I guess I had better explain myself a bit more here. Just a word of warning, it’s going to be a little while before I actually get to talking about the McLaren Vale event. (If you want to skip the lead-up just scroll down to the picture of my cat licking a chickpea can)
I’ve just come into a particularly busy period of running and multisport events. 7 events in 7 weeks (which also means a lot of blog posts coming up!)
The timing of the events is tricky. Trickiest is the one week gap between the Heysen 35k (which I also ran last year) and the half Murray Man triathlon (my first Murray Man event, and third official triathlon). Finding the time to train adequately for both of these, around full time work, has been a challenge to say the least!
For the McLaren Vale Half Marathon event this past weekend, I chose to do the 5k (the other options being 10k and the half mara). It was the final event of the 2018 Triple Crown, and this year for the first time there were medals for all distances, and the medals from the three events fit neatly together to make a pretty picture – I had done the first two events and I wanted to complete the set! Given my relatively busy schedule of events, and wanting to really be able to put in a good Heysen, I figured 5k was the best option. Somewhat naively I thought I could probably do a long trail run on the Saturday and still be able to put in a good 5k at McLaren Vale! (Whereas I wouldn’t have even considered that if I had been running the half!)
Common sense prevailed and I ended up doing my long run on Wednesday after work, taking advantage of the first week of Daylight Saving (giving me a good few days recovery) and managed to finish before it got dark! Not something I’d want to do all the time but it’s nice to know it’s an option!
Trying to fit in cycling and swimming around the usual road and trail runs has been challenging, especially swimming which I don’t particularly enjoy. Following the black line for lap after monotonous lap can be mind-numbingly boring, although that has become somewhat more tolerable since I splashed out (pun intended) on a waterproof iPod shuffle! Still, I’ll take boring any day over the alternative which is swimming in West Lakes, known to be fairly heavily populated with jellyfish which can grow to the size of dinner plates (my friend Karen ‘lovingly’ refers to West Lakes as ‘booger soup’ which I think is a pretty accurate description!) – I will hardly put my head under water there, let alone open my eyes to see ‘what lies beneath’!
So when the opportunity arose to take a road trip down to Victor Harbor (the location of my last triathlon in March) and have a swim in the much more pleasant Encounter Lakes, I took it!
Two weeks ago I’d had my bike fit done (FINALLY!!!) by Hamish at Complete Physio down in Victor, and Shane had very kindly offered to go for a little cruise along the coast the following morning after parkrun to test it out! (He’d also told me to bring the wetsuit down for a swim in the lake but I wussed out of that one – too cold for me!)
This past week Shane had posted on Facebook that he was planning a full on triathlon training session on Saturday including a swim in the lake, a 2 hour bike ride and 1 hour run, and invited people to come join. Initially I had planned just to come for the swim – I wanted to get at least one open water swim in before Murray Man – but I had thrown the bike in the car too. I wasn’t sure quite how that would work and I thought I’d be way too slow on the bike, but it didn’t hurt to have the bike in the car just in case!
I definitely wasn’t going to do the run. The plan was to do the Victor Harbor parkrun (because it would be rude not to!) then the swim, and MAYBE a little ride. Definitely not the run. I’d done plenty of running already for the week. Plus I was ‘racing’ the next day.
Anyway, I went a bit harder at parkrun than I ordinarily would the day before the race. Then I had a FABULOUS swim in the lake – I had my head underwater for most of it and eyes open too! The plan was to swim for 30 minutes and I was expecting to do about 1000m in that time (based on my only previous accurately measured 1000m open water swim) and actually according to my watch I did over 1300m – surprisingly faster than I swim in a pool! Must be a fast lake!
The bike ride did end up happening – it was meant to be on the Victor Harbor triathlon bike course, and started out that way, but I managed to get myself super lost right near the end and did a Tour of Victor before eventually finding my way back to the car, a little over 45km in just under 2 hours with some challenging hills (45km being the distance of the half Murray Man bike leg so that was a great confidence booster!) and it felt great – really getting a feel for the new bike setup and the seat having being raised approximately 7cm!
I decided still not to do the 1 hour run but ended up doing an ‘easy’ 3km run off the bike because it’s always good to practise that. And then of course smashed a Coke in record time and ate ALL OF THE FOOD!
So now we move on to the McLaren Vale event on Sunday.
This year was my 5th consecutive McLaren Vale, having run the half marathon the previous 4 years (2015 and 2016 as a 2 hour pacer, and 2014 and 2017 for myself!) so this year it was kind of weird to be watching the half marathoners getting ready and just standing off to the side knowing it was still an hour before I would start running! (And some of the lead half marathoners would be nearly finished by then!)
Numbers were great, with almost 1300 entrants across the 3 distances including over 800 in the half marathon. Even the 5k, which usually has quite a small field, had 177 entrants and eventually 149 finishers! It goes to show that if you put on quality events, the people will come! The weather was also not terrible – it had rained a fair bit overnight and more rain had been forecast for Sunday but it looked like that would hold off until the afternoon. It was pretty warm too – even when I arrived at about 7:15am I hardly needed my hoodie! The only issue was possible strong wind – it was enough of a factor to stop the finish arch being put up for fear of it blowing away!
I got to see the half marathon and 10k starts, as well as the half marathoners coming back through the finish area at about the 7km mark before heading back out again. This is the point in the half where if you’re not having a particularly good run and are having any thoughts about pulling out, it is a bit too easy to pull out – after all, why run another 14km if you’re already at the finish line after 7?
At the start of the 5k I was near the front. In the front line of runners there were 5 females and a couple of guys. Generally if you line up at the front you mean business, either that or you’re just way too ambitious! So I pretty much knew I was in 6th place, and it would be nice to be able to improve on that, but at least hopefully no-one would overtake me and I’d be able to hold on to 6th!
This was the first SARRC event to introduce age group medals, similar to what they have in triathlon and duathlon events. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd male and female in each 10 year age group in each of the 3 events would be awarded a special medal (along with the finisher medal everyone gets!) I thought it was a great initiative – it gives those of us who aren’t likely to win overall trophies, a chance of winning something! I didn’t know the 5 girls ahead of me but hopefully they weren’t all in my age group and I might be a chance!
At the start I very nearly tripped over a kid in an Adelaide Harriers singlet who started just behind me but then passed me straight away but after managing to avoid falling before the start line, I got into a bit of a rhythm and tried to keep the lead pack within reach. There was an uphill bit pretty early on but then it seemed reasonably flat. There was a 42m elevation gain overall in the 5km which is something but not huge. The elevation map on Strava makes it look like a mountain!
Trying to keep up with the fast runners was a mistake, I definitely went out too fast in the first kilometre (4:20) and then paid for it in the next two (4:51 and 4:53) and never really managed to get back to the pace I should be able to run. I’d call it a rookie mistake but after 6 years I probably can’t use that excuse anymore! It was warmish but the sun really didn’t come out for real until after we’d finished, and the wind wasn’t really a factor. So the conditions were probably as good as could be expected.
We encountered some of the half marathoners – it hadn’t occurred to me that we shared the same course, and realised that running with my head down was probably not the best option! I managed to keep the 5th female runner in sight thanks to her bright pinky purple SARRC top, and I don’t think she really got away from me but I never seemed to be able to make up any ground either!
Towards the end I saw Gary with his trusty camera, he managed to catch a few action shots and also got a bit of language from me – apologies to the man with the kid in the pram who also got to hear the fruity language! Who knew 5k could elicit such a reaction from a normally mild mannered person?
I managed to hold on to 6th place, and finished in an official time of 23:49 (50 seconds slower than the previous day’s parkrun!) – seriously that was hard work!
Had to sit down for a few minutes to catch my breath after that one, before ‘recaffeinating’ and taking the obligatory bling shot with the 3 Triple Crown medals together against the backdrop of the vines. (Shout out to Stir Express for the outstanding coffee!)
After this I helped out on MC duties for a while – it was challenging with so many people out there, I found it too hard to read the names off the iPad as they approached the finish line so ended up just reading the names off the bibs – and I definitely missed a few but hopefully managed to capture most people! (The ones without names on their bibs were a bit harder!)
The kids fun run, a relatively new addition to the programme but now a firm fixture at SARRC events, was a bit of fun too – Race Director Ben asked me to be a marshal – luckily it was a pretty easy gig because as I am known for being a bit ‘directionally challenged’, I’m probably the last person you’d want to rely on to ‘tell people where to go’! Pointing is actually pretty hard work – I noticed a bit of muscle soreness in my right shoulder but I’m assuming that was from the swimming and probably not from what had to have been only about 6 minutes of pointing!
I hadn’t looked at the official results but was still hopefully I might sneak in for an age group placing – in the end I was second in my age group behind Leonie who I’d kept in sight for the whole 5k but hadn’t quite managed to catch – there was only 15 seconds between us too! Still – bonus bling is always nice!
Congratulations to all the runners especially the majority of the half marathoners who had to deal with the warm conditions later in the morning! Also as always a huge thanks to the volunteers – extra special thanks to Voula who was supposed to be running but gave up her run at the last minute to give out medals at the finish line, and her husband John who had the unenviable and I can imagine difficult task of being the sweeper for the half marathon – on a bike! I would DEFINITELY have fallen off! Last but not least well done to the event team Ben, Sheena and Malcolm for putting on another great SARRC event!
City-Bay has been a staple in the SA running calendar for over 40 years now. When I first started running a little under 6 years ago, my first goal event was the City-Bay 12k (as it is for many new runners) and I completed it 4 times, in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. 2016 was a bit disappointing as I didn’t get close to my 2015 PB (which I now realise was significantly wind-assisted!) so I opted not to run in 2017.
I hadn’t really planned to run it again, and then in 2018 the half marathon was added. I was a bit dubious at first, but then I realised, “Hang on, this could be a fast one!” The last 12k, the same 12k that the 12k runners do, is essentially all downhill. Yeah, the first 9k is kind of uphill, but it’s not really THAT uphill. The only thing that could possibly make it not a fast course would be strong winds!
So I decided to run the half, my first ‘proper’ road half for the year, my last one being McLaren Vale in October 2017, which was not as fast as I would have hoped.
My half marathon PB was a touch under 1:38, set in the Australian Masters Games nearly 3 years ago. I kind of ignore that when I’m thinking about PBs. It was the only time I’d ever broken 1:40 in 18 half marathons, and I hadn’t got close since. My next best half was Barossa in 2016, 1:41:45.
The only downside I could see to the half marathon was the arse o’clock start, scheduled for 6:15am at Morphettville. That was to ensure that all the half marathon runners were well past the city and on their way back to the Bay by the time the 12k kicked off at 8:00. There would be nothing worse for an elite 12k runner trying to win one of the not insignificant cash prizes, or any runner wanting to go for a good time or a PB, than having to dodge tiring half marathoners!
My hope was to be finished by the time the 12k started – that would be a sub 1:45 time, which I had just missed at McLaren Vale. The coolest thing would be standing near the finish line watching the elites (and other friends not far behind them) finish! I’d never seen the ‘pointy end’ of the field before, apart from at the start line and at the presentations!
During the week I had happened upon an old ‘pace band’ from a previous half marathon (not sure which one!). The 21k split was 1:41:17. I would be happy with that! I contemplated wearing it but decided against it – I’d just go by feel.
I was lucky enough to get a lift with regular running buddy Riesje and her family (I say running buddy but I can’t keep up with her these days – I’m usually eating her dust!) so we didn’t have to worry about parking at Morphettville. We got to the start area at around 5:45 which just gave us enough time to queue up for the toilets and JUST make it to the start line in time! (We later found out there was a large block of portaloos at the main Morphettville carpark on Anzac Highway, but by the time we found that out there would not have been enough time to get there and back for the start. I must remember that for next time!)
I opted not to wear my compression shorts as I normally would for a half marathon, because they would have looked weird under the floral skirt I’d decided to wear. I’d worn the same skirt for my last City-Bay and thought it was time to give it another run! I also went with the compression socks I’d worn for my last City-Bay, it was a bit of a risk because I have been known to get black toenails from said socks, but I liked the look of them!
Nutrition/hydration wise I’d just bought a bottle of Gatorade and hoped that would be enough to get me through. That’s no different really from what I would normally do in a half, except normally I mix my own Gatorade and use my own handheld bottle. This way, I figured I could ditch the bottle once it was empty. The only thing I hadn’t factored in, was trying to drink out of the Gatorade bottle (a wide-mouthed bottle, rather than the pop-tops I’m used to) while running. A pop-top water bottle may have been better, although I did find the bottle shape fitted nicely into my hand.
