of portaloos, one at the finish area and more at the start line. From what I can remember the start line was at the same location as previously, just a little bit more of a walk from the school than from the oval.

The start was seeded, my understanding was that there were 4 waves, with the sub 1:40 and podium contenders in the first wave and 1:40-1:55 (where I planned to be) in the second. In the end the waves sort of morphed into one so we were away before I knew it!

The one thing I told myself I must to, was the one thing I failed to do: DON’T GO OUT TOO FAST!

The course is mostly uphill on the way out, with the high point coming just before the turnaround so it’s a little bit downhill heading into the turnaround, then a bit up on the way back until you hit the high point and then down from there. So to run an average 5:00 per km, given that the idea is to run a little bit faster in the second (‘easier’) half, you’d be wanting to run 5:05-5:10ish in the first half, to conserve energy for a fast finish. My first 2km were 4:38 and 4:50. No matter how much I try I never seem to be able to avoid going out too fast, but as long as I can pull myself back quickly, it’s fixable! I was really happy with my consistency in the next few kilometres (5:08, 5:07, 5:08, 5:06) and in fact I had a guy Mitch pacing off me for a little while there – normally I’m the one pacing off someone else so it’s nice to know I was doing something right! (Mitch and his buddies had also made the same mistake of starting too fast!)

Looking at my Strava splits, it looks like I started to pick up the pace around the 9km mark which happened to coincide with a nice little flat then downhill section. I was looking for the marker that indicated the high point (which I’d noticed for the first time in my last half there) but didn’t see it, but I knew when I’d passed it. The turnaround point came, I sang a few lines of ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ and then kept going, hanging out for the high point sign (which I did see on the way back!) after which it was theoretically all downhill!

I was sitting on around 5:00 average pace at the halfway point, which was faster than planned but I still felt relatively comfortable so I thought I probably hadn’t cooked myself! If I could sustain that pace (and being downhill, ideally go a bit faster and neg split it) I would definitely be able to get sub 1:45!

The elevation plot tells the story!

Once I passed the high point on the way back, I kept an eye on my splits, knowing that anything under 5 minutes would put time in the bank. In the end, in the last 9km, I had 2 splits of exactly 5:00 and the rest of them were (mostly well) under. So I had no idea what my time was going to be but I knew that, barring disaster, it was going to be under 1:45 (probably not 1:42, mind you!)

Everything went smoothly, the finish was a bit brutal though, once coming off the Riesling Trail we were on road for a while and it seems that we did an entire lap of the block before finally arriving back at the school. By the time I got to the last 500m, I literally had nothing, my legs felt like lead! But I didn’t have to sprint, by that stage I knew for sure I was going to get the time I’d hoped for, and if it was only in the last few hundred metres that I had absolutely nothing, I’d take that!

This is someone with nothing left! Photo from SARRC Facebook page

My official time was 1:44:15 – so very happy!

YAY!!!
With Kate, Beck and Sarah after the finish – thanks Kate (or rather, Bill) for the photo!

After having a coffee and catching up with some friends at the finish, Kate’s husband Bill arrived with a bag of goodies for us including Coke and chips – I may or may not have professed my love for him at that stage! (It would have been good to be able to get a Coke at the finish line – I didn’t see any outlets selling any) and after refuelling/rehydrating we had the difficult decision of which winery to go to for a post-run celebratory wine? I suggested Paulett’s, primarily because I wanted to get some sparkling red piccolos to take home, and everyone was on board! It was a great choice, although we arrived at lunchtime with a full house, they were very accommodating and let us sit out on the deck with a glass of wine – and it was glorious!

The chairs and tables were made from recycled wine barrels! Complete with wine glass holder!
Cheers! With Kate, Bill, Beck and Gary

What an awesome weekend, topped off with personally a very nice run, shared with a great group of people! Congratulations to SARRC for putting on a very successful event, well done to all the runners/walkers and as always thanks to the volunteers! I hadn’t planned to do any more halves before Pichi Richi but after Sunday, I’m 75% across the line for Barossa half!

