Race Report – Ultra-Trail Australia 100km 2018

As I begin to write this, I am vowing not to write as many words (9645!!!!) as I wrote last time. If you want to read about my 2016 race, grab yourself a cuppa and settle in for the long haul!

In case you don’t have a few hours to spare, Ultra-Trail Australia according to their Facebook page is the 3rd largest trail running event in the world (I couldn’t find out what the top two were!), this year with over 5000 runners ages 1-80 from 62 nations. So it’s kind of a big deal! There is a 22km race on Friday, along with a time trial on the notorious Furber Steps (all 951 of them!) and on Saturday the 50km and the 100km (the 100km with a 28 hour time limit, so technically that one goes until Sunday!)

I was doing the 100km again. A few people asked me before I went, and also over the course of the race, what made me come back and do it again. My answer was mostly “I don’t know!” An excuse for a weekend away maybe? I thought I could improve on my time from 2 years ago?

After I backflipped from “never again” to “next time I’ll train properly for it” within the space of about 12 hours, I signed up on the day entries opened in September 2017 with all good intentions.

And then it was April and UTA was 5 weeks away. Trained properly? Not so much. I did do one big long run. It was the Five Peaks Ultramarathon. If that hadn’t slotted nicely into the programme, I probably would not have run more than about 24km in training. Not ideal!

UTA100 has about 4400m of elevation. I had done a fair bit of vert in my training but one thing missing was stairs. It seems that most of the vert in UTA comes in the form of stairs. Thousands of them. The extent of my stair training this time around was walking up the one flight of stairs at work every day. Last time I actually did put a bit of time into stair training. This time, KNOWING exactly what was to come, I put zero time into it. Bad plan!

The overall elevation profile of UTA100.

I arrived in Katoomba on Thursday around 6pm, having had my flight changed twice since I’d booked it. A chance meeting with fellow SA runner Mick at Adelaide Airport resulted in him very kindly offering me a lift from Sydney Airport to Katoomba, as he was hiring a car. We had a good chat along the way about what was to come, and I got the opportunity to pick an elite runner’s brain about all manner of things!

I was staying at a house in Katoomba with 11 others – 100km runners Justin, Kazu and Gez, 50km runners Hoa, Kylie and Tracey, and cheer squads/support crews Andrew, Chris, Rula, Bev and Elena.

I did a quick shop on Thursday night and along with a few things I’d planned to buy, I made a couple of impulse buys – a block of dark chocolate and a pair of fluffy house socks (to put in my finish line drop bag!)

Friday morning I went to the race expo (Mick and I had already done our check-in on Thursday night) and stocked up on short dated Clif bars – 2 dozen for $20! The rest of the day was mostly consumed with race prep – I had planned to go for a short run with my pack on once I’d repacked it – but time just got away from me!

I’ll talk about nutrition now. My race nutrition ‘plan’ consisted of: sandwiches (one peanut butter, one chocolate spread, and one combination of both that was kind of like a Snickers) cut into quarters, 4 nut bars, 4 Clif bars, 4 serves of mashed sweet potato with salt, and 5 litres of Gatorade. It was interesting to see the other runners getting their nutrition ready – they all seemed to have a much more scientific approach than me! Most of their fuel was liquid or gel based, although Kazu and Tracey were having some pretty tasty looking rice balls as well! Personally I prefer real food. I’ve never tried gels and the only liquid I have other than water is Gatorade, and Coke at the checkpoints. I don’t count calories, I don’t work out protein v carbs v fat, I just eat what tastes good and works for me. And so far, that strategy HAS worked for me! I tend to have a lot of food left over at the end but I’d rather have too much than not enough. I don’t tend to find much at aid stations that interests me as far as food goes, other than potato crisps and boiled salted potatoes! Bananas and watermelon don’t do it for me!

Anyway I spent a bit of time in the kitchen while I had the place to myself, and cooked up my sweet potato, cooked up some pasta for dinner, made my sandwiches and started packing my drop bags (Checkpoint 3 46km, Checkpoint 4 57km, Checkpoint 5 78km, and the finish line) as I had to take my checkpoint drop bags to the expo between 4:30 and 5:30pm that afternoon.

Also in my drop bags I had spare socks, a few changes of tops, extra baby wipes (super useful things during trail runs, they serve a wide variety of purposes, not least of which is to wash my hands after visiting the grotty portaloos!) and my mandatory fleece jacket which I would pick up at CP4. Also in the CP4 and CP5 drop bags were some previously unseen notes that I had asked some friends to write for me, to keep me motivated late in the race! (I had toyed with the idea of writing myself some little motivational slogans in each of my drop bags, but I thought it would be even better to have something I’d never seen before! Something to look forward to!)

I’d also written myself a list of what I needed to do/pick up at each checkpoint, in case my ‘ultra-brain’ had set in by then!

In my race vest I had all my mandatory gear, with my rain jacket (unlikely to be required given the forecast) on the back of my pack as I couldn’t fit it in! (Tip for people running the event in future – VACUUM PACK YOUR MANDATORY GEAR – it will be so much easier to fit in your pack! The other piece of advice I would give re mandatory gear is HAVE TWO FLEECES – one in your CP4 drop bag and one in CP5. That way, if you’re having a good day and you get to CP4 well ahead of schedule, you can wait until CP5 to pick up your fleece. Conversely, if you’re having a shit day and you’re at CP4 later than expected, you have a fleece ready at CP4. I have a fairly cheap one which is consequently quite bulky, and you probably want to avoid having to carry it any more than you actually have to! (Having said that, I was glad to have picked up my fleece at CP4, even though technically I could have waited until CP5 to pick it up. More on that later!)

(Those pieces of advice are for you, the reader, and not for me for ‘next time’. Because, I said it before the race and I say it again now, there will not be a next time! Not for the 100km anyway!)

My initial race kit was (top to bottom): a buff around my head to keep my ears warm for the chilly start (my start time was 6:27 and I was there from about 5:40am), a hat for once the sun came out, my Vegan Beast Mode singlet, rainbow arm warmers, cycling gloves (for the rock climbing parts, the handrails on the stairs, and to protect my hands in the event of a fall), compression shorts, black skirt, calf sleeves, old favourite white Nike socks (that would most likely be going in the bin at the finish line!) and my trusty Salomon trail shoes!

The night before, I also taped my feet to prevent blisters (as per usual) and I also taped both my knees as I’d had twinges in both of them at work on Wednesday. The left one had given me some trouble just before Five Peaks, but I’d never had issues with the right one before – it could only be psychosomatic as I hadn’t actually done anything to injure them, but I figured there was no harm in taping them just in case!

I tried to be quiet in the morning as I was the first one up at 4:15 am and I didn’t want to disturb the others! I ate my cereal while listening to my favourite ‘pre-race-get-psyched-up song (‘Let’s Go’ by Def Leppard) and then made my way to the shuttle bus in the dark to get to the start at Scenic World.

I caught up with fellow SA runners Robyn, Steve, Beck, Kazu (who had left the house a bit later than me), Atsushi and Mark before the start. All of those but Mark were with me in start group 2.

The race was organised into 7 waves, theoretically group 1 was fastest and group 7 slowest. I wasn’t sure why I was in group 2, looking at the estimated finish times for each group I thought group 4 was more appropriate. However the race organisers had put me in group 2 so who was I to argue? The reason for putting the fast runners first was to avoid congestion – there’s a fair bit of single track early on and you don’t want elite runners having to squeeze past slower runners on these sections! The other benefit I could see was getting an extra half hour of daylight to run in (group 3 started half an hour after us). I was expecting to be at the back of that group (which I was) and possibly running on my own for a lot of the first part of the race (which I actually wasn’t!)

Ready to roll!

The race started with a short out and back section, resulting in us coming back past Scenic World again before heading off to start the real stuff! As we were heading out, we saw the lead runners coming back – given that group 1 had started only 7 minutes before us! That was another cool thing about getting to start in group 2!

I managed to get a few high fives from some kids as we went back past Scenic World, one kid seemed REALLY taken with my rainbow arm warmers! I got a LOT of comments about them during the race – many people wanted to know where I’d got them, and were surprised when I told them they were actually socks!

The next time we’d see Scenic World would be at the end!

I kept the pace really conservative in that first bit – my first kilometre was over 7 minutes and I even walked a bit of it! I wanted to avoid getting carried away and although it felt weird to be letting everyone pass me, that was my race plan! The other part of the plan was to WALK ALL THE UPHILLS. I ran with Steve briefly after he had to stop to adjust his calf sleeves a couple of times, but I knew that wouldn’t last, he would be way too quick for me!

Early on, in a narrow section, there was a girl behind me, and I offered to let her pass, but she was happy to stay behind. That was, until we started chatting and we talked about what times we’d run in the past. My time was a few hours slower than hers. After our chat, she paused for a moment and then said “Actually, I think I will pass, thanks!”

The first interesting bit of the course was a part of Federal Pass known as the Landslide, because it involves climbing over a whole bunch of rocks! I remembered last time I had fallen over sort of near here, but not actually on the technical bit! I was determined not to let history repeat itself, however I didn’t get out of the Landslide unscathed – I misjudged a jump down off one rock and managed to graze the side of my right thigh just above the knee. Luckily it didn’t break the skin. I wanted a quick stop at CP1 unlike last time when I had to get patched up!

Next up was the Golden Stairs. I had completely forgotten about this bit. Even immediately after the 2016 event when Karen had been complaining about how hard this section was, I couldn’t remember it! I will remember it now! A pretty tough climb of about 200m elevation on some rather uneven steps!

It was here that I met Alison, a runner from NSW who was wearing a ‘Big Red Run’ top. I asked her about it and it turned out she ran it the same year as a whole lot of people I know from SA! It was nice to have some company and distraction on a pretty nasty section! This was the first of many times I shared a chat with a fellow runner – and for me, that was the best part of the whole event, the people I got to share it with!

I ran into CP1, the 11km mark, with Alison. This was a quick stop for me – I think it was only 6 minutes including a toilet stop and putting on sunscreen as well as filling up my bottles. I try to be as quick as I can at the checkpoints but it always seems to take longer than it should! At CP1 I met a runner called Nadine who was changing from Vibram Five Finger shoes into sandals and commented on my arm warmers!

After CP1 I ran with a guy called Neil for a while before catching up with Alison and another runner called Vicki who amazed me with the distances she had been running in training – including 60km every Friday!

I did fall once – just before the 21km mark, my feet went from under me but I landed softly and didn’t do any damage (or get my clothes dirty!) Just after this was Tarros Ladder, where we had to descend an actual ladder (actually 2 ladders end to end) which was installed just for the race! Sometimes there’s a delay here and there is an option of a detour if you don’t want to wait (or if you don’t fancy walking down a steep cliff face on a ladder!) – in this case it was only a 1 minute wait so it was a no-brainer for me! When I reached the bottom I called out “THANKYOU LADDER PEOPLE” to the people who had the unenviable job of installing and uninstalling the ladders!

Soon after this I met up with another SA runner, Gary, who was also in my start group and who I’d only met the previous weekend at the Mt Misery trail race. It was Gary’s first UTA although he had run a few Heysen 105s and in good time too! Gary and I ran together up until CP2 (31km). Here I refilled my bottles, reapplied my sunscreen and grabbed a handful of chips. Here I also met up with another SA runner, Ryley, for the first time, he had been allocated to group 2 but had not made it in time due to the bus from where he was staying at Leura taking 40 minutes to get to Scenic World – instead he started in group 3. It was a repeat of last time where he’d started several groups behind me and still managed to catch me pretty early!

Ryley left CP2 before me but I soon caught up with him as we went up Ironpot Mountain – another climb I’d forgotten (or maybe blocked out!) It was pretty steep and at one point Ryley stabbed himself in the hand on a sticky outy bit of one of the trees he was using to help him climb! (Another good reason to be wearing gloves!)

Once we’d climbed the mountain there was another out and back section, I remembered this bit well, this was where we got to go past the didgeridoo player twice, and also see some of the other runners who were ahead of us and behind us. That was pretty cool! Ryley had gone off ahead by this stage. On my way back I encountered two guys both using one hiking pole. I asked them if they were sharing, and it turned out they were – one of them had brought them, but as they were both ‘broken’ by this stage he’d decided to share with his mate. Another example of great trail camaraderie! They still had a long way to go – it was going to be a looooong day for them!

I caught up with Ryley a bit after this and we ran/walked together for a while, he was having a shit day and was thinking about pulling out, he’d never DNF’d before but just wasn’t feeling it today! We went past a marshal and Ryley stopped to stretch and refuel as he was having issues with cramps – the marshal said that a LOT of people had stopped with cramps at this point! I ran on, telling Ryley I’d see him at the next checkpoint.

There was more road in this section than I’d remembered. Dirt road, and a few cars to stir up the dirt! I was glad to still have my buff on, now around my neck so I could pull it up over my nose and mouth to avoid breathing in the dust/dirt!

I had been quite conservative in how much food I was eating in the first part of the race, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to get any more of ‘my’ food until 46km. Heading towards CP3 I ate everything I had and drank all of my Gatorade, knowing that there was more to come, and then only 11km until the next top-up.

As I approached CP3 (46km), the first checkpoint at which support crews and drop bags were allowed, I thought back to 2016, as this was the point where I had first met up with Anna, and we would run most of the rest of the race together. I wondered what the rest of the race would  bring – would I find a buddy? Would I be going it alone? Or would I have a selection of buddies over the course of the night? I’d never actually run through the night alone in an ultra before (in 2016 I’d been with Anna, and in Heysen 105 in 2015 and 2016 I’d had buddy runners, Kirsten and Gary respectively! The thought of running on my own through the night didn’t bother me, there would be a lot of other people out there (unlike in Heysen which is a much smaller event) and the trail was so well marked it would be near impossible to get lost especially in the dark with the reflective markers being so effective!

After a mandatory gear check on the way into the checkpoint where we had to show our phones and thermal tops, I spent 14 minutes in total at CP3, including a toilet stop, a change of top and arm warmers, topping up my bottles, having my first Coke for the day, and getting out my first motivational note and my mobile charger/cable to charge my watch. My new Garmin Fenix 5S has a battery life in GPS mode of 14 hours, and Ultratrac mode of 35 hours. I had been told by a few people that Ultratrac gave some pretty inaccurate data so I had decided to use GPS mode and charge on the go (bearing in mind that there was no chance of me going under 14 hours!). As the charging point is on the back of the watch, I would have to take it off while it was charging, so therefore it would be best done when I knew I’d be walking for a while. The climb up Nellies Glen was the ideal time to do this!

Not long after I’d arrived at CP3 I saw Ryley, he wasn’t far behind me. I didn’t see him again, as it turned out he stopped at CP4 as he had hinted he might. It’s a very tempting place to stop if you’re thinking about it, as it’s back in Katoomba again and very close to the start!

For the first time, I was running without looking at my watch. I started out taking photos of it at checkpoints so I could remember my splits, but then realised that this was being electronically timed so I didn’t even bother doing that after a while. Plus, my watch has wrist-based heart rate monitoring and it would need to be against my skin to record heart rate, therefore with my arm warmers on, I wouldn’t be able to see it all the time. That was actually a great thing. I didn’t know what pace I was running, exactly how far I’d run, or what time it was. I just ran by feel. I knew where we were on the course only by the kilometre markers and by the checkpoints. I was SO glad I’d done it this way!

Soon after CP3 was the halfway point in the race – as I wasn’t looking at my watch it seemed to take AAAAGES before I saw the magical 50km sign (there were kilometre markers every 5km). I decided to stop for a photo here, just as I had last time. Last time I had also posted on Facebook that everything was going ‘swimmingly’ but this time I was not getting into all of that – the phone was just to take the occasional photo along the way, and it was in flight mode so I wouldn’t get distracted! I had a ‘dumb phone’ with me as well (as opposed to a smart phone!) which was to be used in case of emergency.

As I stopped to take a photo of the 50km sign another runner had the same idea and she suggested we could take photos of each other.

Woah, we’re halfway there! Once again, I forgot to sing!

We introduced ourselves, her name was Col, Sydney-based but originally from Wales. We ran and chatted together for a while, before she went on ahead.

Then we reached the point I was least looking forward to, the Nellies Glen climb. According to the course description it’s a 480m climb all up, including an obscene amount of stairs. It was time for some motivation, and then to take off my watch and charge it until I reached the next checkpoint. I opened my first motivational note, from work friend Susan, and it certainly did the trick! (Although I have to say there was VERY LITTLE RUNNING happening in that section!)

I ask you, how could you not be motivated by that? Thanks Susan!

I could hear Vicki up ahead as I climbed the stairs – I hoped to catch up with her again, she was a lot of fun! The climb was actually not as bad as I’d thought – maybe because I’d built it up in my head, I found myself getting to the top and saying “Is that it? We’re at the top already?”

I did end up catching up with her and we ran together for a short while until she got ahead of me again and that was the last I saw of her! She hadn’t seen Alison in quite a while – she wondered if Alison’s self confessed lack of training was going to cost her in the end! (I stalked her afterwards and was pleased to see she DID finish, although undoubtedly a lot later than she’d expected!)

Somewhere around here I saw the guy in the traffic cone costume, who had been at the point really early in the race where the 100km and 50km courses split. If the signs and the marshal at that point weren’t clear enough, his presence certainly ensured that no-one could easily get lost! When I saw him again at this point I decided I needed a photo with him!

Cone Man!

I got to CP4 (57km) where I checked my watch and it was up to 88% battery with 9 hours down. Even if it took me another 9 hours (or even much more than that) I should have enough battery to get me through. Because as we all know, if it’s not on Strava it didn’t happen, right? Even so, I wasn’t quite game to ditch my charger at CP4 – I put it back in my pack ‘just in case’. Here also I picked up my fleece, and unable to fit it inside my pack, put it on the outside of the pack, putting my rain jacket inside. I DEFINITELY would not be needing that, but with the night promising to get cold, the fleece may well be required!

I collected all my food and some more motivational notes, filled my bottles and got another Coke. I also decided to put some more water in the bladder. The bladder was new (Karen had kindly given it to me) – I’d never used it before. I didn’t want to put too much water in there, both for space and weight reasons. It was about 21km to the next major checkpoint so I didn’t want to run out either. I needed some help from the volunteer to close it up again – I was trying to put the clip on while it was inside out and was wondering why it wouldn’t work!