The start was delayed a bit, possibly due to the toilet queue, and possibly waiting for a tramload of punters to arrive? I caught up with Amelia, told her I would see her at the finish, to which she responded she was just up for a ‘jog’ today, bearing in mind that her jog is faster than my sprint! I also saw the 2 pacers, Coralie was pacing 1:40 and thought I might be near her, I thought she was out of her mind as sub 1:40 is pretty far off for me at the moment, but I thought it might be nice to try to keep her in sight at least for the first km or two! I didn’t know the 1:45 pacer but I did know I wanted to stay in front of him!
And soon we were away – I started my watch and then covered it up, not to be looked at again until I crossed the finish line!
One of the first things I noticed was the ’20km to go’ sign – I’ve never seen that before! I know they have ‘x km to go’ signs throughout the 12k but I’m not sure if I like being told I still have 20km to go!
The first 9km was uphill-ish. I needed to avoid getting caught in the trap of going out too fast (like I did once in the Clare half marathon). Of course, it was hard to gauge that without looking at my watch!
In the first few kilometres a LOT of people overtook me. That was not right! I wasn’t going THAT slow, was I? Eventually I worked out that they had probably started late (maybe stuck in the toilet queue) and were naturally faster than me anyway, so ordinarily they would have started ahead of me and I would not have seen them. Once I figured that out I forgot about them and settled into my own rhythm.
Despite the road being supposedly closed, there were a few cars trying to get out of driveways onto Anzac Highway. ‘Oh no you don’t!’ I thought to myself (OK maybe I said it out loud, and maybe those weren’t the EXACT words I used…)
We were also overtaken by a couple of cyclists at one point, out for their morning ride and not to be deterred by the road closure and thousands of runners! They DEFINITELY were not meant to be there! This was OUR day!
The turnaround point was just before North Terrace, a few hundred metres away from where the 12km runners were undoubtedly gathering. The clock on the Town Hall as I passed showed about 7:02 – I’d hoped to turn around by 7am but as we’d started late, I supposed 7:02 wasn’t too bad!
The run up King William Street was where we got to see most of the other runners for the one and only time in the race! (In the other distances you don’t get that at all, as they’re all ‘point to point’). On the way to the turnaround we saw the people ahead, and on the way back towards Glenelg we saw the runners behind us. Happily the 1:45 pacer was still a fair way back!
The last 12k was relatively easy – apparently there was a bit of a head wind on the way out, and a bit of a tail wind on the way back, but it wasn’t really noticeable. The weather was perfect – actually you could almost say it was warm when the sun came out! Once we were ‘homeward bound’ the ‘x km to go’ signs didn’t seem so daunting!
One thing I noticed about the half marathon that I hope can be changed somehow next year, was the lack of atmosphere. The volunteers were all there and I tried to thank as many of them as I could, but the crowds that generally gather to watch the 12km, well they were probably still in bed like most normal people! I don’t expect to see crowds that early on a Sunday morning, but it would be nice to have a bit of music to get us fired up! There were a number of bands along the route, and many of them were setting up as we ran past, but they wouldn’t actually start playing until later. And that’s fair enough, it’s a long day for them already. Perhaps there could be a PA system with a radio set up in a few spots along the way?
The kilometres ticked by pretty steadily. When we reached the ‘5km to go’ sign I was just behind Sonja and another girl who I didn’t know, and I said “Just a parkrun to go!” The other girl said “I prefer to break it down into laps of the Uni Loop!” To which I responded “Yeah I have a love/hate relationship with that place!” Plus, for me, a parkrun generally equals a relatively fast run, however most of my Uni Loop running is slow and steady and interspersed with walking. Probably not a helpful analogy for me, but as I said at the time, “Whatever works for you
I was mindful that I had neglected my high fiving duties (to be fair, there were limited spectators to high five!) so when we turned off Anzac Highway into Brighton Road in the last kilometre I made up for it by high fiving as many of the CFS volunteers who lined that part of the course, as I possibly could!
And then we turned into Jetty Road where I really picked up the pace as the finish line was really close now! And finally I managed to find a kid to high five (my ‘policy’ is to try to get at least one high five from a kid in every race!) just before turning the corner to the finish line where I saw the time clock.
From memory I thought it said 8:02 – not too far off my planned finish time of 8:00. The 12k leaders were probably a kilometre in by now!
I crossed the finish line, stopped my watch and only then did I look at it – 1:41:33 (my official time was a whole second quicker!) – I was pleasantly surprised! My second fastest out of 19 half marathons! Admittedly it WAS a fast course. But I think if I’ve ever got a chance of breaking 1:40 again, this would be the event to do it!
After catching up with a few other half marathoners and collecting my gear bag, I headed back to Jetty Road to watch the elites finish – that was one of the highlights of the day!
After seeing the elites with their accompanying flag bearers, I got to see quite a lot of friends finish the 12k too, including Kristie who was 2nd female in the elite walker category (behind an Olympian, so that’s not too shabby!)
Then it was time for some R&R – first stop was the Westpac Red Zone – a VIP area for customers and staff, where everything was laid on including food, coffee and free massages! Thanks Westpac!
I caught up with running buddy Kate who had cracked the sub-60 in the 12k, and we grabbed a coffee and sat down at a table to get a massage!
I probably could have stayed there all day but I had places to go and people to see, so after the presentations I headed off with Maree (who had also done the half marathon) to find her car at Morphettville and then she gave me a lift home – thanks Maree!
The half marathon has definitely got me interested in this event again! While a great event, I felt I’d given the 12k all I could and the chances of getting another PB there were pretty slim. However, I definitely believe I can improve on my half marathon time so hopefully the 21.1km will become a regular part of the City-Bay!
Thanks to the organisers and fantastic volunteers for putting on yet another fantastic event! I look forward to running it again next year and hopefully getting another PB!
This was my 3rd duathlon of the season. All 3 were exactly the same course, so the idea was that I’d improve my times from Race 1 to Race 3. Of course, that was before Race 2 happened!
Race 2 was done on, as it turned out, not one but two flat tyres. So it could only get better from there!
The weather conditions were significantly better than last time – it was still a bit windy but it was a lot warmer.
It was clearly the bike leg that needed improvement. All I needed to do was have both tyres adequately pumped up, and use my gears properly. Simples!
The day before the race, I got a parcel from Mekong which included my brand new tri-suit! There was nothing wrong with my old one, but the Mekong one was just so pretty, plus I had been assured by several people that it would make me go faster, so naturally I had to have one! And this duathlon would be the perfect opportunity to try it out!
On arrival at Victoria Park, I racked my bike and coach Kent (the one who pointed out my flat tyre last time!) came over and checked my tyres – they both got the thumbs up!
There were a few familiar faces out there, notably ultra running mother/daughter team Heather and Ally, both doing their first duathlon. Kristie was back again, and Karen and Daryl were there as spectators this time (Karen having had a bike mishap during the week).
After the race briefing we were split up into our waves – Open and Under 40 athletes in the first wave, 40 and over in the second, and Short Course in the third. (I was doing the long course again – 4km run/16km ride/2km run. The short course was half those distances.)
It was quite warm out there, for the first time in any of the duathlons I did take advantage of the cups of water near the start/finish line on most of my running laps!
On the first run I started reasonably conservatively on the first of 4 laps but then my competitive side kicked in and I decided to try to pass as many people as I could on the run. I would probably pay for it later but it was my chance to get a bit of a head start on the bike leg!
According to Strava I finished the first run in 17:59 and got through the first transition in 13 seconds – I’m not sure about that T1 time but I’ll take it!
It took me a few hundred metres for either of my feet to click into the pedals, which was a bit frustrating, but eventually I did get them in! Riding past the grandstand (with wind assistance) I went into a higher gear (as per Shane’s advice from the first duathlon) which really helped to stop my legs from going too fast!
The trickiest part of the course as always was the ‘hot dog’ hairpin turn (so named because on the map it kind of looks like a hot dog – they probably could have called it something else but it is a family-friendly event!) It took a few laps before I got it sorted – and as per previous races, as the laps ticked by, there were less and less people left out there to potentially be trying to pass me!
I did get passed on my left a couple of times but mostly people were really good and called out as they were about to pass me on my right.
All in all, the ride went pretty smoothly. My Strava time for the ride was 37:46, compared with 44:08 in Race 1 and 47:43 in Race 2. It was all because of the suit!
Then I went through T2 just behind Kristie (T2 was 39 seconds according to Strava) and headed back out for 2 more laps of the run course. Kristie didn’t use bike shoes so her T2 was a lot quicker than mine, giving me something to chase in the run!
The second run was a bit slower than in Race 1, maybe because I’d really pushed hard on the bike. Thankfully, it was significantly better than Race 2 (EVERYTHING about Race 2 sucked!)
Gosh, 2km feels like a long way!
On the second lap I decided to try to pass as many people as I could. Although my legs felt pretty heavy, I guessed everyone else would be in the same boat! When I got to the last few hundred metres there were a couple of girls I decided I needed to at least try to pass. I actually ended up passing one RIGHT on the finish line, that was a good feeling – for me at least!
My overall time was 11 minutes faster than Race 2 and around 6 minutes faster than Race 1. So it was an overall PB as well as a bike PB – a great way to end the series!
Thanks to Triathlon SA and all the volunteers for putting on the series, I have learned a lot from the 3 races and I know I still have a lot to learn! One of the things I love about the triathlon scene is that people are really friendly and encouraging, and always willing to offer a tip or two to help a newbie like me!
I’m still deciding whether to go to the final race in the Barossa Valley (there’s a hill in the bike ride, but there is wine in the Barossa…). Decisions, decisions!
The last marathon I ran was in April 2017, that was the Boston Marathon and that probably would have been a good one to go out on.
The original plan for 2018 was to run Gold Coast and qualify for Chicago in 2019, with the ultimate goal to (eventually) do all 6 majors and get that epic medal. But 17 weeks out from the Goldie, when I was contemplating the start of the training programme and dreading the long road runs, I thought to myself, ‘Why am I doing this if I clearly don’t want to?” and consequently Gold Coast fell off the programme. If I really wanted to run Chicago I could go in the lottery or worst case scenario, pay my way in. (I justified this by thinking of the money I would save by not doing Gold Coast – flights, accommodation etc).
The idea of running Barossa came into my head in May, at the Adelaide Marathon. One of my regular running buddies, Dean, had decided LITERALLY AT THE LAST MINUTE to run the Adelaide Marathon, and had done quite well. “Maybe, just maybe…” I thought, “I could run a Chicago qualifier at Barossa!” That sounds good in theory, but you have to know that Dean is a committed road runner, and does long road runs every Sunday, whereas you’d normally find me out on the trails, or doing some kind of event. I can’t seem to commit to one kind of running! Add the multisport stuff to that, and you can see why 16 weeks of long road runs does not compute for me!
So anyway, in June I bit the bullet and entered Barossa, but for the first time ever I purchased the insurance that would allow me to get a refund if I decided running Barossa was a terrible idea. And I wasn’t going to tell anyone I was doing it, but over the coming months people somehow managed to get it out of me!
At the time I entered I was 100% focused on the Adelaide 12 hour which was my ‘A’ race for the year. After the 12 hour I had 5 weeks to get myself up for Barossa. 1 week after the 12 hour I was pacing the 10k at Greenbelt, so effectively that meant I was going into Barossa with a 4 week training programme, instead of the traditional 16. If I could make it work with a 4 week programme, maybe marathons weren’t so bad after all!
So, in other words, this was probably one of the most ambitious things I’d ever attempted!
Now I wasn’t going from ‘couch to marathon’ in 4 weeks of course. Having run over 100km 5 weeks ago, the distance was never going to be an issue. (I’d also run 3 runs over 30km in the leadup to the 12 hour). It was the speed that I was concerned about.
In the weeks leading up to the 12 hour speed was the last thing on my mind. I did all my training runs at comfortable pace and it was only the odd parkrun where I would really try to go for it.
After Greenbelt I had a chat to club coach Kent about what sort of training I should be doing for the 4 weeks (normally taper time, but it’s hard to taper when you haven’t really started training for real!) He said that I didn’t need to do anything big, just join the rest of the Marathon Mentor training group runs and do whatever distance they were doing.
The first Sunday run was meant to be 32km, but I found myself running on my own (and hadn’t thought to bring music with me) so ended up cutting it back to 30km which was plenty. I’d forgotten how different long road runs were, compared to runs around the Uni Loop where I could keep everything in my car. 2 weeks out I ran 21km with Beck (also doing the marathon, although at the time she still hadn’t entered – her goal was more around finishing and it was likely we wouldn’t be running together) and then last weekend it was a very enjoyable 16km with Kent, and 2 other runners who were doing the marathon, Lachy and Kristina.
