Today was the 4th and final race in the 2017-2018 Yumigo! Summer Trail Series. The races are held once a month over the summer months (so it’s not just a clever name!) and this was the 3rd one I had run this season. You can read all about Race 1 at Anstey Hill and Race 3 at O’Halloran Hill if you’re keen!
Race 4, in the time I’ve been trail running, has been held at Newland Head, near Victor Harbor (where I was last Sunday and will be again next Sunday!), a nice 90 minute drive from Adelaide. This was the last year it would be held at Newland Head, as from next year it will be somewhere closer to Adelaide! I actually quite like a bit of a road trip and despite the early start, I think I’m going to miss it!
The weather forecast was looking a bit gnarly. In fact, a fairly large cycling event, the Coast To Coast, was supposed to be held today but was cancelled yesterday due to forecast dangerous conditions. When it comes to trail running, a little mud and rain never hurt anyone, so I was quite looking forward to a mudbath! (Plus, hopefully the weather might put off some of the competition!)
I did plan my clothing accordingly – I didn’t want to wear anything that would be ruined by mud! So, all black on the bottom half as usual (although I did brighten it up with some hot pink long socks!) and for some inexplicable reason I had decided to wash my trail shoes after my last run, so they looked brand new! (OK I like them to be nice and clean at the start of a race – rarely are they that way by the end!) I wore an old favourite, the pink top I’d run my first 3 marathons in, and my original arm warmers, which I’d purchased in Liverpool the day before my first marathon. I was expecting it to be cold in the morning so I also threw a buff into my bag, to wear as an ear warmer. A full change of clothes and 2 rain jackets also made the journey – gotta be prepared for anything!
I set my alarm for 5am, planning to leave around 5:50 to get there a good 40-45 minutes before race start at 8:15. (The race was originally meant to start at 8, but a last minute change was forced by a 15 minute detour on one of the roads leading to the event. So instead of having to leave home 15 minutes earlier, we started 15 minutes later – thanks to Race Director Ben for that!
It rained a little bit on the way down there, and there had been a fair bit of rain overnight, but it was looking pretty clear by the time I arrived. It was windy though! A couple of the gazebos threatened to blow away!
It is really a spectacular part of the world. One of my all time favourite bits of trail is the section of the Heysen Trail between Newland Head and King Head. That is a pretty technical section and probably not suitable for a race with a large number of participants, but definitely worth checking out if you want some challenging trail along with some spectacular scenery – just make sure you stop to admire the view, don’t try to admire it AND run at the same time, it won’t end well for you!
I went to take a photo of the ocean before we started. On the way back to the start area, sweeper and course demarker Ziad told me to go back so he could take a photo for me with me in it! After a few photos from different angles, we headed back and literally almost ran into a big f***er of a kangaroo bounding across the path, I’m not sure if anyone else saw him but he had to be at least 6 feet tall!
As mentioned earlier, I had brought 2 rain jackets, one light one which I was only wearing to block out some of the chill before the start, and a proper one in case it actually rained. (Fortunately the rain never eventuated!) So when it came to getting ready for the race, I was able to leave the jacket and my buff in the car, and put on my hat, sunnies and small race vest. I was ‘only’ running the short course, which was meant to be 11.5km (but as all trail runners know, distances in trail running are a guide only!) so I wasn’t expecting to need much in terms of nutrition and hydration. All I had was 500mL of Gatorade and a Clif bar (which I was planning to have at the end).
I didn’t see my ‘nemesis’ Jenny at the start, but didn’t think much of that as she had probably already sewn up her age group series win, and with the weather forecast as well as the long drive, I suspected a lot of people would not be making the trip today. (To be eligible for an age group series placing, you had to run at least 3 of the 4 races, and I knew Jenny had run all of the first 3 races)
As with all the previous races, the short and long course runners all started together, and the bulk of our 11.5km course was identical to the first part of the long (19km) course. Consequently, unless I asked, I wouldn’t know whether other runners were in the short or long course, until our paths separated around the 8km mark! It didn’t matter though, I would just assume every female I encountered was a) running the short course and b) in my age group. (Not that I was worried about age group placings anymore – having missed Race 2 at Cleland and finished 4th in my age group at O’Halloran, I was pretty certain that train had sailed!)
RD Ben described the course as ‘flattish’. Where the previous races had included some challenging hills, the challenge here was more in the terrain than the elevation (lots of sand, tree roots and rocky sections). I had actually run this event before, 2 years ago, (the long course) so I had a fair idea of what to expect. Strava tells me there was an elevation gain of 190m which is not huge for a trail race.
It started a bit uphill, in fact looking at the elevation map the first 3km were pretty much all uphill, but again, not particularly steep and very runnable. I was averaging about 5:20 per km over that first 3km. I had no idea where I was placed, given that I didn’t know which runners were doing the short course, and also I hadn’t paid attention to how many runners started ahead of me. I was pretty much just running my own race!
Probably around 3-4km (I was making a conscious effort not to look at my watch too much, because I wanted to keep an eye on where I was putting my feet!) I started running with Steve, who was doing the long course. He was about the only person I ran with in this event, so it was nice to have the distraction for a few kilometres! We chatted about what events we had coming up, and about ultras we’d done in the past. It’s always good to be able to have a little chat while in a race – I guess you could say that if we were chatting then we weren’t running hard enough, but I didn’t really see it that way! One thing I did say was that I was hoping to finish the race in less time than it took me to drive down! I didn’t really have a time in mind – I guessed somewhere around the hour would be a pretty good time! (There wasn’t much chance of Steve finishing in less time than it took him to drive there – I think he said it was about a 45 minute drive and he was doing the 19km!)
Around 5km was the only time during the race where I actually had to stop running. I didn’t walk, I literally had to stop for maybe about 10 seconds because I somehow got tangled up in a loop of wire that had come loose from a fence. I wasn’t able to just kick it off, I had to stop and remove it. Luckily there was no damage done (luckily I wasn’t running very fast!) and I tossed the wire over near the fence, where hopefully no-one else would trip on it! Of all the things I was looking out for, a rogue piece of wire was NOT on the list!
A few people passed me while I was disentangling myself, but I did eventually catch up with and pass them. I caught up with Steve again after a while and we ran together again until the drink station where we were sent in opposite directions. From there I was following a guy in a Heysen 105 buff who was running at just the right pace for me to sit a couple of metres behind him. I’m not sure if he realised he was pacing me but he did a great job!
The course was beautifully marked, thanks to Denis and anyone else who was involved in marking it yesterday! One thing I wasn’t expecting but came as a nice surprise was kilometre markers. Ben had told us about this at the pre-race briefing, and there were different colour coded markers for the different distances (red for short, blue for long), but he had said that if we saw a blue kilometre marker on the short course, not to be alarmed and think we’d taken a wrong turn! (Even after the two courses separated, there was some overlap of the courses later). I’m glad he did say that because at one point I saw (I think) a blue 12km marker and then probably 500m later I saw a 15km one!
I got to the red 10km marker (definitely the short course 10km marker!) so it was around 1.5km to go. I passed my pacer and started to accelerate a bit. (It was, literally, practically all downhill from there!)
I saw, up ahead in the distance, a peach coloured top with a backpack on, attached to a pair of legs in capri pants. Now I don’t want to get into gender stereotyping here, but I had to assume it was a female. And I had to assume she was in my age group. I already knew she was in the short course – none of the long course runners had passed me. So all that was left to do was to try to catch her!
I had a sneaky look behind, while on a section of trail that was not too technical. No sense ruining it all by falling over at this late stage! I couldn’t see anyone, so I thought I was safe from attack from behind! I wondered if the runner I was currently pursuing, had any idea that I was there!
It was pretty windy by this stage. I wasn’t breathing all that heavily, and although I tend to be pretty heavy on my feet, especially when I get a bit tired, I was confident that she wouldn’t be able to hear my footsteps. I could barely hear my own footsteps or breathing over the howling of the wind! (OK maybe that’s a slight exaggeration but you get the idea!)
Due to the high winds, there was no finishing arch today. Consequently we wouldn’t know when we were nearly at the finish line, until we were actually nearly there! (Normally you can see the arch from a few hundred metres out, signifying that it’s time to start the sprint!)
I saw the gazebos, miraculously still standing after almost blowing away at the start, and I was steadily making gains on the UFR (Unidentified Female Runner). I thought what the hell, let’s go for it! So I sprinted.
Approximately one metre from the finish line, she must have heard me, turned around and saw me literally RIGHT THERE, swore (just the S word mind you!) and finished strong to hold me off by about half a second.
Then she turned around to see who it was, and I realised it was Jenny, she was there after all, having arrived with just minutes to spare before the start! I had run with her a bit during Ansteys and back and forth at O’Halloran, but I’d never been that close at the end! I actually would have felt like a bit of a bitch if I’d passed her, mainly because I’m sure if she’d had any idea I was there, she would have picked up the pace much earlier and beaten me by a much bigger margin!
Still, it was kind of cool to do a sprint finish at the end of a somewhat challenging 11.5km and to almost pull it off, against someone who is significantly faster than me on a good day, certainly makes for a good story! (And let’s face it, who wants to read a race report that goes “Started. Ran well throughout. Finished comfortably”?)
After catching my breath I got myself an EXCELLENT coffee from the Stir coffee van (I have to give them a plug because it’s the first coffee van I’ve been to that makes a proper long black!) and caught up with the other runners, including meeting Sally, who I can only assume won our age group (having finished 3rd overall today). And of course there was the obligatory photo with Gary, who had also run the short course today. (Seriously, where would my race reports be without you, Gary? Never change!)
Then we hung around and watched the presentations for the short and long courses (the male winner of the 19km did it in about 75 minutes. That’s moving!) and finally the bit we were all waiting for – the random prize draw! After a slow start (you have to be there when your name is called to be a winner, and a lot of people were being called out who had already left), one by one the prizes were all given out. I didn’t win anything today but Denis kindly gave me the sparkly gaiters he’d won, at the end of the presentation. I actually thought they would have suited him but was happy to accept the gift – secretly I thought they’d probably look better on me!)
One of the best finish line moments (apart from Jenny’s and mine, of course) of the day happened during the prize draw. Quite a few of the long course runners were still out there, and as they finished, Ben paused reading out the names so we could all cheer them on. It was a nice touch! Anyway, one girl got to within about a metre of the finish line and then just stopped. We wondered what was going on but she said she was waiting for someone, they were going to finish together. Several more runners came through while she was waiting but then there she was, her mum coming up over the hill and joined her for a memorable finish! Well done to Michelle and Chloe!
Then it came time for the huge job of packing everything up and into Ben’s 4WD and trailer – I’m amazed at how much stuff goes into these events, and I hate unpacking my car at the end of a race, and for me it’s only my personal race gear! I hate to imagine the job Ben has to unpack his car after an event!
Thanks as always to RD Ben for putting on another great event, and for once actually organising GOOD weather for us! (Amazingly enough, I did not have a spot of dirt on me at the end – not even on my shoes!) And of course to the wonderful volunteers – I hate to name names because I’m bound to forget someone but here are just a few that I know of: Ziad, Sheena, Denis, Justin, Robbie, Kim, Simon and Graeme.
Well done to everyone who made the journey down despite (or perhaps because of!) the forecast nasty weather! It was a great day to farewell Newland Head from the Summer Trail Series, and to end the season on a high note!
Last November I completed my first triathlon. You can read all about it here.
I really enjoyed it and I had intended to do more, but all of the triathlons I had my eye on, clashed with other running events. So all of a sudden it was March, the season was nearly over, and it was time for the Victor Harbor Triathlon. It kind of snuck up on me. I knew it was coming, but I always thought I had more time than I actually did! Consequently I didn’t do all the training I had planned to do. (You know, all those good intentions and all that!) I had INTENDED to do a lot more swimming, especially open water swimming, but I really don’t enjoy swimming so I didn’t do anywhere near as much as I had hoped. And other than doing the Grand Slam bike ride 2 weeks ago, I hadn’t done a proper bike ride since Christmas Eve! I was pretty OK with the run leg but as for the other 2 – who knew what would happen?
Victor Harbor Triathlons is the biggest triathlon event in South Australia. It’s been going for 24 years so they must be doing something right! And there really is something for everyone!
There were 4 different triathlon distances on offer this year:
Standard/Olympic distance (the Big One!) – 1500m swim/40km bike/10km run
Sprint distance (first time this year!) – 750m swim/20km bike/5km run
Short course – 150m swim/8km bike/1.5km run
Mini (events for both adults and kids) – 50m swim/2km bike/400m run
As well as this, there were 5km and 10km fun runs.
So you see, really something for everyone!
I had opted for the Sprint distance. The Olympic was a bit out of reach for me, in particular the swim – I’d done a ‘Come and Try’ team sprint triathlon on New Year’s Eve last year, and I had done the swim leg, and found 750m incredibly long! So I didn’t think doing double that would end particularly well! The short and mini distances were too short for me (having already done a Tinman, 300m swim/19.5km bike/3km run) and I would likely spend more time in transition than in the bike and run! The Sprint distance was a good challenge while still being achievable.
I had purchased a wetsuit. A Sprint swim was long enough to wear a wetsuit, the time gained and reduced effort expended during the swim would more than make up for the time lost in transition taking it off. I wasn’t sure about the wetsuit, having only tried it once and ended up with chafing on the back of my neck that took a few weeks to go away completely! I’d never practised taking it off in a hurry. I did decide to take it with me, and decide at the last minute whether or not to wear it (unless, of course, the water was too warm for wetsuits to be allowed, in which case the decision would be made for me!)
Prepping my gear was relatively easy. Triathlons do require quite a lot of gear, but luckily for me I pretty much only have one of all the essential gear (trisuit, wetsuit, bike, helmet, bike shoes, tri run shoes, etc) so I didn’t have to decide what outfit to wear!
I had a list. Lists are always good. You cross things off the list as you pack them, and then when you walk out the door you know you have everything sorted.
Except I didn’t, because I realised, thankfully not too far down the road, that I hadn’t put my orthotics in my running shoes – they were still in the shoes I’d run parkrun in the previous day. I had NEVER run without orthotics. It may have been ‘only’ 5km but I didn’t intend to try it for the first time in a race! (Orthotics were NOT on the list. Must remember to add them to the list next time!) Quick U-bolt and I was back home to grab them and hit the road again.
After forgetting where I was going and heading towards the freeway, I corrected myself and ended up making it to Victor in plenty of time for the 9am briefing (our event didn’t start until 10:15). I had my breakfast along the way in Mount Compass – if I’d had it before I left home I would have been STARVING by the time we started!
I saw Karen (who was also doing the Sprint) and Daryl drive up so we all walked up to the bike compound together. We went to the end of the rack, thinking that would probably make our bikes easier to find – it’s amazing how easily you forget where you’ve put your bike!