Adelaide Trail Runners Summer Series #5 – Cleland (and a bit about #4 – Onkaparinga River)

Well – the Adelaide Trail Runners Summer Series is over for another season – today I’m going to cover the last 2 events of the series as I realise I never completed my report from Onkaparinga. I’ve tried to keep this one reasonably brief as there’s only the one photo!

Firstly to Onkaparinga which was event 4 in the 5 event Adelaide Trail Runners Summer Series, after South Para, Anstey Hill and Belair. I had only ever run here once before, in the corresponding event last year.

This time around I was treating the event more as a distraction than a focus. I hadn’t been doing a lot of trail running recently, and I had just started the long road to my next marathon, with this weekend due to be my second long run of the programme, 17km. If I’d been doing the medium course I might have considered that was close enough to 17km to call it my long run for the week, but just over 9km was not quite enough. I really felt like I needed to do a long run this week, and I didn’t think doing it on Saturday would bode too well for Sunday’s event, so for the first time ever I went out early on a weekday and did a bit extra before my regular Thursday morning run. What was meant to be 6km before an 11km run ended up being 7km (still working on my long run pacing – it was a little faster than planned, and to make it a continuous run rather than having a rest in between, I had to add an extra kilometre). I was really happy with how it went, I think I could still go a bit slower and I’m sure that will come as I up the distance! It’s been 5 years since I’ve trained specifically for a marathon so I’m a bit rusty!

It’s not something I would do every week, but it’s nice to know that Thursday long run day can work if needed!

Back to Onkaparinga. My legs didn’t feel too bad at the start of the run, they did start to feel a bit like lead when I hit the first uphill, but that’s normal for me and probably not related to my long run!

My main focus in this event was to finish, which would qualify me for an age group prize in the series (to qualify you need to have run at least 4 of the 5 races). I planned to run race 5 at Cleland but didn’t want to take any chances in case for some reason I couldn’t make it – I needed to get this one done and then I could relax and just enjoy Cleland!

I found the course quite challenging due to a lot of single track and lots of runners behind. I didn’t want to stop running because that would have meant that I had to stand aside and let all the runners past. What that meant was that I ran hills that I should have walked, leaving me a bit spent for the downhill bits where I might have been able to make up some time. If it was just one runner behind it would have been one thing to let them past, but with a long queue of runners that may have cost me a fair bit of time. Who knows whether it would have cost me in the long run – maybe a short rest might have given me some more energy for the downs!

I spent quite a lot of time following a guy who I hadn’t met before and I never found out his name, but he set pretty good pace – I had intended to try to find him at the finish and thank him for his awesome pacing but coffee and Coke won out in the end!

Probably the most memorable part of this event was when my bladder fell out – that had never happened to me before! And of course I am referring to my water bladder falling out of my race vest because I had forgotten to zip it up –  the other kind of bladder falling out would have been a bit more disastrous! So picture me untangling my hose, unclipping my vest, taking it off, pushing the bladder back in, zipping up the pack, putting the vest back on and doing it up, and putting the hose out of the way, all while running – amazingly I managed to keep on my feet – fortunately this was not on single track!

Leading up to the 7.5km mark there was lots of uphill rocky single track running (again, not wanting to slow to a walk which probably did not work in my favour) – by the time I got to the top of the hill and could have done a bit of running, my legs were shot and I ended up having to run/walk for almost 1km!

On this occasion I ran in a fluoro orange top and black shorts – coincidentally the exact same outfit as Lisa who finished 2nd in the medium course! After the event I commented to her that we were twins (except that I’m a bit taller and she is WAY faster!) and she said she went with the bright top so she could be found easily if she got lost – funnily enough I have often joked about wearing bright colours for the same reason!

So I got it done, albeit a bit slower than last year but I got it done!