I started doing tempo runs once a week – usually on a Thursday, as Tuesday was more of a recovery pace.
Pace wise I wanted sub 3:45, which, last time I checked, would qualify me for Chicago – even one second under would be enough. With time being of the essence, I decided to go back to what I was doing a few years back when I ran my first Barossa Marathon – I made myself a pace band, using the MARCO calculator. (Start slow, then gradually build up the pace and allow for a little drop off in pace at the end). Last time I’d used a pace band I decided to ignore it from quite early on, but it was worth having just in case it might be useful and keep me on track!
The weather was looking fine albeit cold – I would need layers at the start!
As I will always do if I am able to, I had ‘special drinks’ organised for the drink stations. It was only Gatorade, but the reason why I would always opt for bringing my own drinks, is because I can just grab a bottle at the drink station, rather than drinking from a cup and then having nothing until the next drink station. This way I could grab a bottle at the first drink station and hang onto it until I reached the next one, and have a drink whenever I felt like it! As always I also had to make my drink bottles distinctive so I wouldn’t waste time looking for them – I went with blue and yellow electrical tape. (I’d attached straws to my bottles at the Adelaide Marathon in 2016 but although that made them easy to spot, I noted in my race report that they were very annoying to carry! So I wasn’t going to do that again!) There were 3 drink stations where we could have special drinks, and we’d pass each one twice (once on each lap) so I had 6 x 250ml bottles. Given the cool weather I thought that would be enough, and there was always water at all the drink stations if I needed anything more.
Race eve fuelling was as per tradition – pizza and cider! This was my 7th marathon and every single one of them had been preceded by the same race-eve meal! The pizza was from Sonny’s Pizza Bar – highly recommended, with an extensive vegan menu!
Gear-wise I went with tried and true – from the top down, I had a white 2XU hat, Mekong ‘Vegan Beast Mode’ top, rainbow arm warmers, 2XU compression shorts with black lululemon skirt over the top, 2XU ‘Run Boston’ calf sleeves, lululemon socks and my last pair of Brooks Ravenna 6 shoes (no longer available, and the new Ravennas are all wrong for me, so after over 4 years in Ravennas I’m going to have to find a new road shoe after this!)
I kept an eye on the weather forecast, and although there was little chance of rain (excellent!) it was looking like being very cold, especially in the morning! Last time I checked they were forecasting a maximum of 13 degrees in Tanunda, and an overnight minimum of about 4. There was a real possibility I might need to wear gloves at the start. I had not quite decided whether to wear a T-shirt or singlet – I wore the T-shirt but took the singlet with me, in case I changed my mind. I had never run a marathon in a T-shirt before!
I got a ride to Tanunda with Kirsten and Nigel, Kirsten was going for around 3:45 too, and husband Nigel happened to be the 3:45 pacer! So hopefully we’d all be running together, although my plan would have me only overtaking him right near the end. But then, I rarely stick with a plan in a marathon…
It was pretty cool when we arrived in Tanunda but not as cold as I thought it might be, so I decided not to bother with the gloves, but I did stick with the T-shirt rather than the singlet.
At the start I positioned myself near Chantel, the 4 hour pacer, with Nigel and his pink 3:45 balloon in front but in sight. The plan was to run the first 3km at 5:30 pace, whereas Nigel would be running even splits, aiming for 5:20 minute kms from the outset.
I’d had a toilet stop as soon as we’d arrived at the start, and had planned on another but after I took my bag to the bag drop area, I looked at my watch and it was 7:21 and the race briefing was about to happen – with a 7:30am start, I would be pushing it to get to the toilet again and make it to the start in time! Oh well, I thought – there’s always portaloos out there if I really need it! I’d never had to stop in a marathon before but then again there were a few other ‘firsts’ in this particular marathon!
My first few kilometres were spot on pace. The first drink station was only about 2.5km in, and I didn’t need a drink at this stage but this was one of the designated ‘special drinks’ stations so I grabbed my bottle which was easy to spot! Not long after this I saw the first portaloo and decided to go for it – I’d got a bit ahead of time by now (from memory this was the 4km mark) and just passed regular running buddy Sarah. I eventually found the door (the portaloo had been positioned so the door was AWAY from the runners – which made sense I guess!) and when I checked my time afterwards it was less than a 50 second stop. Plenty of time to make that up, and definitely worth it!
I’d already passed a few other familiar faces – Lachy and Kristina, Annie, doing Barossa as a training run for Berlin and Chicago marathons, as well as Chris (doing his 100-and-somethingth marathon) prior to my pit stop so I could use that as a bit of a gauge as to when I was back on track. I was about 30 seconds behind pace at 4km, but I’d got to 30 seconds ahead by 6km. Hopefully that wouldn’t come back to bite me!
I’ve said this every time I’ve run Barossa but I’ll say it again. I love how you get to see everyone multiple times! The nature of the course means that sometimes you don’t get to see everyone on every ‘out and back’ but over the course of the marathon I reckon I saw just about everyone! A lot of my friends were doing the half marathon so I got a real boost when I started to see them!
The prize for ‘having way too much fun for a marathon’ has to go to Jenelle, celebrating her birthday (and what better way to do it?) and her running buddy Anthony. We saw them multiple times and they ALWAYS looked like they were having a ball!
Probably around the 10km mark I was starting to move further and further away from the pace I was SUPPOSED to be running. I was actually approaching 5:20 average pace, which was meant to happen right near the end. Clearly I am not disciplined enough to follow such a specific pacing plan! So I decided to ditch the plan and instead to try to catch Nigel and then let him do all the work!
By now I could see the 3:45 pace group and although I seemed to be getting faster in relation to my plan, I didn’t seem to be making up any ground! At one stage I decided to time how far behind them I was – at one stage I was 25 seconds behind, and a few kays later it was 13 seconds. My new goal was to catch them by the halfway mark. It did eventually happen around the 20km mark – Kirsten was still on the ‘bus’ along with quite a few others.
We reached the 21.1km mark in 1:51:50. Double that and you have 3:43:40 – perfect pacing so far! (And I would expect to negative split, given the time I’d lost on the toilet stop!)
What I hadn’t factored in was the wind. More on that later!
We noticed that the 4 hour pacer had lost her balloons, as had the 3:30 pacer (the latter actually before the start!). One of the other runners in our group, Bart, was asking me about alternatives to balloons to make pacers more visible, given that balloons are annoying (both for the pacer and for those right behind!) and often do pop or float away! Bart had the idea that the pacers should wear a distinctive colour, “one that no-one else wears” and we decided we needed to invent a colour, we could call it ‘Pacer’ and it would be ‘hi-vis mustard’. As well as that, to make the pacers visible to people a bit further away, in lieu of balloons, they should wear Viking helmets. So take note Race Director Ben and organiser of pacers Kent!
As had happened the last time I ran Barossa, one of my drinks somehow went missing! The special drinks were at drink stations 1, 4 and 5. After picking up my first drink at the 2.5km mark, I was never without a drink in my hand. One of the drink station volunteers, Naomi, actually had my drink ready to hand to me as I approached the drink station! (As an aside – the TOTAL amount of stoppage time I had during the marathon was 48 seconds. That would have been entirely accounted for by the pit stop. That meant I did not have to stop for one second at the drink stations – having my own bottled drinks ready to grab definitely saved me a good amount of time!) Still, I had 5 drinks throughout the race and that seemed to be enough. I don’t do gels, I did carry a Clif bar ‘just in case’ but I didn’t end up using it. My fuel consisted entirely of Gatorade. It was a bit of an adjustment from the ultra mindset where I eat when I’m walking – given that I try to avoid walking in marathons!
There were a few people ahead of us that I kept seeing on the turnarounds and seemed to be getting closer to us. One was my old ‘nemesis’ (meant in the nicest possible way!) Graham, and the other one was Leon, who had not done much running at all since the 24 hour, hadn’t run at all in the last 2 weeks, and had told me at the start he was aiming for 6 minute/km pace, and around 4 hours 15. He was WELL ahead of the 3:45 pace group for the first half of the marathon! It would be interesting to see if I was able to catch either of them!
Did I mention the wind?
So we were faced with 40km/h wind gusts for much of the second half. It seemed that we were running into it more than we were running with it. It was the only thing that was going to stop me getting my goal time, as I was otherwise still running very comfortably. Barossa is a flat course but when we were running into the wind it was like running up a really steep hill. Or into a brick wall. (You hear about ‘The Wall’ in marathons – that point where you’re running really well and then suddenly, usually around the 35-36km mark, you just lose it! Well in this particular marathon it wasn’t a metaphorical wall, it genuinely felt like we were running into a brick wall!)
When the wind hit us, I dropped back from the pack – I couldn’t seem to keep up! Thankfully there were periods where we had the wind behind us, so I was able to pick up the pace a bit and catch up with the group. There were only a couple in the group by this stage – Kirsten had dropped back, and Bart had gone on ahead.
I did eventually catch up to Leon – he said he had been running well up to about 20km but then started to feel it!
I had stopped looking at my watch altogether when I’d caught up to Nigel at the 20km mark. It was easy to do as my watch was under my arm warmer. Consequently, when I was a bit behind him, I had no clue if I was on pace or not! (He was trying to run just ahead of 3:45 pace, and he had started ahead of me, so I had a bit of a buffer, but I wasn’t sure if the wind would prove to be my downfall – the effort required to push against it might leave me with nothing left at the end!)
If there was ever a metaphorical wall for me in this marathon, it was at the 40km mark. I’d just gone past a drink station, we were still running into the wind, and Nigel seemed to be getting further and further away, and with him, my hopes of getting a sub 3:45. Even though I’d told myself (and others) at the start that I was hoping for sub 3:45 but not expecting it, I’d got this far, and it would be pretty devastating to miss out only by a few seconds! I told the people at the drink station “I’m done! I’m finished!”. Even though I had only 2.2km to go (or, in terms I understand very well, one lap of the Uni Loop!), the finish line seemed very far away…
Pretty soon after that I saw running buddy Nat, not running this time but just there to support all of us, so that gave me a little boost!
The countdown was on – less than 2km to go. And not too long after that, FINALLY, that stupid wind went away! Or maybe I changed direction. Either way – happy days!
We turned a corner, onto a bike path, where I realised I was making ground on Nigel and did eventually catch up with him! THAT was a good feeling!
Just before I caught Nigel I saw Graham, running just ahead of the 3:45 bus. I called out to him to warn him I was coming after him – I didn’t want a repeat of last year’s Tower Trail Run where I’d passed him just near the finish, then he’d chased me down! No, I was MORE than happy to let him stay ahead of me! (When I saw him afterwards he said he hadn’t heard me call out to him, but he had heard Nat call out my name a bit earlier and realised I was getting a bit too close for comfort!)
Rather than the marathon and half marathon markers, in the final kilometres I used the 10km race markers as my main gauges – when I saw the 9km marker I knew we were into the last kilometre! I reckon I got this!
The finish line was different from when I last ran the marathon – previously it was on the road, but this time it was actually in the school which was the home base for the event. As we ran along the road I saw a whole lot of familiar faces – my friends who had done the half marathon, kindly waiting for Kirsten, Nigel and me to finish our marathons before heading off for lunch!
And then I heard MC Ryley on the mic, and I heard him say “3:43” which was the time on the clock, and at that point, with the finish line in sight, I knew I had my sub 3:45!
I crossed the finish line in an official time of 3:44:07, and got my sweet, sweet bling from Oliver before going over to the baggage tent, with thoughts of my vegan donut from Bakery On O’Connell at the front of my mind. There I found Graham and decided a ‘post-marathon-collapsed-on-the-ground-in-the-baggage-tent-selfie’ was in order!
Leon and Kirsten were not far behind me, and Annie and Sarah both also finished under 4 hours. As we were getting a bit cold and the half marathoners had been waiting for us for AGES, we left just as the presentations were winding up, and headed off for a lovely lunch and wine at the South Australian Company Store in Angaston.
I was getting a lift home with Beck and James, and I asked Beck if we could stop off at my favourite Tscharke Wines in Marananga, as my stocks were getting a bit low! She very kindly obliged – thanks Beck! Although I was a bit disappointed that they had sold out of the 2016 Cab Sav, apparently the new vintage is ready for bottling so I guess I’m going to have to plan another trip to the Barossa soon – oh well, if I must!