After collecting my race number and getting inked (my race number on my arm and my age group on my leg) I decided to go with the wetsuit, after the announcement had been made at the briefing that wetsuits WOULD be allowed, except for the Open competitors (we had the option of entering as an Age Group competitor or an Open competitor, the latter group being mostly the elite athletes, this event being a qualifier for the Australian Championships). I put the wetsuit half on, and slathered the back of my neck in Sudocrem to prevent chafing.
We ran into Ros, who has done quite a lot of triathlons now (as has Karen) and who did her first Tinman the same day Karen and I both did our first ever triathlon. She was also doing the Sprint. I didn’t know many other people in the triathlon, but regular running/walking/swimming buddy Neil was doing the Olympic distance.
We headed down to the water to watch the Olympic swim leg start, as we waited for our group to be called. After the last wave of the Olympic distance had been sent off, the Sprint competitors were able to get into the water. Unlike the previous tri that I’d done, the start was in the water. I quite liked that. It meant that we could get in and acclimatise to the water, and we could stay in until we were called, rather than have to get out and then get back in again! I was glad to have the wetsuit, I imagine it would have been quite cold at the start without it!
I positioned myself about mid-pack, because I know swimming is not my strong suit, and I didn’t particularly want to have people swimming over the top of me, but I also didn’t want to swim any further than necessary, and realised that if I’d been right at the back of the pack it would mean I’d have to swim further!
The gun went off, I pressed ‘Start’ on my Garmin (set up in Multisport mode, which I’d failed to make work in my last triathlon) and we were away, it definitely felt easier with the wetsuit on. Before too long I was surrounded by people doing breaststroke. This was completely legit, but breaststrokers take up more space than freestylers, and if you’ve got one on either side of you as I did, you’re bound to get kicked! I quickly moved over to the side to get away from them! It was an overcast day, so my ultra dark tinted goggles were probably not the best choice, but the only pair of working goggles I have!
Weirdly enough, towards the end, I was actually overtaking some people! Probably because I was (not intentionally) conserving energy in the early part of the swim!
The last bit seemed to go on forever, I could see the shore, and it seemed to take a really long time before my hand touched the bottom, signifying that it was time to get up and run. And because I don’t really kick, and with the wetsuit on there is even less need to kick, I was surprised at how jelly-like my legs were! I even nearly tripped over someone who was still swimming!
I exited the water, pressed ‘Lap’ on my Garmin and started peeling off the top part of the wetsuit. I looked at my Garmin and realised that it hadn’t started – I needed to press ‘Start’ TWICE! I must remember that next time! (Note to self – re-read this post before my next triathlon!) Effectively this meant my Garmin was of no use to me in this event, so I ditched it at transition. (I later found out that my swim was a touch under 15 minutes – about 2 minutes quicker than when I swam the same course in the ‘Come and Try’ event.)
We had to run quite a long way to get from the water to the bike. That partially explains why my transition took 3.5 minutes. Also, taking off the wetsuit takes time, although it was easier and quicker than I had thought it might be.
As I left transition with my bike, Ros was on her way in. She would likely be quicker in transition than me, because she had opted not to wear a wetsuit. She also doesn’t use bike shoes, so her T2 would probably be quicker too (no need to change shoes, just swap from helmet to hat and away she goes!)
I mounted the bike, quickly got clipped in and started pedalling. The bike leg was an out and back, and Karen and Daryl (who had both ridden it during the ‘Come and Try’ event) had warned me that it was hilly. However, I’d done the Grand Slam bike ride 2 weeks earlier which apparently was way hillier than this course, so I was pretty confident I could make it without having to do the ‘walk of shame’!
This was the first time I’d ridden on fully closed roads. It threw me a bit, because I’d constantly be thinking I heard a car behind me, which as it turned out was a particularly fast bike! I was overtaken a lot on the bike leg, I assume by Olympic competitors (because there wouldn’t have been too many Sprint competitors behind me after the swim!) but I did manage to overtake a few people myself which was pleasing! I had a bit of a play around with my gears, which I’m still getting used to, and at no point did I think I wasn’t going to be able to make it up a hill without walking! On the way out I even coasted downhill a bit, and then realised that if I was coasting down the hill, it would probably take a bit of effort to climb on the way back!
I got off the bike carefully just before the dismount line – I unclipped one foot on approach, moved to the side, completely stopped, got off and prepared to run into transition (bike shoes still on). Right in front of me, a couple of guys, doing the pro thing (you know, leaving the shoes in the pedals and essentially trying to get off the bike without stopping) had a pile up right in front of me, and I ran straight past them!
This was the easy transition – racked my bike, swapped shoes, swapped hats and off I went! I had a bit of a false start when I started running on the wrong side of the bunting, but one of the helpful volunteers pointed me in the right direction! Overall my transition was just under 2 minutes. Plenty of room for improvement!
Now for the easy bit! A nice 5km run – just another parkrun! There were a lot of turns in the course, which made me lose my bearings – I didn’t know whether we were heading towards or away from the finish line! I managed to overtake quite a lot of people, which I had sort of expected (the run leg naturally being my strongest!) and the heavy legs that generally come after getting off the bike, weren’t really an issue for me this time! Which was great because among all the things I hadn’t practised, I hadn’t done a ‘brick’ session since, well, the triathlon in November!
Most of the run was, like the bike leg, on closed roads. However there was one road that was unable to be closed, so we were instructed in no uncertain terms to run on the grass, and if we were caught running on the road, we would be given a time penalty of 3 minutes (we’d have to stand in the ‘naughty corner’!) There were technical officials out on the course (again, being a national championships qualifier, everything had to be done by the book) so it would have been silly to try!
I saw a few familiar faces along the way, Julie and Chris (parkrunners and Adelaide Harriers) and also Grette, who had done both the 5k AND 10k fun runs and whose kids were doing the Mini triathlon! There was a lot of support along the course from locals and other visitors, and I even managed to get 2 high fives from a couple of kids!
As I didn’t have my Garmin, I was pleased to see kilometre markers on the run course. Even so, after the 4km mark, that last kilometre seemed to go on forever (especially with all those turns!) and I was kind of surprised when I saw the finish line! Luckily there were no women close behind me and I couldn’t see any ahead of me, so I didn’t need to attempt a sprint finish (I later saw a few epic battles at the finish line!) I ended up completing the run leg in 23:02, amazingly enough it was faster than the previous day’s parkrun, although it felt a lot slower!
My overall time was 1:35:11 which was 24th out of 42 females and 4th out of 6 in my age group. It seemed like this was a more competitive field than the Gatti Tinman tri that I had previously done – as I had placed relatively higher in that one. But still I was very happy with how I went in all the legs and transitions, considering I had forgotten to train for it! My best leg was unsurprisingly the run (6th female) and I’d also done relatively well in both transitions (21st and 20th respectively).
Not far behind me was Ros, followed shortly by Karen. We’d all finished our first Sprint (by far the longest triathlon any of us had ever done) and were very happy about it!
After packing all our gear into the car, and grabbing a coffee across the road, we headed back to the presentation area where there were also a variety of marquees selling triathlon-related gear (we may have done a little bit of shopping!)
After the presentation there was a lucky prize draw – some EXCELLENT prizes in there but alas I didn’t win anything! Ah well – gotta be in it to win it!
I really enjoyed this event, the community really seems to embrace it and there was a fantastic turnout! Thanks to all of the organisers and volunteers and well done to all who participated! I would definitely do this again! MAYBE even the Olympic distance one day!
As a cyclist, I make a very good runner. I don’t even like to use the word ‘cyclist’. I prefer ‘runner that rides a bit’. Then again, I’m forever telling people who run, who don’t like to call themselves ‘runners’, that ‘if you run, you’re a runner’. So by that logic I guess I am a cyclist!
I haven’t been doing a lot of cycling lately. And by ‘not a lot’, I mean NONE. The bike has been in its traditional place, racked on the back of my couch, since it was last ridden on New Year’s Day. That day, I did 2 easy 10km rides in between the 2 New Year’s Day parkruns. Prior to this, my previous ‘proper’ ride was my first successful Norton Summit loop. So it was about time I dusted off the treadly again!
During the week I’d made a few pretty big decisions. One was potentially career-defining (and not reversible) and the other one may yet be reversed!
The first decision was to sign a deal to move from my government job (soon to be non-existent) to continue to do the same work in the non-government sector. That was an easy decision (a no-brainer) but still it was a bit weird to sign the form to resign from the public service after over 19 years!
The second one was that I am not going to run a marathon this year. Or any time in the foreseeable future! I had always planned to go up to the Gold Coast where I’d run the fastest 2 of my 6 marathons, to get a sub 3:45 to qualify for Chicago, my second of the 6 majors.
All summer, on Sundays I’d been enjoying whatever I decided to do (mostly trail running, occasionally cycling), all the while thinking about the impending start of the 16 week training programme, and the long road runs that invariably come with it!
I did one long road run in January, in the week leading up to my 50k track race. It was 30k and it was horrible. In fairness though, I hadn’t exactly built up to it like you normally do. I’d just gone from zero to 30 and wondered why it wasn’t a great run! I thought to myself, it won’t be long before I’m doing this every week. And I wasn’t looking forward to it with eager anticipation!
This Tuesday I wasn’t really enjoying my morning run. That may have had something to do with the fact that it was the hilliest of the normally flattish Tuesday run routes. And I’d just come off a pretty hilly trail race on Sunday, and had quite a bit of ‘vert’ in the legs for the month.
Somewhere along the way I thought again about the long road runs and thought ‘Great, it’s only a few weeks before the training programme starts. GREAT!’ (As in, not really that great!)
Then I thought to myself, why am I doing this? I don’t want to do a marathon this year! Marathons are hard! Actually it’s more the training that I don’t want to do, and without the training I’m not going to get the time I want, and without the time I want it’s kind of pointless, so I guess that means I don’t want to do a marathon this year. So then I thought, WHY am I doing this? If I don’t want to do it, why am I doing it? And that was when I decided that I’m not going to do it. If I do decide to enter Chicago it will be either via lottery or a package.
And just like that, I started enjoying the run a whole lot more! (Plus by this stage I’d finished the big climb and was running back downhill).
With no marathon to train for I can continue doing trail runs on the weekends, and training properly for Five Peaks 58km and UTA 100km. I’ve done just over 5000m vert for the month of February, which is a lot for me. I think it’s helping. My hill running has improved a lot!
The other thing I can do, now that I’m not training for a marathon, is get out and do a bike ride on Sundays instead of a long run. That’s what I did this weekend!
The Grand Slam is a series of 5 group rides around some pretty spectacular and challenging parts of Adelaide and beyond. Today was the first of the series. Each ride has 2 options, the ‘Mini Slam’ and the ‘Grand Slam’ distance. The Mini is generally about half the distance of the Grand Slam. There is always the option of entering for the Grand Slam and ‘downgrading’ to the Mini – the course takes you back past the start line halfway, so you can refuel, top up your water, and then if you decide you’ve had enough you can pull out at that point.
Today’s ride was centred on Mount Torrens, in the Adelaide Hills (up until this morning I had no clue where Mount Torrens was!), taking in towns such as Gumeracha, Forreston and Birdwood.
I decided to do the mini, given this was only my second group ride (after Gear Up Girl, a 55km relatively flat ride for women only) and my first involving hills. And I hadn’t ridden for nearly 2 months! The mini distance was 40km and the full distance was 80km.
It was pretty cool at the start and there was even a bit of rain on the drive up to the start at Mount Torrens. I was a little unprepared – I didn’t have any cycling arm warmers (and none of my running ones matched my cycling kit!) and for the life of me I couldn’t find my rain jacket! I did have a long sleeved running top which I threw in the car just in case. I ended up wearing it for the first half of the ride.
The start was a wave start, with Karen, Daryl and me starting in the last wave. None of us were planning on setting a cracking pace, and were happy to let the fast ones have a clear run! Just in front of me was a guy in a T-shirt and shorts (ie not bike shorts!), illustrating perfectly how inclusive these rides are. They cater to everyone from the elite to the complete newbie! As long as you have a bike and can ride it, you’re in!
It was a challenging course, and although partway through the loop I thought to myself that I might have been able to give 80km a crack, I was glad by the end that I hadn’t opted for the long distance! After all, my longest ever ride was the aforementioned 55km Gear Up Girl ride, which was a much easier ride than this one, and other than that I hadn’t done anything over 30km!
At first I was RIGHT at the back, and trying to keep Daryl in sight, but as my legs got warmed up and I got used to being on the bike again, I gradually caught up and passed him.
The ride was quite hilly but manageable. Karen had previously told me that some people stopped and walked their bikes up some of the hills! I was expecting that I would be doing the same at some point but I didn’t want to be the first, I was hoping that I’d see someone ahead of me hopping off their bike and then I’d feel like I could do the same!
I was pleased to pass the guy in the T-shirt. Although I’m not competitive when it comes to cycling, I did draw the line at a guy in a T-shirt and shorts being faster than me!
I did most of the ride on my own, except when I was overtaken by some of the faster late starters, or overtaking some other runners. It was actually really nice, and being not particularly busy roads, I felt quite safe even on the 100km/h roads with hardly any shoulder!
I even managed to get a bit of speed up (and I’m not talking anything particularly rapid here) on some of the descents. Some of the roads were very smooth, and I could ‘fly’ down them without even contemplating using the brakes! My previous hilly ride, Norton Summit, was on a day when the roads were covered in debris from a recent storm, so I was quite cautious on the downhills. One stick could result in disaster! Today though, the roads were nicely clear for us!
Of course, getting some speed up on the downs helped to get some momentum to get me up the hills too!
There was a refreshment stop at about the halfway mark. Unlike in running events, where most people either don’t stop at all, or only stop for long enough to grab what they need and keep going, in these events people tend to stop for a decent length of time. You get off your bike and have a decent rest. This was the first (and only) time I ran into Karen, she being quite a long way ahead of me, and when I arrived at the checkpoint she was bonding with one of the volunteers’ dogs! Karen was doing the full distance (Daryl, like me, was going for the short option) and she set off not long after I got there, saying she’d see me back at the start, where she’d stop for refreshments before heading out on the second loop.
I had one of my 2 Clif bars and waited for Daryl who arrived not long after Karen left. I took the opportunity to take off my long sleeved top and tie it around my waist. I’ve got those pockets in the back of my cycling top but my top was a bit bulky for that. (I don’t use the pockets after I lost a Clif bar on the very first bumpy section of the Gear Up Girl ride!)
Daryl, who had ridden this course before, kindly told me that the second half was harder than the first! Apparently there was a particularly nasty hill around the 30km mark. I decided at that point not to look at my watch until I was finished. It would come as a ‘nice’ surprise!
I commented to Daryl that as we approached each of the towns, where the speed limit dropped to 50km/h, I would instinctively slow down (like I would if I was driving)! AS IF I was doing more than 50km/h!