 So I was pleased to have completed the qualification requirements for the series by completing 4 events, which took the pressure off – in the current climate things can change at any moment, and I was TOTALLY expecting to end up in isolation this week!

 I had not done any hills since Onkaparinga and Cleland is probably the hardest of all the series so I was very well unprepared. Also I’d been out at a Fringe show the night before which involved consuming a little more wine than would be desirable in preparation for an event such as this. Not making excuses, just stating facts!

 The choice for me was either run Cleland (around 8km) or do a long run as part of my marathon training (at least 22km), I opted for the former. At this point I believe that was the right choice! I’m finding the long runs a real hard slog on my own – I need to get back into a group again for the long runs! (I could have done my long run on Saturday and still done Cleland but Cleland was going to be hard enough as it was without adding an extra 22km into my legs beforehand!)

 I definitely said to more than one person, “I don’t know why I’m here!” Probably not a great way to get into ‘race’ mindset!

 The course was exactly the same as last year so there’s not too much to tell – other than that I was a good few minutes slower this time around (surprise, surprise!). And I’m pretty sure I didn’t walk as much last year as I did this year  – I walked almost all the uphills, couldn’t even be bothered with the walk/run strategy that I’d relatively successfully used in the past!

 For most of Cleland I was following a guy called Scott, I recognised his back from Onkaparinga, where I had also been following him for a good bit of the run until he took off towards the end. I used him as an excuse to walk – every time I’d see him walking, I’d also start walking! Having a ‘pacer’ (although he didn’t know it until afterwards!) was really helpful, although at times he did go a bit faster than I would have liked!

 To summarise the course, it starts with a little bit of down, then a lot of uphill followed by a few very fun downhill kilometres with switchbacks, with a nasty little uphill to finish. Towards the end of the first uphill we hit the RMA drink station. Normally I like to run into and out of a drink station (as per usual I was carrying everything I needed but it was always nice to see the ladies!) but this time I was just plodding up the hill and I distinctly remember saying to Michelle “I don’t want to do this anymore!” – but not long after that, the downhill fun began!

 On the downhill, towards the end, just as we were being overtaken by a long course runner, Scott went left where the sign pointed right – the long course runner and I both called out to him – it would have added extra distance to his run, plus then I would have lost my pacer!

 I managed to keep him in sight all the way to the end. The last part of the run was through the carpark which wasn’t the most scenic but nice and easy. Before hitting the final uphill, we had to get out of the carpark and back onto the trail. There were 2 options, a small ‘hurdle’ (presumably to stop bikes riding through?) and a narrow gate off to the side. Scott went towards the gate so I decided to do something I never do (and for good reason), I decided to jump the hurdle. Normally I would CAREFULLY step over, there was no way I wanted to trip and faceplant so close to the end! But nope – on this occasion I decided jumping over was the right thing to do. And I made it! Such a good feeling! Scott ended up still entering the last climb in front, and finishing 4 seconds ahead of me. After a much-needed post-run coffee I went to chat with him and his son, as well as Ollie who had managed to complete the course also (unlike me, he needed to finish this event to be eligible for the series), and we chatted about City to Bay which is about as far removed from this event as you can get! (Side note, I’m still waiting for my redemption from 2019 so it’s safe to say I will definitely be running it this year!)

 It was a warm morning – it wasn’t too bad while I was running but hanging around afterwards I could definitely feel it start to warm up – would have been quite hot for some of the longer distance runners! It was great to catch up with people I hadn’t seen in a while – one of the best things about these events!

 So – I was glad to have got it done and I did enjoy the downhill bits but all in all, for me it was a bit of a slog. The lack of hill training was definitely evident! I think if I were to do the series again next summer I would need to train a bit more on hills! Can definitely do better!