So, after a 16 month break between marathons, nothing has changed. They are still HARD! They still kind of suck! But I was so happy with how this one went, both for me personally, but also the event in general. The wind was the only down side, but the weather overall was pretty great, making the finish village a cool place to hang out while waiting for the rest of my friends to finish (except Neil – sorry Neil, we couldn’t wait for you! Neil was the sweeper. He would be a good couple of hours behind us!)
Thanks to RD Ben and the equally awesome Sheena for a great day, as well as all of the many volunteers who helped both on the day and in the leadup. I felt a bit bad that I couldn’t help out at all on this one, but I really wanted to focus 100% on me this time, and it paid off! Well done to all of the runners – you well and truly earned your bling in those conditions! Hope you’re all recovering well and planning for your next event!
So there’s a post script to all of this. Remember how my goal was to run sub 3:45 and qualify for Chicago? (And I FREAKING DID IT!) Well, out of curiosity, after I got home, I got on the Google and looked up ‘Chicago Marathon qualifying times’. And guess what? It’s changed!
So that’s me done with marathons for quite a while – I don’t think I’ll do another one again until Chicago in October 2019. No, might just stick to ultras for a while!
I didn’t want to write about this one, because it sucked. But then, you do have those days, and it would be unfair not to write about the sucky races, because they happen!
The first race in the series went reasonably well after Shane gave me the tip about my gears. I had decided to try to do the whole series, if only to try to improve on my own times. Race 2 happened to fall the day after a very entertaining work function, so consequently I left it until the day to enter, just in case!
It was a windy day but thankfully not raining, so I decided to give it a crack.
The first (4km) run was just OK – a bit slower than last time, but as I was managing to overtake quite a few people, it still felt OK.
Transition 1 went as well as can be expected. 22 seconds to change shoes and hat, grab the bike and head off onto the cycle course. 8 x 2km laps. Sounds pretty easy, right?
Well let me tell you it wasn’t. The bits where I was riding with the wind were just OK. The bits where I was riding into it were not. On a few laps I was almost blown sideways off the track! That wasn’t helped by the fact that on the first few laps people were passing me on my left – luckily there were no collisions, there could easily have been!
EVERYONE passed me. Almost everyone. The wind was a factor, sure, but everyone else had to contend with that too!
Not many people passed me on the last few laps. That was because almost everyone else had finished by then!
The one positive I could take out of the bike leg was that the hairpin turn seemed a bit easier this time. I had sort of got the hang of it at the last duathlon. I had learned that if you take it as a sweeping bend it’s a lot easier than trying to do a 180 degree turn! That didn’t stop one person from passing me on the inside as I was making the turn! (I would always check over my right shoulder 3-4 times as I approached the turn, to make sure no-one was approaching, and if I saw someone out of the corner of my eye I’d let them past so I had a bit of space. What I wasn’t doing was checking over my LEFT shoulder. Grrr!)
I knew to use the harder gears on the faster parts of the course but on this occasion the gears were just not working for me – the bike was not sounding normal, and I knew there was something not quite right but I wasn’t about to stop, I just wanted to Get. It. Done.
After what seemed like an eternity I made it back to transition. T2 sucked as well. The spot where I had had my bike, now had someone else’s bike in it, so instead of there being a nice gap for me to put my bike, it took me a while to actually find my ‘spot’! I had to wrangle the bike onto the rack and try not to get tangled up with other bikes, which wasted a bit of time. Then because of how the bikes were racked I had to get on my hands and knees to retrieve my running shoes and hat. In the process of taking my long sleeved top off I dropped my sunnies and one of the lenses fell out. Oh well, luckily it wasn’t sunny, I could manage to run 2km without them!
After what seemed like an eternity (59 seconds according to Strava) I was finally out on the last run leg to finish the race. My second run wasn’t too bad although my legs were completely like jelly to start with, more so than last time! When I look at my time for the second run leg I averaged 4:34 pace which is not too terrible. It certainly felt slower than that. I am sure I would have been able to overtake some people if there’d been anyone left out on course.
So that was it – Race 2 done and dusted. Not my finest moment by any means but a good learning experience!
Everyone else did well. Karen and Daryl placed again, as did Ros, who had done the short course. Cherie had successfully completed her first duathlon.
Karen insisted on a group photo, ‘because if there’s no photo it didn’t happen’. (I would have been quite happy to pretend it DIDN’T happen, but as I was in the photo, I guess that means it happened – plus it’s on Strava too so I guess that confirms it!)
As I was back at the bike rack putting my warm clothes on, chatting to fellow athlete Kristie about how much I hate sucking at things and should really stick to running, my club running coach Kent (also an experienced triathlete and Ironman) pointed out that my back tyre was flat (and had been for a good part of the race, if not all of it!) Which was nice because it means maybe I don’t suck quite as much as I thought I did! I suck at knowing and maintaining my bike but if I can get the bike right who knows, maybe I can become an adequate cyclist one day! (It wasn’t DEAD flat, just much flatter than it should be!)
So there you have it. Shortest race report ever! Thanks to all the organisers, volunteers and other athletes out there, and I guess I’ll be seeing you again at Race 3!
Oh and as a post script I was out today, got caught in the rain so stopped to look at a bookshop while I waited for the rain to clear. Found this. Think the universe is trying to tell me something!
Greenbelt Challenge was an appropriate name, as it turned out, in more ways than one!
This year for the first time, the traditional Hills to Henley (30km run along the length of the Torrens Linear Path from Athelstone to West Beach) was combined with the Greenbelt Half Marathon (formerly starting at the same place at Athelstone and finishing in the city). It made a lot of sense from a logistical point of view, I know there were some people who weren’t happy about the change (as there always is!) because they like to run both events. However, in the current climate, with a very congested running calendar, there are always going to be clashes.
The Greenbelt half had to change. One of the recent innovations at SARRC events is the finish line village, complete with food trucks, music and a stretch station. It’s a great way to keep people hanging around long after they’ve finished running, meaning that the later finishers still have a bit of a crowd to cheer them on!
Because of this, it wouldn’t make any sense to have the Greenbelt finishing where it used to, in the city. The finish line village meant that there needed to be just one finish line, and if need be, multiple start lines. The plan was for Greenbelt to start at Klemzig or thereabouts, and run to West Beach. It would still be a one way half marathon, but just on a different part of the river.
There would also be a 5k and 10k, as well as a 1k kids’ fun run, and if you ask me their medals were even better than those for the rest of us!
Medals are a big thing – I have to admit that I was strongly motivated to enter this event because of the unique ‘Triple Crown’ medals. This year, at the three Triple Crown events (Clare, Greenbelt and McLaren Vale), all finishers of all distances get medals, rather than just the half marathon finishers in the past. (In fact, two years ago, the only time I ran the 30k, back when it was ‘Henley to Henley’, the 30k runners didn’t get medals – I always thought it was a bit strange that you could get a medal for a half marathon and nothing for a 30k!)
I really like the inclusiveness we now have, EVERY finisher gets a medal, regardless of whether you’re a back-of-the-pack 5k’er or an elite half marathoner. What is really great about it is, it’s a fantastic way to progress through the year – start at Clare with a 5k, run the 10 at Greenbelt and build up to a half at McLaren! (I’m going the other way!) Or do a 5k at all 3 – the possibilities are endless!
The really cool thing is that the 3 medals link together to form a combined Triple Crown medal. And now I’ve done the first two, there’s no way I’m missing out on completing the puzzle at McLaren Vale! (And I bet I’m not on my own there!) Again there were complaints when the announcement was made – “What, I only get 3 medals for running 3 half marathons? Where’s the 4th medal for the Triple Crown?” It’s actually not that long that medals for half marathons have become a thing – I remember in 2014 doing my first half at Clare and there were no medals – imagine that? (And the Triple Crown has only been a thing for a few years – anyway, let me get off my soap box now and start talking about the actual event!)
The ‘Challenge’ came in due to the seemingly never ending road works on South Road and along the path. For one, an unprecedented ‘dead zone’ had to be created as 30km runners had to stop along the path due to the road works. The idea was (and I don’t know the full details of this so apologies if I got it wrong) that the time clock would effectively be stopped while the runners were stopped, and then start again once they got going. Kind of like when you use ‘Auto Pause’ on your watch. (There was talk of a temporary bridge but the cost of that would have been astronomical!) By all accounts it seemed to work quite well thanks to Malcolm and his timing gear!
The other issue was that parts of the path were closed, necessitating a late change to the half marathon course. It ended up having to be an out and back, although a lot of people I spoke to got PBs so although theoretically the traditional net downhill course would be faster, it didn’t seem to affect some people!
The beautiful weather probably helped – a bit crisp in the morning but not a hint of rain. It was a bit windy at times – at one stage after I’d finished my 10k two of us were holding down the SARRC tent to stop it blowing away despite it being pegged into the ground, and despite the best efforts of a number of staff and volunteers the finish arch had to be taken down before all the runners had come through – better it be taken down early than actually collapse on a finishing runner! I was lucky enough in the 10k not to be affected by the wind – we were told it would be a headwind on the way out and a tailwind on the way back, although I didn’t really notice the wind much at all!
I had offered to pace the 10k as I had at Adelaide, once again 1 week after an ultramarathon (for the 3rd event in a row!) and had my services not been required I would have run the 5k. No way was I doing a half marathon the week after an ultra although Glen managed to do just that after doing the 24 hour!
I had no costumes left to run in that I hadn’t already used, and being a coolish but dry day, I decided to go with the tiger onesie. I had previously done a few parkruns in it, but never 10k – I figured it should be fine! (In case anyone is wondering, the idea of the costume is to make me easy for other runners to spot out on course, especially if, as often happens, my balloon happened to pop or blow away!)
I had the week off from running after the 12 hour and had my first run back on Saturday at parkrun, a nicely paced just-under-30-minute 5k – perfect preparation for Sunday’s 60 minute pacing gig!
Coach Kent asked me to organise the pacers for the half marathon, as he was running the 30k, so he would be up at Athelstone in the morning. There were 3 pacers, and I just had to organise the helium balloons for them. There wasn’t a heck of a lot of helium in the tank so I thought I’d better do their balloons first, and if there was any helium left I’d get one for myself. Actually I would have been more than happy to run without a balloon and I figured people would be able to see me anyway, but as it turned out there was just enough helium to do me a balloon too – damn it!
Due to potential congestion on the course, both the half marathon and 10k were wave starts. I wasn’t sure what implication that would have for my pacing but it worked out perfectly as I was at the front of the second wave, so I started my watch on the gun (although there wasn’t an actual gun for the second wave – you know what I mean!)
The course was impeccably marked – there was no way I could have got lost! Where there was a fork in the path there was an arrow clearly marking which path to take. The only slight issue I had was looking for the kilometre markers – not that they weren’t there but I didn’t actually see one until the 4km mark – they were spray painted in green on the path. I spoke with Harry from the event team afterwards and he explained that they’d decided to just use the kilometre marker signs for the half and the 30k, because they were put out the previous day and it can get quite windy in that neck of the woods! Which makes perfect sense to me – I’d rather have spray painted markers (as long as I know what I’m looking for) than stand-up signs that have blown into the wrong place!
Running in the onesie was OK – although I did have to make an adjustment early on. My top button kept coming undone which meant my tiger head kept slipping off – I took one of the pins out of my bib and pinned the costume at the neck to hold it together. Rather that than running with one hand holding my head on and the other with my arm extended, continually looking at my watch!
I managed to pace it pretty well once I got into a rhythm – I did get confused at times, starting to follow the 30km signs on the way back, then seeing the green spray paint on the ground a minute or so later, and neither of those coincided with the distance on my Garmin! I had alerts set to go off if I went faster than 5:55 and slower than 6:00 (for the mathematicians among you, a 60 minute 10k equates to 6:00 per km)
It’s a challenge, this pacing caper! I do enjoy it, I’ve now done 6 half marathons and 2 10ks (and a couple of parkruns, informally). It was pretty quiet out there this time, I didn’t have too many people running with me but I did have a few people thank me afterwards. I ran with a young lad called Jack for a little while in the second half who is a regular at West Beach parkrun and ended up finishing a few minutes ahead of me – not a bad effort for his first 10k (although he did tell me he’s done City-Bay, and I told him that when I was his age I couldn’t even run 1k!)
Towards the end there were a couple of kids offering high fives so I high fived both of them, jokingly saying “I need to power up!” and then one of them gave me a second high five! I always try to get at least one high five in!