The second half was a bit hillier, but I hadn’t encountered anything particularly brutal. Then I came to a point where I had to make a right turn, and I heard another cyclist coming up behind me. I was going to let him pass me but he was happy to sit behind me. That was when he asked me if I was intentionally riding up hills in the hardest gear. (Apparently some people actually do do that!) Of course, I was not! I had thought I was in the easiest gear and I was just a bit unfit! He kindly gave me a few pointers to get myself into the right gear, and after that (surprise surprise) it got a whole lot easier!
I hadn’t ridden since New Year’s Day, and on that day one of my friends had set the bike up for me on the right cog so I wouldn’t have to change cogs during that particular ride. I had mistakenly assumed he’d set me up on the easiest cog, but no, it was the hardest one!
I managed to climb all the hills (helped by a few nice descents in between) until I hit a particularly steep climb at the 35km mark.
(I later checked Strava and it was in fact the steepest grade of the whole ride, so it wasn’t just the fact that my legs were getting a bit tired that made it so hard!)
I got to the point where I couldn’t ride in a straight line, I couldn’t get the pedals around smoothly and I was riding all over the road. So I decided the only option was to get off and walk. At the same time a girl in front of me was doing exactly the same thing! I managed to get my left foot uncleated before coming to a stop, but couldn’t quite manage to get off the bike while still remaining vertical. I did a very graceful stack to the left, with quite a soft landing and no damage done!
It was only a really short climb so probably 50 metres max of walking before the grade levelled out and I got back on the bike again to finish the ride.
I got to the start of Mt Torrens town, back in familiar territory, back on the road I’d driven earlier in the morning. I realised at that point that it wasn’t 40km but actually only 38km. That was plenty! I put myself back onto one of the harder cogs as by now I was back on the flat.
I rode past my car (always good to see it’s still there!) and back to the start line, where Karen was about to set off for her second loop. I managed to get off the bike successfully this time (a good thing as there were a lot more witnesses this time!)
After finishing I went inside to check in and grab a quick bite to eat before going back outside to wait for Daryl. We then got in his car and went to follow the route of the second lap, to catch up with Karen and take her some sustenance! Driving along the second lap route we were both glad we’d opted for the short course!
I was really glad to have gone out and done this today. I was pleased to have managed most of the ride without having to get off (despite being in totally the wrong gear for most of it – clearly I have much to learn!) and it was a beautiful course with some stunning scenery! We rode past quite a lot of vineyards – the Adelaide Hills being a well known wine region – but fortunately no cellar doors, otherwise I may not have made it back to the finish! We did get a tiny bit of rain, and I’d never ridden in rain before so I’m very grateful that not much came of it!
I’d like to thank Bicycle SA for putting on this event, which is, as I said earlier, really for anyone! The volunteers were fantastic, and the course was so well marked that even I could follow it! (Hot tip: when doing one of these rides, always follow the arrows rather than other cyclists – not all cyclists are actually part of the event, and who knows where you might end up!) The refreshment station was well positioned and very much appreciated!
For anyone who’s thinking about joining in a group ride but doesn’t think they’re ready, give it a go! (I didn’t think I was ready!)
I’m hoping to get out and do a few more of them throughout the year but unfortunately the next one is the day after the 58km Five Peaks Ultra. Yeah, I don’t think that’s going to happen!
This weekend was the 3rd of 4 races in the Yumigo! Summer Trail Series. I had previously run the first race at Anstey Hill but missed Race 2 due to being on my way home from Thredbo! For the first time, this summer, I planned to run 3 of the 4 races in the series (my previous best being 2) with a view to trying to crack a Top 3 age group placing!
So, this month, before Sunday’s race, I had done quite a bit of trail running.
There was a 3 hour epic a couple of weeks back (that was only 17km!) – the first training run for the new 5 Peaks Ultramarathon which I vowed several times during the training run I was DEFINITELY NOT going to do. By the end of that day I was asking “When does earlybird entry close?” So yeah, I’m pretty much signed up for that one!
Last weekend I doubled up, doing my own personal favourite trail training run – the Chambers loop plus an extra smaller loop. This run is my favourite because it’s close to home, I can run it without any danger of getting lost, and post-run coffee and vegan Snickers at Basecamp Cafe makes it all worthwhile!) Later that day I did the Morialta Special Grand Loop as I’ve entered a Strava challenge and up until then I’d only run/walked it once as a reccy run, but had not actually posted a ‘proper’ run. I may or may not have run that whole thing with my phone in my hand, closely following the map!
And during last week I did the annual ‘Pub Run’, a run of about 9km uphill to the pub, a refreshment stop, and a nice 11km downhill back to the start. That was really enjoyable except that Norton Summit Road, normally favoured by cyclists because most cars take the Old Norton Summit Road, was overrun with motorists with the Old road being closed! Damn cars, ruining my run!
Friday morning’s run was great too, it was a regular Friday route up ‘The Big Kahuna’, officially named Mt Osmond Centre Track. Centre Track is pretty steep. It’s runnable in that you can run up it, but in that you could probably walk it twice as fast as I ran it. For the first time EVER I extended this run to go all the way to the old Mt Barker Road (which is what the fast people do, so they don’t get back to the start HOURS before the rest of us!)
Before Sunday, I had accumulated 4000m of elevation in February. That’s a LOT for me, who for a very long time avoided hills like the plague!
I did parkrun on Saturday, Mount Barker being quite a fast course (probably the fastest current parkrun in SA but I’m prepared to be proven wrong on that!) I had to remind myself that I wasn’t ‘racing’ this time. That was made a lot easier by my seeing Lisa, Sarah and Coralie at the start, effectively ruling out any chance of my getting a top 3 finish, even if I ran close to my PB! It was also great to see my friend Donna finally do her first parkrun, and I’m pretty sure she’s hooked, already talking about where we’re going to run next week!
With the start of the race being at 7:30am, I was aiming to leave home at 6:15am to be there by 7. There was a slight snafu with my navigation there. I’ve done the drive down the expressway more times than I care to remember, but on most occasions I’ve gone all the way to the end of the expressway. Only a couple of times have I exited before the end. I had had a look at the directions the night before, and had somehow missed one crucial part of the directions which involved taking an exit. As I was driving down the expressway, thankfully I was paying attention to the names of the roads I was driving under (which I don’t normally do!) and noticed that I was driving under Majors Road – which I was actually supposed to be ON! Luckily I’d factored in PLENTY of time to get there so I took the next exit and made it to the start just on 7am! Must pay more attention next time!
The setup at O’Halloran Hill was great, everything was nice and close together, even the car parking wasn’t too much of a hike! I did end up in the portaloo that didn’t flush, but at least that was at the START of the day – I can only imagine what it must have been like by the end!
As always there were a lot of friends there (including quite a few that I didn’t even get to catch up with!) so the time leading up to the start went pretty quickly!
First up was the kids’ race, a new thing this season, to encourage the kids to get into trail running! Many of the older kids already do the events but it was great to see some of the younger ones getting involved, look out for more kids running with the ‘big kids’ in future years!
The short (13ish km) and long (18ish km) courses started together and there was no distinction between the two on the bibs. We would all run together for the first 12km and then we’d split. By then we (smart) short course runners would be nearly done!
I was a little concerned with the comment in the race briefing about it being a tricky course and easy to get lost. I’m pretty good at getting lost, but I’m not good at following maps, so studying the course would be of little value to me!
I had what was by now a fairly standard race kit. I’d decided on a pink theme today, even though my trail shoes are blue and purple. Pink socks, top and hat, as well as a pink buff around my neck. I wouldn’t normally run a short race like this with a buff on (unless it was particularly cold) but it became necessary because I had some pretty epic chafing on the back of my neck from trying out my new wetsuit during the week (which, other than this little problem, went perfectly!). Last thing I wanted was to get any sun on it! Hence the buff!
At the start line I was chatting with Jenny who had just been celebrating her son’s 18th so had had a pretty late night! She was talking down her chances, suggesting that I might beat her today, which I thought was pretty funny – she must have thought she was going to have a REALLY off day!
I hadn’t really looked much at the course profile but RD Ben said at the race briefing that it was pretty flat for about the first 6km and then we’d hit a few hills.
So we set off, and for the first 5km or so Jenny and I kept seeing each other! There was a bit of a pattern – she’d pass me on the uphills (yes, even in the ‘flat’ early section there were a few undulations!) and then I’d pass her on the down. Around the 5km mark she passed me for the last time, and not long after that I couldn’t even see her anymore. I expected that would be the last I’d see of her until the finish line!
Very early on we passed Tracey and Sheena’s drink station. Fresh from having easily the most fun at the 50km track championships, they went on to make volunteering look way more appealing than running! (And that’s no disrespect to the event or the course – they just manage to make EVERYTHING fun! These are the people who stopped at the pub during the Yurrebilla Ultra last year!)
We had to go through a tunnel twice. I found that a bit disconcerting as we had come out of fairly bright sunlight into a pitch dark tunnel. We could see the light at the end of the tunnel but what we could not see was what we were stepping on. And prior to the tunnel there was quite a lot of horse crap, so I can only assume the tunnel was full of shit too! (To the best of my knowledge I managed to avoid stepping in any!) This was the spot where Kate had tripped on an unseen obstacle in last year’s race, injuring her ankle quite badly. She was back for redemption this year, and had even upgraded from the short to the long course as part of her training for a 100 miler later in the year! I think in future I might carry a small handheld torch for this little section – tripping in a dark tunnel would be a very unfortunate way to DNF a trail race (especially if you end up landing in poo!)
After losing Jenny I started following father and son team Cliff and Sam (who it turned out were doing the long course, but as stated earlier, the short course was identical to the long course for the first 12km). I passed them a few times, but again it was on the uphills that they’d pass me. I’m not too bad on the downhill, actually I really enjoy it, but I’m still lacking something on the uphills. Maybe the 4000m elevation in the last few weeks was taking its toll…
And then I lost those two, and I found myself for the first time in the event, with no-one to follow! Luckily the course was impeccably marked, thanks to Michelle, Lauri, Damien and anyone else I may have forgotten who marked it yesterday! No danger of my getting lost out there today!
Behind me was he of the bright shorts, Matt, with a couple of people. I asked him “What are you doing back here?” (he’s a fast runner so naturally I would have expected him to be ahead of me all along) to which he replied “I started late. And I’m slow”. My response to that was, “You could have just said you started late – if you’re slow, what does that make me?” Also he was sounding way too cheerful going up the hills so I’m pretty sure he wasn’t working hard enough!
With him was one of the Adelaide Harriers, Bec, who I kept going back and forth with, with her having the edge on the uphills and me on the downs. When she passed me for the last time I thought that’s it, I’m not going to catch her now! And then we reached the split between the short and the long course, and she was long course so I was pretty happy with that! There was however a girl ahead of me on the short course who I was trying to keep in sight, and not long after the split another one passed me. That’s not right – no-one passes me in the last km of a race and gets away with it! Unfortunately for me I didn’t really have much left so I had to let them go, I could see them cross the line, it was a pretty tight tussle between the 2 of them (2 seconds difference!) and then 17 seconds back to me. I was 7th out of 68 females. (Jenny ended up 4th, 2.5 minutes ahead of me.) Melissa, who was 6th was also in my age group! I might have tried a bit harder at the end if I’d known that! 17 lousy seconds! I was 4th in my age group, that was a blow to my hopes of getting an overall age group placing for the series, but I happened to be born at a ‘bad’ time, with 1st and 3rd females overall also being in my age group! And I wouldn’t have been much better off had I done the long course, with the long course winner also being in the same age group!
When I started running 5 and a bit years ago at the age of 35, I realised I was in a tough age group when the top 3 women in my first ever fun run were all in my age group! And it doesn’t seem to have gotten any easier since I turned 40! Track, road, trail, parkrun, there’s always someone faster in my age group! A bit frustrating when you know you’ve done the best you can and it’s just not good enough. I know plenty of people who go out and run and aren’t fast and are completely OK with that, and love every minute. Don’t get me wrong, I love running (and trail running in particular) but I do have a pretty strong competitive streak! And I have had some success over the years but I still want to get better (as I’m sure we all do!)
However. Let’s not dwell on that. I can’t say I had a bad run. I managed to run all the way up the first 2 hills, before admitting defeat at the 3rd one and reverting to a fast walk. I completed the 13km in 1:13:49 with an average pace of 5 min 28 sec per kilometre, which with 369m elevation gain (according to Strava) is pretty respectable. And let’s also say it was EXCELLENT training for UTA 100km which is fast approaching!
Probably the highlight of the day for me was at the presentation when there was a special podium presentation for the first dog to complete one of the Trail Series events! (Luckily he/she wasn’t in my age group because I would be pretty shitty about getting beaten by someone with twice as many legs as me!) He/she even got up on the podium and posed for photos!
Thanks to Ben for putting on another fantastic event and of course to all the wonderful volunteers (too many to name but you know who you are)! And well done to everyone who ran, walked or a combination of the two – where else would you rather be on a Sunday morning?
This past weekend was the third running of the SA Track Championships, the brainchild of Yumigo!’s Ben Hockings.
An ultramarathon where it is impossible to get lost and where you are never more than 400m from first aid, hydration, nutrition and toilets!
Sounds pretty good, right? Yeah, until you realise that you’re literally running around a 400m track for 50km or 100km.
Still interested? Keep reading!
I ran the 100km at the first 2 Track Championships and if you want to read about THAT, you can read my 2016 and 2017 reports.
This year was a little different.
I had planned to run the 100 again. I had looked at my Strava for the corresponding time last year, to see what I did in the way of training. I recalled that I didn’t do too much specific training for this event (it’s pretty hard to train for this kind of event!) but I did see that I ran 30km along the coast the week before. I’d had a pretty good run in the 100k that year so I figured I’d better do the same again this year! So I went out and ran 30km on a pretty hot day last Sunday, and had a pretty crap run! I was walk/running by 10km, I wanted to call an Uber at 15km, and I was running a full minute per km slower than I’m used to!
So at that point I decided that I was definitely not in 100km shape, so I planned to run the 50km. However, with a forecast maximum of 420C on both Saturday and Sunday, so presumably not a particularly cool night on Saturday, I did consider the possibility of not running it at all! (I had missed the early bird cutoff date so I basically left it till the last minute to make the call! In the end I decided to bite the bullet and run the 50km.
50km is a different beast altogether! Whereas in the 100km I started having tactical walk breaks at about 30 minutes, theoretically I shouldn’t need to walk in the 50km. After all, it’s a marathon with a bit extra tacked on the end – and I have been able to complete most of my marathons without walking. Ordinarily, I would have expected to be able to run 50km in under 5 hours. My 30km run last weekend was JUST under 3 hours, so I wasn’t all that confident of the sub-5. Given the heat, I vaguely planned to do the run/walk thing like I had done in the 100km.
In the lead-up week I did my usual Tuesday and Thursday runs. Friday was Australia Day and I had a pretty cruisy day including the traditional Australia Day cricket at the Adelaide Oval which thankfully Australia managed to win (after being 5-8 early on, England almost came back and won it!).