 Overall I would definitely recommend the series, the courses are all really good and well supported with drink stations and post-run snacks and coffee! I think this year my favourite was South Para, probably because it was the flattest of all the courses, also new to me and I was probably a little more accustomed to hills at that stage! Thanks to all those involved in making it happen and maybe I might be back next time around!

 

 

Jamestown Golf Course parkrun!

If you’ve been along for the ride for a while now, you will have heard me talk about parkrun. If you don’t know what parkrun is all about, here is my first post about it from way back when!

In March 2021 I put my hand up to become a parkrun Event Ambassador (EA) for South Australia. Between us we ‘look after’ all the parkruns in the state. I say ‘look after’ because mostly it’s the Event Directors (EDs) who look after the events, we are their ‘go-to’ person if they have any issues. It seemed like an ideal role for me because I love being a tourist so it gives me another reason to travel around to different parkruns (Indeed my first trip to Port Augusta parkrun, one of ‘my’ events, was the inspiration to try to become a ‘Statesman’ once again. Statesman means you have done all the parkruns in a state.)

One of the things that most appealed to me about the role was the opportunity to help set up new parkruns. Now I’d attended a lot of launches (something that is frowned upon these days – the approach now being that launches are not promoted, rather ‘soft launches’) but I’d never really seen what goes into starting up a new parkrun. So I was pretty excited about that prospect!

Within a few weeks of becoming an EA, I was offered the opportunity to help set up a new parkrun in Jamestown. I’d never been there before but it was approximately 3 hours away from home. The thing that sealed the deal for me was that it’s about an hour from Clare, and at the time Clare was one of ‘my’ events. So it made sense, and I immediately said yes!

The co-EDs, Emma and Rosie, and I met via Zoom in April to discuss the process and get to ‘meet’ each other. They had a great story behind how they came to be starting a parkrun in their community. They were involved with the Mid North Suicide Prevention Network and were approaching it primarily as a mental health initiative. Neither of them had ever done a parkrun! I thought this was a really great way to get involved in parkrun, and being such a community minded team, they already had a large core of volunteers ready to get involved – often that’s the hardest bit! At this stage pretty much the only thing they didn’t have (other than funding) was a course – usually that’s the first thing that prospective event teams come up with!

In May they had worked out a course and we organised a time for me to come out in June to look at and measure the course. It would be my first time measuring a course with a wheel – wow, that’s a tedious process!

I went and ran Clare parkrun in the morning and then motored up to Jamestown Golf Course. What I hadn’t realised before I got there was that the course was actually ON the golf course. I’d run plenty of courses that were adjacent to golf courses but this one was actually ON the golf course! This would indeed be a unique parkrun! (Fortunately the golf club is incredibly supportive, and because the golfers don’t start until midday, parkrun and golf can co-exist nicely!)

I was a bit unsure if the course would be easy enough to follow but I loved everything about it! It was quite green and lush at the time, I remember my socks getting very wet, I hadn’t brought spares so I had to then drive the 3 hours back to Adelaide in wet socks! Won’t do that again!

We had another Zoom in November and things had progressed. Emma and Rosie organised to go to Clare to meet the team there and run the parkrun to see what it was all about!

The funding was confirmed and the paperwork completed in December and dates organised for 2 trials and the launch. The first trial was just to test out the course, so I didn’t go up for that one, but from what I’m told it went well. The second trial was the Sunday before launch date which I did attend – it was my first time running the course and I did make a bit of a navigational error but on discussion with the EDs afterwards we worked out how to mark it better on launch day. Also it was really hot and I was totally inappropriately dressed – I apologised to all the runners/walkers/volunteers for the heat as it was because of me that they put the trial at 10am, not the traditional 8am, which would have been a lot cooler! 38 runners/walkers attended the trial which was more than expected. Initially I only put 25 finish tokens on the holder (we had 300 tokens but probably – hopefully – will never need that many!) but as the crowd built up I kept adding more,  in the end I put 50 on there and that was plenty. It was really cool to open the box with all the brand new kit in it – feels like the unboxing should have been marked with a YouTube or TikTok video!