After the race, while I was Googling to find out how many stairs there were, I found this gem of an article that said, among other things, that the race starts at 60km. I believe it! (If you want some GOOD advice, you’re probably best to read this article rather than my race report. If you want what I hope is an entertaining read, read on…)

After CP4 I soon reached Echo Point, a very popular spot with tourists. They were all very good, getting out of our way and giving us encouragement along the way! At this point we could hear the finish line. I remembered that from last time too! Still 40km to go, and some 100km runners had already finished!

It was around here that dusk was starting to fall, it wasn’t dark enough to put the headlamp on yet (I was trying to put that off until the last minute, as I knew I had 7 hours worth of light with my rechargeable battery, and although I had spare batteries, I did NOT want to have to change them in the dark in the latter part of the race!) but I was enjoying the colours in the sky. Although I hadn’t been taking very many photos at all, I decided now was as good a time as any. I stepped off the course to go to a lookout, got one photo of the sky and then asked a random to take a photo for me which turned out pretty well!

Thankyou to Random Stranger for this photo – my token touristy Blue Mountains photo!

After that, all the fun started! I had forgotten about the Giant Stairway, or as I now like to call it, the Stairway To Hell. A lazy 200m descent on a narrow, steep staircase. My calves started screaming at me at this point!

As if that wasn’t hard enough, it was followed almost immediately by a long climb up to Leura Cascades. Here I got some more motivation thanks to notes from Karen and Beck, and a few jokes from James (one of which I didn’t get – I must remember to ask him about that next time I see him!) – all very welcome distractions!

I decided to put my headlamp on around this point – just under 11 hours in, that gave me until just under 18 hours to finish, without needing to change batteries. I was pretty sure I would make it! And almost instantly, it suddenly got pitch black!

Soon after this I caught up with Clayton from Sydney (I introduced myself as Jane from Adelaide) who was having some knee or ITB issues (I forget which – I ran/walked with a lot of people with either knee or ITB issues that day!) and was looking forward to seeing his family at the Fairmont Resort (69km) – not an official checkpoint but a basic water stop. This was where he happened to be staying so he said it would be hard not to stop for good there! I put on my hi-viz vest as we got off the trail and onto a road, and it seemed to take AGES before we reached the resort! He was mostly walking but tried to break into a run a few times. Eventually we reached the Fairmont and I topped up my drink bottles and decided, because I was having trouble getting my hi-viz vest on and done up over my backpack with the fleece on the outside, to just put my fleece on.

A wise man (Doug) told me, before I did my first UTA 2 years ago, to put my warm gear on BEFORE I got cold. I hadn’t forgotten that, although it was not an issue in 2016, being such an unusually hot day! Doug had had to pull out of the event some years earlier due to hypothermia, but later went back and did it again, this time finishing.

It was really only so I wouldn’t have to carry it, that I decided to put on the fleece, but actually not long after that I did start to get a bit cold! So, as I said earlier, although I had wished I had had 2 fleeces and I could have picked one up at CP5 instead of CP4, if that had been the case I wouldn’t have been able to put it on when I did, and who knows what might have happened?

It was only about 9km until the last official checkpoint, CP5, the party checkpoint! It would be really easy to stay here for a long time and soak up the atmosphere!

I don’t really remember much detail of this section as it was all dark, and once again I missed out on seeing Wentworth Falls in daylight! I ran a fair bit of it on my own, and it was really cool – I was on my own, but not alone! Occasionally I’d see a hi-viz vest up ahead, but at times it was as if there was nobody else out there! Serenity plus!

Approaching CP5 I caught up with a guy called Paul who was in start group 3 (so technically about half an hour ahead of me!). He was also having knee/ITB issues and was looking forward to seeing his family at CP5! He had had a bit of treatment at the last checkpoint and was planning to get some more at CP5, so chances were I wouldn’t see him again after that. As we ran into the checkpoint, me towards the drop bag tent and him towards his crew, we wished each other well and went to do what we had to do! (I had to do a bit of detective work because all I had to go on was Paul from Sydney, but I finally managed to find his results and found out that he finished not long after me which was good to see!)

At CP5 I took my shoes off as there were a few rocks in there which were really annoying – I discovered the rocks were in my socks (no, not in my head as it turns out!) so took them off as well – my socks were really dirty and I contemplated changing into some nice fresh ones, but figured then I’d have 2 pairs of socks to probably throw away so I put the dirty ones back on! (Pleasingly there were no signs of blisters or black toenails – well there were some black toenails due to dirt, not due to them being about to fall off!)

I collected the last of my food, replenished my drinks, had one last Coke and got my last lot of motivational notes. I saw Tina from Adelaide who was on her way out, I wouldn’t see her again until Scenic World.

After CP5 is about 9km of descent along Kedumba Valley Road. It’s a nice relief from all the climbing but not so good if your knees are shot – as was the case with a lot of the runners that I encountered on this road! Another SA runner passed me just after the checkpoint – Damian, who I had run a lot of Five Peaks with.

I caught up with a guy who had some tunes playing – I started chatting with him and he said “Is that Jane from Adelaide?” – it was Clayton from Sydney! (It’s kind of weird because these runners I saw in the night, I don’t actually know what they look like! So if I had seen them at Scenic World at the end, I wouldn’t have recognised them!) We walked together briefly and then I started to run and said I’d see him at the finish!

Not long after CP5 I caught up with Blake from Newcastle. He was in a bit of trouble – he had been reduced to walking since the 40km mark due to cramps, and on top of that, his head torch battery had gone flat so he was having to rely on his backup handheld light, and was not sure how long the battery would last! So he was relying on other people’s headlamps for additional light!

I walked with Blake for I think about 10km – from around 80km to 90km. I think we ran a few little bits but it was mostly walking. It was the longest I spent with one person throughout the race!

I had a look at one of my notes – this one from Gary, it was short and to the point (something like “You entered this, now bloody finish it!”) – I later found out that it was inspired by another runner Amanda, who had planned to write a note for me but didn’t end up doing it, only her wording was a bit less subtle!

Eventually, when we approached a couple of other walkers, I told him I needed to take off and start running a bit, knowing that he would catch up to the walkers and be able to share their light – I wished him well and went on my way!

I only had about 10km to go at this point – so close yet so far!

Next landmark was the emergency water point at 91km – the guy I was running with at the time, Steve, was going to stop here for a top-up but I very happily said to the volunteers who asked me if I needed anything, “No offence intended, but I’m not going to stop at your aid station!” Although, the fire was very tempting – I remembered that from last time while I was waiting for Anna to get checked out by the medical staff! And I ran straight through to the other side – less than 9km to go!

I didn’t really encounter anyone else until the very late stages – I passed a few volunteers along the way and a timing point at the sewage treatment works at 94km. I remembered that one from last time – my shoes getting very muddy (I like to think it was mud) and me having to wash them before flying home – no way was I putting them in my bag like they were! I very carefully went through the ‘muddy’ section, trying to avoid getting too much on my shoes so I wouldn’t have to wash them until I got home!

I read the last of my notes around the 95km mark. They were from Voula, and had some great motivational quotes as well as some Def Leppard lyrics – really got me pumped for a good finish! I was starting to get a bit warm so decided to take off my fleece (that I had been wearing since 69km) – I was pretty confident I wouldn’t get cold between here and the finish, although it would be over an hour away!

I was back in Leura Forest again, running carefully so as to avoid falling at the last hurdle, and just enjoying the ambience!

With probably 3-4km to go I caught up with Mary (from Sydney but originally from Ireland) and Martyn (from Brisbane) and we ran (actually mostly walked) for a little while. Mary and I disagreed on what was the worst part of the course – she was convinced the Furber Steps (which were yet to come) were the worst, but I didn’t think they were, being so close to the end, all you would be thinking about by then would be the finish line!

I decided I really wanted to run as much as I could before I hit the steps, and I had found out from Martyn that it was 11:25pm and we had just over 2km to go, so my goal of finishing before midnight was looking a bit unrealistic but I wanted to give it a crack nonetheless! (I was expecting the last kilometre to take around 30 minutes). So I took off to get this thing done!

There’s not really much to say about the Furber Steps! One foot in front of the other, and don’t even THINK about counting them. You hear the crowd at Scenic World getting louder and louder as you get closer. You use your arms to drag yourself up by the rails as much as you can. And then you hear the magic words from the volunteers “Only 73 more steps and you’re there!”

As I ascended the last step I turned off my light (another good piece of advice – to make the finish line photo better!) and took the fleece from around my waist so it wouldn’t obscure my bib number at the finish. I did consider tossing my fleece away before the finish line but I knew there was another mandatory gear check right after the finish line and what if they asked to see my fleece?

As I approached the finish line I started to sprint – I still didn’t know if it was midnight yet but I didn’t want to die wondering. I heard the announcer calling Damian’s name – I ended up finishing JUST before him! It was 12:04 – missed it by that much! But I still got my bronze belt buckle for finishing under 20 hours (I’d actually completely forgotten about that – when the volunteer handed it to me along with my souvenir finisher towel, I said “Oh that’s right, the belt buckle!!” How could I forget the belt buckle?)

My time was 17:37:04 – about 45 minutes quicker than last time, not as fast as I’d hoped but given my less than perfect preparation I couldn’t be unhappy with that!

Mandatory gear check time – we had to show our compression bandage and rain jacket. Damian came up to me and said “Why didn’t you tell me at Five Peaks that UTA was this hard?” I quite honestly said “I’d forgotten!”

After the gear check I headed to the recovery zone to get changed. I asked a volunteer for a plastic bag in which to discard my socks – I didn’t want anyone to have to touch them! She came back with a Chux wipe and I happily bundled them up and handed them back to her. Bye bye socks, you’ve been great! I may be sentimental about running shoes but not so with socks!

On my way to the Runners Lounge to get myself a wine and some chocolate, I saw a familiar face – it was Col, who I had run with at around the 50km mark – that seemed ages ago! She was very happy with how she went and was celebrating with some friends!

Two happy finishers! Me in my race T-shirt which I could finally put on – superstition prevented me from putting it on until the race was finished!

I caught up with Bev and Rula, who had had a nice day of supporting and cheering, and Hoa, who had had a good day out in the 50km, and Bev bought me a glass of wine!

Will run 100km for chocolate and wine! Thanks to Bev for the wine!

The plan was to go home for a shower, don my full length compression tights (to aid recovery) and then come back to see housemate Justin finish, but after having done a 100 miler in the Flinders Ranges 2 weeks ago Justin was having a hard day out and consequently by the time he was approaching the finish, I could hardly move so I went to bed around 4am while the rest of the girls went back to see Justin finish.

Next morning we went back to Scenic World for the presentation (including one of our own, Howard, winning his age group once again!) and tried to get our heads around what it must be like to be one of the runners that finishes just before the 28 hour cutoff time – they were out there all night! I’d only had a few hours’ sleep but they’d had none! They did get a pretty awesome reception though, especially 75 year old Alf who is there every year and is always one of the last to finish. Everyone loves Alf!

I also caught up with 100km newbie Mark who I hadn’t seen at all over the weekend – he had had a pretty good run but thought it would probably be a while before he was back running again!

Just some of the 60+ South Australians who made the journey to UTA this year! Good thing no-one took a photo of those of us crouching at the front, trying to get up again!

A bunch of us went for a lovely Vietnamese lunch before Mark and I got a lift with Justin back to Sydney – Mark was flying home that night and I was spending the night in Sydney, catching up with my friend Tracie before flying home Monday afternoon.

I don’t think I have ever been this sore after a race! It’s Tuesday evening as I write this, my calves are still very tight and I still have to go down stairs sideways (a handy tip if you hadn’t figured that out already!) but at least I can walk properly now! (Note to self – the night after an ultra, don’t book into a hostel where you have to go up 2 flights of stairs to get to your room!)

Time for the thanks! Thanks to the organisers and all the wonderful volunteers – nothing was too much trouble for them! The course marking could not be faulted. Whoever designed the course was obviously a sadist but whoever marked it did a sterling job. Thanks to Team SA for being there and especially to my housemates – you all did an amazing job whether you ran, crewed and/or cheered! (And special thanks to Hoa for being my chauffeur back to the house on Sunday morning!) Thanks to my friends who wrote me motivational notes – they all helped hugely and it’s something I would definitely do again/recommend to others! Last but not least, thanks to Mick for the lift from Sydney to Katoomba and to Justin for the lift back!

I would highly recommend this event to anyone who is up for a pretty huge challenge! I can’t speak for the 50km as I’ve never done it (although I would certainly consider it!) but if you’re only ever going to do one 100km race in your life, you could do worse than this one! Don’t expect it to be a walk in the park though, and don’t plan to be doing too much for the few days afterwards! (I do recommend trying to keep moving though – a bit of gentle walking works a treat! Sitting on a plane for an hour and a half – not so good!)

So, what would I do differently next time? Train smarter – possibly even follow some kind of training programme but definitely include more long long runs and more stairs. Any stairs. Any stairs would be more stairs than I did this time! Possibly be a bit more scientific about my nutrition although what I am doing SEEMS to be working – who knows?

But really, what would I do differently next time is nothing. I would do nothing. There won’t be a next time. I really mean it this time. Ultra-Trail Australia 100km was a wonderful event both in 2016 and 2018. I learned a lot about myself as a runner and I met some fantastic people along the way. I don’t regret doing it one bit.

Sure, with some disciplined training I could do better. I know I could. I said to housemate Kazu, who got the coveted silver buckle (sub 14 hours) that I would never get one of those. She told me I could, and maybe with some pretty serious work it would be possible, but you know what? I don’t want that. The thing about the race that meant most to me was the people. The volunteers along the way and the fellow runners that I met along the way. I don’t think I’d want to do it again and ‘just race it’. I don’t think I’d enjoy that very much. And for me running is very much about enjoyment and the social side. I do like to run fast, don’t get me wrong. Winning and getting trophies is nice. Getting PBs is nice. But what’s nicer is being able to share the experience with other like-minded people. I could definitely have finished before midnight if I hadn’t spent time walking with people like Blake, Paul and Clayton, but it would not have been anywhere near as enjoyable. So I’m OK with the fact I’m never going to be the proud owner of a silver belt buckle. For me, what I got out of UTA was so much more than any piece of bling! (And that’s saying something because you probably know I love my bling!)

UTA100 was an amazing experience but not one I care to repeat. Time for some new challenges! (Aaaand… ‘only’ 7737 words later…)

Thanks UTA100. You’ve been great, but it’s time for me to see other people – err I mean races!

 

Race Report – Clare Valley Half Marathon 2018

Clare was where it all began, sort of! In 2014 it was the site of my very first half marathon. Back in the days where you DIDN’T get a medal for a half marathon! I recall enjoying myself a lot and I even took a few selfies DURING the run!

A year later I somewhat ambitiously tried to break my all-time half marathon PB at Clare. I went out WAY too fast and as a result ended up walking much of the second half. It was the one time I recall seriously considering DNFing!

In 2016 I got my redemption, beating my 2014 time (that all-time PB is now well and truly out of reach!) and liking Clare again!

And then last year, Clare being just 2 weeks before the Boston Marathon, I opted to run the 5k – that was a bit of fun but I admit I did have some bling envy – the half marathon medals were SWEET!

This year, as I had decided not to run any marathons this year (or perhaps ever again!) I thought it was time I ran Clare as a pacer. It would be my 6th time as a half marathon pacer – twice at Adelaide, twice at McLaren Vale and once at Barossa. I’m not sure if I realised that the Five Peaks Ultra was the week before, but it’s entirely possible that at the time I volunteered to pace, I was not intending on running Five Peaks!

It was a good decision in the end – I probably would have run Clare anyway, and I would undoubtedly have been disappointed with my time. It’s hard to be disappointed with your time as a pacer (unless of course you’re way off the pace!)

After Five Peaks I had my first run on Tuesday, planning to try to run it at 2 hour HM pace (my watch was set to beep at me if I ventured outside the 5:30-5:45 minute per km range) and fellow SARRC Board member Gary ran with me. The idea was that if I couldn’t sustain that pace for around 10-11km, I would contact the club and ask them to find someone else to pace 2 hours on Sunday. As it turned out I did have difficulty sustaining that pace but I was going too fast, not too slow as I had feared!

I ran a bit slower on Thursday – still marginally too fast but as a pacer it’s natural to find it challenging to run slower than your body wants to! It’s far better than having to push yourself to your limits to run the goal time!

On Saturday I ventured down to try out the brand new Moana parkrun which is about a 50 minute drive south from my place. It was a beautiful morning for a run and the obligatory post-parkrun coffee!

After running a few errands on my way home I packed up all my gear (I’d already made a list – I love lists! They make me feel like I’m organised when I’m really not!) and started the longish drive up to Blyth, a small town about 13km out of Clare, where I would be staying on Saturday night.

I’d booked this accommodation AGES ago – Christmas Day, to be precise! Every year it seems to get harder and harder to find accommodation on the half marathon weekend! In 2014 I managed to score a bed in a cabin in the caravan park, in 2015 I stayed 20 minutes down the road in Auburn, and in 2016 I got really lucky with an AirBNB an easy walk from the Clare Oval! In 2017 I decided to drive up on the day (given that I was only running 5km that day!)

When I booked, all the cheap accommodation in Clare was ALREADY booked! From memory I think the only available accommodation was the country club, which for a place to crash, was going to cost way more than I was prepared to pay. I managed to find a room in the pub at Blyth for a fraction of the cost, and when I realised it would only take me a bit over 10 minutes to drive to Clare from there, it was a no-brainer!

I dropped off all my stuff at the pub and drove to Clare to collect my bib for the race, before heading back to Blyth (via Tim Adams winery – when in Rome!) to meet Tracie, who was one of the official photographers, who was also stayting at the hotel. While at Tim Adams doing a tasting I met a couple, Nikki who was doing the half and was hoping to go under 2 hours (so I told her to look out for me at the start) and her partner who was doing the 10k.

Tracie and I then drove back to Clare so she could scope out a few locations before dinner (and we timed it perfectly as Race Director Ben was doing some final measurements on the Clare Oval as we arrived to check it out – he was able to answer the questions she had!)

Then it was time for dinner – it seemed like Indii was where all the cool kids were! The food was delicious and they had a good range of vegan options! The waiter was pretty entertaining too, when he asked if I wanted “mild, medium or hot” I said “Mild” to which he replied “Extra hot?” and pretended to write it down! Then when Tracie ordered a wine (after I’d already ordered mine) he asked “A bottle?”. I definitely would eat there again! And most of the event team were there too – Ben, SARRC staff Cassandra, Lee-Ann, Harry and Paul, as well as super volunteers Sheena and Tracey. Definitely the place to be!