Saturday was scheduled to be my 200th parkrun which was a pretty big deal! I’d been liaising with fellow parkrunner John who was approaching his 250th and we had worked out that we could do our milestone runs together, back where we’d both done the inaugural Torrens parkrun a little over 5 years ago. Although it wasn’t ideal preparation for a 50k, if I hadn’t done my 200th that day I would have ended up doing it at the Port Broughton launch next weekend, and I preferred to do it at ‘home’. So I decided to do my first ever ‘parkwalk’, and as luck would have it, another friend Ellen was doing her 150th on the same day, and we ended up walking it together!
Fellow parkrunner and entrant in the 50k track race, Graham, said to me when I told him I was going to walk, that he bet I wouldn’t be able to resist breaking into a jog at some point! So I was determined to prove him wrong, and crossed the line in about 49 minutes, a nice leisurely walk!
I also picked Graham’s brain about the 50km, which he had done last year, and he said he did a run/walk. I had already sort of planned to do that, and Graham’s words confirmed that it was a good ‘sort of plan’.
I re-read my reports from 2016 and 2017. I had taken mashed sweet potato last year but barely touched it, so I decided not to bother with that this year! I just took 2 sandwiches, one peanut butter and one chocolate spread. Along with that I had some almonds, a couple of nut bars and a couple of Clif bars. Hydration was going to be particularly important so I had 3 litres of Gatorade mixed up and ready to go in 6 bottles. That was the same amount I’d had for the 100km last year, so I didn’t think I’d need that much, but I figured it was better to have too much than not enough! Also in the esky I put a cider and a Coke for afterwards.
As I had done the previous 2 years, I had breakfast for dinner. About 2 hours before the race I had a bowl of cereal – the theory being that normally when I do a race, it’s in the morning, and my last meal pre-race is breakfast! For breakfast I had smashed avo and chickpeas (I had run out of bread and the previous day being a public holiday, my bakery hadn’t been open!) and for lunch my now traditional sweet potato mac and cheese (which I’d made for a previous ultra and had frozen the leftovers!)
After parkrun I went to Bakery on O’Connell to get myself a chocolate donut for after the race, and on a whim decided to get 4 donuts to share with my fellow vegan runners. They are enormous donuts so I cut them into quarters!
Due to the heat, the 50km event was put back an hour, from 7pm to 8pm. That worked out well because it meant that the sun would be almost gone by the time we started. It would still be hot, but at least we wouldn’t have the late afternoon sun beating down on us! The 100k start was left at 7pm, the thinking being that with a 14 hour cutoff, their cutoff time would be 9am. Should the start have been moved to 8pm, cutoff would be 10am, by which time it would already be pretty hot!
I arrived at the track about 6:30 because I wanted to see the start of the 100km. To my surprise (well actually it wasn’t that surprising given the weather conditions!) there were only 8 starters in the 100 and they were all men! I saw Sam and her husband Clinton at the track, I had thought Sam was doing the 100km but she’d opted for the 50km too. She jokingly said she should upgrade to the 100km for a guaranteed win! I wondered, if I’d seen the start list and realised that there were no females on it, if I would have been tempted to enter the 100km! It would be a guaranteed win, IF I finished! And in those conditions, and given my recent form, there were no guarantees!
Along with the 100km starters, 2 of the 50km runners, Merle and Trish, were starting at 7 as they needed to be finished as early as possible. I couldn’t understand why anyone would CHOOSE to start this particular event an hour early (given that the first hour would be probably the hottest!) but it made sense!
After the 100km runners and Merle and Trish set off, I went to get the rest of my stuff out of the car and set up my ‘base camp’. I seemed to have a LOT of stuff for a 50km run (actually more stuff than I had last year for the 100!). This year I was driving myself, whereas previously I had been picked up by Karen and Daryl, so I guess I tried to be a bit circumspect with how much stuff I brought! With just me in my car, I could bring as much stuff as I wanted!
I had 2 eskies – one larger one with all the drinks, a bag of ice, plus a spray bottle full of water, and a smaller one with my food in it. I also had a 1.5 litre container of water (why I felt the need to bring that, I don’t know – there’s ALWAYS plenty of water on hand at events!), a folding chair and a bag containing a few buffs, 2 pairs of running shoes and socks (I was wearing my Birkenstocks at the time), a change of top, plus a full change of clothes for afterwards. I also had my phone which this time I wasn’t going to carry with me. In previous years, although we had electronic timing, we couldn’t see the live results on the screen and had to rely on hourly updates on a whiteboard. Consequently I’d take a photo of the whiteboard every hour so I could see how I was tracking. This year there would be a big screen on the side of the track so we could see our progress at any time, negating the need for me to take photos! I’d also done roughly hourly updates on Facebook during my walk breaks, whereas in 2018 people could track us live online, so there was no need for that either!
And finally, given that music was such a big part of my 100km runs, I had my iPod ready to roll, all cued up on Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me” – I thought that would be a good song to start with if I did decide I needed some tunes! I wasn’t planning to use it – I’d only really started using it in the 100km late into the night after the 50km runners had finished. I’d never used it during the 2 6 hour events I’d done, so I suspected I probably wouldn’t need it. But in these conditions, who knew? Best to have it there, just in case!
There were a lot of unfamiliar faces in the 50k, and a few in the 100k! Familiar faces included the Vegan Beast Mode Team (Ryan, Kate, Sheena and Tracey, the latter choosing to spend her birthday running around in circles!) plus fellow vegan Ian from Melbourne, Sam and Clinton from Victor Harbor (Clinton entered because it would give him something to do while waiting for Sam to finish!), John who I’d met at the first 100km race and who had been back last year for the 50km, regular weekday morning running buddy Mark, Rachael who had been talked into entering by Kate only that morning, a couple of speedy runners Daniel and Toby (the latter having finished a few laps ahead of me in the 100k last year) and 2 very familiar faces in the trail running world, Kym and Mal, in an event that is about as far from trail as you can get!
Because of the heat, a few measures were put in place. At a couple of spots around the track were large tubs of iced water, with sponges in them that we could use to cool ourselves off. There was meant to be a misting station but that didn’t work out, so instead at the drink station the vollies were all armed with spray bottles of water – a human misting station!
In 2016 the 50km runners and the 100km runners were all mixed in together, sharing the same lane. In 2017 the two groups were separated, with the 100km runners running in Lane 1 and the 50km runners running in Lane 4, separated by a line of cones. 2018 was the same as 2017, with the 50km runners starting partway around the track so that we would still finish on the finish line. (Because Lane 4 is longer than Lane 1, the number of laps we would run would be less than half what the 100km runners did, and it wouldn’t be a round number of laps). I didn’t actually know exactly how many laps it was, I just knew it was less than 125!
This year, for the first time, there was an official photographer for the first few hours – Tracie from Geosnapshot, who also happens to be an old school friend! I had suggested to her to come for the first few hours when she’d be able to capture everyone, we’d all look relatively fresh, and she’d get a bit of daytime and a bit of night!
We started right on 8:00. According to the temperature reading in the stadium, it had dropped from 34 degrees at 7pm, to 33 at 8. I started with my sunnies on but wouldn’t need them for very long. I was also wearing a tiara, as were Sheena and Tracey, in honour of Tracey’s birthday. I’d never run in a tiara before!
It became apparent early on that I was going to have a huge battle on my hands in the form of a girl called Ina who I had never met before. But all I could do was just do my thing, and if it was good enough, then great, but if not, I could be satisfied in the knowledge that I could not have possibly done any more!
I decided to just run for as long as I could, despite what I had originally planned to do – it was a RACE, after all!
I started pretty comfortably, running consistent splits around the 5:20-5:30 mark. It was early days but all signs were looking good.
I ditched my sunnies early, however my aim was not that great so they landed a fair way from my base camp – I totally forgot about them, never to be seen again!
I got to 10k in just under 55 minutes (according to Garmin which we all know is not 100% accurate so you can take all these time splits with a pinch of salt!) which was the furthest I’d ever run on the track (ie without walking). I decided then to try to push through to the 2 hour mark, when we would have our first turnaround. The turnarounds were every 3 hours, presumably to break up the monotony of running laps around a 400m track! As the 100k runners had started an hour earlier than us, the first turnaround was at 3 hours for them but 2 hours for us. Our next turnaround would then be at 5 hours. I planned (hoped!) to be finished by then!
I can’t go any further here without thanking the fantastic volunteers at the drink/food station. As one who didn’t have a dedicated support crew, I relied on them. I was relatively self-sufficient, providing my own Gatorade and all my own food, but I did partake in some Coke a few times! At one point I decided I felt like water, and I grabbed a cup only to find it was warm! I was running with Kate at the time and she gave me the tip to ask for a cup of iced water which I did on my next lap. I’d ask on one lap for iced water on my next lap, and then one of the volunteers would have it ready for me. The iced water was magic! I don’t really like drinking straight water much, and when I do I tend to prefer it room temperature rather than chilled, but on this occasion it was just what the doctor ordered!
Even more so than the Coke and iced water, the aforementioned misting station. Hopefully I don’t forget anyone here (and there was one guy there whose name I didn’t know, so apologies in advance!) but almost every time I went past the food/drink station, I would get squirted, initially just with spray bottles which was fantastic, but a little later Kim started shooting everyone with her big arse water pistol (which she was clearly enjoying VERY MUCH!) I remember getting sprayed at various times by Kim, Katie, Linna, Elle, Ken and Merrilyn. SO GOOD!
I was also wearing a buff around my neck by now, as well as one on my head, so when I got squirted/tipped a cup of water over myself/squeezed a sponge over myself, the buff would get wet and keep my neck cool for a while.
I was not watching the live tracker, and although I was using my Garmin to check my kilometre splits as the kays ticked by, I knew it wouldn’t be accurate. I quickly lost count of laps (which wouldn’t have been all that useful anyway given that I didn’t know how many laps we were doing!) and so I was just running, not trying to maintain any particular pace, just running by feel.
The first indication I had of where I was positioned was when Ben did a progress update over the PA system, all I heard was that I was 2 laps behind Ina, and as far as I could tell she wasn’t walking, so therefore neither was I! I didn’t hear who was in 3rd place for the women and how far behind she was, but it didn’t matter – as long as whoever it was didn’t pass me, I would stay in front! And as long as I kept running, she probably wouldn’t pass me!
At the 2 hour turnaround mark I was on a Garmin 21.3km (which was probably more like 20, but still on track for a sub 5 hour 50k). I was still relatively comfortable and I wasn’t going to die wondering, so I kept running. The next goal was 25km which was (for the mathematicians among you) the halfway point. Again, 25km on my watch wasn’t really 25km but it was close. I figured once I hit 26km on the watch I was probably halfway! And still running…
30km was the next goal. 30km was how far I had run last Sunday and I hadn’t been able to manage to run the whole distance then, so to be able to do it here would be a great mental boost. According to Strava, I reached the 30km mark in 2:49.
“Only” 20km to go!
The next goal was to tick off the marathon distance. In most of my marathons, I have run the whole way. I’d never previously RUN that far nonstop in an ultra, often because of undulating terrain that necessitates walking at times, and in the loopy ultras I seem to like, it’s about not going out too hard early and having nothing left at the end!
Tracie had left the stadium around 9pm and came back a few hours later to snap some photos of us looking not quite so fresh, and also there was the added bonus of being able to capture some of the 50km finishers. Not long after she came back, I was closing in on the marathon distance and just under 4 hours. Even though I know it wasn’t an accurate distance, in my previous marathon at Boston I had JUST missed the sub-4 by a matter of seconds, so to get a sub-4 here would be very pleasing! When I realised how close I was, I SPRINTED past Tracie and she wondered what I was doing – I explained it afterwards! I got the sub-4 by a matter of seconds – not bad considering I had done only one 30km run in preparation for this event and that’s it!
I knew I was getting close. Ina was getting further away and showed no signs of slowing down or walking, but despite the fact that I knew I was definitely going to get second place, I figured I’d come this far, I might as well go the whole hog and run the full 50km – something I’d never done before! Running the whole way would also be the best way to ensure a sub-5! I was talking to someone along the way who had had some walk breaks and had found it hard to get running again.
Given that I was treating it more like a marathon than an ultra, it’s not surprising that I didn’t eat anything during the run. I had enough Gatorade to last me (and a couple of bottles left over) and I ran the whole way with a bottle in my hand. I had the occasional Coke and that was it – just as I would in a marathon. It’s hard to eat food while you’re running (as it happens it’s also hard to drink Coke out of a cup – I managed to spill it down the front of my legs on one occasion so I had to ask the guy with the water pistol to shoot me in the legs to wash it off!) and I don’t do gels.
Not long after I reached the ‘marathon’ some of the faster runners started to approach the end. One of them, Justin, when I ran with him for a bit, was 2 laps ahead of me. It turned out he knew Tracie too – that is SO Adelaide! As we crossed the timing mat someone called out that Justin was on 100 laps and I was on 98. I managed to keep track of laps after that! At one point Tracie had asked me how many laps the 50km runners were doing, and I didn’t know but someone around me said 118. Actually it was 119 (the first lap being just a part lap, so it was really 118-point-something). I had around 20 laps to go – the end was in sight!
From then on I started counting up laps (I didn’t want to fall into the trap of counting down until I knew I was down to maybe 5 laps) and it was a good way of distracting myself!
In the 100k event there was a clear leader, Darren, who reached 50km in just 4 hours! I planned to stick around afterwards long enough to see him finish – it was unlikely that I would get to see any of the others finish! The rest of them were motoring along – Stephan was there to do it all again after coming up short by about 4km last year. The extra 2 hours should have made a finish a no-brainer for him, but the weather conditions were going to make it very difficult!
The rest of the girls in the 50k were looking good but the ones who were clearly enjoying themselves the most were Tracey and Sheena! Sheena was doing her thing that I remembered her doing last year, she would walk quite a lot, but then break into a sprint! On a few occasions when they came up behind me they would sprint to get past me, then back into a walk again!
The next thing I was waiting for was for the 3 runners ahead of me to finish, then I would know I was nearly done! Andrew was first, closely followed by Ina. Next was Justin, but when he came up behind me, I had caught up a bit, he had had a pit stop so when we crossed the timing mat Ben told us we both had 2 laps to go. Which was great, except that on MY previous lap Ben had told me that I had 2 laps to go! I asked him to check it because if I was on my last lap I would run it quite differently than if it was my penultimate lap! Imagine the devastation if you crossed the line having gone hard on what you thought was your last lap, and then being told you had a lap to go? Nope, it was definitely my second last lap. I took it relatively easy on that lap (2:25) and when I got to the bell lap it was on! I got to my chair, took off the buff I’d been wearing for the whole race, and put on my pink fedora to finish the race!