I was not about to drive 3 hours for an 8am start on launch day (although there was a group who drove 4 hours on the morning of the launch – now that’s dedication) so I drove up the day before, stopping as you do in the Clare Valley for a wine tasting at the first winery in the region (and learned that Clare Valley is the birthplace of the screw cap!) and staying at Belalie Wines B&B with a very friendly cat called Simon who wanted to come home with me!

It would be rude not to!
Simon my new friend!
He ran in front of my car so I got out to make sure he hadn’t run under it, and in he jumped!
And then he came into my unit as soon as I opened the door!

I met Emma at the golf course and we walked the course, putting some flagging tape on some trees to make the course a bit clearer. She’d put some lines on the ground earlier to point people in the right direction. After the walk through I was confident I’d be able to follow the course on the day!

We then had dinner at one of the local pubs (a very nice cheeseless vegetarian pizza – vegan food is not very common in these parts but I was very happy with what I had!) and on the way home I went to check out the wind farm – so photogenic at sunset!

Wind farm spam!
Wind farm spam!
Wind farm spam!
Wind farm spam!
Wind farm spam!
Wind farm spam!
Wind farm spam (last one I promise!)

Launch day turned out to be a very beautiful day, I went for a touristy walk around the town centre (actually it was a bit cold at that stage, my fingers were numb and I only had warm weather running gear with me!) before heading to the golf course at 7:30 where the crowd was already building.

Jamestown town centre
Mural outside the bakery, Jamestown town centre (found out who Jamestown is named after!)
Cool sculpture, Jamestown town centre
No comment!

We had tried very hard to keep the launch quiet (other than among the local community, who we WANTED to encourage!) but of course the website was live on Friday and the die-hard tourists check the events map every week for new events popping up, so we knew there would be some tourists. Emma thought we might have about 70 people at the launch. We were hoping most of those would be locals (because they are the ones who will be there week in, week out!) The local footy club had a big contingent because the coach told them if they get 25 of them out to parkrun, they won’t have training on Tuesday! I think they were just short of this number but the coach promised an easier session as a bit of a compromise!

At the start line!

I managed to follow the course OK this time – the markers worked a treat! I then jumped in and helped with barcode scanning, something I can do in my sleep after doing it so many times while injured! We got a bit excited because as time went on we realised we might actually crack 100! I think it was probably a little bit hectic with the early finishers – there were a LOT of fast guys out there – but after I finished the scanning seemed to go pretty smoothly!

Finish photo!

Eventually the tail walker came in – participant no. 102 – and we made our way up the hill to the club house, where there was a coffee van and the local Apex club were doing bacon and eggs – pleasingly a lot of people were still hanging around! Thanks to the girl (I can’t remember her name) who bought me a coffee – much appreciated!

We had a few technical issues with the results – after everyone left Emma, Rosie and I went off to sort it out as best we could, and eventually just before midday we got the results in – and we all agreed the launch was a huge success!

I was a bit blown away when they presented me with a gift to thank me for my time, blown away AND hugely appreciative – but really all the work was done by them – I see parkrun as their ‘baby’ and maybe I’m the godmother? (even that is probably giving me too much credit!)

If the champagne was cold I would have insisted on cracking it open so we could all enjoy it while doing the results!

This is and will continue to be a unique and fantastic event for the community and also a great one for the tourists – I don’t know of any other parkruns in Australia that are entirely on golf courses! It’s certainly the only one in SA! I would highly recommend a trip and I look forward to seeing this event grow and coming back to visit again soon!

So unique! You need to go there!

 

Adelaide Trail Runners Summer Series Race 3 – Belair

Today was the 3rd event in the newly-expanded Adelaide Trail Runners Summer Series. This year the events in the series have been flipped around a bit, with Belair, traditionally the last race in the series in March, now being run in January, and the series concluding at Cleland in March. If you’re just catching up, you can check out my reviews of the new event at South Para and the most recent race at Anstey Hill.