And then RIGHT near the end, around the time my balloon popped, there was another kid with a sign that said “Tap here to power up” so of course I had to get that last little boost to get me to the finish! I ended up just under 59:30 so I was pretty happy with that.
I ended up staying for a good few hours after I finished my 10k, the atmosphere and weather were great and it was fantastic to catch up with a whole lot of running friends – what else would you rather be doing on a beautiful Sunday?
Thanks to all the volunteers who made this event a fantastic experience, and well done to all the runners/walkers who took part!
And a special thankyou and congratulations to Ben and the event team for overcoming all the obstacles to make this event happen – the goal posts kept moving but they didn’t let that stop them! HOPEFULLY (and I think I say this every year) next year the roadworks will be done and we can go back to a one way half marathon (and, dare I say it, I might even attempt the 30k!)
This was my 4th consecutive year participating in the Ultra Runners SA (formerly Yumigo!) Adelaide 6/12/24. It also marked the 10th anniversary of the first 6 hour event (back then, if you’d told me this event would later become a staple on my calendar, I would have strongly encouraged you to seek psychiatric help!)
My first 6 hour was three years ago in 2015 – it also happened to be my very first ultramarathon. (The 2018 12 hour was my 14th) After having gone into it without a clue or a plan (backing up from a marathon, at least I had the training in my legs), I went back to do it ‘properly’ in 2016. Last year I made a last minute decision to do the 12 hour and I learned a lot, so I decided to go back and do it again, to try to do it better!
Here’s the short version. Ran for 3 hours, turned around and ran the other way for 3 hours, turned again and ran the other way for 3 hours, turned once more and ran the other way for 3 hours, then finished.
There shouldn’t be too much to say about a race like that, should there?
I’d prepared a lot better than last year, given that 12 hours was in the plan since, well, the day after last year’s 12 hour!
Since UTA100 8 weeks ago, my focus had been on this event. It really was my ‘A’ race for the whole year. I had done 4 solid training runs over the past 6 weeks, broken up by a trail half in Mount Gambier and a duathlon. My training runs were 3 hours, 4 hours, 6 hours and 3 hours. I used the strategy of 25 min run/5 min walk throughout all of those runs. My first 2 training runs were way too fast (30km in 3 hours and 40km in 4 hours – not sustainable over 12 hours!) but I nailed it on the 6 hour run, covering 55km, and then ran the last 3 hour run with 6 hour first timer Gary.
My pre-race dinner was from Pure Vegetarian at Adelaide Central Market – pumpkin, chickpeas, spicy eggplant and noodles – lots of carbs! And a glass or two of red wine to wash it down.
Race fuel was similar to last year – a mix of peanut butter and chocolate spread sandwiches (3 of each), Clif bars and nut bars. I also had some mashed sweet potato with salt but didn’t end up using any of that during the race. The plan was that on every 5 minute walk break I would eat either half a bar or a quarter of a sandwich. I had 6 bottles of Gatorade and 2 extra serves of powder. I’m not much of a drinker especially in cooler weather so I was confident that would be more than enough.
I’d also included a caffeination schedule – a shot of cold brew just before the start, at 2 hours, 6 hours and 10 hours, an energy supplement at 4 hours and an energy drink at 8 hours. Caffeine every 2 hours. I’d done a couple of the training runs with cold brew and it seemed to work well. In previous years I had enlisted running buddies James, Leanne, Kate and Beck to bring me coffee at strategic times. This time I wanted to be self reliant, to have coffee ready when I needed it, and to be able to quickly down it rather than have to waste time slowly sipping it and/or burning my mouth! I’d put the coffee in empty vanilla extract bottles, which was an interesting conversation starter when people saw me drink it!
I had music – my waterproof iPod that I use for swimming, with a nice upbeat playlist on it. I was only planning to use that for short periods, mainly between the end of the 6 hour and the presentation. I’d never run in this event before with music, but that was mainly because it had always been raining and I didn’t want my iPod to get wet! This year, I not only had a waterproof iPod, but amazingly it looked like it was going to be a fine day!
I’d gone with toe socks which I’d only just started using, they had worked well on a trail run last weekend and people seem to like them, so I decided to give them a go (instead of taping my toes like I did last year).
It was pretty chilly at the start so I had my beanie, gloves and Boston Marathon jacket as well as my normal race gear. I was set up in a tent with the ‘Vegan Beast Mode Team’ – consisting of fellow 12 hour runner Ian from Melbourne along with another Melbourne runner Cheryl, and the awesome 24 hour trio of Kate, Tracey and Sheena, being ably crewed by Sheena’s daughter Elle. I had all my food and drinks set up within easy access so it would just be a matter of ‘grab and go’. I didn’t want to waste time on fuel stops! Consequently I had a bit of sandwich in the pocket of one Spibelt and a nut bar in the other one. Ready to go on the first walk break, so I wouldn’t need to stop at the tent for an hour or so! I’d managed to get a car park just next to our tent – winning!
To fit with the theme, I wore my brand new Mekong ‘Vegan Beast Mode’ T-shirt. (I had never run in this particular top, but I had run in a lot of other Mekong tops before, so I wasn’t concerned about the whole ‘don’t try something new in a race’ thing! (As it turned out, Sheena, Tracey, Kate and another vegan runner Ryan were all wearing the same thing! (I had spare tops to change into later, as I had never run 100km before wearing the same top throughout!)
The 6 and 12 hour runners kicked off at 6am, after the briefing from Race Director Ben and a special mention for 6 hour runners Kym and Graham, two of the three runners to have completed every one of the 10 6/12/24 events. (the other one was Colin, who would start 4 hours later in the 24 hour). Initially the event started as just the 6 hour, and eventually the 12 and 24 were added to make it the event it is today!
My goal was to beat last year’s 102.7km. I was aiming for 105km, as this would be the furthest I’d ever gone in one hit (my previous best being Heysen 105 in 2015, which actually ended up being around 104km). I’d aim to be on 55km at the 6 hour mark, giving me a bit of a buffer, expecting I would slow down in the second half. Last year I did 57km in the first half and just under 46 in the second – I was aiming to be more consistent this time. Last year I also had to change my walk/run strategy after 8 hours – I wanted to try to keep the 25/5 going as long as possible this time.
I started out running with Gary, who was utilising the same run/walk strategy as me (after we’d successfully used it on the run we did together) and he had alerts set on his watch, so while I was running with him I didn’t really have to look at my watch! Intermittently we were joined by Belinda who was also doing her first 6 hour.
I hadn’t looked at the 12 hour start list. It’s my thing. I prefer not to know who else is going to be there until I’m actually out there! I knew one of them, Kay, who I’d met on my first training run this year. She was aiming for 56km, her first ultra! Other than that, I didn’t know who I’d be up against! I was fully expecting to see Amelia, who had thrashed me (and the rest of the field) last year and it wasn’t until a few laps in when I hadn’t been lapped yet, that it occurred to me that she wasn’t there, and I had no idea who I was competing against! Actually I did know who I was competing against – 2017 me! I had to follow my plan to the letter, and I wasn’t going to let what other people were doing, interfere with that. I wasn’t going to look at the computer screen at all – I would keep track of my laps (47 was the magic number) and that would be all that mattered!
In the 12 hour we also had Randell who was aiming for a sub 10 hour 100km. So the only way I’d be seeing him would be when he was lapping me! Uli was there too – he just never looked like slowing down, I did tell him at one point that he made me feel totally inadequate as a runner, and he was always so damn chirpy (much like Randell!)
We had a few visitors during the morning – the Uni Loop is a very popular place for runners especially on the weekend, and it’s hard to go for a run there without bumping into someone you know! Nat and Beck came past on their long run quite early on, and then again on their way back – it was great to see them!
Another visitor was Voula who came to support Gary and myself with coffee and donuts! Voula and a few other regular Sunday runners were going to have lunch with Gary to celebrate Gary finishing his first 6 hour. Of course, I wouldn’t be having lunch with them – I’d still have another 6 hours to run!
The first 3 hours went pretty smoothly and I was running with Gary for most of it, until he dropped the pace a bit and I went on ahead. I was conscious of not going out too fast, but I still wanted to be on 55km by halfway.
3 hours marked the first turnaround. Sally and another girl, in giraffe onesies (because, why not?) informed me that I had 15 seconds to go before turnaround time. In other words, I could keep running another whole lap before turning around, or I could stop, wait 15 seconds and turn around now. I was all psyched up for the turnaround so I decided to go with the latter (I was walking anyway at this stage).
The turnarounds offer a change of scenery of sorts, as well as the opportunity to see a lot of the other runners that might be just behind or ahead of you, who you otherwise might not see!
From 9am we started to see some of the 24 hour runners arrive and get set up – they would start at 10. There were a lot of familiar faces there. Each time I went past our tent I tried to relay the message to the girls that there were some donuts on the table if they wanted any – I’d made a trip to the nearby Bakery On O’Connell for some of their famous vegan chocolate donuts!
10am came and we were joined on the track by the 24 hour runners. It was a record field for this event – possibly due in part to it being the Australian 24 hour championships. Consequently, along with being a relatively large field, it was also a star-studded one – including 2018 UTA100 champion Brendan Davies. I wondered how long it would be before he started lapping me! Also among the 24 hour field was Felix, an international runner and fellow vegan!
And it would be remiss of me not to mention the most distinctive person in the 24 hour, Thor! Actually his name is Stewart but he ran the 24 in full Thor costume complete with wig and hammer! And even when I saw him in the late stages of the 24, he was still in full Thor costume! Now that’s dedication!
Just after the 24 hour runners started I decided it would be a good time to visit the portaloo. Silly me had to choose the broken one with no water – by the time Michelle told me this, I was already committed!
As 12:00 and the 6 hour finish approached, I encountered Gary again. He was on track for his goal of over 50km and doing well! When I calculated I was on my last lap before the siren signalled the end of the 6 hour, I picked up my iPod so I could drown out the sounds of the presentation, and focus on getting through the next few hours!
The iPod worked really well to distract me, however unfortunately somehow I’d unknowingly started it earlier and I ended up only getting just over an hour and a half worth of tunes before the battery died! Oh well, it was enough to get past the presentation! (I’d got a solid 6 hours out of it during my training run, so I was expecting to get a bit more than I did!) And I had brought a mobile charger so all was not lost – when I went past the tent again I plugged it into the charger for a few hours to bring back out again towards the end!
I’d made it to my goal of 55km at the halfway mark. From memory it was 25 laps, which equates to EXACTLY 55km (one lap being 2.2km). I got pretty good at calculating how far I’d gone based on the number of laps – I couldn’t rely on my Garmin watch, as they are always out by some margin especially on a loop event like this! So to get my 105 I just needed to get 50km in the last 6 hours. Simples!
8 hours was the next big hurdle in my mind, as this was the point last year at which I had had to revise my run/walk strategy. I’d started doing 13/2 and quickly realised that 2 minute walk breaks were useless, so had reverted to 10/5 from 9 hours to the finish. I really didn’t want to have to do that this time, but I had in the back of my mind that whatever I had to do, the walk breaks would need to stay at 5 minutes. No more, no less.
One of the great new innovations this year was the motivational signs – I believe Michelle was responsible for these! I’m not sure exactly how many of them there were, over the course of the first few hours they were gradually put up around the loop. All of them were double sided so it meant we had something to look forward to when we changed direction! Some of them put ideas in my head that weren’t there before (eg “Your feet hurt because you’re kicking arse” or words to that effect – well my feet didn’t hurt before that but once I had the idea in my head…)
I had the idea early on to get my ‘RUN LIKE SOMEONE JUST CALLED YOU A JOGGER’ sign out of my car. That sign had been pretty much living in my car since I’d made it for the 2014 Adelaide Marathon. Coincidentally, it was in almost the exact same spot as the start/finish area for this race, that I stood in my tiger onesie and cheered on the runners 4 years ago! As Michelle was going around putting up the signs, I told her where my car keys were and where my car was, and suggested if she wanted to she could use that one as well. And sure enough, a few laps later, there it was, conveniently displayed right near our tent – it was a good landmark so I wouldn’t miss my tent (although I did nearly run past it once!) – our tent was a bit set back from the path due to the ground being a bit uneven, so it was hard to see until you actually reached it. But with the sign there, you couldn’t miss it!
Early in the 24 hour I noticed that lap after lap, Merle and Stephan were running together, sometimes with Merle’s running buddy Trish. I jokingly said “People will start to talk!” – they were chatting constantly the whole way! And then later I encountered Merle and Trish but no Stephan – apparently he’d ‘ditched’ them and gone on ahead – so later on when I ran into Stephan again I jokingly had a go at him for taking off! It’s this kind of camaraderie and good fun that makes this event what it is – a great fun day out!