I had intended also to drop my drink bottle but forgot. Tracie was at the finish line taking photos, and I didn’t want my drink bottle in the photos, so I threw it off to the side of the track about 50m from the finish and sprinted my way across the line! I had finished in 4:53:43, only 23 seconds behind Justin in the end! My last lap was by far my fastest, 2:06. It’s amazing what you can pull out when you know you only have 400m left to run! (My average lap pace throughout was just under 2:29)
FINISHED ! So good! I was beyond stoked, I never would have expected to be able to RUN 50km nonstop in these conditions (it was still 32-33 degrees by the time I finished) with limited training, and although I had hoped for a sub 5 hour finish, again the weather conditions meant that it was hardly a foregone conclusion! Fastest 50km, first all-run 50km, could not be happier!
After getting my medals (one finisher medal and one 2nd place medal) my first thought was getting my shoes off! I went back to my chair and sat down, and everyone’s favourite first aid person Susan came over to me and offered to take off my shoes for me! How nice it was to finally get them off AND to find not one single blister on my feet! (I had put tape around both feet, at the arches, as I always do for long distance events, but I hadn’t bothered to tape my toes – I’ve only done that once or twice and I didn’t think it would be necessary for 50km) I had to remove my calf sleeves myself though – they were VERY tight! (They had been tight when I put them on!)
I had my vegan donuts ready and there was ample pizza this time (last year I had missed out, but then again I had run the 100km so it had been a lot later by the time I was ready for it!) – this year ALL of the pizza was vegan! ALL OF IT! We are taking over the world, one ultramarathon at a time!
But first things first, a quick photo op of the top 2 men and women in the 50km. Tracie’s camera battery was about to run out so she wasn’t able to wait for the 3rd placed man and woman to come in. We got to the podium, and Tracie wanted me to stand on the ‘3’ spot, to which I replied, “No, I was 2nd! I’m not standing on the 3” (I was already standing on the ‘2’ spot while I was saying this!) I presume it was to spread us out across the podium but I was having none of that! In the end we all stood on the ground in front of the podium. MUCH better!
Justin had a beer in his hand so I thought it was an appropriate moment to crack open the cider!
The 50km runners kept finishing. Matthew, Andrew and Toby finished in quick succession, followed closely by 3rd placed female Gabrielle, who I hadn’t met before. I went over to her picnic rug to have a bit of a chat and a photo.
Not long after that, Graham finished. I could see him coming (the hi-viz yellow top giving him away!) and for half a second I did think about chasing him to the finish (as he had done to me at the Tower Trail Run) but as I was in my Birkenstocks by now and comfortably sitting down, I quickly decided against it!
I eventually got around to having some pizza and donut – I started off just taking one piece of pizza (remembering how devo I was when I missed out last year!) and then realised that there was a CRAPLOAD of pizza. And did I mention that it was ALL VEGAN?
It was nice to be able to just sit back and relax, drink my cider and watch the world go by. And by ‘the world’ I mean ‘crazy runners’! I found a great spot, just near the finish line, actually on the long jump pit. Imagine lying on the beach, but on a towel so you don’t get sand all over you. That was what it was like – I could have stayed there all night!
A little while after fellow Team Vegan member Ryan, I was at the finish line to see Kate, who was accompanied by the ever-present Tracey and Sheena. Of course they were a fair way off finishing themselves, but they were there to join in Kate’s finish line party!
It was apparently pretty early on who the likely winner of the 100k event was going to be. Darren was going from strength to strength. Being separated by 2 lanes, I didn’t see him lap me as many times as he undoubtedly did, but when I heard speedy footsteps 2 lanes away, I knew who it was!
At 3:16am, in a super impressive time of 8:16:19, Darren crossed the line to win the SA 100km track championship. I didn’t see him walk once!
One thing I had wanted to do the last 2 years, and quite a few times during the 50k this year, was have a lie down on one of the high jump mats – they looked so damn comfy! Well eventually Kate and I decided to go and try it out, and were soon joined by super volly Michelle, taking a brief break from her marathon volunteering shift! Like the long jump pit, I probably could have stayed there all night rather than going home! Probably should have, actually! (Remind me next year!)
The main reason Kate and I were hanging around was because we had to see Tracey and Sheena finish – they were having a little bit too much fun out there! We kept moving though – at one point we considered joining the two of them for a lap, except that was against the rules, so we wouldn’t do that, plus there was no way we were going to do any jogging! Instead we just walked an easy lap around the outside of the track. I think the fact that we hung around for a while after finishing, helped my recovery. I may otherwise have gone straight to bed, but while waiting for the girls to finish, we moved around a reasonable amount! (Recovery Tip #1: try to keep moving as much as possible straight after, and keep lightly active the next day!)
Before too long, ultra running legend Kym finished (he has now done every Yurrebilla 56k, every Heysen 105k and every track champs 50k – a fairly exclusive club of which he is 100% of the membership!) leaving Tracey and Sheena with Lane 4 all to themselves!
Somehow Sheena was 2 laps ahead of Tracey. We wondered what they were going to do, because I couldn’t see any scenario in which they wouldn’t finish together! We soon found out.
At 4:16am Sheena crossed the line to complete the 50k, with Tracey still 2 laps behind. What did Sheena do? Well, she kept going, of course! After having run 50km (118ish laps) she went and ran another 2 laps to finish with Tracey! That’s friendship for you! (If it was me I would have taken a 2 lap break with 1 lap to go, and let her catch up! But that’s just me!)
It was so great to see the two of them finish together, what better way for Tracey to celebrate her birthday?
We stayed for a bit longer after that, chatting with a few of the volunteers and Susan. The conversation soon (as it always does) turned to hydration and wee colour. I made the mistake of telling Susan that I hadn’t been since before the race started (so this was about 9 hours later!) – she was horrified! Then when I did eventually go, she showed me a chart and asked me what colour it was – suffice to say I needed to drink a LOT of water to rehydrate!
I had one last look at the live results before leaving. Looking at Colin and Stephan, it looked like they should be able to make cutoff time but it would be a near thing – there wouldn’t be time for much resting!
Then I realised that I could have packed all of my stuff into the car while we were waiting for Tracey and Sheena, my 2 eskies, chair, bag of clothes and shoes, and all the rest! Luckily super volly Ziad was happy to help me carry my stuff so I only had to make one trip to the car! The security guards (who were there all night – what a boring gig for them!) escorted us to my car – apparently some weirdos hang out at the athletics stadium on a Saturday night! I wouldn’t have thought they would be any weirder than the weirdos INSIDE the stadium!
And then, just before 5am, I headed home. After unloading the car, having a shower and donning the compression tights (Recovery Tip #2 – put compression tights on ASAP after the event, ideally for 24 hours!) I finally got to bed at around 6am. If anyone had asked me how my Saturday night was, and I started by telling them I got to bed at 6am, they may have had quite a different picture of how the night went!
Sleeping is overrated as all ultrarunners know, so I was awake again by 9:30. First order of business (after making sure my legs still worked) was to check the final results – cutoff time was 9am! I was so happy to read that Colin and Stephan had both finished within the last 10 minutes. Stephan had made it with just over 4 minutes to spare! After he had missed out narrowly last year, I was over the moon for him! I would have loved to have been there to see it! In hindsight, I probably would have slept just as well lying on a high jump mat at the stadium than I did at home (especially on such a warm night!) I’m certainly not hoping for another night like this next year, but sleeping at the stadium would have been quite pleasant this time around!
And now for the thankyous.
Firstly, congratulations to everyone who turned up to run this year – much respect for braving the heat and getting out there and doing it anyway – in fact this year was a record field which is amazing!
And THANKS too, to all the runners, everyone as always was very encouraging and supportive, and it was great having the company out there!
Thanks to all the support crews, who were mostly there supporting other runners but were always happy to give anyone a cheer as they went past!
To all the people who came down to support us – it’s always good to see friendly faces on the sidelines and cheering – even though they probably would rather have been in the pool or inside with the aircon cranked up!
To Susan for helping me with my shoes and making sure I was rehydrating appropriately – and for everything you do for our running events! Always great to see you out there and even better to not require your services!
To Tracie, official photographer – it’s great to have some photographic evidence of the different stages of the race! Hope watching us run around in circles wasn’t too boring for you!
Then of course, all of the FABULOUS volunteers who kept us hydrated and as cool as possible in the conditions!
Oh and let’s not forget Race Director Ben. I’ve kind of run out of words! Another wonderful event (seriously I think I could cut and paste this bit and put it in EVERY race report!) and I don’t know how you do it, but please keep doing it! (Even though you did let me think I was on my second last lap when I actually had three laps to go!)
So I’m not even going to go down the ‘never again’ road. I am pretty sure I will be back again next year. I may give the 100km another crack (if the weather forecast is favourable) or I might try to improve on this year’s 50km! Actually I think the 50k was harder than the 100k (possibly due to the weather conditions this year, or the fact that I pushed harder in the 50k, or probably a bit of both!)
I can highly recommend this event to anyone who wants a challenge. The 50km is very doable for anyone – with a 13 hour cutoff time this year, you could walk it quite comfortably! Support is never more than 400m away and you don’t need maps, compasses or snake bandages! If you want an even bigger challenge give the 100km a crack – this year’s 14 hour cutoff is a lot more achievable and I can’t imagine you’ll ever find a flatter 100km race!
I can sum up Thredbo Fun and Fitness Week (TFFW) in just a few words: a brilliant week with fabulous people in an amazing location!
But you know me, I can’t write a 25 word blog post!
2018 was my third consecutive TFFW. I am now officially a regular!
TFFW is put on by the YMCA of Canberra Runners Club and is a week of events (many of them running, but a lot of other non-running activities too) which appeal to people of all ages and abilities, including Olympians and world champions! People come from all over Australia to participate, well by ‘all over Australia’ I mean mostly Canberra and Sydney, plus a not insignificant number from South Australia!
It’s a pretty long drive to Thredbo from Adelaide, approximately 1100km. Consequently, most of the SA contingent break up the drive with an overnight stay in Albury.
You have to be prepared for anything. And by anything, I mean, hot, cold, rain, hail, snow, March flies. To illustrate this point, the day we left Adelaide it was around 38 degrees (and in Albury as well) and the night before we left Thredbo to start the journey home a week or so later, it snowed! Consequently it’s kind of hard to know what to pack!
We arrived in Thredbo on Saturday around lunchtime, having decided this year NOT to do the Albury/Wodonga parkrun (the only parkrun in Australia as far as I know, which crosses a state border!). It was what you might call ‘hot’ in Thredbo, although by reports it was actually only about 24 degrees. The altitude may have made it feel hotter, maybe! Adelaide is about 50m above sea level, Albury about 150m, and Thredbo around 1300m. It’s a bit of a contrast!
The first event of TFFW involves gaining a little more altitude. The Crackenback Challenge involves running (or in the case of us mere mortals, mostly walking) up a fairly steep hill. The race is approximately 2km which doesn’t sound so bad until you find out that there is about 600m elevation gain over that 2km. Most normal people would ascend that particular hill via the conveniently located chairlift. Now where’s the fun in that?
We have some pretty steep hills in the Adelaide region, and even some hills that are almost as steep as that, but I am sure that the high altitude adds an extra degree of difficulty to this event, especially considering it’s held just a few hours after most of us arrive in Thredbo! Still, nothing like jumping straight into it – no time to get settled in!
This year was the 50th anniversary of the Crackenback Challenge so a top field of athletes had assembled at the bottom of the chairlift, along with a few ‘legends’ of the event who were the official starters. At the time of writing I don’t know exactly how many participants there were in 2018 but the number 66 rings a bell.
We were off and running!
Well, maybe not running. I might have run the first few steps. It’s not what I would call runnable. The leaders were running though!
There’s not really a lot I can say about this race. You just have to put one foot in front of the other and hope you don’t go so slowly you end up going backwards. There are a couple of very short flat bits which it’s best to try to run if you can, but other than that, the average person will be walking the bulk of the 2km.
The course is not marked as such, and in fact there is no set course. You can pretty much go whichever way you want, as long as you get to the finish line. Straight up, following the course of the chairlift, would be the shortest option but I don’t think I’ve seen anyone successfully go that way. The shorter the route, the steeper it will be. If you want to flatten out the gradient a bit (good luck with that!) you’ll add on more distance. It’s all part of the fun!
Last year a few of us did ‘Crackenback’ a couple of times during the week, just for ‘fun’. I do recall during this year’s event, thinking to myself (and maybe even saying it out loud!) “I’m never doing this again!”. By that, I meant, never again until next year!
My previous pacesetter, David, was in his usual spot just in front of me. As long as he stayed there, I would just be able to follow him. There are a few points along the way where people take different routes and it’s hard to know which is the right way to go! (At one point one of the other South Australians, Harry, went a slightly different way. I wasn’t convinced that his way was the best way, but he later pointed out to me that I’d passed him twice, which would tend to suggest that his way was quicker!)
I did end up passing David about halfway up, so I had to find someone else to follow! Everyone was going around the same pace, and I even managed to pass some people while walking! Everyone was pretty much horizontal. (I’m told by people who were up at the finish line, that the eventual winner, stair climbing champion Mark Bourne, was about the only one that was vertical by the end!)
Even though it felt quite slow, for me it ended up being a marginal PB! I was pretty happy with that. I don’t know what position I was in, at the time of writing only the top 10 male and female results have been published. I was probably somewhere around mid pack. My Strava time was 35:12, compared to 36:03 and 35:40 in 2017 and 2016 respectively.
The presentation took place in the local pub, and it involved a bit of a panel discussion with the aforementioned legends which was really good to listen to. And I won a bottle of wine in the barrel draw – kicking off the week in style!
On Sunday I went for a hike up Merritts Nature Track with Karen, Daryl and David, approximately 4km with the same elevation as the Crackenback Challenge (essentially we started and finished in the same place). Merritts was quite the tough climb, including more stairs than I remembered! After a coffee at Eagles Nest (the highest restaurant in Australia) Daryl and I went back down in the chairlift to participate in the traditional 6km fun run, while David and Karen ran back down via a different track.
It seemed pretty warm for the fun run, although it probably wasn’t any warmer than last year! It was actually my slowest time for this event, a good couple of minutes slower than when I first did it in 2016, although I did manage to stay under 30 minutes. Maybe I should stop doing a 4km uphill hike before doing the fun run! And then next year someone will suggest doing Merritts on Sunday morning and I’ll be like “Yeah, why not?”
A little later in the day Karen, Daryl, David and I went to the swimming centre for a few laps (Karen and I were planning to do the aquathlon later in the week and David had told us that swimming at altitude is very different to swimming at sea level, so we thought it would probably be best to get accustomed to it!) and most importantly a few goes on the waterslide! (Access to the swimming centre and the waterslide was included in our chairlift pass – I only made it down there once but it was a great option to have!)