Last year I had quite a good run at Belair, albeit on a somewhat cooler day! Unfortunately for me, as has become tradition, I failed to take advantage of Past Jane’s helpfulness, telling me all the things I should and shouldn’t do in this event, by not re-reading my blog from last year. Why do I even bother?

In a classic example of shutting the gate after the horse has bolted, I re-read last year’s report this afternoon (ie AFTER the race) in preparation for writing this one. It’s hard to imagine that last time I ran here I was kicking myself for not bringing my fleece gloves! (This time I once again forgot my cycling gloves for hand protection – I really need to leave those in my race vest!)

Sometimes in the past I have written about my lead-up week to races (again primarily for Future Jane’s benefit) – I didn’t do that last time but if I recall correctly I ‘tapered’ for all the summer series races – I’d do a 45 minute run on Tuesday and Thursday, and either do an easy parkrun on Saturday, or volunteer.

I seem to have forgotten all about that this year. Tuesday was a particularly revolting morning for running, and I did 12km with a LOT of swearing, then Thursday was just over 11km and only slightly more pleasant. Saturday I decided to make the trip down to Victor Harbor and visit one of ‘my’ parkruns as Event Ambassador, and, well, you don’t just go to one of the fastest parkrun courses in SA and take it easy, do you? I followed that up with a 2km swim in the lake, the first time I’d been swimming in nearly 2 years, but I can’t imagine that would have made any difference as I don’t really use my legs in swimming. Also during December/January I have been doing more gym work (with time off work giving me more time to train) and although I definitely feel my improved leg strength helps my running, there was definitely a bit of fatigue in the legs leading up to today.

I don’t want to make excuses, this is really for me in 12 months time to know what NOT to do!

The main focus for me in this series is the age group prize. After the first 2 races I was leading in my age group and you have to run 4 out of the 5 races to qualify for an age group prize. My plan is to run all 5 (especially Cleland which is my favourite!) but in the current climate with every second person being in iso, who knows if I’ll be able to run both or even one of the last two races? So I figured, even with crap preparation, I needed to run when I was able to!

Just for a bit of variety in the photos for the series, I decided to wear a green T-shirt and blue shorts for this race – I had seen one of my favourite running photos during the week where I was wearing that exact outfit, and I thought it would look pretty cool in the photos, albeit at a different part of the day!

This is the photo from 5 years ago that inspired my outfit for Belair – on a night trail run with a group, Dave captured the moment of Kay and me taking a selfie – and his photo is WAY better than mine!

It was probably the best thing I did all day, because as it turned out, I was perfectly coordinated with my race bib! And I hadn’t even seen the bib before picking my outfit!

One of the best things about Belair is that there are proper toilets as well as the portaloos – and who in their right mind would use a portaloo when there is an actual proper toilet right next to it? And even better – no queue!

I arrived in plenty of time as usual – the short course started after the long and medium courses, meaning the carpark would be (and was) pretty full by the time the short course runners arrived – therefore we had to allow extra time in case we had to park a little way away.

Like all the other races this season there was only one wave start for each event so I put myself somewhere in the middle. The plan was to take it pretty easy for the first kilometre, just settle into a rhythm. It wasn’t likely to be a fast one so there was no point busting my arse right at the start (like I almost always do!)

After the race, comparing my kilometre splits from last year, I can safely say I failed miserably at starting conservatively! Last year I ran the first kilometre in 5:37, this year I did it in 5:05. It was interesting reading because that first kilometre pretty much destroyed the rest of my run (OK maybe that’s a slight exaggeration – it was not all bad, but it could have been a lot better!)

Spoiler alert – every kilometre from then on was slower than the equivalent kilometre last year – some of them MASSIVELY so!