10 hours came and I was still on my 25/5 run/walk, and relatively comfortable although the sign that said ‘Blisters are braille for awesome’ was starting to speak to me – I was certain there were at least a few blisters on my toes, and was thinking maybe the toe socks were a bad choice! It was at this time that I decided it was time for another hour of tunes, so I grabbed the iPod but to my horror it hadn’t charged at all – absolutely NO battery! Devastated! However thankfully I did have a backup – I had my prized iPod classic with its 9000-odd songs, and had thankfully also thrown in a normal set of running earbuds (the earbuds that went with the waterproof iPod only had really a really short cord, which was perfect when I had the iPod clipped to the back of my hat, but would not work with the Classic that I would need to carry in a pocket. So next time around the loop I grabbed the Classic and the normal headphones.
This was the only time when I really got shitty during the race, and it was only because of stupid technical issues! Sheena was near me at the time and she commented that she’d never heard me swear, I got all my swearing for the day out in that couple of minutes! The iPod was fine, it was the ear buds I just couldn’t get in! They were those ones that hook over your ears and I was getting really frustrated having tried seemingly every way to get them in! Sheena’s suggestion of stopping to do it properly was a great one and I did acknowledge that but I wasn’t having any of it – no stopping today!
Eventually I did get them in and decided that the appropriate track to kick off this part of the race was ‘Detroit Rock City’ by Kiss. Boy did that give me a huge boost! If anyone had seen me a minute earlier and then once the music kicked in, they would have thought I’d had an injection of something really good! As the first song finished I saw Ben sitting on a bench, I now think that was the 100km mark and he was waiting to record someone’s 100km split – possibly Randell (who got the 100km in only a few minutes over the 10 hours he was hoping for).
I had my playlist on shuffle for a little while until I got to the next walk break when I had a bit of time to mess around with the settings and I put on my favourite running album, Def Leppard’s ‘Adrenalize’ which kicks off with ‘Let’s Get Rocked’. That usually makes me run too fast but luckily I was on a walk break for that one! I knew it was about 45 minutes worth of music which would take me through to 11 hours 20, and from then on I’d reassess whether I still needed music or whether I’d ditch the iPod for the closing stages.
The end of the album also coincided with around the time I reached the magical 100km mark! I remembered roughly where the little sign was last year, and had been looking for it but hadn’t seen it – I later found out that a few of the signs had been stolen, including that one – so it wasn’t just my lack of observational skills! Michelle’s husband Mark was sitting on the bench next to where the sign had been, and one of the other 12 hour runners, John, with whom I’d been going back and forth for the past 11 or so hours, was just ahead of me. I remembered him saying at some point he was going for an age group record. It was possible to get milestones recorded officially if you thought you were in line for some kind of record (age group or overall) but as I wasn’t in that league, I wasn’t doing that. However, John was, so that was when I realised that must be the magical 100km mark (which I confirmed with Mark)! A brief moment of celebration as I continued on! Last year I’d reached 100km with 20 minutes to go, this year it was more like 40. To get a PB I only needed just under 3km in that 40 minutes. To get my 105 I needed 5. And I was still hanging on to the 25/5, although I know my running pace was getting slower. Every now and then I’d switch to a ‘shuffle’ where I’d really shorten my stride and pick up the pace, barely lifting my feet. It worked well – really saves a lot of energy! Not really recommended on a trail ultra where you can easily trip over something, but on a track ultra it’s a great way to conserve!
With around half an hour to go, I was on 46 laps. I was hoping to get 2 more in that last half hour which would be well beyond my expectations! Even 47 laps would be 103.4km and a clear PB. Helping me was the fact that I wasn’t planning to take a 5 minute walk break in this half hour. I’d used up the last of my Gatorade but it wasn’t worth stopping to mix up another bottle now! (I’d been carrying a bottle from the first walk break onwards! I’d taken between 3 and 4 hours to drink the first one but then somehow I’d managed to get through them all!)
When I got to 47 laps I saw my parents waiting at the finish line for me, I wasn’t expecting to see them as I knew they had dinner plans, so it was a nice surprise! Voula also came out again, this time with her puppy Bob who was a bit excited! I went to get my rock (each runner is given a personalised rock which they drop when the siren goes off to signify the end of the race, and then the volunteers measure the distance covered since the last full lap. That way you get a measure of the whole distance, not just the full laps) and Ben jokingly told me he couldn’t find mine! Luckily he WAS joking because I wasn’t about to stop and wait for him to find it! I had about 15 minutes to go and I was pretty sure I could get around again but I didn’t want to get 2km into the loop when time was up and not get credit for that 2km!
Voula and Bob ran with me for some of that loop although they did cut across the grass so they didn’t go the whole way! I knew I was going to get my 48 laps (105.6km) and probably then some!
I crossed the timing mat for the last time, still with a few minutes left, so I tried to pick up the pace a bit – no sense leaving anything in the tank! The siren went off, I dropped my rock and made my way back to the finish line!
My official distance was 105.91km which was very satisfying! The plan worked perfectly and I was able to keep the same run/walk schedule going for the whole 12 hours which was extremely pleasing!
And the top lasted the whole day – not a single issue, no chafing, no nothing! Kudos to Mekong for a great product!
I went to greet Mum and Dad (turned out Dad had been attacked by a possum which thought he was a tree and tried to climb him – luckily the first aid lady was there ready to attend to him – not that she was expecting to deal with a possum attack!) and Voula and Gary who had come back to see me finish.
After Mum and Dad left it was time for me to grab some Coke (I’d managed to hold off drinking any during the 12 hours – MAN that tasted good at the end)! and a slice of vegan pizza, and then go see the first aid lady to look at my blisters. I probably had blisters on most of my toes and I put it down to the socks – I had managed to wear a hole through the bottom of one of them, although I didn’t get a blister where the hole was, strangely! Just everywhere else! (Toe socks are not for me, apparently!) While the lady (I can’t remember her name!) was examining my feet and patching up the bits that needed patching, Michael (who was also the course measurer) was very helpfully telling me that I should pop the blisters (which went contrary to what the first aider was telling me – I was pretty sure I was going to follow her advice and not his!) Michael also told me I was 2nd female which I didn’t realise up until that point – I was 5-6km behind 1st, which was far enough that there was really nothing I could have done to beat her. It was weird because I’d barely seen Kerrie (who was 1st) all day! Actually there weren’t many people in the 12 hour – only 20 in total, a much smaller number than either the 6 or the 24.
After that I went back to the tent to get changed into some warmer clothes and have some wine and donuts! We then went back to the start/finish area for the presentations. This was the first time I could remember having an official photographer at the 12 hour presentations – being at night time, often we only get people’s phone photos, but this time official photographer Gary was there to capture the moment! Cheryl also got over 100km to finish 3rd (another runner I’d hardly seen!) and the men’s podium consisted of Randell, Uli and another guy Ben who I hadn’t met before.
I was also lucky enough to win a $100 voucher for The Running Company in the random prize draw – I guess the odds of winning are pretty good when there’s 5 prizes and only 20 runners in the event, of which a lot of them had already left (and you had to be there to be eligible for a prize!). Looking at my shoes at the end of the run, (and they were past retirement even BEFORE the race) I have a feeling I’ll be putting that voucher to use sooner rather than later!
I hung out in the tent with Elle for the next few hours, refuelling (I had about 2 of my 6 sandwiches left, which were quickly consumed – that meant I’d eaten pretty much an entire loaf of bread that day on top of several Clif bars and nut bars!) and cheering on the 24 hour runners especially Kate, Tracey and Sheena. I wasn’t really doing much in the way of supporting (to be fair, I wasn’t really capable of much at that stage other than cheering) but Elle was doing a stellar job supporting the 3 girls, along with Lachlan who came down and did some laps.
I tried to have a sleep in Tracey’s tent out the back, but that wasn’t happening, so eventually I decided the best thing to do was go home for a few hours sleep in my own bed, which also meant I got to have a shower (THE BEST!). I woke up around 4am and headed back down to the Uni Loop around 5:30 to watch and support for the last few hours. When I arrived, Lachlan informed me that Elle was asleep in the tent, Sheena was about to get taken off in an ambulance, Tracey was finished, and he hadn’t seen Kate for a number of hours. My plan had been to do some laps with the girls, as long as they were only walking, and I’d left my running shoes at the track along with a fresh pair of socks (WITHOUT holes) in preparation. Oh well, it looked like that wasn’t happening, so I went to hang out with Vicky (who was backing up with a volunteer stint after finishing 2nd in the 6 hour – machine!) and Dione at the food tent. Where they also had a heater. Best place to hang! I brought what was left of the donuts from the previous day, and also made a quick trip to the bakery for coffee and a sausage roll for Ben!
Not long after this, Kate surfaced – she’d had about a 7 hour rest break and was ready to go for the last 3 hours! I offered to walk a few laps with her, and my offer was gratefully accepted! Her mission was to get to 110km and she was on 99 – just 5 laps in 3 hours!
We were walking at a reasonably brisk pace, every now and then Kate would break into a shuffle and although I tried I couldn’t go with her, so at times I’d cut across the grass to catch up with her! There was a fair bit of socialising going on as well as a bit of coffee drinking, so consequently we had to pick up the pace in the last few laps otherwise she wasn’t going to get her goal! Not only did she get her 110km she actually kept going after crossing the line for her 50th lap, until the siren went off! (Although she didn’t reach the distance she’d done last year, she also didn’t end up in hospital this time so surely that’s a win!)
I think it was great for me too, partly because I needed to keep moving and stretch my legs after the 12 hour, but also I got to see what the end of a 24 hour looks like, from a runner’s point of view rather than just a spectator! In previous years I have always gone to see the end of the 24 hour, and even when I’ve had thoughts about wanting to do the 24 hour one day, watching the runners stagger around in the final hours has made me never want to even contemplate it! This year was different. Firstly, I think I’ve achieved as much as I can in the 12 hour. I don’t think I can improve on this year’s effort. Maybe if I dedicate myself to this event and train specifically for it for the whole year, but if I want to continue running trails and road races as well, I don’t see how I could possibly do a better 12 hour. Kate is one person who has been egging me on to do the 24. She said it’s not for her, and she never wants to do it again, but she thinks it would be right up my alley. And I think she may just be right…
Also encouraging me to ‘step up’ is Glen, who ran the 24 hour this year as well. I had no idea until afterwards that this was his first time doing the 24! So he was encouraging me based on NO experience! (I asked him afterwards if he still thought I should do it and if he’d do it again – the answer to both questions was a resounding ‘Yes’!)
Last year, when I stayed all night and saw a lot of the 24 hour runners at various stages, I had no desire to do the 24. Here is a direct quote from me from last year: ‘One of the pluses of staying overnight after finishing the 12 hour was getting to see the 24 hour runners through the middle of the night. Watching them made me decide I NEVER want to run the 24 hour. Although, I do want to do a 100 miler one day and I’m sure a trail miler is not in my future, so I guess I will have to do it eventually. Give me a few years!’
Now – I think I might just give it a crack next year!
It was great walking the last 5 laps with Kate because we got to see most of the other 24 hour runners who were still going. Felix was going from strength to strength, never looking like slowing down, and ended up winning, and in doing so, obliterating the course record to finish on just over 260km! Second place was a runner called John who just looked super strong and smooth throughout, and his distance would have been good enough to win most years! In third place was Brendan, who Kate and I passed on our last lap, and I said to Kate “We just passed Brendan Davies – you don’t get to see that too often!” OK, admittedly he HAD done more distance than both of us combined, but still… small win!
In the women’s race, the winner was Heather who had passed me fairly regularly while I was still running, and looked super strong. Second place went to Anna (another vegan on the podium!) for the second year in a row, followed closely by a runner I hadn’t met before called Melissa, who astounded me with her crazy fast walking pace!
Congratulations to everyone who participated, particularly to those who dipped their toes in the 6/12/24 water for the first time, and I hope to see a lot of you back next year! It was a pleasure to share the track with you all! I always have to thank the volunteers and this event is no exception! The volunteers who had the ‘witching hour’ shift deserve special thanks and I’m sure I will be appreciating them even more next year! Thanks also to everyone who cheered us on, whether they were there supporting other runners or just out to give everyone a boost! (Special thanks to the crew with the maracas and clappers – you guys were one of the highlights of every lap and I really missed you when you weren’t there! I’m not sure who you are but I hope you’re there next year!)