Then we headed back to Blyth so I could get my race gear all sorted and Tracie could sort out her camera equipment! Back at the pub I looked up at the sky and I’ve never seen so many stars! Wonder if it’s just because we were practically in the middle of nowhere!

In the morning I woke up before my alarm so I was all dressed and breakfasted in plenty of time. Across the hall from me were a couple of familiar faces, Naomi and Matt, both also doing the half marathon. I saw Matt in the hall and asked him to check the men’s toilet to see if they had a spare roll of toilet paper as there was literally 4 squares left in the women’s! The situation in the men’s was pretty much the same! I get the feeling the pub is not often booked to capacity as it was that night!

Anyway, Matt asked me to see if my key would open his door. That’s not a great thing to have to ask especially on the morning of what was his first half marathon, and when all your running gear is inside the room! Yep – they’d locked themselves out of their room, which in a large international hotel would not have been such a big deal but in a country pub without 24 hour reception…

Of course as well as all their running gear they’d also locked their phones in the room so we used my phone to try to phone hotel reception (not surprisingly at 6:45ish on Sunday morning the phone was unattended!) and then the after hours mobile number which also was not answering. I had to leave to go and get ready for the start, so I gave them my printed receipt which had the phone number on it, so they could try to ring it again.

I packed up the car and made the short journey to Clare, arriving at the oval around 7:10 (for an 8am start) and noticed the carpark already looked pretty full and people were parking on the street, so I parked just outside the gates of the oval. (We had a record number of registrations, smashing the previous record, with 1028 people registered across the 21.1k, 10k, 5k and kids’ fun run)

I collected my pacer bib and attached that and my race bib to my Spibelt, and collected my green pacer balloon from Lee-Ann. Then after putting sunscreen on (it was forecast to be an unusually warm day for this time of year and for Clare) I went to join the long queue at the toilet block. The leisure centre, which has ample toilets, and has always been open for us in previous years, was not open as the person with the key was running late! As a result there was a fair bit of angst as you can imagine! As I joined the lengthy queue, Beck (who had entered at the last minute with some encouragement from Gary and me – although we had been suggesting she run the 10k and she’d decided to do the 21.1 instead!) came past and told me about another toilet near the playground with 2 toilets and 3 people! Of course by the time I got there there were a few more than 3 people there! (As a few of us started heading that way we saw a group of people running – and wondered, is that the 5k or the 10k starting already – as it turned out they were just super keen to get to the toilets!)

The queue didn’t seem to be moving and time was ticking – the scheduled race start time of 8am was fast approaching! Some people decided they couldn’t be bothered waiting and made their way back to the oval. One of our ambassadors, Ryley, came past and told us about some OTHER toilets with no queue, but I’d been through that already – I was going nowhere!

Some of the others in the queue noticed my green balloon (I hadn’t gotten into my costume yet) and kindly offered to let me jump the queue, as it was going to be really tricky for me to do the 2 hour pacing if I missed the start! As it turned out it wasn’t necessary as someone came past around that time and told us that the start had been pushed back 10 minutes, to which we breathed a collective sigh of relief, and as if by magic the queue started moving!

Even so, I only made it to the start with a few minutes to spare – I quickly changed into my Luigi costume (as in, Mario and Luigi) and dropped my bag at the bag drop area, and joined the huge crowd at the start line, positioning myself just behind the 1:40 and 1:45 pacers.

This was taken at the end but I pretty much looked like this at the start, except less sweaty!

For the first time ever, while Ben was giving the race briefing, I had not one but two guys wanting to take selfies with me!

And neither of them were Gary – inf fact I hadn’t met either of them before!

And before we knew it, we were away!

As per usual I decided to start my watch on the gun, even though my official time wouldn’t start until I crossed the timing mat (as it turned out, about 12 seconds later). That way I would come in just under 2 hours on the clock, so anyone who came in with, ahead of or even just behind me, would get the sub-2.

Over the course of the race I had different people with me and at times I was running on my own, but the role of the pacer is to stick with the goal pace, and the people will come and go! It’s hard when you have to tell the people on your ‘bus’ that you have to up the pace to get back on goal pace, knowing that they may not be able to stick with you, but that is the job of a pacer!

With me near the beginning was Steve, who had run half marathons before but this was his comeback run after a year’s break, and another girl called Jen who promised to buy me a glass of wine if she got under 2 hours! (Unfortunately I think she fell off my bus pretty early on!) There was also Vienna, who was also hoping to go under 2 hours and is doing her first marathon at Adelaide next month.

My impression had always been that the first half of the Clare half (essentially an out and back course) is mostly uphill. This was the first time I’d run as a pacer, so the first time I’d actually been able to take it all in. I realised for the first time that it’s not actually all uphill on the way out! There’s a point, I think around the 9.5km mark, where there is a sign that says “You have reached the highest point” (or words to that effect). Every time I’d run Clare before, I could have sworn it feels like it’s uphill both ways, even though that’s clearly impossible! So, when it feels like it is uphill when you turn around and start heading back, it is actually uphill, you just don’t notice that as you come into the turnaround, you’re actually running DOWNHILL!

The first half is generally slower, but I was aiming to stick to an even pace – 5:35 to 5:38 per kilometre. That would mean that the back half should feel relatively easier. To try to plan pacing for a negative split was too hard and would require calculations instead of letting my watch do all the work. Forget that!

Anyway, as it turned out, that was easier said than done and I decided instead to try to get to the turnaround at 5:40 pace and speed up in the second half.

The half marathon leader, Bryn, in the red and white of the Adelaide Harriers, was a VERY LONG WAY in front when he passed us, running back while we still had a good few kilometres to go before the turnaround! I later watched the start line video and he was ahead right from the gun, and in the end he was OVER 8 MINUTES ahead of second place, and I believe also set a new Clare course record in the process!

Passing me on the way out was Steve, a friend who I hadn’t seen in YEARS, who had recently taken up running. I was amazed he recognised me in my Luigi costume with my blonde hair! He told me his brother Rob was a bit further back so I made sure to look out for him! I did eventually run into Rob who I later found out was doing his VERY FIRST RACE – as if you pick a half marathon as your first race! How about a nice 5k or 10k to ease into it! Turned out he did pretty well too, finishing not far behind me in just over 2 hours!

In the back half I gradually tried to make up time, which wasn’t too hard to do, I estimated that getting to 5:35 pace would have me sitting just under 2 hours, and then I’d just have to hold that pace until the finish. My watch was reading about 100m long (ie when I got to the 5k marker, my watch was sitting on 5.1km) so I had to factor that in when working out my pace.

I also started having wardrobe issues – I’d never run in the Luigi outfit before, and yes it was quite hot to run in (although I was glad that the outfit included a hat!) but the biggest issue was the damn right strap of the dress coming off my shoulder at least a couple of times every minute! I wished I’d had the time and the sense to pin it in place! Next time… (and let’s face it, there probably won’t be a next time for Luigi in a half marathon…)

Along the way I passed Gary who had done Five Peaks last weekend too, he had hoped to stay ahead of me but wasn’t quite able to hold on!

With about 4km to go I was able to do some maths in my head. I was sitting on around 1 hour 35 which meant I had 25 minutes left to run. 4km in 25 minutes is over 6 minutes per kilometre. I was sitting comfortably on 5:35. At that pace I would be finished several minutes too early and that just wouldn’t do! So I slowed my pace down and managed to sit on just under 6 minutes per kilometre for the next few kays.

I then caught up with Gary (different Gary!) who had been looking pretty strong when I’d seen him pass me earlier, but who had since had Achilles issues and had had to walk a fair bit. At that point a runner had collapsed (bringing back memories of the Scottish leader at the Commonwealth Games marathon last week!) and a few people were tending to him, and Gary advised me that the medical people had been called and were on their way, so there was nothing for me to do but keep running!

Gary and I ran together for the last few kilometres and he ended up finishing just ahead of me. We ran past the swimming pool, under a bridge and around a corner, a very familiar route. On the last little bit of path before we headed back to the oval and the finish line, I saw a few familiar faces including SARRC Chair Voula who assured me I was spot on pace!

I crossed the finish line in a gun time of 1:59:33 which was pretty perfect – it meant that people who were JUST behind me would also get in under the 2 hours. My net (official) time was 1:59:19 (ie starting from when I actually crossed the start line) which I was also pretty happy with although it was the gun time that I was more interested in.

Chilling (actually probably more like ‘melting’) at the end with Gary, Brandy and Beck who all did the half marathon too!

As I was a late entrant, as per the new SARRC policy, I was not guaranteed a medal on the day, which didn’t really bother me as long as I got one eventually! The three events of the ‘Triple Crown’ this year (Clare, Greenbelt and McLaren Vale) would all have medals that could be joined together to make an extra special ‘Triple Crown’ medal. So as long as I got my Clare medal by the time I finished McLaren Vale (in October!) I would be happy! The great thing this year is that the 5k and 10k also get medals, so if you do all 3 events but don’t run the half marathon at all 3 events, you still get 3 medals that link together! Very cool!

I understand why late entrants can’t be guaranteed a medal on the day. Firstly, it’s a GREAT incentive to enter events early – we do tend to get a rush of entries at the last minute, which makes it hard to get the number of medals right! We don’t want to run out of medals but nor do we want to be left with a surplus of medals that can’t really be used for anything. Also, and possibly more importantly, in previous events where we have run out of medals on the day, it’s the later finishers that end up missing out. They may have entered months ago, and other faster runners may have only entered a few days earlier and got a medal where the slower runners missed out. This way, if you enter before a certain date, you get a personalised bib and a medal on the day, and the later entrants get a generic bib which means you don’t get a medal until later. I know some people weren’t very happy about this but as I said earlier, it’s a great incentive to get in early! I for one like to have a bib with my name on it if possible!

In the later stages of the run I passed someone who kind of looked like Naomi, although she hadn’t been in her race gear when I’d last seen her back at the hotel, so I couldn’t be sure. Shortly after I finished, I saw her again, it WAS Naomi! And she’d made it just under the 2 hours too! She had managed to make contact with the after hours manager who had come and let them into their room and they’d made it to the start in time! Not an ideal way to start a race but they made it! Matt also finished his first half well under 2 hours! (And Naomi won wine in the lucky prize draw afterwards too so it turned out to be a pretty good day after a less than ideal start!)

After rehydrating and caffeinating it was time for the presentations. Voula asked me to help out with handing out the trophies for the kids’ event which was a lot of fun (as I was still dressed as Luigi, although I’d left my moustache in the car!)

After the serious presentations for the 5k, 10k and 21.1k were done (I handed over to Gary for those!) and in between a bit of packing up I went over to the pizza van where Tracie was having some lunch before we went and hit up one more winery! At the pizza van I ran into Scott and Sharlene, Scott had been going back and forth with me a few times throughout the day (and complaining every time I passed him – but in a good-natured way of course!) but thankfully ended up finishing ahead of me! Sharlene had been one of the lucky winners of a SARRC competition earlier in the week to win accommodation at the Clare Valley Motel – a definite upgrade from their previously booked site at the caravan park!

The whirlwind trip to Clare ended with a very entertaining stop at Mad Bastard Wines – I chose it purely because of the name, and the ‘Mad Bitch’ glass that Tracie’s wine was served in on Saturday night! We were greeted by the winemaker Mark saying “F*** off” but that was all part of the charm of the place! The wines were great, and the atmosphere was really cool. I’d definitely recommend it if you like good wine but don’t like to take it too seriously!

This is a thing at Mad Bastard Wines, apparently! Me with my ‘Mad Bitch’ glass – great marketing! And also note I am wearing a medal – there were a few left at the very end so I managed to get one after all!

The weather was perfect – OK maybe a little bit warm to be running in an outfit that CLEARLY was not designed for running, but such a beautiful day to be out and about! (It was around 25 degrees when I finished  – pretty warm for mid-April! The last time I ran the half in Clare my lips were blue at the start!)

The crowd was sensational, yes there were a few issues with the facilities at the start but these things happen (shit happens, if you will!) and the staff and volunteers dealt with it admirably.

Congratulations to all the runners and walkers who made this the biggest and best Clare Half Marathon festival yet! Special congrats to those for whom this was their first half marathon, or first race – you definitely picked a good one! And from a selfish point of view, extra special congrats to all those who managed to get sub 2 hours (or close to it) and I hope I helped in some way!

And I know I say it every time but it needs to be said. MASSIVE HUGE EPIC THANKS to all the event team and the volunteers. Special mention to RD Ben, timing guy Malcolm, SARRC staff Cassandra, Lee-Ann, Paul and Harry, and Sheena who was supposed to run the half but sacrificed her run to help out at the finish line. Without you and all the other amazing volunteers there would be no race for the rest of us. I’ve been running SARRC events for just over 5 years now and I have seen them get better and better, moving with the times and today’s numbers just speak for themselves! And thanks to the community of Clare for being so supportive of this event over the years!

If you’re thinking about running Clare next year, I have a few pieces of advice for you.

(1) DO IT!

(2) Book your accommodation early!

(3) Get someone else to drive so you can take full advantage of some of the dozens of excellent wineries in the region!

For those who are running the Adelaide Marathon (not me!) congratulations – by my calculations it must be just almost taper time! Enjoy it and best of luck for Adelaide!

 

 

Race Report – Five Peaks Ultramarathon & SA Trail Running Festival

Five Peaks Ultramarathon & SA Trail Running Festival is a brand new event on the SA running calendar, organised by Trail Running SA who have been putting on awesome and incredibly popular trail running events in Adelaide and surrounds for the past few years. Five Peaks wasn’t initially on my radar, but when I realised it was 5 weeks out from UTA100, I thought it would be an ideal ‘training run’ – a training run with support throughout AND a medal at the end! The best kind of training run! And let’s face it, there are two chances of me going out and running 50+ kilometres by myself – Buckley’s and none!

I’m not sure exactly how this event came about but a couple of years ago, a few keen trail runners suggested that TRSA’s previous ‘big’ event, the Cleland SA Trail Championships, could be made into an ultramarathon by making it a 2 lap course (the long course trail champs is 24km) – no further course marking or drink stations required – a no-brainer! At the time I can clearly recall the response from TRSA being “TRSA is not in the business of ultramarathons” (or words to that effect).

At this time, the Adelaide metro region only had one trail ultramarathon, the Yurrebilla 56k. People had to venture further afield to the Flinders Ranges for the Hubert 100 or down south for the Heysen 105.

Then, last year, Yumigo! (the organiser of Heysen and Hubert) put on a ‘local’ trail ultra, the Cleland 50. By all accounts it was a pretty tough 50k! (I was going to run it, in fact I had entered, but withdrew when I realised just how tough it was going to be!) It does take in some of my favourite trails, so I’m sure I will run it one day!

And now Adelaide is really spoiled for choice, as TRSA has now decided they ARE in the business of ultramarathons, so we have 3 x 50km trail ultras in the metro region!

So I decided that I was going to run the Five Peaks. It starts at Athelstone (where the new Yurrebilla finish line is) and finishes at Belair (not quite at the Yurrebilla start line, but close!) and for a lot of the way, follows the Yurrebilla Trail. So it is kind of like a reverse Yurrebilla, with a few extra nasty little hills thrown in!

Like Yurrebilla, there were 3 organised training runs, covering the entire 58km (ish) course. The two times I had run Yurrebilla, I had never managed to fit in all the 3 training runs (probably due to those pesky marathons and associated long training runs which now are thankfully a thing of the past!) but this year, happily they all fit into my schedule quite nicely.

Now the tendency with ‘crazy ultra runners’ is to do these training runs as ‘back and outs’ or ‘out and backs’ rather than ‘point to points’. The ‘official’ training runs are point to point, with carpooling arranged so most of the cars are at the end and only a few at the start. The ‘out and back’ removes the need for carpooling and also (somewhat obviously) makes the run approximately twice as long. For my very first Yurrebilla training run in 2015, I opted to do the ‘back and out’ but other than that, one way is generally enough for me!

The advantage of ‘back and out’ versus ‘out and back’ is that you finish your run with everyone else. And at the end, there is always copious amounts of food, coffee and Coke, supplied by our wonderful supporters Mal and Merrilyn. I never liked the idea of getting to the ‘buffet’ in the knowledge that I would then need to run all the way back again! Much better to start at arse o’clock, in the dark, and be able to eat ALL OF THE FOOD!

A better option even, than ‘back and out’, is just running the one way! Which is exactly what I did for all 3 of the training runs.

Training run 1, which was approximately the first 18km of the course (Athelstone to Norton Summit), could only be described as brutal. By far the best part of that run was the refreshments afterwards! I think I may have drunk an entire 2L bottle of Coke! That run made me question everything, it made me seriously consider giving up trail running (and at times even giving up running altogether!). I ran (‘ran’ is generous – I’d say it was more than 50% walking!) with Beck and Kate. Neither of them were planning to do the event. And after that run, neither was I! But it’s funny how quickly you forget. I think by the end of that day I was as good as signed up! To be fair, that 18km section, which took us almost 3 hours, was run on a particularly hot day in February and contained 3 of the 5 peaks and over 1000m elevation gain. Plus, I’d just run a 50km ultra the week before on not much training. The heat was definitely a factor, and when the event was run in April, it would be much cooler. (Having said that, it was an unseasonal 36 degrees on the Wednesday 3 days before the event!)

Thanks to Sputnik for this pic from training run 1. Luckily you can’t see my face! I don’t think it would be a pretty sight!

I don’t really remember much about training run 2 (Norton Summit to Cleland), other than the fact it was a lot nicer than training run 1! Beck and Kate had been put off completely by training run 1, so I seem to recall I did a fair bit of it on my own. Which was good because neither of those two would be there on race day so I needed to get used to running on my own! It was around 16km with 680m of elevation gain – MUCH more civilised for a non-mountain-goat such as myself!

My one and only photo from training run 2!
Smiling faces at the end of training run 2! Thanks Gary for this photo!

Then there was training run 3, on Easter Monday, 21km on the back of a solo 23km the previous day. I figured the best way to get more distance in, and get used to ‘running on tired legs’ would be to do back to back long hilly runs, rather than try to ‘cram’ all the mileage into one run, which would probably result in a longer recovery time. It worked really well – I was pretty stiff on Tuesday but back to normal programming by Thursday! That run was the nicest of the lot, only 500m of climb (just the one ‘peak’) and some spectacular views over the city.