One of the issues at the start was a bit of single track, where I had people right behind me with no room to pass, so I felt like I needed to keep running fast when I would have preferred to take it a bit easier. I certainly was not going to step aside and let people past this early in the race! In the first kilometre there was also a flight of stairs which I had forgotten about – normally I do NOT run up stairs, I walk, but on this occasion I also felt I had to run which wasn’t ideal.

After getting past the first kilometre and realising I’d once again made a serious error in judgement, I finally got into a bit of a rhythm of sorts. A slow rhythm but a rhythm nonetheless. The first half was HARD. Lots of up.

The elevation plot!

My goal was to get to 5km without walking but then something else happened that ruined that plan, and something I had completely forgotten about. I came up to a sign that said “Echo Tunnel” – for the uninitiated it is quite a long, dark tunnel (I swear it got longer since I was last there!). If you walk on the high side, you have to duck to avoid clocking your head on the roof. If you walk on the low side, you can stay upright and possibly even still run, but it is often muddy and sometimes there’s even running water (not on this occasion!). Last year, being super prepared, I brought my head torch and that was probably the one take-home message I should have taken home. But I didn’t, so this time I felt my way along in the dark for what seemed like an eternity before emerging to light at the other end and trying to run again. But the ‘momentum’ was broken so the first hill I got to, I was walking. Last year I went with the 8 step run/8 step walk strategy, which I have used only recently and which I SHOULD have remembered, but that went out the window – it was pretty much all walking the uphills from this point on, and running the flats and downs – which, along with the too fast start, almost certainly accounts for being about 3 minutes slower than last year – which is quite a lot for a 10km race!

It was definitely not all bad! The highlight for me (other than my bib matching my outfit, and the always awesome post-run coffee from Neil at Stir Express) was my first ever emu sighting on a run! Ollie, who had caught me just before this point and was about to pass me, who is a local to this area, informed me that emus are pretty common in Belair but it was a treat for me to see one trotting (do emus trot?) across in front of me. Had my phone been more easily accessible and not in the back pocket of my race vest, I definitely would have stopped to attempt to take a photo!

Just after Steve caught up with me. Photo: Lachlan Miller Photography

Around this time a couple of fast runners passed us, they looked way too fast to be ONLY overtaking me in the last few kilometres. I later found out from another fast runner who passed me, Neil, who I definitely remembered having passed me earlier, that a bunch of the faster runners took a wrong turn! Oh that’s one other thing that went well for me – I managed to stay on course – and in fact I thought the course was pretty well marked. There were times in the first half where I didn’t see another soul and I never questioned whether or not I was going the right way. So thanks to the trail markers – you did an awesome job! (AND – winning at life moment here – I also did not fall over!)

The last few kilometres, as you can see from the elevation plot, was mostly downhill. THAT bit was fun. I remembered chasing Steve last year through this section. I was behind him again this time after he caught me, but this time he was so far ahead I couldn’t even see him – but I managed to keep Ollie in sight.

I got to the finish line – albeit about 3 minutes slower than 2021 – and my first port of call was my car to get my keep cup so I could get a coffee – I’m actually surprised I didn’t go for Coke first (that came later) – the coffee went down beautifully, and later, so did the Coke!

It was pretty warm out there today, especially compared to last year – well done to everyone who ran/walked, and as always thanks to all the volunteers without whom it would not have happened!

So, all being well, I will see you at Onkaparinga in February! (Hopefully better prepared next time!)

Oh, and isn’t it about time I won something in the random prize draw? My wine rack is looking a little empty…

Adelaide Trail Runners Summer Series Race 2 – Anstey Hill

Has it really been a month since the last one? Time flies!

This was relatively familiar territory for me, having run this event last year. Also recently I ran the new Anstey Hill Recreation parkrun which takes in slightly different parts of the park including the infamous Torture Hill. I highly recommend giving this parkrun a go if you get a chance – the last 1.6km is epic downhill!