On Monday most of us went to do the ‘Big Walk’ – a 30km loop starting and finishing at the top of the chairlift. This was the first time for the week that I actually went UP on the chairlift! There were 10 of us at the start, but David took off pretty quickly so we didn’t see him for the rest of the day! Karen and Mandy were also a bit too quick for the rest of us, so for most of the day it was 7 of us, and the great thing was that I got to walk and chat with all of them at one time or another (we were out for about 6 and a half hours including a few breaks for food). The flies were less of an issue than in previous years (probably because it was quite cool and windy) although I did manage to get a few March fly bites during our lunch stop! And I didn’t see any snakes this time!
After lunch, we were checking the weather forecast and decided we needed to get moving – thunderstorms were coming, and we needed to make it back to the chairlift before then, as the chairlift would be closed in a thunderstorm or high winds.
By the time we got back to Rawsons Pass, we put our rain jackets on (Sue’s idea being that if she put her rain jacket on, it definitely wouldn’t rain! It didn’t work!) and not long after that the rain started. It wasn’t super heavy but there was a bit of thunder. We definitely picked up the pace a bit after that! We were walking on a very slippery metal walkway (slippery at the best of times, and even more so after it had rained!) so running was not an option! (Daryl managed to fall over on it twice even though he wasn’t running!)
After what seemed like an eternity we made it back to the chairlift to the sight of Sally waving her arms frantically – we had 5 minutes before they closed the chairlift! So much for a post-hike coffee at Eagles Nest! I looked back behind me, Harry and Marg weren’t far behind and I called out to them to hurry up. We all got onto the chairlift and it was definitely the fastest ride I’ve ever done on that chairlift!
There was some talk of stopping for a coffee at the coffee shop but we opted instead to go straight back to the lodge. And it was a good thing we did, because we hadn’t been back more than a couple of minutes before the heavens really opened!
On Tuesday Karen, Daryl and I went to nearby Jindabyne for a bit of shopping, and while we were there we headed down to watch the Australian Waterskiing Championships for a while – that was pretty exciting to watch! We made it back to Thredbo in time to watch the Invitational Mile which is always a fun spectator event – it’s a handicap event and they run sweeps to make it even more interesting! I drew two women in the sweep, Elizabeth and Elisha. Elisha was looking pretty good but then former Olympian marathoner Marty Dent (who started off scratch!) passed her and I reckon with another 100m he would have ended up finishing first! The invitational mile was followed by the fun run mile which last year wasn’t really a mile (I think maybe 1.3km) so I’d convinced Sue and Mandy to enter because the barrel draw prizes were pretty good! They were cursing me apparently because this year it actually was a mile! I walked the first 2/3 of the run and then decided to jog the last bit. I ended up winning a T-shirt in the barrel draw.
Wednesday was a big day. It started with the women’s run and the men’s run. I really like this event, partly because it is a beautiful course (approximately 4km), partly because it is SO well marshalled (getting lost is pretty much impossible) and partly because the way it is set up, with mostly men marshalling the women’s race and vice versa, everyone gets to run if they want to! It’s a yacht handicap, so you have to estimate your finish time, with the runners with the slower predicted times starting first, and the idea being to finish as close to the ‘zero’ mark as possible. And of course you can’t wear a watch! This year I was about 30 seconds too fast – I’m actually pretty hopeless at this kind of thing and this was probably one of my better efforts!
After the women’s run, a group of the girls, plus David who didn’t do the men’s run, did the ‘Run to the Resort’, following the Thredbo Valley Track, a shared walking/MTB track going from Thredbo Village to Lake Crackenback Resort. (I actually think it goes further than that now, but that was as far as we were going!) Harry, who was marshalling both the women’s and the men’s races, wanted to go as well, so I said I’d wait for him and we could meet the others at the resort. We ended up starting about an hour and 20 minutes after the rest of them, so we didn’t catch up with them, but they were well and truly settled in at the cafe at Lake Crackenback when we arrived! It’s a nice run – about 19km from our lodge to the cafe, and the path is really good to run on, and most importantly, mostly downhill! (That’s why the mountain bikers like it!) We didn’t encounter too many MTBs and most of them were going our way, but most of them were very courteous! (Harry came up with an evil plot which involved asking MTB riders if they were on their own – ostensibly to make sure we could look out for anyone else behind them – only for one of us to mug them and the other to steal the bike! We never quite managed to pull it off, though!)
I managed not to get lost at all along the way, which was an improvement on when I ran this trail last year – the trail is very well marked! It wasn’t until we got to Lake Crackenback itself that we lost the trail and ended up on the road, but that was only about the last kilometre. And then we saw Sally waving to us and we knew we’d reached our destination!
After a very well earned Coke, a few of us wandered down to the lake where there were a bunch of kayaks on the shore, so we decided to go for a little paddle!
That evening was the official TFFW dinner, which most of us in our lodge went to. It was a great night, with another panel discussion and some very entertaining speeches (and some fairly expensive wine!)
On Thursday, while another group went off to do the Cascades run, I went off to do the 10km Dead Horse Gap hike with Karen, Daryl and David. It was another tough climb – the third time for the week that I walked up a hill when there was a perfectly good chairlift available! It’s a beautiful hike though, the snow gums are simply spectacular! (We did miss out though – the girls who went to Cascades saw a dozen brumbies! I’d never seen a brumby! Unless Wild Brumby gin distillery counts?)
Later in the day I finally made it to the bobsled track for the first time this year. Our chairlift passes included 16 bobsled rides and I intended to make the most of it! On my first ride I took back my Strava course record. At the time when I originally set the CR (last year), it wasn’t even a segment, but then someone went and made a segment out of it AND had the audacity to beat my CR!
Then it was time to get ready for the aquathlon – a 200-300m swim in the lake followed by a 2-3km run. No-one quite seemed to know what the distances were! I had brought my tri suit as had Karen, although most people seemed to be swimming/running in bathers. Neither of us particularly fancied doing that!
The lake was quite a pleasant temperature, and being a freshwater lake, was mercifully not infested with jellyfish, unlike my usual swimming hole in Adelaide!
We swam from one end of the lake, around a red buoy, around a yellow buoy, and then to a large buoy which signified the exit point from the lake. I’ll happily admit that as a swimmer, I make a very good runner. I was well back in the pack (which sounds a bit better when I reveal that a lot of the swimmers in the event were actually elite NSW swimmers, who happened to be in town for the week for training). Now I have some issues seeing with my goggles, which are very darkly tinted, ideal in sunny conditions but not so good when the sun isn’t too bright. As I approached what I thought was the red buoy, it started talking to me, and I realised that either I was hallucinating, or what I THOUGHT was the red buoy was actually one of the marshals, who happened to be a fellow South Australian, Jeff, wearing an Arsenal hat! I wasn’t the only one who made that mistake though!
I quickly got back on track and eventually found my way to the edge of the lake where I ran out and put my shoes on (no socks) and hit the Pipeline track for the run!
The run was pretty uneventful – for me at least! I would have had to be one of the last out of the water but I was able to overtake quite a few people on the run. Probably all the elite swimmers! I don’t know how many were in the event, what position I finished in, or what my time was (I was wearing my Garmin and I ALMOST managed to get it right!) but I am happy with whatever it was – especially because a large black snake made an appearance on the track not long after I had gone past! Good thing I wasn’t a bit slower!
The prizes in the barrel draw were great! I won another bottle of wine (and I think David did too)! Karen won some socks so it was winners all around from the South Australian contingent!
Friday was probably the highlight of TFFW, the Veterans Run, also known as Eric’s Run, after a former TFFW regular and huge contributor to the SA running community. This run is organised by the SA crew each year, with probably the best barrel draw prizes (I may or may not be biased) including wine and a ridiculous number of T-shirts! (And by ridiculous, I mean that everyone got to go up twice and there were STILL shirts left over!)
I had done the run twice and this year I was one of the marshals. Tradition dictates that if it’s your first TFFW and you meet the age requirements (35 and over for women, and 40 and over for men) you run in the event, and all those who don’t run, are the marshals. Every year the marshals dress up to a particular theme and this year it was ‘Let’s Get Physical’. The guys were resplendent in bright orange Corporate Cup T-shirts (some spares from the barrel draw!) and matching headbands knitted by Mandy, and the girls went all out with bright colours and leotards and legwarmers!
Sally had come up with the idea of doing a group warmup, to the tune of ‘Nutbush City Limits’, an idea she had got from a winery fun run a few months back. Marg and I were the aerobics instructors and we managed to get the majority of the runners involved!
I then had to run to my marshalling point, just in time for the first runners to come through. It was a challenging run course – lots of hills and quite a few steps! The way it works is, as the last runner goes past, the marshal at that point follows them, and at each marshalling point they ‘collect’ the marshal from that point. That way, the marshals get to experience the course (which changes every year) and are back at the Village Green just after the last runner.
After the barrel draw came one of the nicest traditions, where all the SA crew (plus quasi South Australian Ryan, who this year was eligible to run the event for the first time, having previously been one of our marshals) gather at Eric and May’s bench by the river for bubbly and snacks!
After this a few of us went back to the bobsled – Marg, Mandy, Sally, Harry and myself. Sally required a bit of convincing but ended up loving it and getting back in the queue like the rest of us for another ride! The second ride was quite eventful – as we were being towed up to the top of the track, Marg, who was just in front of me, had got out of her bobsled and was signalling at me to do the same! I didn’t know what was going on, I assumed there had been some kind of pileup on the track, so I threw myself out of the bobsled (easier said than done!) only to find that there had been a snake on the track, which by the time I found out what was going on, had sensibly made its way back into the bushes! (It’s OK though, as we were repeatedly told by the bobsled attendants, it was ‘only a copperhead’!)
There were storms on Friday night, which played havoc with the tennis finals, and there was also some talk of the following day’s Kosciuszko Classic possibly being called off. Last year’s Classic was run in pretty challenging conditions, and I couldn’t see it being worse than that, so I was optimistic! I definitely wanted to run it if it was on! I hadn’t been up Kosci on this trip, and even though it was unlikely I’d be able to see anything from the top, there was no way I was coming up to Thredbo and NOT going to the summit!
The plan was that TFFW organiser and Kosci race director Phil would go to the bottom of the chairlift at 8:30 and make the decision then, and announce via Facebook if it was cancelled. Most of the people at our lodge had decided that they weren’t going to run it even if it was on. There were only 4 of us planning to go up – the usual suspects, Karen, Daryl, David and myself. Karen had said that if it was called off she was going to go up anyway at some stage during the day. I planned to do the same!
With no announcement by 8:40 we assumed it was all systems go, so the 4 of us went to the chairlift where the crowd was gathered. Phil said he was going to wait until 9 to make the call, at which point he decided we would proceed up the chairlift to Eagles Nest and reassess from there. Before we left to start the 4.5km walk to Rawson’s Pass, he did a head count – there were 17 of us. (I’m not sure if he was including himself there). We would reconvene at the Kosciuszko Lookout along the walkway, and make a final decision about whether we would go ahead (although it could still have been called off at the last minute if the weather turned ugly!). With no storms on the horizon and no rain, the only concern was the cold winds which could result in hypothermia if people weren’t suitably dressed. Phil said all along that he reserved the right to call the race off at any point if he deemed it unsafe, which we totally understood – I was just grateful that we had got this far!
A few people turned back at the lookout, including South Aussie Peter, and also Marty and Elisha, who had both been in the Invitational Mile and Elisha had finished in the top 10 in the Crackenback Challenge. That left just 3 women in the 13-strong field for the race – I liked my chances of a podium finish!
We made it to Rawson’s Pass and all congregated in the toilets – the only shelter in the place! I asked “Are we going to leave our shit in here?” to which Kosci record holder Rob replied (something like) “I think that’s where you’re supposed to leave it!”
Phil organised for each of us to ‘buddy up’ with someone else, to make sure that we all made it back! My buddy was Rhys, who is a fellow South Australian and we are around the same pace, so it made sense for us to team up! Rhys was wearing his Adelaide Harriers singlet over the top of a long sleeved top, which made me decide at the last minute to put my SARRC singlet on over my T-shirt – I couldn’t let Harriers be the only SA club represented on the mountain!
While hanging out in the toilets (as you do!) one of the two other women in the field (ie the one that wasn’t Karen), Michelle, was having a few issues with the cold – she couldn’t quite manage to undo the cord on her hood to be able to take it off! While discussing the effects of the cold, Rhys suggested to Michelle to eat a Mars Bar (or maybe it was a Snickers, I forget!) to keep warm. (One of the other runners had a bag of fun size bars and was handing them out to those who wanted them.) I wasn’t going to eat a Mars Bar but I did have a Cool Mint Clif bar in my pack. I had planned to eat it afterwards, but what Rhys said made a lot of sense (and he is experienced at being out in the mountains in the cold!) so I thought what the hey, I might as well eat it now, just before the race! (This particular variety of Clif bar also contains caffeine – double whammy!)
A few of the other runners, Karen, Daryl, David (ie the rest of the South Australians) and one other man whose name eludes me (because at the time of writing the official results have not been posted) had set off early – that is traditionally an option for those who are mostly going to be walking, to save Phil et al waiting too long for them at the top of Kosci!
Our ‘official’ start time was 11am but Phil had told us to start whenever we got to the start line – not to hang around getting cold! As long as we all started at the same time, and then told him what time we’d started, he could work out the times based on that.
We jogged the 3km to the Snowy River to start the ascent to the summit. The 3km was all downhill, so the astute readers may have worked out that the Kosci Classic is pretty much ALL uphill. But compared to Crackenback, it’s a walk in the park!
On the way down, I was running with Ryan and we heard this noise behind us which sounded EXACTLY like a car (not something you see often in these parts!) – turned out to be just a HUGE gust of wind!
After my now traditional splashing of the face with Snowy River water (the water was surprisingly not all that cold – maybe something to do with the air temperature!) we lined up on the start line for the ‘official’ start line pic (thanks to some random passer-by for taking the pic!)
And then we set off. Rob was off like a shot! I was ahead of Michelle for a little bit, and then before long she passed me.”OK that’s it” I thought to myself, “Second place it is!”
But it wasn’t too long before she started walking and I passed her. We went back and forth a few times like this (Rhys was also around the same pace) before I decided to take a punt.
“So… how competitive are you, Michelle?” I said to her.
I can’t remember her exact words but the gist of it was, on this particular occasion it was just all about finishing.
So I made the suggestion to her about a dead-heat finish, which she seemed pretty happy with!
After that, I was a bit more relaxed in my running – all we had to do was get past Karen (who, having started early, probably would be slower than us anyway, but if we passed her then that would put it beyond doubt) and first place was ours!
As we approached Rawson’s Pass, I thought I heard a car behind us. I turned around, expecting to see nothing, but sure enough, it WAS a car! It was a ranger in a ute, I never quite figured out what she was doing there, but I assumed she was just keeping an eye on things, as the conditions were quite hazardous for the unprepared. Rhys later told me that when he saw her at Rawsons, she told him that she had measured the wind speed at 90 km/h and 5 degrees Celsius (which would, with wind chill, be effectively minus 5 degrees Celsius).