How’s that for a view? During training run 3 – I think the best view of the whole 58k Five Peaks course!

Not that you can read too much into training runs, but if you combined my times for the 3 training runs (bearing in mind that on the first training run we probably cut out about 1-2km of extra little loops) it all added up to 7 hours 10 minutes. Now I had been told that Five Peaks would be harder than Yurrebilla, so I should expect to be about 20 minutes slower than my Yurrebilla time. My best YUM time (and indeed the only time I’d run the ‘proper’ course) was 7:07, so somewhere around 7½ hours would be the best case scenario. Conservatively I thought somewhere between 7 and 8 hours should be around the mark.

The elevation profile. Pretty sure I can count more than five peaks!

I had opted for the 7am start (the other options were 6am and 8am). 7am was the best option for me – 6am would necessitate a 4:45am bus from Belair (so probably around 4:15am leaving home!) plus I may well get to the drink stations before they open. 8am was the ‘racing’ group – you had to start in that group if you wanted to be a podium contender. As I knew I wasn’t going to be a podium contender, starting at 8am would only mean I would be one of the slowest in that group and would end up running most of the day on my own. The extra hour’s sleep was not enough to make that a good option for me!

After the final training run, I went out for one last trail hitout on the Sunday before the race. I went with my usual haunt (Chambers) and just did the one loop, but pushed it reasonably hard. Tuesday was a regular road running day and I cut it a bit short but again tried to pick up the pace. I decided not to run after that until race day – I walked on Thursday instead of my usual run, and had the luxury of a Friday sleep-in!

After my walk on Thursday I had a twinge in my left knee, patellofemoral joint to be precise, which was not something I had experienced in a long time. I expected it was just the dreaded ‘taperitis’ and that all would be good come race day. However come Friday it was still there and more noticeable going down the stairs at work, and sitting down and standing up. I wasn’t expecting to have to do much sitting down or standing up during the race, but going downhill WAS something I knew I would be doing, and in fact it was the one thing I knew I could do well (being a bit slow on the uphills!) So I decided to try taping my patella, which seemed to do the trick – instant relief!

I packed all my gear the night before, as my alarm was set for 4:30 as it was. There was the option of having a drop bag at Drink Station 3 (approximately the halfway mark) and I decided to leave a spare pair of shoes and socks in there as well as a spare T-shirt and arm warmers, and a bit of food. The forecast was for a fair bit of rain. I had never changed shoes and/or socks during a race before, but I figured it was better to have them there and not need them, than vice versa!

The only difference to my ‘usual’ race kit was a pair of gaiters from Groovy Gaitors – purchased specifically to match my T-shirt! At the last training run I had had a few rocks in my shoes so I thought my run would be a bit more comfortable without that! Plus, the gaiters look cool (most importantly!)

I arrived at Belair Country Club in the dark and rain at 5:30am. Although we were starting at 7 (when it would be light), a headlamp would have been useful if only for the walk from the car to the bus! I ended up walking to the bus with a guy who arrived around the same time, he thought it was bus stop 27B where the bus was picking us up. I was a bit suspicious when we got to said bus stop and there was no-one there, let alone any buses! He checked and it was actually bus stop 27A! We made our way there and onto the bus where I sat next to Hoa, who was also going for a 7-8 hour finish. She was doing Five Peaks, followed in a few weeks by the Hubert 100 miler, then UTA in 5 weeks (but ‘only’ the 50k!).

The bus trip seemed interminable, for some reason we went through the city, and consequently we arrived at the start line at Athelstone a bit late, meaning there was really just enough time to collect our bibs and have a last toilet stop before we were summoned to the start line to listen to the briefing by Race Director Claire and timing guy Malcolm.

Thanks as always to Gary for this photo with Hoa and myself (and nice photobomb by Kate!)
All smiles at the start line with Hoa and Kate!

After it had stopped raining during the bus ride from Belair to Athelstone, it started again JUST as we were about to start, so I quickly got out my light rain jacket and put it on.

I was fully expecting the first section to be nasty – as it had taken me 3 hours to get to Norton Summit in the training run, my goal was to get to Norton within 2.5 hours. Some of the hills were definitely not runnable, but I would power hike those, and run all the downhills and flats.

In the first training run, which contained 3 of the 5 peaks, Kate, Beck and I had decided not to run any of the ‘out and back’ diversions as we felt the run was long and hard enough as it was! Consequently these were a bit of a surprise in the event itself. It was a nice touch – at each of the Five Peaks, there would be a sign we had to run around saying the name and number of the peak. Peak 1 (Black Hill) was at 5km. I jokingly said to whoever was around me at the time, “So if we’ve done 1 peak out of 5, does that mean we’re 1/5 of the way there?”

Umm, no.

Thanks to Sputnik for this great pic. I’m not sure exactly where this was but I think it was quite early on.

There was a drink station around the 5km mark – just as we were about to start the climb up Chapman’s Track (one of the unrunnable bits!). I didn’t need anything at that stage, but Hoa, who I’d been going back and forth with in the first little bit, needed to top up her water. She would smash me going up the hills but then I’d usually catch up with her on the downs. She didn’t take long to catch up with me after refilling and it wasn’t too long before she powered past me and I didn’t see her again until the finish line!

The fabulous vollies at DS1. Thanks to all the vollies who endured challenging conditions to give us the opportunity to run in this event! Photo is from the official Trail Running SA race photographer.

Walking up Chapman’s, it had stopped raining so I took the opportunity to take off my jacket and try to put it back in my pack. Turns out it’s pretty hard to stuff a damp rain jacket into a not-very-big pack while walking uphill and trying not to trip over on a pretty rocky track! A lot of people passed me while I was trying to do this, and eventually I gave up and stopped for a minute to put it away.

A rare pic of me without a rain jacket on! Official TRSA photo.

While we had a break in the weather and I was walking anyway, I decided why not take a few photos rather than rely on other people to illustrate my blog!

The only two photos I took during the race are quite cool unless you look too closely in which case you’ll see they’re quite blurry! This pic is looking up the hill, with Jon (in blue with the poles) and Jess (closest to camera), who I would later run with on and off throughout the day. The picture really doesn’t do the hill justice!
I quite like this picture too, from a distance! In this pic is Jai who I would be walking with shortly after this!

For a little while on Chapmans I was walking with Jai and Tim, who seemed to be having WAY too much fun! Jai was suggesting that windscreen wipers for his sunglasses would be useful – I suggested that maybe sunglasses were not needed on a day like this! (Indeed I was not wearing sunnies in a race for the first time in a long time – I had them in my pack but did not end up using them at all!) Like other people throughout the day, I’d be with them for a while, then they’d get away, I’d catch up again, and they’d get away again. It was a nice distraction but by the time I stopped briefly at Drink Station 2 at Norton Summit, they were long gone!

Just before we reached Norton Summit, we had to run on the road for a bit. As I approached the road I could hear a familiar voice calling my name – it was Ziad, who is often the course sweeper/trail demarker but today was a road marshal. He directed me onto the road and told me as always to “Keep smiling” and “Have fun!”

I was pretty happy when the markers directed us off the road and back onto the trail – I don’t much like running on non-closed roads, especially in trail shoes! I caught up with Jim, one of the 6am starters with whom I’d had a long chat about this event at a SA Road Runners Club social event during the week, and he seemed to be travelling OK. I had just passed him when I reached a fence with a closed gate, I pushed the gate only to find it was padlocked! I couldn’t see a way around, so the only option seemed to be to jump the fence! I wondered how the fast 8am runners would feel about having to jump a fence – I bet that wasn’t in anyone’s race plan! We both climbed over the fence – thankfully the only bit of fence climbing we’d have to do for the day!

As I mentioned earlier, there was over 1000m elevation in the first 18km of the run. (Norton Summit was ‘Peak 3’) That was almost half of the overall elevation gain, in less than 1/3 of the distance! Mentally, I knew that once I got to Norton Summit, half the battle was over! And I made it in just under 2.5 hours, as I had hoped. I didn’t linger long – just long enough to fill up one of my bottles with water. I was carrying 2 bottles of Gatorade and no water, and I’d drunk one of my bottles of Gatorade. I had Gatorade powder in my pack, but I couldn’t be bothered taking off my pack to get it out at this stage. Besides, it was only 9km to the next drink station where I would definitely be stopping. One bottle of Gatorade SHOULD be enough, and I had a bottle of water as a backup. I do prefer to drink Gatorade rather than water, most of the time during runs.

For a while I was running with Jon and Jess, Jon using hiking poles, and Jess doing his first ultra. They both seemed to be going pretty well, and I must admit I could have done with some poles on some of the earlier climbs!

It took me a good hour to do the 7km from Norton Summit to Coach Road, which was almost the halfway mark. During this time I was overtaken by a girl who I assumed was one of the fast 8am starters, as she passed me apparently quite effortlessly! I was chatting to her, and Jon and Jess, about the merits of changing shoes and socks at Coach Road. I was agonising over it for probably the last 5km of that section – given that there would likely be more rain, and existing unavoidable puddles, was it worth taking the time to change into dry shoes that would soon be wet? Jon didn’t think it was worth it, and none of the people I talked to had spare shoes anyway, but I kept thinking about it and by the time I reached the drink station I had decided that I was going to change. There was water sloshing around inside my shoes, my socks were saturated, and I figured I’d be on the fast track to Blisterville if I kept those socks on for the rest of the day! Even if my dry shoes and socks got wet, at least they would be dry for a short period! And with less rain forecast in the afternoon than in the morning, there was a chance I might remain relatively dry!

I collected my drop bag and took everything out – spare Gatorade powder, an extra sandwich, and all my dry clothing. I changed T-shirts and arm warmers, and quickly put my light rain jacket back on because of course it was raining again! No sense putting on a dry top only for it to get wet while I was in the process of changing my shoes! The cycling gloves which I like to wear in trail races to protect my hands in case I fall over, were completely drenched. After having taken them off and wrung them out, I didn’t fancy putting them back on again. Into the drop bag they went. The T-shirt I had been wearing at the start was so wet that I think I could have bypassed the drink station and filled my drink bottle by wringing it out!

As I was changing my shoes, a lot of runners went past me. I didn’t time how long I spent at the drink station, but I was convinced that any time ‘wasted’ on changing shoes would be time well spent, if it meant making the second half of the race more comfortable! I managed to change shoes and socks while still standing up (I don’t like sitting down during a race – it’s too hard to get back up and going again!) While I was changing shoes one of the 6am starters, Belinda, was umming and ahhing about whether or not to change her shoes. I told her in no uncertain terms “Do it!”. She did, and I hoped that my advice turned out to be good!

After my wardrobe change I went to top up my drink bottles and have my first Coke for the day. TRSA have a ‘no cups’ policy which meant that runners needed to bring their own receptacles (bottles, cups etc) for drinks. It’s a great initiative and everyone seemed to be well prepared. With the strong winds, plastic cups would have blown away anyway! As well as Coke I had a couple of Maurice’s delicious vegan brownies to fuel the next section of my run!

There was still a fair bit of climbing to come. With storms the previous day, and strong winds throughout the race, there were plenty of fallen tree branches creating potential trip hazards. Or, in my case, potential makeshift ‘hiking poles’! I think on 3 occasions I picked up a sturdy branch to help me up some of the hills, and then ditched them once I could see level or downhill trail ahead!

OK now I will admit that maybe I didn’t read the briefing document as diligently as I should have. The second training run ended at Cleland, which was also the start line for the 22km run. Although I had printed out a list of drink stations with estimated timings based on different race times, I had incorrectly assumed that the next drink station would be at Cleland.

The next ‘Peak’ was Mount Lofty, Adelaide’s highest point. The Waterfall Gully to Mount Lofty hike is an extremely popular walking trail especially on the weekends. It is sometimes (perhaps unkindly) referred to as the ‘Lorna Jane Highway’, in reference to the plethora of activewear-clad ladies who go there to take Insta-worthy selfies and generally be seen. On a day like this though, it was only the hardcore crazies who were out there. By that, I mean participants in the Five Peaks, and a few intrepid others! It made a nice change!

Just before Mount Lofty I saw a familiar face with a camera at the top of Pillbox Track – it was Bek, who I’d been chatting with a few days before, she’d told me where she was marshalling, and I told her I hoped I’d be smiling when I saw her!

And I was!

At Lofty, as per the previous peaks, we had to do a lap around the ‘Peak 4’ sign, which meant running around the big arse white monument and checking out the view. On a clear day, Mount Lofty is a pretty good place to get a great view over the city (once you’ve elbowed all the other view-seekers out of the way), although on this particular occasion it was pretty misty (I had predicted a complete white out, so I was pleasantly surprised to be able to see anything!). As I got to the monument I noticed a gazebo there, and after having run past it, I realised it was a drink station! Not until much later did I realise this WAS, in fact, Drink Station 4! This was the 31km mark. The last drink station had been at 25km and as it turned out my next opportunity to refill would not be until the final drink station at 44km. That’s a long time between drinks (pun intended!) but fortunately due to the cool conditions I managed to get by quite comfortably!

Not long after Lofty we got to Cleland where TRSA committee member Murray was getting the start line set up for the 22km, I reckon this was just before midday. For some reason I had in my head that I ran the last training run in under 2 hours so if I could reach Cleland within 5 hours I was a chance of a sub 7 hour finish which would be phenomenal! I later realised that it was actually the SECOND training run that I had done in under 2 hours. 22km of trails in under 2 hours would have taken some doing!

Possibly around this point, or maybe a bit earlier, was when I started running with Damian, who I hadn’t run with before but who had finished just behind me in my last Heysen 105 (coincidentally my last trail ultra, 18 months ago) and was also doing UTA100 (for the first time) this year. It was great to have someone to run with consistently, we didn’t run the whole of the rest of the race together but we were never far apart, and we ran quite long sections of it together. We had plenty to chat about! Also with us at this stage was Jon – Jess had gone on ahead and ended up doing a smashing time for his first ultra! Jon was trying to convince us to do the Wonderland run in the Grampians – he prefers smaller events rather than big ones like UTA! (When I asked him if he’d ever done UTA he quickly said “No, too big!”) I must admit he did make it sound pretty appealing…

While running with Jon he mentioned Kent, a Mount Barker parkrunner, regular parkrun tourist, SA Statesman (a fair effort considering SA now has 23 parkruns, more than double the number we had when I was a Statesman, and with 2 more to come before the end of this month!) and generally Very. Fast. Runner. (This is the guy who did the parkrun double on New Year’s Day last year – 5k at 7:30am, then RAN the 23k to the second parkrun and was there in time for the 9:30am start!) Jon said he had been trying to convince him to do a trail ultra and over time he went from “No” to “Maybe” to “Where do I sign up?” He was in the 8:00 (speedy) group, doing his first ultra.

Not long after this we hit the old Mount Barker Road, where we were directed to run in the bike lane. This is a very popular route for cyclists, being quite a challenging climb, on a relatively quiet road, with the bike lane being physically separated from the traffic. We were running down, not up, so we would be running towards the bikes, and therefore it would be relatively easy for us to jump out of the way. Except, on a rainy and windy day, the road was devoid of cyclists so we had the bike lane all to ourselves! Luxury!

About 1km down the road we crossed over and back onto the trails again. Here I saw Kent’s parents, and asked them how far away he was, to which they replied, “He’s right behind you!” And not far down the trail he and his bright orange shorts went cruising past me, looking fresh as a daisy! Not bad for a first ultra!

Around the same time I caught up with Luke, another one of the 8am starters, who I’d gone back and forth with a few times since he first passed me. When I approached him I saw something sticking out of his mouth and for a split second I thought he was having a smoke! Of course he wasn’t, it was just a Chupa Chup (a kind of lollipop in case you’re not familiar!) I thought if I could hang on to him for a while I would be doing OK. Sure, he was an hour ahead of me but he DID finish 3rd at the Adelaide Marathon last year so to be ‘only’ an hour behind him was pretty good in my book!

Then came possibly the best moment of the race for me, we were running through a cow paddock and the cows were just hanging out, they didn’t seem bothered by all us runners! Fortunately there was a photographer right here so she managed to capture some pretty cool shots of us with the cows!

Getting up close and personal with the locals! Thanks to Bec Lee for this photo (official TRSA photographer)

Not long after this was that spot where I took that stunning panoramic shot 2 weeks ago. Safe to say it didn’t look quite like that on this particular occasion, and I wasn’t going to stop to take a photo of it this time around! Fortunately it had stopped raining by this stage but the wind was as strong as ever, I was being blown sideways!

Soon we reached the steep cement driveway that led down to McElligott’s Quarry and the final drink station. Lining the driveway were a whole lot of cheering people in onesies, who seemed to be having a LOT of fun – it was great to see at this late stage in the race! Also on the driveway I saw Kent’s parents, and his mum Karen offered to take my rain jacket, which by now I was holding in my hand. I had planned to put it in my pack when I reached the drink station, but I gratefully accepted Karen’s offer, handed over the jacket and kept running! I quickly topped up my Gatorade with the help of Laura and the other volunteers, grabbed a brownie and a handful of chips, and away I went!

In the latter stages I caught up with Damian again, and also went back and forth with Emily, and also with Kay, who I’d seen at the start and then at DS3. We seemed to go back and forth quite a few times! Turned out Emily was actually a 7am starter, not 8am as I’d thought! Damian and I were running together most of the time, and we’d pass Kay, and then we’d walk for a bit, and she’d come powering past, then we’d pass her again, and so on!

The last big climb was up the Pony Ridge switchbacks (which, when run in reverse, are my favourite part of Yurrebilla) but not before another seemingly endless section of road, along Brownhill Creek Road. Kay was ahead of us at this stage, we were walking but trying to keep up a good pace. 7.5 hours was still a possibility but we couldn’t afford to waste any time if that was going to happen!

Probably around the 50km mark my Garmin watch started to show ‘Low Battery’ – I suspect my watch is on the way out, as I have previously got through Yurrebilla with plenty of juice left in the battery. I quickly got my phone out and started to record the run directly onto Strava, in case my watch died completely!

On Pony Ridge Road, just as we were about to enter Belair National Park, we saw TRSA committee member David, who advised us we only had 3km to go! Looking at our watches we couldn’t see how that was possible – it had to be at least 5km!

The next milestone was the Echo Tunnel, which had reportedly been lit up like a Christmas tree! Before we hit Echo Tunnel there was a sign saying “2km to go!” Well I’ll tell you, if that was true, it was the longest 2km I’ve ever done!