And as always big congrats and thanks to Ben for making this such a fabulous, inclusive, fun, challenging, brutal, delicious and enjoyable event!
So who’s going to come out and run with me next year?
Last year I completed my first duathlon and yesterday I decided to give it another crack! Last time I did the ‘Enticer’ course (now ‘Short’ course) and I did the whole thing in my running shoes (with the proper racing pedals) – this time I decided to step up to the ‘Long’ course and the big girl cycling shoes. (I don’t like riding in normal shoes anymore – it’s funny how when you get used to cleats after numerous times falling off, it’s hard to go back!)
The race consisted of a 4km run/16km ride/2km run. The run lap was 1km and the bike lap was 2km, so that meant a 4 lap run, 8 lap ride and 2 lap run.
This time I actually had the multisport thing working on my watch so it was easy to keep track, I was able to count laps but if I was uncertain I could always look at my watch and easily know if I was on my last lap!
It was a cool day and there had been rain earlier, so I was pleased to see when I arrived at Victoria Park that the track had dried out (I’ve never ridden in rain or on a wet track/road) and the sun was shining. If the strong wind could have dropped off for an hour or so, it would have been perfect racing conditions!
The race was divided into 3 waves – elites, teams and all other long course athletes up to 39 years, followed by the long course athletes 40 and over, and finally the short course athletes. I was of course in wave 2.
As it was chilly I’d opted to race in a long sleeved top (but with a T-shirt underneath, in the event that I was warm enough after the ride).
When I racked my bike, I remembered the rookie mistake from last time – doing up my helmet strap and hanging it off my handlebar. This time the strap was left undone and the helmet left on the ground with my bike shoes, hopefully not to blow away before I got to the bike leg! I have got the hang of how to rack my bike at the start of a race!
Also in the race were Karen and Daryl, SARRC club coach Kent, first time duathlete Kristie, and probably my biggest triathlon influence Shane (who also tried his best to talk me into backing up with another duathlon this morning at Victor Harbor!)
It’s always tempting to try to smash out the run, because it’s the bit I can actually do properly! I was mindful of not spending too much energy on the first run, but pretty much did it anyway. My first lap was my fastest, and I ended up finishing the run leg with an average pace of 4:27 minutes per km. I did pass Kent on about the 3rd lap and I figured that would be the only time I would be ahead of him all day, so I might as well make the most of it!
T1 went smoothly – I was in and out of there in about 51 seconds. I know I could improve on that time if I did the ‘bike shoes on the bike pedals’ thing but I’m pretty sure that would not end well! I wheeled the bike to the ‘Mount’ line, got on and my feet slipped into the pedals right away. So far, so good!
Now came the fun part. 16km is not a long distance on the bike but when it comes in the form of 8 laps, it feels surprisingly long! (It feels even longer when you actually ride 18km, or 9 laps- more on that later!)
At the start there were quite a lot of other riders out there, most of whom were faster than me, so I was careful to keep left and let them past. It definitely feels wrong to be letting people pass me but when it comes to cycling I am still a total noob!
The course was relatively easy except for one hairpin turn which I remembered from last year. I would slow right down, almost to a stop. As I approached the turn I would glance over my shoulder to see if anyone was coming up behind me. I’d let them pass so I was able to take my time making the turn. It was actually easier this time around, with the cleats. At first I was still slowing right down, and making it harder than I needed to by doing a really tight turn, but as the laps passed by it started to get easier. Part of why it got easier was because there were less people coming up behind me as I approached. That was because there were less people out there, because most of them had already finished the ride! I reckon around the 5th lap I finally realised that if I took it wide it was MUCH easier!
The other thing that made things a little easier from lap 5 onwards was when Shane passed me and told me to put my bike into a harder gear. I was wondering why it was so hard – my legs were spinning like anything! As soon as I fixed that, suddenly it got easier! Shane later told me that he’d spotted the issue as he passed me earlier, but of course couldn’t tell me until the next time he passed me! (He may or may not have been that person who rode a whole extra lap – and still beat me quite comfortably!)
Around lap 7 Karen passed me, I was expecting this as she is a much better rider than me. I wasn’t sure if she was on the same lap as me or a lap behind, as I’d been a fair way ahead on the run.
Finally, after what seemed like forever, the bike was done! I can’t see my lap splits (for some reason no-one has made it a Strava segment) but I would be willing to bet my second half was quicker, because of being in the right gear and also not slowing down as much on the hairpin. My overall bike time was 44 minutes. Not particularly impressive but it will be good to compare my time when I do this course again!
T2 was a bit quicker than T1, 50 seconds this time. Karen was already there and left just before me. I quickly changed my shoes, helmet to hat and took off my long sleeved top and went to finish this thing off!
As always the legs felt like lead (it actually felt like my knees wouldn’t bend, for some reason!) and it felt like I wasn’t really moving at all, but my pace was actually not too bad, and I was able to pass quite a few people on the 2 laps, without getting passed by anyone! Pace-wise was pretty similar to my first run, with the 2km taking a touch over 9 minutes.
Unlike a marathon, or half marathon, or 5 or 10k, it’s hard to gauge what is a good time for a multisport event like this. The only thing I can really compare my time to, is my own time when I do it again. I think there are 4 races in the series and if I can I’d like to do all 4, just to see if I can improve on the bike leg (and possibly the transitions, although I can’t see how I could take much time off those without attempting something I am definitely not ready for!)
All in all it was a fab afternoon out, the weather was pretty great! The wind was a factor but I guess we were riding with it as much as we were riding into it, so it kind of balanced out! I learned a lot (as I always tend to in these kind of events)! Although it would be tempting to stick with running which I know I can do reasonably well, I enjoy the challenge of doing something I am not all that good at – and there’s no pressure to perform, I’m just out there trying to do something different and broaden my horizons a bit!
Thanks to all the volunteers who put this event on – great bunch of people! Well done to all who participated – it certainly seemed to have been raced in very good spirit, with the elites sharing the track with the novices quite happily! Congrats to all the winners (including Karen and Daryl who both got age group placings!) Special thanks to Shane for the tip that made the second half of my bike leg SO much better – much appreciated!
Bring on the next one!
But first – 12 hours running round a 2.2km track. Next Saturday. Stay tuned!
Last year I ran the Tower Trail Run in Mount Gambier for the first time. You can read all about it here.
I loved it so much I just had to go back!
This year I’d opted to run the half marathon again (2 laps) although the competitor in my kind of wished I’d gone with the marathon (4 laps) when I saw only 2 women on the provisional start list! Along with the single lap 10.5km event, this year an ultra distance (56km) had been added – it was 4 laps like the marathon, but the loop included a lap around the iconic Blue Lake. Something a bit special just for the ultra runners!
This weekend was also the weekend of the Pichi Richi marathon (starting in Port Augusta) and also the launch of the Port Augusta parkrun. I have always been keen on Pichi, the idea of a one-way marathon (like Boston, only on a much smaller scale!) appeals to me and I was thinking that I might give it a crack next year. The timing has never worked out before!
Joining me on this trip were Karen, Daryl and Wendy who had also made the journey last year, as well as Wendy’s partner Graham. We were all doing the 21.1km.
A road trip from Adelaide to Mount Gambier would not be complete without a stop in Coonawarra for a wine tasting. This year we went to Zema Estate on Friday afternoon on the way there, and Redman on Monday morning on the way back. I thank Karen and Daryl for indulging me as they are both non-drinkers, although at Redman Karen managed to occupy her time with the resident ‘wine dog’ while I was doing my tasting! I love Coonawarra, it’s so compact and the wines are fabulous!
Friday night I had arranged to meet a vegan friend, Mount Gambier local Rose (who I hadn’t actually met in real life, just on social media) and her fellow vegan friend Karl, visiting from Sydney. We had some fantastic vegan burgers and fries at the new burger joint in town (not just vegan, also catering to omnivores!) – Natural Born Grillers. It was great to chat about running and vegan deliciousness with a couple of like-minded people!
A Saturday morning in Mount Gambier, particularly for a runner, would not be complete without Mount Gambier parkrun. I’ve done a lot of different parkruns now (I think 31 globally?) and I have to say this is my favourite. It’s a bit challenging, with a few little hills (up until the launch of Cleland it would have been the most challenging parkrun in SA) but with the most incredible view over the Blue Lake. I always find myself getting distracted by it on the way out (it’s an ‘out and back’ course) – run run run run run – oh, look at the lake! – run run run run run – oh, still the lake, wow! – etc etc! It was particularly distracting the first time I went there, as that was in December when it’s actually a really striking blue. In June it’s more of a blue-grey but no less impressive!
And a parkrun in Mount Gambier must always be followed by coffee at Metro, probably a big part of the reason why it is my favourite of all the parkruns. Even though on this particular occasion they didn’t have any vegan cakes in!
It rained a bit on parkrun but the promise was for a dry morning on Sunday which would be perfect – last year it was pretty wet, but I still loved it! A dry, cool morning would be ideal!
The rest of Saturday was spent wandering around the shops, dodging showers. I remembered Ecologie Organics, the organic store, from last year, and that when I went last time, they were going to start serving hot food about a month later. Sure enough, they had a lot of lovely vegan lunch goodies, I went for a vegetable soup which was perfect on a cold, wet winter’s day!
We stayed at the same place as last year, very conveniently located within easy walking distance of both parkrun and the start of the race. On Saturday night we went back to Metro for dinner and were joined by SA running legend Kym, who had originally signed up to do the marathon but had decided to join the cool kids in the half instead.
On race morning Kym had to get down to the start line early to change from the marathon to the half, and rather than hang around at the start line in the cold, he came down to hang out at our place while we got ready to walk up. Somehow he had managed to put his back ‘out’ while going under some bunting, so Karen helped him out with some Deep Heat before we all wandered to the start line.
At the start line Race Director Phil gave the briefing and a couple of warnings about dangerous sections of the course – one of them being the concrete pretty much RIGHT on the start line – he commented that it would be pretty bad to trip over literally ON the start line! There was also a downhill trail section early on with a lot of tree roots to be careful of, but that was the trickiest bit.
My time from last year was just over 2 hours 20, so I was hoping to improve on that this time around, although I hadn’t been doing a lot of trail/hill running recently (my main focus being the 12 hour event in mid July) so I couldn’t really expect anything too spectacular! Also, I was running with arm warmers as per usual, and my newish Garmin watch has a built-in heart rate monitor which needs to be against the skin to work, so consequently my watch was covered for pretty much the whole race. That suited me fine – it worked for me at UTA100!
Away we went at 8:00!
Very early on in the race (before we hit the trail) fellow Adelaide runner Andy, who I had met and run with last year at Mt Gambier parkrun, commented that he had seen my post. I asked him “Which one?” thinking he was referring to a Facebook post. “The Heysen one” he replied, at which point I realised he was talking about an ACTUAL POST, the post in the field around the 60km mark on the Heysen 105, where Justin had immortalised me with a plaque to commemorate the spot where I had infamously got lost during my first Heysen! I really must get down there and visit said post – I haven’t run the 105 since the plaque was put up, so I haven’t really had any reason to go down there!
I won’t talk too much about the course itself because I covered that pretty well last time. It’s a very ‘up and down’ course, with not a lot of flat in between! I ended up walking a lot of the hills, especially the big one up to the Centenary Tower (the ‘Tower’ after which the Tower Trail Run is named!) as I felt I really couldn’t have run them any faster than I walked them.
We encountered a few of the marathon and ultra runners out there but they were few and far between. Probably because there were vastly more runners in the 21.1k and the 10.5k (the 10.5k didn’t start until after I’d commenced my second loop) than in the marathon and ultra. The marathon was by far the smallest – only 10 starters – probably because a lot of the runners who would previously have done the marathon would have been tempted by the prospect of running the inaugural Tower ultra!
I opted to wear my small race vest with 2 small bottles of Gatorade, as well as a couple of bars just in case, but I wasn’t expecting to need those for that distance. It wasn’t hard to slip them into the pockets of my pack and they didn’t weigh me down too much!
Around halfway through the first lap I met up with Andy again, and we would end up running pretty much the rest of the race together. It was really enjoyable, once again I hadn’t planned to run it with anyone, but it’s always nice to randomly meet up with someone along the way that is of the same pace and have great chats with them!