I didn’t do any specific training for this one, but unlike last year I have started running hills regularly once a week so I figured that was enough.

Before writing this I re-read my report from last year. I think the idea is that I am meant to read it BEFORE running the event, in case there is anything I had forgotten about that I need to know! Better late than never I guess!

My preparation for this one was remarkably dissimilar. Friday I had the wedding of one of my running friends which was an awesome night, then dragged my arse out to parkrun on Saturday. Instead of running with my mum like I did before this event last year, for some reason I decided it was necessary to go hard. I realised afterwards that this was probably not the greatest plan the day before an event, and completely unnecessary!

Race day was going to be hot so I decided to wear a tank top instead of a T-shirt. Weirdly it happened to be the same one I wore to this event last year! I figured for 8ish kilometres the compression shorts were not really necessary so I went with plain black shorts which seemed to work well! Like last month’s event I went with a bladder with about 1 litre of water which I was sure I was going to need! (1 litre was the ideal amount, enough to get me through but not so much it would weigh me down!)

I got to Anstey Hill about half an hour before the start, parking down the road near Ruby Raja (as it turned out I could have got a park really near the start but I assumed all the close parks would be taken by long and medium course runners, and volunteers!) and I felt like I’d done my run by the time I walked up the hill to bib collection! It was already pretty warm even by 8:00 – I was glad to have opted for the short course once again – even though it would be hottest at the later start, at least it would be over quicker! By the time we started at 8:30 it was already over 25 degrees – it was the first real warm run I’d done this summer – it’s been a bit of a cool start to the season!

I didn’t especially want to be at the front – I stood a bit back from the start line but then for some reason no-one else stood in front. I have this tendency to go out too fast and then pay for it later, and being at the front certainly doesn’t help!

The course was down at the start, then a whole lot of up, then finishing with some nice down! I don’t know why, it was probably my recent experience at the Anstey parkrun, I had it in my head that we would be going up Torture Hill. I later remembered (probably around the 7km mark) that it was not part of the short course, and that was one of the reasons why the short course appealed to me!

Early on, photo thanks to Lachlan Miller.

I went out nice and quick at the start, and then swiftly got overtaken by a bunch of people as soon as we hit the ups. I remembered in the past describing the course as ‘runnable’, meaning that it is possible to run the whole course without walking, but it would probably be quicker to power hike some of the hills. As soon as I saw people in front of me walking, that was my cue to follow suit! Like last year, I quickly realised that I needed to make it a run/walk (16 steps run/16 steps walk and then later 8 and 8) otherwise it was going to be a whole lot of walking in one hit and it might be hard to start running again.

Near the start, photo thanks to Lachlan Miller.

The course was pretty open, with very little shade but somewhere around the halfway mark we were treated to a lovely coolish breeze!

At around the 6km mark I realised I wasn’t wearing my gloves (aka hand protectors) – this happened to be a slightly technical/rocky section so I spent the rest of the race repeating to myself “don’t fall, don’t fall!”. It’s funny that it wasn’t until I realised my hands wouldn’t be protected, that falling became a concern! (Spoiler alert: I didn’t fall! But I will endeavour to remember the gloves next time, just in case!)

Looking at my results from last year, I was around 2 minutes slower, and talking to others at the finish line most people recorded slower times due to the heat. I was glad to scrape in just under 50 minutes! I walked over to the coffee van and stood there for a moment deciding what I wanted, but as it turned out, what I really wanted was an icy cold can of Coke! (And then later went back for my caffeine hit – thanks as always to Neil from Stir!)

Towards the end. Photo thanks to Lachlan Miller.

Despite it being slightly warmer than most of us would have liked, it was still a fantastic morning for a run in the hills! Well done to everyone that ran, especially the long and medium course runners (hands up short course runners who were super happy with their life choices!)

Thanks to ATR and all the amazing volunteers for putting on another wonderful event! Can it be a little bit cooler for Belair in January please? Thanks 🙂

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!