The tunnel had been unofficially renamed “Steve’s Tunnel” after TRSA committee member Steve who had done the lighting work!

Pic stolen from Gary – thanks Steve for making it so much easier to get through the tunnel with the fairy lights along the edge and lights along the walls!

After coming through the tunnel, I was passed by Erin, one of the 8am starters, and decided, given that there were less than 2km to go, to try to stick with her all the way to the finish. Her bright pink shorts made it easy to follow her! I left the rest of them (Damian, Kay and Emily) behind and just went for it! It’s a nice feeling to be able to finish a race strong and have a nice little kick at the end, even after 50+km!

It seemed to take forever but finally I got there! In the end I was only 17 seconds behind Erin (well, 1 hour and 17 seconds actually!). I almost forgot to get my medal! Imagine that!

But I didn’t forget to stop my Garmin! It lasted the distance but the battery died minutes later. This is a still shot from my finish line video (hence the low res!)

My time was around 7 hours 31, so based on my pre-race predictions, about as good as I could have hoped! Damian ended up a few minutes behind me, with Emily and Kay not far behind.

With Damian at the end of our UTA100 training run!

With about 3 hours before cutoff time, I grabbed my chair and blanket, a cider and a Coke and settled in to watch the rest of the finishers! Thanks to Wendy who went and got my drop bags for me so I didn’t have to get up!

Thanks to Kay for this pic – me all rugged up like a Nanna with cider in hand!
Another Gary photo – this time with Kate, who had exceeded her expectations, and is currently training for the Hubert 100 miler in a few weeks!

It was great to see all the people cross the line, including some very fast 22km and 12km runners! The finish line atmosphere was fantastic, with food trucks and even a bar! (Even though the Indian place didn’t have any vegan curry, which I had been looking forward to for at least the second half of the race!)

And I got to be part of another Ali selfie – Karen (in the front) and I both did the 58km and Ali, Libby, James and Sharaze did the 22km.

Towards cutoff time I got to see Kim and Kym, two very well known trail running identities, cross the line together.

Kym and Kim just after crossing the line, being congratulated by Race Director Claire (in the hi-viz)

I ended up leaving just after the 5:30 cutoff time, as it started raining again and I had curry on the brain!

It was a very long day but it would had to have been an even longer day for the volunteers. They would have been there hours before me, and probably hours after I left. Some of them were standing in the rain and wind all day. Also some of them were out on Friday in even worse conditions, marking the course! (And impeccably I might add. I had downloaded the GPX file of the course and an offline maps app ‘just in case’ but at no stage did I even consider using it!)

So, huge congratulations to Race Director Claire and all of the TRSA committee for getting this event off the ground. After not really wanting to do it, and really only entering because it would be a great lead-in to UTA100, I absolutely loved it and would definitely do it again! It’s a tough ultra, tougher than Yurrebilla for sure, so if you’re planning to do it, definitely don’t expect it to be an easy one, but SUCH a fantastic course! And the 22km is a great option for people who don’t fancy the ultra distance and/or like a bit of a sleep-in! There’s also the 12km which still has almost 300m of elevation gain so it’s not exactly City to Bay!

And of course the volunteers were wonderful – aid stations, marshals, course markers, setting up and packing up – the list is endless! THANK YOU to every single one of you!

Last but not least, well done to everyone who ran, special congratulations for all those who did their first ultra – hopefully you’re now hooked and I’ll see you out on the trails again soon! And special thanks to all the people I ran with along the way, you certainly helped to make it a truly memorable day!

Tri, tri, tri again!

So if you’ve been following this blog for the last few weeks you may have noticed a common link between the last 3 posts. A little town called Victor Harbor. 3 weeks ago I participated in the Victor Harbor Triathlons, a week later I was back again for the last race in the Yumigo! Summer Trail Series and then just last weekend I was back yet again for The Granite Island Run.

Well, I was lured back down there again this Easter weekend by a very intriguing invitation from Victor triathlete (and ultramarathoner!) Shane. A Triple Mix triathlon.

What is a Triple Mix triathlon, you say? I wondered the same, and I had to Google!

It is essentially 3 triathlons, with 10 minutes break in between.

  • Stage 1 – Swim (300m), Bike (6km), Run (2km)
  • Stage 2 – Run (2km), Bike (6km), Swim (300m)
  • Stage 3 – Bike (6km), Swim (300m), Run (2km)

In the Super League format, the 10 minute timer starts when the first athlete finishes the stage. However, in this (informal, trial) event, it would be as the LAST athlete crosses the line, meaning the faster athletes get a longer break, and even the slowest athlete gets 10 minutes. (I’m glad that change was made to the format otherwise I probably wouldn’t have made it to the second stage!)

I thought, sounds like fun, let’s do it!

This would be my third triathlon. (And possibly fourth and fifth as well, depending on how you look at it!) My first was at West Lakes in November and my second was the aforementioned one at Victor 3 weeks ago.

Given the length of the swim, and also the logistics of having the swim as NOT the first leg in the second two stages, it was pretty obvious even to me, the total noob, that wetsuits would not work in this format! That was one less thing I had to remember to bring!

I decided to make a day of it and go to parkrun in the morning. Victor is a nice flat out and back course, and FAST (unless you’re unlucky enough to encounter a fierce headwind one way, which often happens!) I was there in plenty of time, I was not going for a PB (I’m a long way off PB pace!) but I always like to race Victor hard. As it happens I missed the start as Simon had asked me to hold his 2 dogs’ leads for him while he got himself organised, and the start took a lot of us by surprise! I ended up starting about 12 seconds after the main group, meaning I had to work hard to get closer to the front where I could stretch the legs out a bit (always good after an 80 minute drive!) Shane had jokingly said before the start that I would do 22 minutes, which I thought was way ambitious, but my watch at the end showed 22:07 (my official time being a bit slower than that) which I put down to the ideal running conditions AND the fact that I had to play catch-up for at least the first half! So ironically, starting late PROBABLY resulted in my getting a better time than I otherwise would have!

Nothing left in the tank!

parkrun was followed by coffee and delicious hot chips at the Yilki Store which was super busy – no doubt because of the long weekend and the fact that Victor is a popular holiday destination for Adelaide people! (Victor Harbor parkrun had a record attendance of 170 – it seemed like ALL of them were there at coffee!)

Then I spent the day wandering around town, town was buzzing as it was Easter weekend and there happened to be a big Easter hunt happening, involving a large number of families! I hit up a few op shops, a few other shops and had a lovely vegan burger at a place called Primal Bliss. And almost everywhere I went, I ran into Simon and Shane’s parents! I wasn’t stalking, I promise!

Cool artwork at the Victor Harbor Artisans Market!

I then made my way to the reserve where I had last been 3 weeks ago, for the triathlon. I won’t bore you with details of all the 9 legs and 6 transitions, I’ll just cover the highlights this time!

There were 4 of us at the start of the triathlon – I was the only female. The other 3 were Shane, his younger brother Ben (Mr Mekong, visiting from Melbourne) and another guy Chad who I hadn’t met before. Shane’s son Finn would join us for the second stage.

I was the first to rack my bike, so I had to ask the awesome timekeeper and helper Jono which way around the bike goes! (Normally I’m not the first person to rack my bike so I just copy what other people have done!) He noticed both my tyres were a bit low on air so very kindly pumped them up for me! I didn’t really need any more disadvantage than I already had!

The bike compound! My bike closest to camera, Jono right of shot pumping up my tyres! Ben (left, in super fast Mekong trisuit) and Chad getting ready!

Stage 1 was the traditional swim/bike/run, with the swim starting in the water, as it had 3 weeks ago. Very quickly the 3 other guys put a bit of distance between themselves and me! They were going to get a nice long rest after Stage 1…

My watch doesn’t do swimming very well. I am pretty sure my swim was not THAT wonky!

The bike course was nice and simple – I had asked Shane to show me on a map so I could visualise it for myself, not being a local and not being all that familiar with the town (despite having spent quite a bit of time there in the past month!) It was a T shaped course – along Bartel Blvd, left at the roundabout to where parkrun starts (one part of town I am VERY familiar with!) and then a U-turn, along the seafront Franklin Parade, and then another U-turn at Nevin St, back along Franklin and left up Bartel and back to the start. I need to work on my U-turns! I had to slow down a fair bit, not that it would have made any difference!

The un-get-lost-on-able bike course!

The run was even simpler, just under 2km, out and back along Matthew Flinders Drive, with a U-turn at the roundabout at Tabernacle Rd (which, for the record, does NOT have any street signs indicating the name of the road!) The guys were well ahead of me and were on their way back as I was on my way out. Shane was leading and he told me to turn at the “Keep Left” sign, rather than going all the way around the roundabout. I guessed by how far I’d run, that the roundabout where I turned WAS actually the right one, and as it turned out, it was!

A MUCH more straightforward run than in the Victor Harbor Triathlons!

Stage 1 complete, a nice 10 minute rest, time to re-set my Garmin for the next stage (reverse of Stage 1: run, bike, swim). Miraculously, after several failed attempts, I had FINALLY managed to correctly record a multisport event on my Garmin! Given that we finished Stage 1 with the run and Stage 2 started with the run, there wasn’t even any gear changing to do!

The guys were nice enough to let me lead out the run, and I was first into transition. The lead didn’t last long – Shane came into transition seconds after me, and the other two guys overtook me on the bike within a few hundred metres of my leaving transition!

And that was the last time I was in front for the day!

After another uneventful bike ride (the best kind!) it was time for my first ever bike to swim transition! (I’d done all the other transitions before, in triathlon/aquathlon/duathlon, but never this one!) Rack the bike (thanks to Jono for the tips on that!), shoes off, helmet off (would have looked a bit silly going into the water with the helmet on!) grabbed goggles, and started running to the water. Sunnies still on, thanks Jono for reminding me to take them off! Back into the water, to swim another 300m. This swim was a bit slower, probably because I wasn’t following closely behind fast swimmers, I was just doing my own thing. Actually this swim felt easier than the first one, probably because mentally I was prepared that once I’d finished, it was time for another break!

Amazingly enough, my overall time for Stage 2 was 1 second faster than the first one! So if nothing else, I am consistent!

I got a few more tips from Jono during the break. Firstly, to put my head under water in the swim, as lifting my head would cause my legs to drop. I was already aware of this, and I thought I was putting my head in, but then I realised I was looking up way too much, to try to see where I was going. The second tip was to put my goggles in the pocket in the back of my trisuit, so they’d be ready to go once I got off the bike. (Ben had done this in Stage 2).

Stage 3 (the last one) was Bike/Swim/Run. The bike started with a rolling start, we started riding up Bartel Blvd until a particular tree, or car, or side street, indicated that it was time to start racing. Aaaaaand I never saw the other guys again! Actually that’s not true, I saw them coming back along Franklin Pde as I was heading out. Also on Franklin Pde I saw a familiar face, David, a running friend from Adelaide. Actually I recognised his car and then called out to him as I rode past. Small world!

I came back into transition, racked my bike and ran down to the water. Jono told me to head to the left of the buoy, as Marcus was out there moving it back in closer for me. The other guys had already finished their swim, and I believe the buoy had been moved further away for them, maybe to even the playing field a bit? Or maybe just to mess with them? Either way, I was grateful it was moved back for me – I’m not sure I was up for a longer swim!

I made a conscious effort to put my head in the water more, I decided to lift my head every 4th breath (instead of every breath as I had previously been doing). I breathe on both sides, so I breathe every 3rd stroke. So that meant I was looking up every 12th stroke. I figured, at the glacial speed at which I move in the water, I wasn’t going to veer too far off course in 12 strokes! It seemed to work well – I don’t think I was any faster, but there may have been an element of fatigue there! It’s definitely something I will be practising!

As I passed the second buoy and headed in towards the beach, my goggles were full of water. I gave up, took them off and swam a little bit with my head out. I then decided that I had WAY too far to go, to be able to do that! So I stopped, emptied my goggles and went back to swimming properly.

And then my hand touched the bottom and I was back in comfortable territory – feet on the ground, running the last metre or so out of the water, across the beach and back to the bike rack where I quickly donned my shoes, hat and sunnies, and headed out for the last leg of the last stage – the best one, the run!

My last run was faster than my second run (the second run, remember, being the first leg of Stage 2, so I WAS holding back a bit) but slower than my first. My overall time was slower than the first two stages (not surprising!) but there was only 24 seconds difference between the 3 stages, so I’m pretty happy with that consistency!

It wasn’t a race – but I won on the consistency front! Also I was first female finisher in all 3 stages 🙂

And then it was time to relax and have a chat with the other guys about the event. I was interested to find out how it would work in a ‘proper’ event, ie how would you decide the winner? Would it be on overall combined times, or just the winner of the last race? Apparently one of the formats eliminates the slowest competitors in each stage, so I would have not got past Stage 1!

Relaxing at the end of a very fun and challenging event!

I would definitely be keen to do something like this again, it was a great challenge, I learned a LOT (including the fact that I obviously need a Mekong trisuit if I want to get faster!), and it was interesting to see what a difference mixing up the disciplines makes!

Thanks heaps to Shane for organising this event and inviting me to be part of it, to Shane, Ben and Chad (and Finn, who joined us for part of the event) for being great competitors, and to Jono and Marcus for all their help in making this event happen!

Race Report – The Granite Island Run 2018

Another weekend, another trip to Victor! This time for The Granite Island Run.

This event has been going for a few years, but this was the first time I’d done it. I liked the concept – running from the mainland across the causeway to the island, around the island, and back to the mainland. I’d never done a run like that before!

There was a 5k (ish) option and a 10k (ish) option. I sensibly opted for the short option (and as always, if I had a dollar for every time I got asked “Why are you only doing the short one?”, well safe to say I’d have a fair few dollars in my hand!)

The 10k was the same course as the 5k, only when you returned to the mainland within sight of the finish line, you had to make a U-turn and go straight back across the causeway and do another lap of the island! I’m not a huge enjoyer of multi lap races (unless it’s a short loop and shitloads of them – go figure!) so where there is a choice of one lap or two, I’m almost always going to go with the former!

It was a cool morning so I decided arm warmers were definitely required, and I went with a slightly modified version of my Boston Marathon kit – I omitted the calf sleeves and instead of wearing the top with my name emblazoned across the front, I wore the same top but WITHOUT the name. I thought it might have been too much big-noting to rock up with my name on at a smallish event where I probably would know a big chunk of the runners anyway!

I left home around 6am, arriving in Victor a touch before 7:30. It was quite cold so I had a couple of extra layers on while awaiting the start! I was happy to see some discounted event tees from previous years, at the bargain basement price of $10, so of course I had to buy one!

A number of friends from Adelaide had made the trip down for the event, and many of them had stayed overnight and made a weekend of it. It’s always nice to go to a run in a different location and see so many familiar faces there!

We all made our way over to the start line where the 10k runners were about to start. The run started with a quick out and back, along the waterfront and onto the causeway where the runners quickly became little dots in the distance!

It wasn’t long before it was our turn. RD Simon gave us the briefing which included the fact that the finish line was just at the end of the causeway, not back at the start. That was good to know, and presumably the finish line would be easy to find! He also told us that it was ‘essentially’ a closed course, meaning that there would not be many other people on the island. Which was good, because as someone who is unfamiliar with the area, I could reasonably confidently follow another runner, and know that they were most likely also part of the race and not just a random! (I couldn’t assume they knew the way, of course!)

We made our way to the start line and away we went. There were 50 starters in the 5k (96 in the 10k) and I didn’t know too many of the others (most of the runners I knew were doing the 10k!). The familiar faces were Justin and Kelly (who were planning to do it as a run/walk), Kate (who was injured so thought she may well be walking a lot of it too!) and Finn (son of Shane and nephew of RD Simon). There was also Tracey, but she was starting late, along with Sheena in the 10k, because she had been up all night doing ultramarathon training – 42km out on the trails! (And I thought my wine tasting marathon yesterday was hardcore!)

Ahead of me at that stage was a young girl called Matilda who I had heard about from Simon the week before, apparently very fast! There was also another girl ahead of me who I passed on the causeway, so I knew I was in 2nd place.

Early days, just about to run out and back along the jetty. Thanks to Ian for this photo!

The first highlight of the run was when we ran to the end of a jetty, turned around and ran straight back. As a smallish event, I was a fair way behind the next person, so it wasn’t clear until I got there, where the turnaround point was. There was a turnaround arrow right near the end of the jetty, with a very helpfully positioned ‘X’ (signifying ‘Wrong Way’) at the very end of the jetty. Pretty sure no-one was tempted to go that way but thanks to whoever put that there, it gave me (and others too, I’m sure!) a good laugh!

It was one of these 3. Thanks guys! 🙂

Then the hard work began. A bit of uphill and quite a lot of stairs. I managed to run all of the hills but I did have to resort to walking about 3/4 of the way up the stairs. I don’t actually think I was any slower walking than running up the stairs!

There was one drink station on the route, manned by Shane and family, among others! I don’t recall EVER taking a drink in a 5k run before, but on this particular occasion it seemed like the thing to do! And knowing that we’d be coming back past this drink station again shortly, I was happy to hold onto my cup and drop it in the bin next time around. It was quite a windy day, and I know how annoying it is as a volunteer to pick up cups that have been dropped near (but not in) bins! We ran down a hill, then turned around and ran straight back up again. I dropped my cup in the bin at the drink station, contemplated taking another one but then decided against it, and just after I ran past, Shane told me to come back for a photo as he’d just missed getting a shot (obviously I was running too damn fast hahaha!) to which I laughed and replied “No way!”

We started seeing some of the 10k runners (and Tracey!) – that was a nice touch, it’s always great to see other runners out on the course.

Every time we came to a turnaround I had a look to see who was behind me. (Podium finishes don’t come along all that often, so I was determined to hold onto my place if at all possible!) The girl who I had passed to move into 2nd place, seemed to be relatively close behind me. Close enough that I wasn’t going to relax, or walk up any hills!

Not long before we left the island. I think this photo was taken by Isabella. Looking pretty happy here! Just behind me is Laura, wearing the same Mekong top as me! It wasn’t planned! Although, Laura’s 2 running buddies Katie and Sarah were also both wearing the same top. I’m pretty sure that WAS planned 🙂

Before too long the causeway was in sight – the finish line was near!