Have I mentioned the volunteers yet? They were FABULOUS. There were a few aid stations along the way, I didn’t need to use any of their services as I’d come prepared to be self-sufficient (as I prefer to do – I don’t like to stop if I can avoid it!) but it was always nice to see their friendly faces. The marshals were also very friendly with very clear directions so I never felt like I was in danger of getting lost (which, considering my history at Heysen as outlined earlier, is very important!). There were also HEAPS of photographers out there, and the photos were fantastic (the course is very photogenic in itself!). As I approached one photographer, my nose was running a bit (as it tends to do in the cold) and I called out “Can you please Photoshop out the snot?” to which Andy responded “Can you photoshop it IN?”
Another lovely touch was when we were approaching the end of the first loop and there was a table out in a field with lollies on it for the runners – that’s just one of those things that makes this event so special!
Other than the other runners, we kept encountering a guy called Troy, a mate of Andy’s who was out supporting. It would have been nice of him to bring a couple of ropes to tow us up the hill, but the support was appreciated nonetheless!
It was nice at the halfway mark to see the 10.5k runners waiting to start, a few familiar faces among them! They gave us a great cheer as we went past to start what Andy described as the ‘victory lap’ (We just had a ‘warmup lap’ and a ‘victory lap’. No proper racing laps!)
Towards the end of the second lap, probably with a few kms to go (I didn’t look at my watch but I knew the Tower was about 3km from the finish and we’d passed that) I started to get a bit hungry but I knew we were close enough that I would make it to the end. Still, it was good to know I had snacks if I needed them! From that point on I decided to run, even on the uphills (which weren’t too bad after the Tower) because I knew I didn’t need to conserve energy anymore!
The second and final lap finished with a bit of a sprint when Troy reappeared to give Andy a bit of a push to the finish. This was roughly the spot where Graham and I had fought it out in an epic finish line sprint last year! It was nice to know that again I still had a bit left in my legs!
In the end I was a couple of minutes slower than last year, but given that I wasn’t looking at my watch, hadn’t really done a heck of a lot of trail training, and really enjoyed myself out there, I couldn’t really be disappointed!
Thanks to Phil and Nikki and all of the fantastic volunteers for making this event a highlight on my calendar – definitely got it pencilled in for next year (will be inked in once the date is confirmed!) I had planned to go to Pichi Richi but I can’t resist coming back to the Mount! I would highly recommend this event to anyone who likes a bit of trail fun and for those in Adelaide it’s a great excuse for a weekend away in a pretty fabulous location!
A post-script to the event. Last year I was unfairly branded a monster by Karen at our post-run stop at seaside Port Macdonnell, because I told her not to feed the seagulls chips until we’d all had enough. You know, because they’re pests and they won’t leave you alone if you give them one! Well Karen and Wendy decided to have their revenge this time around.
But it all worked out OK in the end because one of them shat on Karen.
I am going to try to keep this one brief. (Famous last words, perhaps?)
Last weekend was the 40th Adelaide Marathon and my 4th year of running in the event.
In 2015 and 2017 I was a pacer for the half marathon (2015 was my first ever pacing gig) and in 2016 I ran the full marathon with friend Beck.
This year, backing up from UTA100 I had originally planned to run the 5k but then I saw the medals for the full, half and 10k, and I decided I needed one! I thought a half would be a bit ambitious but I was pretty confident I’d have a 10k in me. And I emailed club coach Kent to ask if they wanted a 1 hour pacer (I knew there was no way I was going to be getting close to a PB, so I thought I’d rather try to help some other people get their goal times!)
The marathon weekend kicked off with a gala celebration at the Adelaide Town Hall, hosted by the Lord Mayor and featuring special guests, marathon MC Pat Carroll and event ambassador Jess Trengove, fresh from her bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games. Along with those two VIPs were a number of other VIPs – the Adelaide Marathon Warriors and Legends. Warriors are those who have run 10 or more Adelaide Marathons, and Legends have done 25 or more! I can’t even contemplate running the same marathon that many times but I have huge respect for all those who have! It was a great night, I got to catch up with a lot of people and meet some new ones.
On Saturday was the Flamingo Fun Run for the kids – a great initiative, putting it on its own day. A few of my Board colleagues ran in the event and by all accounts it was a lot of fun!
Saturday was also bib collection day – the crew had been at the Oval on the Friday as well, but with many people working during the week, the Saturday bib collection proved popular! There were also a few expo stands there on Saturday, so people had the opportunity to browse before it got hectic on Sunday!
After collecting my bibs (one race number and one ‘PACER’ bib) I hung around and helped out with the fun job of unpacking the medals and bundling them into bunches of 20 to make it easier for the volunteers to hand them out! I had a great production line going with another volunteer, Peter, who was doing the bundling as I struggled to keep up with the unpacking!
I got to catch up with a whole lot of the volunteers for Sunday, as they came in for a pre-event briefing.
On Sunday I arrived early for my event, getting to the Oval around 6:30 so I’d get to see the marathoners and half marathoners start, before the 10k start at 8am. Many of the volunteers had already been working for hours by then!
The marathon started at 7am and as always there were a lot of familiar faces out there! As per usual I was pretty happy not to be among the 450-odd runners heading off to run the 42.2km – but the marathon medal was SO pretty so I was ALMOST tempted! The weather was ideal – only a couple of drops of rain and not too cold!
After the marathoners set off, I went to collect my green pacer balloon – I had asked for a yellow or a green one. My outfit was chosen to fit with the hallowed turf of the Adelaide Oval – a retro green and gold Australian cricket shirt and matching cap, with more conventional running attire on the bottom half. My goal was to be easily visible but also relatively comfortable!
The half marathon started 15 minutes before us, and I knew a lot of runners in the half as well! A couple of my fellow Board members, Gary and Veronica, were pacing 2:00 and 2:06 (6 minute kilometres) respectively. There were 6 pacers altogether in the half, to go along with the 7 in the full – I don’t think I’d ever seen that many pacers in one of our events before! Pacing in the half would be tricky – there were around 1000 starters, so with all the congestion they’d probably be walking for a few minutes, and would then need to gradually pick up the pace.
When it came time to start the 10k, I wasn’t sure where to position myself! I was one of two pacers, the other being 50 minutes. On previous occasions, I’d mostly had pacers before and after me, so it was easy to position myself in between. This time I asked around, trying to find some people who were around 1 hour pace, so I could work out where I needed to be.
As for the marathon and the half before us, the 10k kicked off to the sound of AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck’. I’m pretty sure the last time I’d heard that song at the Adelaide Oval was when I’d seen AC/DC live there some years ago!
There were close to 500 people in the 10k so I did find it a bit hard to get going! I would have less time to make up any ‘lost’ time, so I needed to get moving as quickly as possible! My new Garmin watch allowed me to set a 5 second ‘window’ (as opposed to my previous one which had a minimum ‘window’ of 15 seconds) so I had my pace alerts set between 5:55 and 6:00. If I strayed outside this range my watch would let me know!
It only took about 1km to hit my goal pace and I managed to hold onto it the whole way, losing a bit of time on the uphills and trying not to gain too much on the downs! (In my first pacing gig, 3 years earlier, it had taken 7km to hit goal pace, what with the crowds and the undulating terrain!)
I had quite a few people around me but there were a few who were with me more than others. Amelia, a student from the USA who hadn’t been running much since she’d been in Australia for about the past year, was hoping to get sub 60 which was around her previous 10km time. Another girl Anna said she hadn’t run 10km for quite some time, and recently had only done 5km. I told her to think of it as 5km, and then after 5km wipe the slate clean and pretend she was starting 5km again! I wasn’t sure if it would work but it did! (I also spread the parkrun news to Amelia, she hadn’t heard of parkrun before and happily the 10km course took us right past the start of the Torrens parkrun course, which I duly pointed out to her!)
I didn’t stop at any of the drink stations but did remember to say thankyou to all the volunteers! I did see quite a few familiar faces out marshalling, including the ever encouraging Gary and the ever colourful Michelle and Tracey.
It was also great, as always, to see marathoners and half marathoners out on course – it really did seem like I knew everyone!
Towards the end I caught up with Board Chair Voula and fellow board member Gary’s daughter Tahlia, both carrying injuries and both of whom told me beforehand they’d be running with me. They’d been ahead of me all race but eventually I did catch them. Voula got behind a bit but I yelled out to her as she’d asked me beforehand to give her a push if she started to fall behind! It worked!
I was chatting with one of the other girls when I caught Voula and Tahlia, and Tahlia asked me to keep talking as it was a nice distraction! Then we caught up with a girl in front of us who had her iPod in and was loudly singing along – I suggested to Tahlia that if she wanted some entertainment she should stick closely with that girl!
Before too long (less than an hour, in fact!) we approached the entrance to the Adelaide Oval and the finish line. Around here I saw a familiar face, it was Matt, who was running the marathon but had somehow managed to miss the turnoff for the second lap and run into the stadium instead! (I’m sure a lot of marathoners would have been tempted to do the same!)
Into the stadium and onto the oval we went. I realised I was going to be a few minutes ahead of schedule so halfway around the oval I decided to stop and cheer some of the other 10k finishers on for a minute or two, until I got closer to the 1 hour mark. I had started my watch on the gun (something I always do as a pacer) so even those runners who had started ahead of me, were going to get under the 1 hour.
My clock time was 59:36 which was respectable although as I said I did have to stop to let the clock catch up! No way was I crossing the line in 58 minutes!
After finishing I had a quick chat with Anna and Amelia who were both happy with their results, and then headed off to get an all-important coffee before helping out at the merch stand which was doing great business, ably manned by Lee-Ann who had been there since about 4:30am! I quickly learned how to operate the Point Of Sale app so Lee-Ann could deal with other stuff, although I am a bit challenged when it comes to working iPhones so I had to ask the customers for help!
I caught up with marathoner Jenny who had had to pull out due to injury, and we happened to be out the front of the oval as lead runner John ran past, heading towards the finish line. I then quickly made my way down to the oval to see him finish, it was great to see a local runner take the win as this year there was increased prizemoney which attracted elite runners from interstate. It was the first time I’d have the privilege of seeing the winner cross the line – as a half marathon pacer I’d come in after the marathon winner both times, and when I ran the marathon 2 years ago – well needless to say I was also behind the winner!
I headed back down to the oval for a little while just before 10am, as I knew there would be a lot of marathoners coming in around the 3 hour mark. Just after the 3 hours I saw Amelia, who later told me she hadn’t had a great run but she did manage to get 3rd place – not bad for a ‘bad day’!
After that I spent most of the day in the merch area, chatting to fellow runners who all seemed to have really enjoyed the event, including a number from interstate.
I was almost tempted to join in the 5k, a new addition to the AMF programme, a fundraiser for Arthritis SA, which started at 11am and gave even more people the opportunity to be part of the event.
I saw a lot of the volunteers come back from their marshalling or drink station posts, including my vote for best dressed (with all due respect to Michelle and Tracey!)
And I had to get the obligatory selfie with marshal Gary, plus he took this pic which I thought was pretty cool!
The rest of the day went pretty quickly and gradually the crowd began to disperse.
The highlight of the day, which a few people have posted about on Facebook but which I will also mention here, was getting to see not only the first finisher, but also the last. After around 7.5 hours, one of the Adelaide Marathon Legends (having completed over 30 Adelaide Marathons – I forget the exact number), Sue entered the arena and every person who was still at the ground was on the oval at the finish line to welcome her. AC/DC thundered from the PA system and MC Pat Carroll and the crowd gave her a rousing reception. It’s a shame that there weren’t more people there to see it, but hopefully in future years there will be more people there right to the very end (like at the finish of Yurrebilla!) And best of all, she made it back in time to get a coffee before the coffee shop closed (when I had spoken to her at the start, this was her greatest concern about being potentially slow!)
Following close behind Sue was Voula’s husband John who was the course sweeper, on a bicycle. I have a lot of respect for anyone who can sit on a bike for that long – great work John!
I managed to sneak away once Sue had finished, but a lot of the core team were still there and would have been there for a good few hours after that (after having been there well before dawn!)
So that leads nicely into the thanks. Anything I say here is going to be completely inadequate because it was a massive effort from a lot of people to make this thing happen. Being there from the start to the finish of the marathon I got to see a whole lot. I don’t want to leave anyone out, and I know there were a lot of volunteers there who put in a HUGE number of hours, but these are the people (some paid, some unpaid) who were there Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and for pretty long hours too: Race Director Ben, SARRC staff Cassandra, Lee-Ann, Paul and Harry, and super volunteer Sheena. Along with that we had Malcolm on timing, course measurer Don, and course marker Peter who started at something like 3am?
Thanks especially to them but also to every single one of the volunteers who helped make this what I would like to say the biggest and best Adelaide Marathon Festival yet! (I can definitely say it was the best one I’ve been involved with!)