At Rawsons, I decided to ditch my gloves, putting them behind a rock so they hopefully wouldn’t blow away!
Every now and then Michelle would start walking, so I’d walk a bit. Last year, and the year before that, I’d managed to run the whole thing. This time, there was really no need to push it too hard. (Rhys, on the other hand, was determined to run the whole thing, having never done this before).
We passed Karen, Daryl and the other gentleman, and along the way we also encountered a number of very well rugged up hikers. I hated to tell a large group of tourists on their approach to the summit, that they probably weren’t going to see anything!
Not long before we reached the top, we encountered who we presumed were the top 3 men in the race, Rob, Ryan and Chad. We didn’t know what order they’d finished in but clearly Phil was serious when he said we weren’t to linger at the top for long – cross the line, quick photo, and straight back down to put some warm clothes on!
The finish line came as a bit of a surprise – partly because the visibility was so poor that it was kind of hard to see! You also come around a corner and there it is, so even on a good day it kind of sneaks up on you! Rhys was just ahead and then Michelle and I crossed together. At the time of writing I don’t know what my ‘official’ time was but according to Strava it was 34:10, EXACTLY the same as last year (to the second!) which was surprising considering I did have a few walk breaks this year unlike last year!
We had a few happy snaps (including the obligatory “I’m the highest person on Australian soil at this moment” one) and then were sent back down the mountain.
Then it was back to Rawsons, put on ALL OF THE CLOTHES and then a leisurely walk back to the chairlift, back down to the village, a quick ride on the bobsled (no snakes today!), a quick bite of lunch and then the presentation! It seemed quite appropriate that there were only 2 mugs for the women – for the purposes of the photo Michelle and I ‘shared’ one! I got to take it home but she would have got her mug eventually! And at the presentation I found out that Ryan had had his first win in the Kosci classic, with brother Chad in 3rd and Rob ending up 2nd.
That was the last official event of TFFW. Many of those in our lodge, with bad weather predicted for that night, had taken the opportunity to leave on Saturday. The rest of us stayed Saturday night and started the journey home (over 2 days, with a night in Echuca to break it up) on Sunday. Thredbo farewelled us in style, with an overnight dusting of snow. Now snow in Thredbo is not unusual (it is a famous ski resort, after all, and there are patches of snow up on the range all year around) but it IS the middle of summer so you don’t often have snow FALLING at this time of year!
AND I saw my first brumby on the drive back down the Alpine Way as we headed for Echuca!
Thanks to all involved in organising another brilliant week – see you all again to do it all again in 2019!
I’ve written about parkrun before, but just in case you have been living under a rock for the last little while, here’s a brief rundown.
parkrun (ALWAYS one word and a lower case ‘p’) is a global phenomenon. The concept is simple – a free, timed, 5k run every weekend, same time, same place, until the end of time. (Side note: if you haven’t registered yet, go to www.parkrun.com and get on board!)
Australia first got parkrun in 2011 and South Australia followed close behind in late 2012 with Torrens parkrun. I was there along with 43 other runners and 4 volunteers. Now, Torrens is regularly getting over 300 runners and at the end of last year SA got its 20th parkrun.
parkrun tourism is a thing. There is a list on the parkrun website of ‘most events’ – the parkrunners who have done the most different parkruns. It is a great honour to get your name on this list (you have to do a minimum of 20 different parkruns to qualify for the Australian list, and 30 to get on the global list). I am on the Australian list and am working towards getting onto the global list by the end of the year. With parkrun exploding in SA as it did last year (jumping from 11 to 20 events in just one year) I don’t think that will be too hard!)
parkrun tourism is also a great way to see places you might not otherwise go to. For example, when in Washington DC last year I decided to do the Roosevelt Island parkrun and if not for that, I never would have known that Roosevelt Island existed! I’d also been to Renmark for the first time because of parkrun!
Anyway, this weekend SA welcomed its 21st parkrun, at seaside Edithburgh, on Yorke Peninsula. I hadn’t been to Yorkes since I worked at Minlaton in late 2008, and it didn’t hurt that Adelaide was experiencing 40+ temperatures at the time – perfect weekend to get out of town!
As always with new parkrun launches, there is always a large contingent of tourists. Usually the tourists outnumber the locals! Week 2 is probably the best indicator of what the ‘usual’ number will be, where you get to see how many of the locals will be there week in and week out.
Edithburgh is about 250km away from Adelaide, approximately a 2.5 to 3 hour drive. With parkrun starting at 8am, I didn’t fancy leaving home before 5am (therefore probably getting up at 4am – on a Saturday!) to get there in time, so I decided to stay overnight on Friday. At the semi-last minute I managed to book a cabin at the Coobowie Caravan Park, an easy 5 minute drive from the parkrun location at Edithburgh.
By the time I arrived at about 6:30pm on Friday the temperature had dropped considerably – a welcome relief! There is a tidal pool at Edithburgh – I did go for a quick dip in there but it was actually a bit too cool by the time I got in!
On Saturday morning, I got up around 6ish, thinking to myself that I would already have been up for 2 hours if I hadn’t stayed overnight! NO THANKS!
Some crazy people (actually quite a lot of crazy people) HAD made the drive up on the morning. Admittedly some of them live a bit further north than me, so it wasn’t QUITE so long a drive, but some of them live even further away than me! And some of them were driving back home the same day!
A lot of people had decided to make a weekend of it, with SA’s 22nd parkrun, Port Broughton, which is launching in a few weeks, having a trial run on the Sunday. Port Broughton is quite far from Edithburgh but a bit closer to Adelaide.
There were 70-odd people there for the inaugural event, with just under half of those being locals. That’s a great sign – what you don’t really want in a parkrun is a huge crowd of tourists at the launch, and then NOBODY the next week!
It is a simple out and back course, mostly along the coast. We had a tail wind on the way out and consequently a head wind on the way back. The finish was a little bit brutal (if you can use such a word to describe a beautiful seaside parkrun!) in that you could see the finish line from about 500m away, and also you had to go up a hill into the wind to finish! Funny, I didn’t recall running downhill with the wind at the start! Funny how that happens!
I managed just over 23 minutes but made the rookie mistake of stopping my watch without looking – Garmin made the distance 4.98km, which of course would be rounded down by Strava to 4.9km! Of course that’s just GPS error as I’m certain that the course IS really 5k!
After a bit of socialising at the finish line and a few group photos – I’m sure wrangling 70+ parkrunners (plus doggos) for a photo is akin to taking a school class photo – we headed to the local coffee shop for the obligatory post-parkrun coffee.
Location Café is a perfect place for coffee – plenty of space for parkrunners, great coffee, inside AND outside options, and looked like a pretty good brekky! I made my way around the tables and didn’t leave there until nearly midday (I think that’s a new record for me and post-parkrun coffee!)
From there I took the long route back home – stopping for lunch in Moonta, a quick dip in the swimming enclosure at Wallaroo (actually just a paddle – the water was divine!) and a coffee. (I wasn’t going in the water but I heard someone calling my name – I thought I was imagining things but it was fellow tourist Kelly, stopping for a dip on the way to Port Broughton, so I went down to say hi!)
All up I covered 550+km (on a single tank of petrol!) but it was well worth it!
Congratulations to Edithburgh parkrun EDs Zoe and Danielle for this fantastic new event! Hopefully I’ll make it back down there again soon!
Boxing Day 2017 saw the 30th and final running of the Sam White Memorial Aquathlon – see this link for a bio of Sam White and the history of this event.
I had participated in this event once before, in 2015. It was my first multisport event and I managed to win my age group (admittedly not a huge field!)
I know what some of you are thinking.
“What the fudge is an aquathlon?”
Swimming and running, my friends. Swimming and running. Kind of like a triathlon without the cycle leg.
The format of this particular event was simple. First up were the Enduro aquathlons, consisting of 1, 2 or 3 reps of the following – 250m ocean swim and 1.7km run. After this was the Elite event, 1.7km run/500m swim/1.7km run/500m swim/1.7km run. I wasn’t able to stick around to see this event on this occasion but I do remember watching it 2 years ago. From the dead calm waters I’d swum in earlier that morning, the wind had picked up considerably by the time the Elites got out there! It was great to watch!
Anyway, back to 2017!
I entered the Medium course – 2 swims and 2 runs. In 2015 I went for the Small course, but given that this was the last event, I wanted to take it up a notch this time around! It would be my first time running and then going back into the drink!
Karen was there too, doing the Small course, and David was there again, going for the Large course! He told me before the race that he’d broken a toe last year when he kicked a rock! I asked him at what point in the race that had happened – he replied “Near the end!”
I had to figure out how to attach my race number – it was waterproof but I couldn’t imagine it would be that easy to swim with a race bib pinned to your front! Then I remembered my race belt in the car (probably about 1km away) – perfect! I could attach my number to my belt, put it in the transition area and just put it on when I went into the run leg.
Luckily I had arrived very early which gave me plenty of time to go back to the car. I was early because I had decided I also needed to do a ‘normal’ Tuesday morning run, I had gone out to run with the Semaphore running group at 7am, just a little way up the coast from where the aquathlon was held at Glenelg at 11am. Originally I’d planned on 10km because “I don’t get out of bed for less than 10km” (unless it’s a parkrun, a race or a hilly trail run) but quickly revised that to 8km.
As well as my race number I also had to get my age group written on the back of both of my legs, and pick up my swim cap. This time around I got a green cap – I really wanted a pink one but that would have meant I had to do the Large course. OK, I didn’t want a pink cap THAT badly!
And then I had to attach my timing band, taking extra special care to follow the instructions, because a lost timing band would cost me $55! I’d used bands like this before but never in a swimming event, so the possibility of losing one had never really been an issue!
I decided to wear my tri suit because it would make transitions easier. Plus it would make me look kinda sorta professional (until I got into the water!)
It wasn’t long before race organiser Malcolm did the race briefing and summoned us all down to the water’s edge. It was a wave start, with the men setting off before the women in each of the distances (presumably because they’re meant to be faster so wouldn’t have to swim over the top of us!) The Small course went first, followed by us in the Medium course. Next behind our wave was the Large course men. I fully expected to be overtaken by some of them during the swim, even with a couple of minutes head start! (And I was!)
I was trying to do a sneaky peek at the back of the other ‘green caps’ legs to see if there was anyone else in my age group. I was looking for numbers starting with a ‘4’ but didn’t see any. I should also have been looking for ‘3’ numbers as my age group (for trophy purposes) was actually 35-49! (My age group in the Small course would have been 16-49!)
There were plenty of spectators – it was a beautiful morning!
Before long we were away! But not before I kicked a dirty big rock right before the start line, causing my toe to look like this:
The swim was much the same as the one I’d done in the triathlon last month. Out, across and back. Like 3/4 of a square. The water wasn’t too choppy but there were some waves. I don’t have much experience in ocean swimming (although since this event I have had a very productive ocean swimming lesson where I learned about swimming under waves!) so I wasn’t expecting any great things from the swim. Like the triathlon, it was all about ‘just getting it done’.
The ‘out’ part of the swim was the hardest, swimming against the waves. Then it was straight across, which wasn’t too bad, and then swimming back to shore WITH the waves. One thing I did know about open water swimming was that you keep swimming until your hands touch the sand. No sense running through water, wearing out your legs, when you could be swimming and predominantly using your arms!
Then it was into transition, where I had my race belt, cap, sunnies, running shoes (with elastic laces) and socks. I decided for the first run not to wear the socks, and then depending on how that went, I might decide to wear them for the second run. While giving my feet a quick dry off, I managed to get my goggles full of sand, but I figured I could always wash them off in the ocean as I ran in for the next swim!
I grabbed my shoes, ran up off the beach, dusted off the sand and slipped into the shoes. Some people had buckets of water ready to wash their feet but I didn’t bother with that and didn’t have any issues. Maybe for a longer run I would do that but not for 1.7km.
The run was good. I had no worries about the run. I always expected to pass people on the run, which I did.
We were directed down some stairs back onto the beach for a bit, where I re-entered transition. I left the shoes on until I got back to my towel. I’m not sure if it would have been any easier running barefoot (you’re allowed to run barefoot on the sand but have to put your shoes on when you get off the beach)
Experienced triathlete Neil, down as a spectator for this event, had told me at the start that I didn’t have to wear my swim cap for the second swim. Although there were a few guys in white caps (Large course) doing the whole thing with caps on! So all I had to do was ditch the shoes, race belt, cap and sunnies, grab the sandy gogs and head back to the water (preferably without kicking any rocks!)
The second swim was harder and subsequently slower – mostly because my legs were a bit cooked from the run, and of course the start of the swim involves more running, but this time through water and against the waves! At times I did do breaststroke kick with freestyle arms (mostly when I encountered waves and when going around corners). And I did get smacked in the head for the first time ever, on the approach to shore! The guy didn’t even seem to notice that he’d smacked me!
This time, I went through transition, grabbed my sunnies and shoes and was away! Didn’t even bother trying to dry off my feet this time. And opted to go sans socks again. I also opted to go sans race number, which the marshal at the jetty pointed out, so I had to go back and grab that, at which point I also grabbed my cap which I had also forgotten. Probably cost me about 20 seconds if that. In the overall scheme of things, it wasn’t a big issue and definitely a mistake I won’t make twice!
A slightly slower second run, still overtaking people along the way, and then back on the sand, this time to go through the finishing arch! I could hear someone behind me, I could tell it was a guy, so not someone I could potentially be competing with, but still, I didn’t want to be passed at the finish line – by anyone!
I later found out that I won my age group! (I also finished last in my age group, go figure!)
Time is probably inconsequential, but I finished 4th female (out of 9) and 11th out of 22 overall, in a time of 31:12, ‘only’ about 5 minutes behind the 3rd placed female! (The top 3 females were all in the under 16 age group!) That’s why I said my transition error didn’t really cost me anything!
The splits were interesting but not really surprising.
Overall I was pretty happy with how it went, it’s all a great learning experience!
Karen won her age group too!
Thanks to all of the many volunteers who made this event possible, to organiser Malcolm (whose timing company Event Strategies is very well known among trail and road running events in SA!) and to the White family! And well done to all who participated – what a great way to start Boxing Day!
Seems an appropriate time to reflect on what has gone down during this year, and have a sneaky peek ahead to 2018!
Because I’m in lazy mode, this post is probably going to be full of links to other posts! Why reinvent the wheel?
Let’s go right back to the start. My first big event of the year was the 100km track championships. It was my second year in a row competing in this event. I probably said ‘never again’ afterwards. Well, I haven’t entered yet, but needless to say I WILL be going back to do it all again next month!
Running-wise, probably the big highlight of 2017 would have to be the Boston Marathon. You might want to make yourself a cup of tea before reading that one – it’s a bit of an epic!