On the causeway we hit a bit of a headwind, that was really the only time when the weather was a factor in the whole race, so you’ve gotta be happy with that! I had another sneaky look behind me. I couldn’t see anyone, so I thought I was safe.

We reached the end of the causeway. I could see a sign up ahead, pointing one way for the long course and one way for the short course. I wanted to be sure I went the right way! I guess the flags and the timing mat should have been a clue! (Can’t be too careful though!)

I crossed the line, just a touch over 27 minutes (my watch showed the distance as 5.38km) – ‘only’ just over 2 minutes behind Matilda in 1st place! Less than a minute behind me was Karen in 3rd – she was not the one I’d passed early on. All this time I had been looking out for the girl in the red shirt and totally had no idea that there was someone else pretty close behind me!

I loved the course, such a unique event, and amazingly, for the second week in a row down that way, the weather was nowhere near as bad as forecast!

There IS actually an island there. Strava makes it looks like I just swam 5km!

The volunteers were fabulous – thanks to everyone who made this event happen!

After the race I hung around the finish line for a while to cheer on some of the other runners.

And be part of one of Ali’s legendary group selfies!

Then I went to give the credit card a workout at the Mekong pop-up store which was (along with the mobile coffee van) definitely the place to be! I bought a hoodie and a beanie – probably would have been useful BEFORE the run as well, but oh well, next time! (Plus, winter is coming!) And Shane tried REALLY HARD to talk me into buying a tri-suit – as awesome as their tri-suit looks (and apparently performs, according to all reports), I already have a tri-suit, and I’ve literally worn it three times. Can’t quite justify getting another one so soon! Maybe if I do Murray Man

As I was just finishing up my purchase I could hear applause – damn, nearly missed the presentations! Firstly the placegetters in the 5k and 10k were announced (Adelaide friends Brody and Max both placed in the 10k) and the medals were really cool – made of wood!

I’m not sure if you can call a wooden medal ‘bling’ – doesn’t sound right! A beautiful medal nonetheless and I’m going to say well earned 🙂

And then of course the real reason people were hanging around – the random prize draw! I was lucky enough to win a T-shirt from Mekong (lucky because the 20 or so people who were drawn out before me had already left, and you have to be present to win!) so as soon as the draw was over I went straight back to the Mekong tent to pick up a nice new T-shirt! So I did very well today, I spent $80 and got 2 T-shirts, a hoodie and a beanie!

Thanks again to all of the volunteers, and congratulations to Simon and team for putting on this fantastic event! I will definitely be back! (And yes, I will probably be doing the short course again, in case you were wondering!)

Ahh, Victor, you make me want to keep coming back! I guess I’ll be back again next weekend then! 🙂

Race Report – Yumigo! Summer Trail Series Race 4 – Newland Head

Today was the 4th and final race in the 2017-2018 Yumigo! Summer Trail Series. The races are held once a month over the summer months (so it’s not just a clever name!) and this was the 3rd one I had run this season. You can read all about Race 1 at Anstey Hill and Race 3 at O’Halloran Hill if you’re keen!

Race 4, in the time I’ve been trail running, has been held at Newland Head, near Victor Harbor (where I was last Sunday and will be again next Sunday!), a nice 90 minute drive from Adelaide. This was the last year it would be held at Newland Head, as from next year it will be somewhere closer to Adelaide! I actually quite like a bit of a road trip and despite the early start, I think I’m going to miss it!

The weather forecast was looking a bit gnarly. In fact, a fairly large cycling event, the Coast To Coast, was supposed to be held today but was cancelled yesterday due to forecast dangerous conditions. When it comes to trail running, a little mud and rain never hurt anyone, so I was quite looking forward to a mudbath! (Plus, hopefully the weather might put off some of the competition!)

I did plan my clothing accordingly – I didn’t want to wear anything that would be ruined by mud! So, all black on the bottom half as usual (although I did brighten it up with some hot pink long socks!) and for some inexplicable reason I had decided to wash my trail shoes after my last run, so they looked brand new! (OK I like them to be nice and clean at the start of a race – rarely are they that way by the end!) I wore an old favourite, the pink top I’d run my first 3 marathons in, and my original arm warmers, which I’d purchased in Liverpool the day before my first marathon. I was expecting it to be cold in the morning so I also threw a buff into my bag, to wear as an ear warmer. A full change of clothes and 2 rain jackets also made the journey – gotta be prepared for anything!

I set my alarm for 5am, planning to leave around 5:50 to get there a good 40-45 minutes before race start at 8:15. (The race was originally meant to start at 8, but a last minute change was forced by a 15 minute detour on one of the roads leading to the event. So instead of having to leave home 15 minutes earlier, we started 15 minutes later – thanks to Race Director Ben for that!

It rained a little bit on the way down there, and there had been a fair bit of rain overnight, but it was looking pretty clear by the time I arrived. It was windy though! A couple of the gazebos threatened to blow away!

A few extra volunteers were needed today, to hold the gazebos down so they didn’t blow away!

It is really a spectacular part of the world. One of my all time favourite bits of trail is the section of the Heysen Trail between Newland Head and King Head. That is a pretty technical section and probably not suitable for a race with a large number of participants, but definitely worth checking out if you want some challenging trail along with some spectacular scenery – just make sure you stop to admire the view, don’t try to admire it AND run at the same time, it won’t end well for you!

Weather looking pretty good at the start!

I went to take a photo of the ocean before we started. On the way back to the start area, sweeper and course demarker Ziad told me to go back so he could take a photo for me with me in it! After a few photos from different angles, we headed back and literally almost ran into a big f***er of a kangaroo bounding across the path, I’m not sure if anyone else saw him but he had to be at least 6 feet tall!

She was a windy old morning! Thanks Ziad for this pic!

As mentioned earlier, I had brought 2 rain jackets, one light one which I was only wearing to block out some of the chill before the start, and a proper one in case it actually rained. (Fortunately the rain never eventuated!) So when it came to getting ready for the race, I was able to leave the jacket and my buff in the car, and put on my hat, sunnies and small race vest. I was ‘only’ running the short course, which was meant to be 11.5km (but as all trail runners know, distances in trail running are a guide only!) so I wasn’t expecting to need much in terms of nutrition and hydration. All I had was 500mL of Gatorade and a Clif bar (which I was planning to have at the end).

I didn’t see my ‘nemesis’ Jenny at the start, but didn’t think much of that as she had probably already sewn up her age group series win, and with the weather forecast as well as the long drive, I suspected a lot of people would not be making the trip today. (To be eligible for an age group series placing, you had to run at least 3 of the 4 races, and I knew Jenny had run all of the first 3 races)

As with all the previous races, the short and long course runners all started together, and the bulk of our 11.5km course was identical to the first part of the long (19km) course. Consequently, unless I asked, I wouldn’t know whether other runners were in the short or long course, until our paths separated around the 8km mark! It didn’t matter though, I would just assume every female I encountered was a) running the short course and b) in my age group. (Not that I was worried about age group placings anymore – having missed Race 2 at Cleland and finished 4th in my age group at O’Halloran, I was pretty certain that train had sailed!)

RD Ben described the course as ‘flattish’. Where the previous races had included some challenging hills, the challenge here was more in the terrain than the elevation (lots of sand, tree roots and rocky sections). I had actually run this event before, 2 years ago, (the long course) so I had a fair idea of what to expect. Strava tells me there was an elevation gain of 190m which is not huge for a trail race.

Thanks to David Fielding Photography for this photo, taken near the start line! There’s me on the far right.

It started a bit uphill, in fact looking at the elevation map the first 3km were pretty much all uphill, but again, not particularly steep and very runnable. I was averaging about 5:20 per km over that first 3km. I had no idea where I was placed, given that I didn’t know which runners were doing the short course, and also I hadn’t paid attention to how many runners started ahead of me. I was pretty much just running my own race!

Hills? What hills?

Probably around 3-4km (I was making a conscious effort not to look at my watch too much, because I wanted to keep an eye on where I was putting my feet!) I started running with Steve, who was doing the long course. He was about the only person I ran with in this event, so it was nice to have the distraction for a few kilometres! We chatted about what events we had coming up, and about ultras we’d done in the past. It’s always good to be able to have a little chat while in a race – I guess you could say that if we were chatting then we weren’t running hard enough, but I didn’t really see it that way! One thing I did say was that I was hoping to finish the race in less time than it took me to drive down! I didn’t really have a time in mind – I guessed somewhere around the hour would be a pretty good time! (There wasn’t much chance of Steve finishing in less time than it took him to drive there – I think he said it was about a 45 minute drive and he was doing the 19km!)

Around 5km was the only time during the race where I actually had to stop running. I didn’t walk, I literally had to stop for maybe about 10 seconds because I somehow got tangled up in a loop of wire that had come loose from a fence. I wasn’t able to just kick it off, I had to stop and remove it. Luckily there was no damage done (luckily I wasn’t running very fast!) and I tossed the wire over near the fence, where hopefully no-one else would trip on it! Of all the things I was looking out for, a rogue piece of wire was NOT on the list!

A few people passed me while I was disentangling myself, but I did eventually catch up with and pass them. I caught up with Steve again after a while and we ran together again until the drink station where we were sent in opposite directions. From there I was following a guy in a Heysen 105 buff who was running at just the right pace for me to sit a couple of metres behind him. I’m not sure if he realised he was pacing me but he did a great job!

The course was beautifully marked, thanks to Denis and anyone else who was involved in marking it yesterday! One thing I wasn’t expecting but came as a nice surprise was kilometre markers. Ben had told us about this at the pre-race briefing, and there were different colour coded markers for the different distances (red for short, blue for long), but he had said that if we saw a blue kilometre marker on the short course, not to be alarmed and think we’d taken a wrong turn! (Even after the two courses separated, there was some overlap of the courses later). I’m glad he did say that because at one point I saw (I think) a blue 12km marker and then probably 500m later I saw a 15km one!

I got to the red 10km marker (definitely the short course 10km marker!) so it was around 1.5km to go. I passed my pacer and started to accelerate a bit. (It was, literally, practically all downhill from there!)

I saw, up ahead in the distance, a peach coloured top with a backpack on, attached to a pair of legs in capri pants. Now I don’t want to get into gender stereotyping here, but I had to assume it was a female. And I had to assume she was in my age group. I already knew she was in the short course – none of the long course runners had passed me. So all that was left to do was to try to catch her!

Thanks to David Fielding Photography for this photo, taken near the finish line!

I had a sneaky look behind, while on a section of trail that was not too technical. No sense ruining it all by falling over at this late stage! I couldn’t see anyone, so I thought I was safe from attack from behind! I wondered if the runner I was currently pursuing, had any idea that I was there!

It was pretty windy by this stage. I wasn’t breathing all that heavily, and although I tend to be pretty heavy on my feet, especially when I get a bit tired, I was confident that she wouldn’t be able to hear my footsteps. I could barely hear my own footsteps or breathing over the howling of the wind! (OK maybe that’s a slight exaggeration but you get the idea!)

Due to the high winds, there was no finishing arch today. Consequently we wouldn’t know when we were nearly at the finish line, until we were actually nearly there! (Normally you can see the arch from a few hundred metres out, signifying that it’s time to start the sprint!)

I saw the gazebos, miraculously still standing after almost blowing away at the start, and I was steadily making gains on the UFR (Unidentified Female Runner). I thought what the hell, let’s go for it! So I sprinted.

Approximately one metre from the finish line, she must have heard me, turned around and saw me literally RIGHT THERE, swore (just the S word mind you!) and finished strong to hold me off by about half a second.

Then she turned around to see who it was, and I realised it was Jenny, she was there after all, having arrived with just minutes to spare before the start! I had run with her a bit during Ansteys and back and forth at O’Halloran, but I’d never been that close at the end! I actually would have felt like a bit of a bitch if I’d passed her, mainly because I’m sure if she’d had any idea I was there, she would have picked up the pace much earlier and beaten me by a much bigger margin!

Congrats Jenny on today and the series! Just that little bit too good for me! 🙂

Still, it was kind of cool to do a sprint finish at the end of a somewhat challenging 11.5km and to almost pull it off, against someone who is significantly faster than me on a good day, certainly makes for a good story! (And let’s face it, who wants to read a race report that goes “Started. Ran well throughout. Finished comfortably”?)

Gotta love a nice little kick at the end!

After catching my breath I got myself an EXCELLENT coffee from the Stir coffee van (I have to give them a plug because it’s the first coffee van I’ve been to that makes a proper long black!) and caught up with the other runners, including meeting Sally, who I can only assume won our age group (having finished 3rd overall today). And of course there was the obligatory photo with Gary, who had also run the short course today. (Seriously, where would my race reports be without you, Gary? Never change!)

Gary and I looking pristine AFTER the run, with Stir coffee van in the background!

Then we hung around and watched the presentations for the short and long courses (the male winner of the 19km did it in about 75 minutes. That’s moving!) and finally the bit we were all waiting for – the random prize draw! After a slow start (you have to be there when your name is called to be a winner, and a lot of people were being called out who had already left), one by one the prizes were all given out. I didn’t win anything today but Denis kindly gave me the sparkly gaiters he’d won, at the end of the presentation. I actually thought they would have suited him but was happy to accept the gift – secretly I thought they’d probably look better on me!)

One of the best finish line moments (apart from Jenny’s and mine, of course) of the day happened during the prize draw. Quite a few of the long course runners were still out there, and as they finished, Ben paused reading out the names so we could all cheer them on. It was a nice touch! Anyway, one girl got to within about a metre of the finish line and then just stopped. We wondered what was going on but she said she was waiting for someone, they were going to finish together. Several more runners came through while she was waiting but then there she was, her mum coming up over the hill and joined her for a memorable finish! Well done to Michelle and Chloe!

Then it came time for the huge job of packing everything up and into Ben’s 4WD and trailer – I’m amazed at how much stuff goes into these events, and I hate unpacking my car at the end of a race, and for me it’s only my personal race gear! I hate to imagine the job Ben has to unpack his car after an event!

Thanks as always to RD Ben for putting on another great event, and for once actually organising GOOD weather for us! (Amazingly enough, I did not have a spot of dirt on me at the end – not even on my shoes!) And of course to the wonderful volunteers – I hate to name names because I’m bound to forget someone but here are just a few that I know of: Ziad, Sheena, Denis, Justin, Robbie, Kim, Simon and Graeme.

Well done to everyone who made the journey down despite (or perhaps because of!) the forecast nasty weather! It was a great day to farewell Newland Head from the Summer Trail Series, and to end the season on a high note!

Race report – Victor Harbor Triathlons 2018

Last November I completed my first triathlon. You can read all about it here.

I really enjoyed it and I had intended to do more, but all of the triathlons I had my eye on, clashed with other running events. So all of a sudden it was March, the season was nearly over, and it was time for the Victor Harbor Triathlon. It kind of snuck up on me. I knew it was coming, but I always thought I had more time than I actually did! Consequently I didn’t do all the training I had planned to do. (You know, all those good intentions and all that!) I had INTENDED to do a lot more swimming, especially open water swimming, but I really don’t enjoy swimming so I didn’t do anywhere near as much as I had hoped. And other than doing the Grand Slam bike ride 2 weeks ago, I hadn’t done a proper bike ride since Christmas Eve! I was pretty OK with the run leg but as for the other 2 – who knew what would happen?

Victor Harbor Triathlons is the biggest triathlon event in South Australia. It’s been going for 24 years so they must be doing something right! And there really is something for everyone!

There were 4 different triathlon distances on offer this year:

  • Standard/Olympic distance (the Big One!) – 1500m swim/40km bike/10km run
  • Sprint distance (first time this year!) – 750m swim/20km bike/5km run
  • Short course – 150m swim/8km bike/1.5km run
  • Mini (events for both adults and kids) – 50m swim/2km bike/400m run

As well as this, there were 5km and 10km fun runs.

So you see, really something for everyone!

I had opted for the Sprint distance. The Olympic was a bit out of reach for me, in particular the swim – I’d done a ‘Come and Try’ team sprint triathlon on New Year’s Eve last year, and I had done the swim leg, and found 750m incredibly long! So I didn’t think doing double that would end particularly well! The short and mini distances were too short for me (having already done a Tinman, 300m swim/19.5km bike/3km run) and I would likely spend more time in transition than in the bike and run! The Sprint distance was a good challenge while still being achievable.

I had purchased a wetsuit. A Sprint swim was long enough to wear a wetsuit, the time gained and reduced effort expended during the swim would more than make up for the time lost in transition taking it off. I wasn’t sure about the wetsuit, having only tried it once and ended up with chafing on the back of my neck that took a few weeks to go away completely! I’d never practised taking it off in a hurry. I did decide to take it with me, and decide at the last minute whether or not to wear it (unless, of course, the water was too warm for wetsuits to be allowed, in which case the decision would be made for me!)

The wetsuit on its first outing, a few weeks ago!

Prepping my gear was relatively easy. Triathlons do require quite a lot of gear, but luckily for me I pretty much only have one of all the essential gear (trisuit, wetsuit, bike, helmet, bike shoes, tri run shoes, etc) so I didn’t have to decide what outfit to wear!

I had a list. Lists are always good. You cross things off the list as you pack them, and then when you walk out the door you know you have everything sorted.

Except I didn’t, because I realised, thankfully not too far down the road, that I hadn’t put my orthotics in my running shoes – they were still in the shoes I’d run parkrun in the previous day. I had NEVER run without orthotics. It may have been ‘only’ 5km but I didn’t intend to try it for the first time in a race! (Orthotics were NOT on the list. Must remember to add them to the list next time!) Quick U-bolt and I was back home to grab them and hit the road again.

After forgetting where I was going and heading towards the freeway, I corrected myself and ended up making it to Victor in plenty of time for the 9am briefing (our event didn’t start until 10:15). I had my breakfast along the way in Mount Compass – if I’d had it before I left home I would have been STARVING by the time we started!

I saw Karen (who was also doing the Sprint) and Daryl drive up so we all walked up to the bike compound together. We went to the end of the rack, thinking that would probably make our bikes easier to find – it’s amazing how easily you forget where you’ve put your bike!

After collecting my race number and getting inked (my race number on my arm and my age group on my leg) I decided to go with the wetsuit, after the announcement had been made at the briefing that wetsuits WOULD be allowed, except for the Open competitors (we had the option of entering as an Age Group competitor or an Open competitor, the latter group being mostly the elite athletes, this event being a qualifier for the Australian Championships). I put the wetsuit half on, and slathered the back of my neck in Sudocrem to prevent chafing.

We ran into Ros, who has done quite a lot of triathlons now (as has Karen) and who did her first Tinman the same day Karen and I both did our first ever triathlon. She was also doing the Sprint. I didn’t know many other people in the triathlon, but regular running/walking/swimming buddy Neil was doing the Olympic distance.

We headed down to the water to watch the Olympic swim leg start, as we waited for our group to be called. After the last wave of the Olympic distance had been sent off, the Sprint competitors were able to get into the water. Unlike the previous tri that I’d done, the start was in the water. I quite liked that. It meant that we could get in and acclimatise to the water, and we could stay in until we were called, rather than have to get out and then get back in again! I was glad to have the wetsuit, I imagine it would have been quite cold at the start without it!

The very picturesque (and mercifully jellyfish-free) swim location!

I positioned myself about mid-pack, because I know swimming is not my strong suit, and I didn’t particularly want to have people swimming over the top of me, but I also didn’t want to swim any further than necessary, and realised that if I’d been right at the back of the pack it would mean I’d have to swim further!

The gun went off, I pressed ‘Start’ on my Garmin (set up in Multisport mode, which I’d failed to make work in my last triathlon) and we were away, it definitely felt easier with the wetsuit on. Before too long I was surrounded by people doing breaststroke. This was completely legit, but breaststrokers take up more space than freestylers, and if you’ve got one on either side of you as I did, you’re bound to get kicked! I quickly moved over to the side to get away from them! It was an overcast day, so my ultra dark tinted goggles were probably not the best choice, but the only pair of working goggles I have!

Weirdly enough, towards the end, I was actually overtaking some people! Probably because I was (not intentionally) conserving energy in the early part of the swim!

The last bit seemed to go on forever, I could see the shore, and it seemed to take a really long time before my hand touched the bottom, signifying that it was time to get up and run. And because I don’t really kick, and with the wetsuit on there is even less need to kick, I was surprised at how jelly-like my legs were! I even nearly tripped over someone who was still swimming!

I exited the water, pressed ‘Lap’ on my Garmin and started peeling off the top part of the wetsuit. I looked at my Garmin and realised that it hadn’t started – I needed to press ‘Start’ TWICE! I must remember that next time! (Note to self – re-read this post before my next triathlon!) Effectively this meant my Garmin was of no use to me in this event, so I ditched it at transition. (I later found out that my swim was a touch under 15 minutes – about 2 minutes quicker than when I swam the same course in the ‘Come and Try’ event.)

We had to run quite a long way to get from the water to the bike. That partially explains why my transition took 3.5 minutes. Also, taking off the wetsuit takes time, although it was easier and quicker than I had thought it might be.

As I left transition with my bike, Ros was on her way in. She would likely be quicker in transition than me, because she had opted not to wear a wetsuit. She also doesn’t use bike shoes, so her T2 would probably be quicker too (no need to change shoes, just swap from helmet to hat and away she goes!)

I mounted the bike, quickly got clipped in and started pedalling. The bike leg was an out and back, and Karen and Daryl (who had both ridden it during the ‘Come and Try’ event) had warned me that it was hilly. However, I’d done the Grand Slam bike ride 2 weeks earlier which apparently was way hillier than this course, so I was pretty confident I could make it without having to do the ‘walk of shame’!

Smiling because I was nearly done! And this is as close as I was willing to get to waving for the camera – I’m still at the stage where the 2 hands need to remain firmly on the handlebars! Official photo courtesy of andysteven.photography

This was the first time I’d ridden on fully closed roads. It threw me a bit, because I’d constantly be thinking I heard a car behind me, which as it turned out was a particularly fast bike! I was overtaken a lot on the bike leg, I assume by Olympic competitors (because there wouldn’t have been too many Sprint competitors behind me after the swim!) but I did manage to overtake a few people myself which was pleasing! I had a bit of a play around with my gears, which I’m still getting used to, and at no point did I think I wasn’t going to be able to make it up a hill without walking! On the way out I even coasted downhill a bit, and then realised that if I was coasting down the hill, it would probably take a bit of effort to climb on the way back!

The elevation profile of the bike leg – looks totally like devil horns to me!

I got off the bike carefully just before the dismount line – I unclipped one foot on approach, moved to the side, completely stopped, got off and prepared to run into transition (bike shoes still on). Right in front of me, a couple of guys, doing the pro thing (you know, leaving the shoes in the pedals and essentially trying to get off the bike without stopping) had a pile up right in front of me, and I ran straight past them!

This was the easy transition – racked my bike, swapped shoes, swapped hats and off I went! I had a bit of a false start when I started running on the wrong side of the bunting, but one of the helpful volunteers pointed me in the right direction! Overall my transition was just under 2 minutes. Plenty of room for improvement!

Now for the easy bit! A nice 5km run – just another parkrun! There were a lot of turns in the course, which made me lose my bearings – I didn’t know whether we were heading towards or away from the finish line! I managed to overtake quite a lot of people, which I had sort of expected (the run leg naturally being my strongest!) and the heavy legs that generally come after getting off the bike, weren’t really an issue for me this time! Which was great because among all the things I hadn’t practised, I hadn’t done a ‘brick’ session since, well, the triathlon in November!

The run course!

Most of the run was, like the bike leg, on closed roads. However there was one road that was unable to be closed, so we were instructed in no uncertain terms to run on the grass, and if we were caught running on the road, we would be given a time penalty of 3 minutes (we’d have to stand in the ‘naughty corner’!) There were technical officials out on the course (again, being a national championships qualifier, everything had to be done by the book) so it would have been silly to try!

I saw a few familiar faces along the way, Julie and Chris (parkrunners and Adelaide Harriers) and also Grette, who had done both the 5k AND 10k fun runs and whose kids were doing the Mini triathlon! There was a lot of support along the course from locals and other visitors, and I even managed to get 2 high fives from a couple of kids!

As I didn’t have my Garmin, I was pleased to see kilometre markers on the run course. Even so, after the 4km mark, that last kilometre seemed to go on forever (especially with all those turns!) and I was kind of surprised when I saw the finish line! Luckily there were no women close behind me and I couldn’t see any ahead of me, so I didn’t need to attempt a sprint finish (I later saw a few epic battles at the finish line!) I ended up completing the run leg in 23:02, amazingly enough it was faster than the previous day’s parkrun, although it felt a lot slower!

Pic taken by Daryl near the finish line!

My overall time was 1:35:11 which was 24th out of 42 females and 4th out of 6 in my age group. It seemed like this was a more competitive field than the Gatti Tinman tri that I had previously done – as I had placed relatively higher in that one. But still I was very happy with how I went in all the legs and transitions, considering I had forgotten to train for it! My best leg was unsurprisingly the run (6th female) and I’d also done relatively well in both transitions (21st and 20th respectively).

Not far behind me was Ros, followed shortly by Karen. We’d all finished our first Sprint (by far the longest triathlon any of us had ever done) and were very happy about it!

Karen, Ros and me at the coffee shop! Proper triathletes!

After packing all our gear into the car, and grabbing a coffee across the road, we headed back to the presentation area where there were also a variety of marquees selling triathlon-related gear (we may have done a little bit of shopping!)

After the presentation there was a lucky prize draw – some EXCELLENT prizes in there but alas I didn’t win anything! Ah well – gotta be in it to win it!

I really enjoyed this event, the community really seems to embrace it and there was a fantastic turnout! Thanks to all of the organisers and volunteers and well done to all who participated! I would definitely do this again! MAYBE even the Olympic distance one day!

Back in the saddle!

As a cyclist, I make a very good runner. I don’t even like to use the word ‘cyclist’. I prefer ‘runner that rides a bit’. Then again, I’m forever telling people who run, who don’t like to call themselves ‘runners’, that ‘if you run, you’re a runner’. So by that logic I guess I am a cyclist!

I haven’t been doing a lot of cycling lately. And by ‘not a lot’, I mean NONE. The bike has been in its traditional place, racked on the back of my couch, since it was last ridden on New Year’s Day. That day, I did 2 easy 10km rides in between the 2 New Year’s Day parkruns. Prior to this, my previous ‘proper’ ride was my first successful Norton Summit loop. So it was about time I dusted off the treadly again!

During the week I’d made a few pretty big decisions. One was potentially career-defining (and not reversible) and the other one may yet be reversed!

The first decision was to sign a deal to move from my government job (soon to be non-existent) to continue to do the same work in the non-government sector. That was an easy decision (a no-brainer) but still it was a bit weird to sign the form to resign from the public service after over 19 years!

The second one was that I am not going to run a marathon this year. Or any time in the foreseeable future! I had always planned to go up to the Gold Coast where I’d run the fastest 2 of my 6 marathons, to get a sub 3:45 to qualify for Chicago, my second of the 6 majors.

All summer, on Sundays I’d been enjoying whatever I decided to do (mostly trail running, occasionally cycling), all the while thinking about the impending start of the 16 week training programme, and the long road runs that invariably come with it!

I did one long road run in January, in the week leading up to my 50k track race. It was 30k and it was horrible. In fairness though, I hadn’t exactly built up to it like you normally do. I’d just gone from zero to 30 and wondered why it wasn’t a great run! I thought to myself, it won’t be long before I’m doing this every week. And I wasn’t looking forward to it with eager anticipation!

This Tuesday I wasn’t really enjoying my morning run. That may have had something to do with the fact that it was the hilliest of the normally flattish Tuesday run routes. And I’d just come off a pretty hilly trail race on Sunday, and had quite a bit of ‘vert’ in the legs for the month.

Somewhere along the way I thought again about the long road runs and thought ‘Great, it’s only a few weeks before the training programme starts. GREAT!’ (As in, not really that great!)

Then I thought to myself, why am I doing this? I don’t want to do a marathon this year! Marathons are hard! Actually it’s more the training that I don’t want to do, and without the training I’m not going to get the time I want, and without the time I want it’s kind of pointless, so I guess that means I don’t want to do a marathon this year. So then I thought, WHY am I doing this? If I don’t want to do it, why am I doing it? And that was when I decided that I’m not going to do it. If I do decide to enter Chicago it will be either via lottery or a package.

And just like that, I started enjoying the run a whole lot more! (Plus by this stage I’d finished the big climb and was running back downhill).

With no marathon to train for I can continue doing trail runs on the weekends, and training properly for Five Peaks 58km and UTA 100km. I’ve done just over 5000m vert for the month of February, which is a lot for me. I think it’s helping. My hill running has improved a lot!

The other thing I can do, now that I’m not training for a marathon, is get out and do a bike ride on Sundays instead of a long run. That’s what I did this weekend!

The Grand Slam is a series of 5 group rides around some pretty spectacular and challenging parts of Adelaide and beyond. Today was the first of the series. Each ride has 2 options, the ‘Mini Slam’ and the ‘Grand Slam’ distance. The Mini is generally about half the distance of the Grand Slam. There is always the option of entering for the Grand Slam and ‘downgrading’ to the Mini – the course takes you back past the start line halfway, so you can refuel, top up your water, and then if you decide you’ve had enough you can pull out at that point.

Today’s ride was centred on Mount Torrens, in the Adelaide Hills (up until this morning I had no clue where Mount Torrens was!), taking in towns such as Gumeracha, Forreston and Birdwood.

Today’s route!

I decided to do the mini, given this was only my second group ride (after Gear Up Girl, a 55km relatively flat ride for women only) and my first involving hills. And I hadn’t ridden for nearly 2 months! The mini distance was 40km and the full distance was 80km.

It was pretty cool at the start and there was even a bit of rain on the drive up to the start at Mount Torrens. I was a little unprepared – I didn’t have any cycling arm warmers (and none of my running ones matched my cycling kit!) and for the life of me I couldn’t find my rain jacket! I did have a long sleeved running top which I threw in the car just in case. I ended up wearing it for the first half of the ride.

The start was a wave start, with Karen, Daryl and me starting in the last wave. None of us were planning on setting a cracking pace, and were happy to let the fast ones have a clear run! Just in front of me was a guy in a T-shirt and shorts (ie not bike shorts!), illustrating perfectly how inclusive these rides are. They cater to everyone from the elite to the complete newbie! As long as you have a bike and can ride it, you’re in!

The obligatory start line selfie!

It was a challenging course, and although partway through the loop I thought to myself that I might have been able to give 80km a crack, I was glad by the end that I hadn’t opted for the long distance! After all, my longest ever ride was the aforementioned 55km Gear Up Girl ride, which was a much easier ride than this one, and other than that I hadn’t done anything over 30km!

At first I was RIGHT at the back, and trying to keep Daryl in sight, but as my legs got warmed up and I got used to being on the bike again, I gradually caught up and passed him.

The ride was quite hilly but manageable. Karen had previously told me that some people stopped and walked their bikes up some of the hills! I was expecting that I would be doing the same at some point but I didn’t want to be the first, I was hoping that I’d see someone ahead of me hopping off their bike and then I’d feel like I could do the same!

I was pleased to pass the guy in the T-shirt. Although I’m not competitive when it comes to cycling, I did draw the line at a guy in a T-shirt and shorts being faster than me!

I did most of the ride on my own, except when I was overtaken by some of the faster late starters, or overtaking some other runners. It was actually really nice, and being not particularly busy roads, I felt quite safe even on the 100km/h roads with hardly any shoulder!

I even managed to get a bit of speed up (and I’m not talking anything particularly rapid here) on some of the descents. Some of the roads were very smooth, and I could ‘fly’ down them without even contemplating using the brakes! My previous hilly ride, Norton Summit, was on a day when the roads were covered in debris from a recent storm, so I was quite cautious on the downhills. One stick could result in disaster! Today though, the roads were nicely clear for us!

Of course, getting some speed up on the downs helped to get some momentum to get me up the hills too!

There was a refreshment stop at about the halfway mark. Unlike in running events, where most people either don’t stop at all, or only stop for long enough to grab what they need and keep going, in these events people tend to stop for a decent length of time. You get off your bike and have a decent rest. This was the first (and only) time I ran into Karen, she being quite a long way ahead of me, and when I arrived at the checkpoint she was bonding with one of the volunteers’ dogs! Karen was doing the full distance (Daryl, like me, was going for the short option) and she set off not long after I got there, saying she’d see me back at the start, where she’d stop for refreshments before heading out on the second loop.

At the refreshment stop.

I had one of my 2 Clif bars and waited for Daryl who arrived not long after Karen left. I took the opportunity to take off my long sleeved top and tie it around my waist. I’ve got those pockets in the back of my cycling top but my top was a bit bulky for that.  (I don’t use the pockets after I lost a Clif bar on the very first bumpy section of the Gear Up Girl ride!)

Daryl, who had ridden this course before, kindly told me that the second half was harder than the first! Apparently there was a particularly nasty hill around the 30km mark. I decided at that point not to look at my watch until I was finished. It would come as a ‘nice’ surprise!

I commented to Daryl that as we approached each of the towns, where the speed limit dropped to 50km/h, I would instinctively slow down (like I would if I was driving)! AS IF I was doing more than 50km/h!

The second half was a bit hillier, but I hadn’t encountered anything particularly brutal. Then I came to a point where I had to make a right turn, and I heard another cyclist coming up behind me. I was going to let him pass me but he was happy to sit behind me. That was when he asked me if I was intentionally riding up hills in the hardest gear. (Apparently some people actually do do that!) Of course, I was not! I had thought I was in the easiest gear and I was just a bit unfit! He kindly gave me a few pointers to get myself into the right gear, and after that (surprise surprise) it got a whole lot easier!

I hadn’t ridden since New Year’s Day, and on that day one of my friends had set the bike up for me on the right cog so I wouldn’t have to change cogs during that particular ride. I had mistakenly assumed he’d set me up on the easiest cog, but no, it was the hardest one!

I managed to climb all the hills (helped by a few nice descents in between) until I hit a particularly steep climb at the 35km mark.

(I later checked Strava and it was in fact the steepest grade of the whole ride, so it wasn’t just the fact that my legs were getting a bit tired that made it so hard!)

I got to the point where I couldn’t ride in a straight line, I couldn’t get the pedals around smoothly and I was riding all over the road. So I decided the only option was to get off and walk. At the same time a girl in front of me was doing exactly the same thing! I managed to get my left foot uncleated before coming to a stop, but couldn’t quite manage to get off the bike while still remaining vertical. I did a very graceful stack to the left, with quite a soft landing and no damage done!

It was only a really short climb so probably 50 metres max of walking before the grade levelled out and I got back on the bike again to finish the ride.

I got to the start of Mt Torrens town, back in familiar territory, back on the road I’d driven earlier in the morning. I realised at that point that it wasn’t 40km but actually only 38km. That was plenty! I put myself back onto one of the harder cogs as by now I was back on the flat.

I rode past my car (always good to see it’s still there!) and back to the start line, where Karen was about to set off for her second loop. I managed to get off the bike successfully this time (a good thing as there were a lot more witnesses this time!)

Done!

After finishing I went inside to check in and grab a quick bite to eat before going back outside to wait for Daryl. We then got in his car and went to follow the route of the second lap, to catch up with Karen and take her some sustenance! Driving along the second lap route we were both glad we’d opted for the short course!

I was really glad to have gone out and done this today. I was pleased to have managed most of the ride without having to get off (despite being in totally the wrong gear for most of it – clearly I have much to learn!) and it was a beautiful course with some stunning scenery! We rode past quite a lot of vineyards – the Adelaide Hills being a well known wine region – but fortunately no cellar doors, otherwise I may not have made it back to the finish! We did get a tiny bit of rain, and I’d never ridden in rain before so I’m very grateful that not much came of it!

I’d like to thank Bicycle SA for putting on this event, which is, as I said earlier, really for anyone! The volunteers were fantastic, and the course was so well marked that even I could follow it! (Hot tip: when doing one of these rides, always follow the arrows rather than other cyclists – not all cyclists are actually part of the event, and who knows where you might end up!) The refreshment station was well positioned and very much appreciated!

Some of the fantastic volunteers at the refreshment stop!

For anyone who’s thinking about joining in a group ride but doesn’t think they’re ready, give it a go! (I didn’t think I was ready!)

See, it’s not that bad!

I’m hoping to get out and do a few more of them throughout the year but unfortunately the next one is the day after the 58km Five Peaks Ultra. Yeah, I don’t think that’s going to happen!

 

Race Report – Yumigo! Summer Trail Series Race 3 – O’Halloran Hill

This weekend was the 3rd of 4 races in the Yumigo! Summer Trail Series. I had previously run the first race at Anstey Hill but missed Race 2 due to being on my way home from Thredbo! For the first time, this summer, I planned to run 3 of the 4 races in the series (my previous best being 2) with a view to trying to crack a Top 3 age group placing!