Qualifying for Boston was the main focus of the first half of 2016. It (and the accompanying coast to coast USA trip) would be my 40th birthday present to myself! So I guess it’s appropriate that the story of the race itself was a big one!
Boston was not, of course, the only highlight of the trip!
From New York to San Francisco, I had a ball! Sport, music, culture, you name it, I did it! And the food, oh the food!
But if I had to pick just ONE highlight from the trip, it wouldn’t be running-related at all. (Well, there was some running involved. I practically had to run to make my bus back to NYC the next morning!) Finally getting to see Def Leppard live was one of the highlights of the whole year, I had been wanting to see them for 25 years and after not being allowed to go at the age of 15, the timing had never worked out before. When I found out that they were touring North America at the same time as me, even though our itineraries did not quite match up, I did manage to make a little side trip to Connecticut! Hopefully the next time I see them will be in Australia, otherwise I can see more overseas travel coming up!
So getting back to Australia and more active pursuits, I had a couple more gigs as a half marathon pacer – firstly at the Barossa Marathon and then at Adelaide where I also had my 15 milliseconds of fame!
I ‘upgraded’ at the semi-last minute from the 6 hour to the 12 hour, at the Adelaide 24 hour festival. Very happy with that decision, I finished 2nd behind the remarkable Amelia who smashed out almost 130km in 12 hours!
After 12 months or so of avoiding hills, I got my hill legs back in the second half of the year. It started with the Tower Trail Run in Mount Gambier, a fantastic weekend away and a surprisingly good run (meaning that I was surprised with how well I ran – I never doubted that it would be a great event!)
My other big hilly run for the year was the Heysen 35. Many ‘accused’ me of being ‘soft’ but I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to top my 105km from last year, and I preferred to do something different where it would be a guaranteed PB! Plus, it gave me the opportunity to be part of the awesome finish line party! (Incidentally, the 35 contains about half of the elevation gain of the 105. So it’s far from an ‘easy’ option!)
I finally got a bike! I’m still very much a newbie at it, but since getting the bike in July I’ve managed to master cleats, starting to get the hang of gears, and I’ve ridden in my first community ride and also conquered the famous Norton Summit! I’m not signing up for the Tour Down Under just yet though! Early days…
Once I had the bike, I had pretty much run out of excuses not to get involved in multisport events, namely duathlon and triathlon!
I did my first duathlon after only a couple of rides on the bike, and because it was only a very short ride, I decided to do the ride in my running shoes, to make transitions quicker! I was nowhere near ready to race in cleats, and I figured it was better to jump in not quite ready, than to wait until I was ready, by which time the duathlon season would be over!
The next step was my first triathlon, which I completed in November and absolutely loved! I had hoped to do more triathlons this season but each one clashed with a running event! And I am, after all, a runner first, triathlete second! I do have one more tri planned before the end of the season, and am eyeing off Murray Man in 2018.
Back to non-running things, I had a few changes in my appearance during the year! In February I had my head shaved as part of the Leukaemia Foundation’s ‘World’s Greatest Shave’ which I had done twice before. I actually quite like the ‘buzz cut’ look – and talk about low maintenance (not to mention aerodynamic!).
Then, when it grew back long enough for me to get my first haircut, I decided on a dramatic change and went blonde for the first time in my life! (It was inspired by a mullet wig I wore to the Guns N’Roses concert – a few people commented that the colour suited me, and the seed was planted!)
I’ll finish off by talking a bit about being involved in races ‘from the other side’!
This year I MC’d my first race at Mt Crawford and then was asked to MC the Yurrebilla 56k Ultra which was just the best fun EVER! I’m a bit torn because I think I’d like to run Yurrebilla in 2018 but if for some reason I can’t, or choose not to, I’d love to MC again!
Obviously that’s just a taste of the year that was 2017 – just a few of many highlights! And a few hints of what is to come in 2018!
What were YOUR highlights of 2017? Could you pick just one?
This Sunday was the first race of the 4 race Yumigo! Summer Trail Series. There is a race every month from December to March, each with short and long options, and each one getting progressively longer! At the end of the series, points from each race are added up and prizes are awarded for the top 3 males and females overall in both the short and the long courses, and also the top 3 males and females in each age group.
I have only ever run a couple of races in the series. In 2015/2016 I ran Anstey Hill in December and then the final race at Newland Head in March. Last season I didn’t run any of the races (being interstate for the first 2) although I did volunteer at the last one. This summer, I plan to run 3 of the 4 races, as I will be away for January’s event (unfortunately the one that is closest to home for me!) It will mean that I miss the last 2 Gatti Triathlons, as unfortunately they clash with the last 2 races of the trail series!
This season I have decided I want to try for an overall age group placing. Both the Yumigo! summer series and the Trail Running SA winter series have series awards and I have never run enough of the races to be in contention!
I’m not sure exactly why, but I decided that this season I was going to focus on the short courses. I had always gone for the long course before, but this time around I decided that short was the way to go! Sure, I am doing a 100km trail ultra next May (and probably a 58k warmup in April) which I need to train for, but speed is still important! And how do you get speed? Well, in part, by running shorter events!
I had a great week of running in the lead-up. A fast, flat 10k on Sunday, a fastish hilly 11k on Wednesday and a fast flat 10k on Thursday. No trails, and not a whole lot in the way of hills, but I was very happy with my pace!
On Saturday I decided to make the trip down to Victor Harbor for parkrun, a nice change of scenery, and I picked a great day for it too. It was my 10th Victor parkrun (and the 7th time I’d driven down on the day to run it) and probably the best conditions I’d ever run there. Sunny, mild, and very little wind! I ran it with Simon, who was taking it really easy (hence the reason I was able to run with him) and we chatted the whole way about triathlons, as he was doing his first one on Sunday. It worked out well for me too, because I was able to run at a relatively fast pace, but slower than I otherwise would have, and I really needed to save my legs for Sunday!
I hadn’t really thought about what I was going to wear. I gave myself an hour to get ready in the morning, so that gave me time to decide what to wear and change my mind once or twice. It was an early start, 7:30 for both the short and the long course, so I was up at 5:30.
I ended up going with pretty much the same kit as I wore for Heysen. That was a good omen, as Heysen had gone pretty well! The only real difference was that instead of wearing my large race vest, I went with the smaller one. I probably could have managed without a vest altogether, given that the short course was supposedly only 8.5km, but it was going to be a relatively warm morning, and I wanted to have drinks on hand so I didn’t have any need to stop at the aid stations. This event was going to be all about speed! I had 2 x 250ml bottles of Gatorade in the front pockets, and the only other things I had in there was a nut bar (left over from the last time I’d used that vest!) and a snake bandage (which most likely would not be required, but it’s always good to have on hand!)
Even though it was relatively warm, my outfit was looking a little bit bland with the blue Mekong ‘Vegan Beast Mode’ top, black skirt and calf sleeves, and white hat. So I put my rainbow arm warmers on, just on my wrists, just to add a bit of colour!
As I got in the car ready to head up there, I got a text from Beck asking if race day entries would be accepted. The official word was ‘no’ but at a previous race, when I was on the registration desk, I had taken a late entry literally as everyone was lining up at the start! (And he ended up getting a placing!) She had always intended to enter, but just didn’t get around to it!
As always at these events, there were a lot of familiar faces, including the Adelaide Running Paparazzi (aka Gary) who ensured there were at least a few pics for me to use in this race report (my phone memory is almost full so I hardly have any room for any more photos!). Beck was there too, and managed to sign up with no issues.
Given that we all started at the same time (short and long course) I didn’t quite know who I was ‘competing’ against! As a relatively late entrant, my bib number was in the 1000s. Theoretically the long course runners had the lower numbers and the short course runners the higher ones, but the late entrants were a mystery! I kind of assumed that the more elite runners would be doing the long course (another reason why I was doing the short course!) but I saw Jenny at the start and she was doing the short course. Other than Jenny and Beck, I wasn’t sure which other females were in the short course. Jenny I had met at this very event 2 years ago – on that occasion I had finished ahead of her, but that feat was unlikely to be repeated – she has certainly gone on to bigger and better things since then!
The race started with a little 500m loop around the start/finish area – I wonder if that was to try to spread the field out a bit before we hit the single track? It was a new course this year, significantly different from when I had run it 2 years ago.
Just over 1km in, we hit the first steep uphill bit. Almost 1km straight up, before we’d even got warmed up! New course designer Justin loves his hills!
Not long after we’d gotten over the first hill, we had another (shorter) uphill section and then it flattened out a bit.
Early on in the race we were on single track, making it difficult for anyone to pass. It wasn’t really an issue for me, I was quite comfortable sitting where I was sitting! I could sense at times people ‘breathing down my neck’ but I figured if they wanted to get past they would either call out, or wait until we reached a wider section of track and just go. I would have let them past if they’d asked (unless they were a female, especially one aged 40-44, in which case it would have been elbows out!) (That was a joke by the way!)
Early on in the race I was running alongside Cliff and his 10 year old son Sam, who were doing the long course. They were not racing, said Cliff, just taking it easy. I’d like to see their ‘racing’ because not long after our little chat, I couldn’t see them anymore! Which was particularly impressive as Sam was wearing a fluoro orange cap that was hard to miss!
Another familiar face I saw at the start was Adam, with whom I’d shared most of the Heysen 35k (actually, come to think of it, probably the last trail run I did!). He was just ahead of me for about the first half of the race, every time I got close we’d hit an uphill and I’m not so good on the uphills (but getting better!). Eventually I caught up with him, and in the approximately 30 seconds we were running together, I stepped on a rock and nearly rolled an ankle. After our little navigational mishap at Heysen I decided that us running together was a bad idea so I wished him all the best and went on my way!
Around the same time (before or after, who knows?) I was on a single track section, kicked a rock and was nearly sent flying, but managed to catch myself. I heard a voice behind me, I recognised it as Uli (not quite sure what he was doing behind me!) and called out “See, that’s why you don’t want to run right behind me!” Pretty soon after this he passed me on a wider section. He (like Adam) was of course doing the 14km. He said he wouldn’t tell anyone about my little almost-stack but really, if I didn’t mention this, I wouldn’t have much to write about in my blog! Races where everything goes perfectly don’t make for particularly interesting race reports!
Another familiar face out there was Claire, one of the Trail Running SA committee and a very good trail runner, especially going up hills (which I may have mentioned is not my forte!) I passed her early, then she effortlessly passed me going up a hill. She wasn’t carrying any hydration so I kind of assumed she was in the 8.5km, but when I did eventually catch up with her I found out she was doing the long course!
I was pleased that I was able to run most of the course. I walked a little bit on the early hill (only because I could see EVERYONE in sight ahead of me was also walking, so I figured it was OK!) and then towards the end I walked a couple of times, firstly on what I believe was the steepest part, up the bricks, approximately a 15 degree gradient. Amazingly a guy, who I didn’t know, who I had passed not long before this, passed me, RUNNING up the bricks! (It was kind of like Ambers Ridge in Yurrebilla 2016). After about the first half of the bricks I moved across to the left hand side of the bricks and was able to resume running, as it was not quite so steep.
Just after this, at the 7.5km mark, the short and long courses split. Up until then, we were all running together. Now I would know for sure who I was ‘competing’ against! (I made sure I followed the right path, as the long course runners would soon go up a hill known as ‘Torture Hill’. I had no desire to go up ‘Torture Hill’ – I’m sure it was as pleasant as it sounds – especially given that it was not part of the course I was meant to be running!) Theoretically that meant I only had 1km to go! (I didn’t know what the terrain was like though – for all I knew it could have been 1km straight uphill!)
I walked one more uphill bit after this, right near the end. I couldn’t see anyone ahead of me, and the people behind me were far enough behind that I was pretty confident they wouldn’t catch me, so I figured it was OK!
Although I was keeping an eye out for arrows and the magic red and white tape that showed that I was on the right track, I was also following people. It is helpful to make you run a bit faster – “I’ll just catch up to that person” – and of course also good to know you’re still on track! That is, assuming that the person you are following is in the race!
The last person I followed, as it turned out, was not. I recognised him, elite runner Matthew Fenech, who I would never be that close to if he was racing, plus he wasn’t wearing a bib. I had a quick chat to him, telling him I had been following him (to which he said he should have had a sign on his back saying “Don’t follow me!”). He said he was just trying to find the quickest way to the finish line, as a couple of his teammates were running the long course. I said that I was also trying to find the quickest way to the finish line! At this point I was sitting on about 8.2km so only had about 300m to go.
Or so I thought!
Trail race distances are notorious for not being exactly what you think they are going to be. And by this I mean they are ALWAYS longer. (Even if you don’t make an unscheduled detour!)
There was a bit more uphill, and then with the finish line in sight I commented to a marshal “This is the longest 500m I’ve ever done!” That last 500m turned out to be 1km – no wonder it felt long! My Garmin put the distance at 9km. I think that was reasonably accurate, because every kilometre there was a marker, and my watch was pretty close to the mark every kilometre! (This was probably one of the best marked courses I’ve seen – thanks to all the fantastic course markers for making it pretty much impossible to get lost!)
I crossed the line in 48:58 (according to the official provisional results) which was an average pace of 5:45 (my Strava tells me my average pace was 5:26, probably because Strava tells me I ran 9km whereas the official results are based on 8.5km). I was told as I crossed the line that I was in 4th place. I didn’t really have any expectations before the race, but when I found out I was 4th, I wondered how far off 3rd I had been?
Jenny finished 2nd and she said she hadn’t seen the 1st or 3rd place finishers (ie they were quite widely spaced apart!) I hadn’t seen anyone in front of me either, so I guessed I must have been a fair way back! Still – 4th place is not too shabby, I had gone one better than in my previous Ansteys run 2 years ago!
Just after I finished, a little kid in a race bib (he had done the newly introduced kids’ race just before we had started) came over and handed me a cup of water. A little later he gave me another one. Later again, while I was standing around chatting to a few people, he came back with a cup of Coke! “Now you’re talking!” I said to myself. “You know me well!” I said to him – nothing beats a Coke after a solid run!
When the presentations took place, I found out that I was about 2 and a half minutes behind 3rd, so that explained why I hadn’t seen anyone! (3rd was also in my age group so I ended up 2nd in the age group). Looking at the official results later, 5th was only 40 seconds behind me which is not much!
So, all in all I was pretty happy with how the race went. I am extremely happy with how I’m running at the moment. It was, as always, a fantastic event all around and great to catch up with so many running friends!
Thanks to Race Director Ben for putting on another brilliant event (I am seriously going to get RSI from typing that phrase so many times, but it’s true!) and to all the wonderful volunteers for making it possible for me to run it! Thanks also to Justin for designing a very enjoyable and challenging course!
And thanks to all the fantastic people who were out there running both the short and the long course (I loved how we all ran together for most of it!), it’s always a great, friendly, community vibe, and everyone is so supportive of each other!