I’d never run this event before but did volunteer 2 years ago – what a fun night that was!

So, this month, before Sunday’s race, I had done quite a bit of trail running.

There was a 3 hour epic a couple of weeks back (that was only 17km!) – the first training run for the new 5 Peaks Ultramarathon which I vowed several times during the training run I was DEFINITELY NOT going to do. By the end of that day I was asking “When does earlybird entry close?” So yeah, I’m pretty much signed up for that one!

Last weekend I doubled up, doing my own personal favourite trail training run – the Chambers loop plus an extra smaller loop. This run is my favourite because it’s close to home, I can run it without any danger of getting lost, and post-run coffee and vegan Snickers at Basecamp Cafe makes it all worthwhile!) Later that day I did the Morialta Special Grand Loop as I’ve entered a Strava challenge and up until then I’d only run/walked it once as a reccy run, but had not actually posted a ‘proper’ run. I may or may not have run that whole thing with my phone in my hand, closely following the map!

And during last week I did the annual ‘Pub Run’, a run of about 9km uphill to the pub, a refreshment stop, and a nice 11km downhill back to the start. That was really enjoyable except that Norton Summit Road, normally favoured by cyclists because most cars take the Old Norton Summit Road, was overrun with motorists with the Old road being closed! Damn cars, ruining my run!

Friday morning’s run was great too, it was a regular Friday route up ‘The Big Kahuna’, officially named Mt Osmond Centre Track. Centre Track is pretty steep. It’s runnable in that you can run up it, but in that you could probably walk it twice as fast as I ran it. For the first time EVER I extended this run to go all the way to the old Mt Barker Road (which is what the fast people do, so they don’t get back to the start HOURS before the rest of us!)

Before Sunday, I had accumulated 4000m of elevation in February. That’s a LOT for me, who for a very long time avoided hills like the plague!

I did parkrun on Saturday, Mount Barker being quite a fast course (probably the fastest current parkrun in SA but I’m prepared to be proven wrong on that!) I had to remind myself that I wasn’t ‘racing’ this time. That was made a lot easier by my seeing Lisa, Sarah and Coralie at the start, effectively ruling out any chance of my getting a top 3 finish, even if I ran close to my PB! It was also great to see my friend Donna finally do her first parkrun, and I’m pretty sure she’s hooked, already talking about where we’re going to run next week!

With the start of the race being at 7:30am, I was aiming to leave home at 6:15am to be there by 7. There was a slight snafu with my navigation there. I’ve done the drive down the expressway more times than I care to remember, but on most occasions I’ve gone all the way to the end of the expressway. Only a couple of times have I exited before the end. I had had a look at the directions the night before, and had somehow missed one crucial part of the directions which involved taking an exit. As I was driving down the expressway, thankfully I was paying attention to the names of the roads I was driving under (which I don’t normally do!) and noticed that I was driving under Majors Road – which I was actually supposed to be ON! Luckily I’d factored in PLENTY of time to get there so I took the next exit and made it to the start just on 7am! Must pay more attention next time!

The setup at O’Halloran Hill was great, everything was nice and close together, even the car parking wasn’t too much of a hike! I did end up in the portaloo that didn’t flush, but at least that was at the START of the day – I can only imagine what it must have been like by the end!

As always there were a lot of friends there (including quite a few that I didn’t even get to catch up with!) so the time leading up to the start went pretty quickly!

First up was the kids’ race, a new thing this season, to encourage the kids to get into trail running! Many of the older kids already do the events but it was great to see some of the younger ones getting involved, look out for more kids running with the ‘big kids’ in future years!

The short (13ish km) and long (18ish km) courses started together and there was no distinction between the two on the bibs. We would all run together for the first 12km and then we’d split. By then we (smart) short course runners would be nearly done!

I was a little concerned with the comment in the race briefing about it being a tricky course and easy to get lost. I’m pretty good at getting lost, but I’m not good at following maps, so studying the course would be of little value to me!

I had what was by now a fairly standard race kit. I’d decided on a pink theme today, even though my trail shoes are blue and purple. Pink socks, top and hat, as well as a pink buff around my neck. I wouldn’t normally run a short race like this with a buff on (unless it was particularly cold) but it became necessary because I had some pretty epic chafing on the back of my neck from trying out my new wetsuit during the week (which, other than this little problem, went perfectly!). Last thing I wanted was to get any sun on it! Hence the buff!

At the start line I was chatting with Jenny who had just been celebrating her son’s 18th so had had a pretty late night! She was talking down her chances, suggesting that I might beat her today, which I thought was pretty funny – she must have thought she was going to have a REALLY off day!

I hadn’t really looked much at the course profile but RD Ben said at the race briefing that it was pretty flat for about the first 6km and then we’d hit a few hills.

So we set off, and for the first 5km or so Jenny and I kept seeing each other! There was a bit of a pattern – she’d pass me on the uphills (yes, even in the ‘flat’ early section there were a few undulations!) and then I’d pass her on the down. Around the 5km mark she passed me for the last time, and not long after that I couldn’t even see her anymore. I expected that would be the last I’d see of her until the finish line!

Very early on we passed Tracey and Sheena’s drink station. Fresh from having easily the most fun at the 50km track championships, they went on to make volunteering look way more appealing than running! (And that’s no disrespect to the event or the course – they just manage to make EVERYTHING fun! These are the people who stopped at the pub during the Yurrebilla Ultra last year!)

We had to go through a tunnel twice. I found that a bit disconcerting as we had come out of fairly bright sunlight into a pitch dark tunnel. We could see the light at the end of the tunnel but what we could not see was what we were stepping on. And prior to the tunnel there was quite a lot of horse crap, so I can only assume the tunnel was full of shit too! (To the best of my knowledge I managed to avoid stepping in any!) This was the spot where Kate had tripped on an unseen obstacle in last year’s race, injuring her ankle quite badly. She was back for redemption this year, and had even upgraded from the short to the long course as part of her training for a 100 miler later in the year! I think in future I might carry a small handheld torch for this little section – tripping in a dark tunnel would be a very unfortunate way to DNF a trail race (especially if you end up landing in poo!)

After losing Jenny I started following father and son team Cliff and Sam (who it turned out were doing the long course, but as stated earlier, the short course was identical to the long course for the first 12km). I passed them a few times, but again it was on the uphills that they’d pass me. I’m not too bad on the downhill, actually I really enjoy it, but I’m still lacking something on the uphills. Maybe the 4000m elevation in the last few weeks was taking its toll…

And then I lost those two, and I found myself for the first time in the event, with no-one to follow! Luckily the course was impeccably marked, thanks to Michelle, Lauri, Damien and anyone else I may have forgotten who marked it yesterday! No danger of my getting lost out there today!

Behind me was he of the bright shorts, Matt, with a couple of people. I asked him “What are you doing back here?” (he’s a fast runner so naturally I would have expected him to be ahead of me all along) to which he replied “I started late. And I’m slow”. My response to that was, “You could have just said you started late – if you’re slow, what does that make me?” Also he was sounding way too cheerful going up the hills so I’m pretty sure he wasn’t working hard enough!

With him was one of the Adelaide Harriers, Bec, who I kept going back and forth with, with her having the edge on the uphills and me on the downs. When she passed me for the last time I thought that’s it, I’m not going to catch her now! And then we reached the split between the short and the long course, and she was long course so I was pretty happy with that! There was however a girl ahead of me on the short course who I was trying to keep in sight, and not long after the split another one passed me. That’s not right – no-one passes me in the last km of a race and gets away with it! Unfortunately for me I didn’t really have much left so I had to let them go, I could see them cross the line, it was a pretty tight tussle between the 2 of them (2 seconds difference!) and then 17 seconds back to me. I was 7th out of 68 females. (Jenny ended up 4th, 2.5 minutes ahead of me.) Melissa, who was 6th was also in my age group! I might have tried a bit harder at the end if I’d known that! 17 lousy seconds! I was 4th in my age group, that was a blow to my hopes of getting an overall age group placing for the series, but I happened to be born at a ‘bad’ time, with 1st and 3rd females overall also being in my age group! And I wouldn’t have been much better off had I done the long course, with the long course winner also being in the same age group!

When I started running 5 and a bit years ago at the age of 35, I realised I was in a tough age group when the top 3 women in my first ever fun run were all in my age group! And it doesn’t seem to have gotten any easier since I turned 40! Track, road, trail, parkrun, there’s always someone faster in my age group! A bit frustrating when you know you’ve done the best you can and it’s just not good enough. I know plenty of people who go out and run and aren’t fast and are completely OK with that, and love every minute. Don’t get me wrong, I love running (and trail running in particular) but I do have a pretty strong competitive streak! And I have had some success over the years but I still want to get better (as I’m sure we all do!)

However. Let’s not dwell on that. I can’t say I had a bad run. I managed to run all the way up the first 2 hills, before admitting defeat at the 3rd one and reverting to a fast walk. I completed the 13km in 1:13:49 with an average pace of 5 min 28 sec per kilometre, which with 369m elevation gain (according to Strava) is pretty respectable. And let’s also say it was EXCELLENT training for UTA 100km which is fast approaching!

Probably the highlight of the day for me was at the presentation when there was a special podium presentation for the first dog to complete one of the Trail Series events! (Luckily he/she wasn’t in my age group because I would be pretty shitty about getting beaten by someone with twice as many legs as me!) He/she even got up on the podium and posed for photos!

Thanks to Ben for putting on another fantastic event and of course to all the wonderful volunteers (too many to name but you know who you are)! And well done to everyone who ran, walked or a combination of the two – where else would you rather be on a Sunday morning?

Only a few pics today. Gary wanted a selfie. Then he mentioned the fact I was crouching so I insisted he take one with me standing up straight – hilarity ensued!

 

See you at Newland Head in 4 weeks!

RACE REPORT – Yumigo! SA Track 100km/50km Championships 2018

This past weekend was the third running of the SA Track Championships, the brainchild of Yumigo!’s Ben Hockings.

An ultramarathon where it is impossible to get lost and where you are never more than 400m from first aid, hydration, nutrition and toilets!

Sounds pretty good, right? Yeah, until you realise that you’re literally running around a 400m track for 50km or 100km.

Still interested? Keep reading!

I ran the 100km at the first 2 Track Championships and if you want to read about THAT, you can read my 2016 and 2017 reports.

This year was a little different.

I had planned to run the 100 again. I had looked at my Strava for the corresponding time last year, to see what I did in the way of training. I recalled that I didn’t do too much specific training for this event (it’s pretty hard to train for this kind of event!) but I did see that I ran 30km along the coast the week before. I’d had a pretty good run in the 100k that year so I figured I’d better do the same again this year! So I went out and ran 30km on a pretty hot day last Sunday, and had a pretty crap run! I was walk/running by 10km, I wanted to call an Uber at 15km, and I was running a full minute per km slower than I’m used to!

So at that point I decided that I was definitely not in 100km shape, so I planned to run the 50km. However, with a forecast maximum of 420C on both Saturday and Sunday, so presumably not a particularly cool night on Saturday, I did consider the possibility of not running it at all! (I had missed the early bird cutoff date so I basically left it till the last minute to make the call! In the end I decided to bite the bullet and run the 50km.

50km is a different beast altogether! Whereas in the 100km I started having tactical walk breaks at about 30 minutes, theoretically I shouldn’t need to walk in the 50km. After all, it’s a marathon with a bit extra tacked on the end – and I have been able to complete most of my marathons without walking. Ordinarily, I would have expected to be able to run 50km in under 5 hours. My 30km run last weekend was JUST under 3 hours, so I wasn’t all that confident of the sub-5. Given the heat, I vaguely planned to do the run/walk thing like I had done in the 100km.

In the lead-up week I did my usual Tuesday and Thursday runs. Friday was Australia Day and I had a pretty cruisy day including the traditional Australia Day cricket at the Adelaide Oval which thankfully Australia managed to win (after being 5-8 early on, England almost came back and won it!).

Saturday was scheduled to be my 200th parkrun which was a pretty big deal! I’d been liaising with fellow parkrunner John who was approaching his 250th and we had worked out that we could do our milestone runs together, back where we’d both done the inaugural Torrens parkrun a little over 5 years ago. Although it wasn’t ideal preparation for a 50k, if I hadn’t done my 200th that day I would have ended up doing it at the Port Broughton launch next weekend, and I preferred to do it at ‘home’. So I decided to do my first ever ‘parkwalk’, and as luck would have it, another friend Ellen was doing her 150th on the same day, and we ended up walking it together!

Picked up a little cricket souvenir along the way!

Fellow parkrunner and entrant in the 50k track race, Graham, said to me when I told him I was going to walk, that he bet I wouldn’t be able to resist breaking into a jog at some point! So I was determined to prove him wrong, and crossed the line in about 49 minutes, a nice leisurely walk!

With Ellen and John after we’d achieved our milestones!

I also picked Graham’s brain about the 50km, which he had done last year, and he said he did a run/walk. I had already sort of planned to do that, and Graham’s words confirmed that it was a good ‘sort of plan’.

I re-read my reports from 2016 and 2017. I had taken mashed sweet potato last year but barely touched it, so I decided not to bother with that this year! I just took 2 sandwiches, one peanut butter and one chocolate spread. Along with that I had some almonds, a couple of nut bars and a couple of Clif bars. Hydration was going to be particularly important so I had 3 litres of Gatorade mixed up and ready to go in 6 bottles. That was the same amount I’d had for the 100km last year, so I didn’t think I’d need that much, but I figured it was better to have too much than not enough! Also in the esky I put a cider and a Coke for afterwards.

As I had done the previous 2 years, I had breakfast for dinner. About 2 hours before the race I had a bowl of cereal – the theory being that normally when I do a race, it’s in the morning, and my last meal pre-race is breakfast! For breakfast I had smashed avo and chickpeas (I had run out of bread and the previous day being a public holiday, my bakery hadn’t been open!) and for lunch my now traditional sweet potato mac and cheese (which I’d made for a previous ultra and had frozen the leftovers!)

After parkrun I went to Bakery on O’Connell to get myself a chocolate donut for after the race, and on a whim decided to get 4 donuts to share with my fellow vegan runners. They are enormous donuts so I cut them into quarters!

#willrunfordonuts

Due to the heat, the 50km event was put back an hour, from 7pm to 8pm. That worked out well because it meant that the sun would be almost gone by the time we started. It would still be hot, but at least we wouldn’t have the late afternoon sun beating down on us! The 100k start was left at 7pm, the thinking being that with a 14 hour cutoff, their cutoff time would be 9am. Should the start have been moved to 8pm, cutoff would be 10am, by which time it would already be pretty hot!

I arrived at the track about 6:30 because I wanted to see the start of the 100km. To my surprise (well actually it wasn’t that surprising given the weather conditions!) there were only 8 starters in the 100 and they were all men! I saw Sam and her husband Clinton at the track, I had thought Sam was doing the 100km but she’d opted for the 50km too. She jokingly said she should upgrade to the 100km for a guaranteed win! I wondered, if I’d seen the start list and realised that there were no females on it, if I would have been tempted to enter the 100km! It would be a guaranteed win, IF I finished! And in those conditions, and given my recent form, there were no guarantees!

Along with the 100km starters, 2 of the 50km runners, Merle and Trish, were starting at 7 as they needed to be finished as early as possible. I couldn’t understand why anyone would CHOOSE to start this particular event an hour early (given that the first hour would be probably the hottest!) but it made sense!

After the 100km runners and Merle and Trish set off, I went to get the rest of my stuff out of the car and set up my ‘base camp’. I seemed to have a LOT of stuff for a 50km run (actually more stuff than I had last year for the 100!). This year I was driving myself, whereas previously I had been picked up by Karen and Daryl, so I guess I tried to be a bit circumspect with how much stuff I brought! With just me in my car, I could bring as much stuff as I wanted!

I had 2 eskies – one larger one with all the drinks, a bag of ice, plus a spray bottle full of water, and a smaller one with my food in it. I also had a 1.5 litre container of water (why I felt the need to bring that, I don’t know – there’s ALWAYS plenty of water on hand at events!), a folding chair and a bag containing a few  buffs, 2 pairs of running shoes and socks (I was wearing my Birkenstocks at the time), a change of top, plus a full change of clothes for afterwards. I also had my phone which this time I wasn’t going to carry with me. In previous years, although we had electronic timing, we couldn’t see the live results on the screen and had to rely on hourly updates on a whiteboard. Consequently I’d take a photo of the whiteboard every hour so I could see how I was tracking. This year there would be a big screen on the side of the track so we could see our progress at any time, negating the need for me to take photos! I’d also done roughly hourly updates on Facebook during my walk breaks, whereas in 2018 people could track us live online, so there was no need for that either!

And finally, given that music was such a big part of my 100km runs, I had my iPod ready to roll, all cued up on Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me” – I thought that would be a good song to start with if I did decide I needed some tunes! I wasn’t planning to use it – I’d only really started using it in the 100km late into the night after the 50km runners had finished. I’d never used it during the 2 6 hour events I’d done, so I suspected I probably wouldn’t need it. But in these conditions, who knew? Best to have it there, just in case!

Cheesy smile for the paparazzi (aka Gary!)

There were a lot of unfamiliar faces in the 50k, and a few in the 100k! Familiar faces included the Vegan Beast Mode Team (Ryan, Kate, Sheena and Tracey, the latter choosing to spend her birthday running around in circles!) plus fellow vegan Ian from Melbourne, Sam and Clinton from Victor Harbor (Clinton entered because it would give him something to do while waiting for Sam to finish!), John who I’d met at the first 100km race and who had been back last year for the 50km, regular weekday morning running buddy Mark, Rachael who had been talked into entering by Kate only that morning, a couple of speedy runners Daniel and Toby (the latter having finished a few laps ahead of me in the 100k last year) and 2 very familiar faces in the trail running world, Kym and Mal, in an event that is about as far from trail as you can get!

Vegan Beast Mode Team photo (thanks Gary) before the 50k. Back row: Ryan, Kate, Ian. Front row: Sheena, Tracey, yours truly.

Because of the heat, a few measures were put in place. At a couple of spots around the track were large tubs of iced water, with sponges in them that we could use to cool ourselves off. There was meant to be a misting station but that didn’t work out, so instead at the drink station the vollies were all armed with spray bottles of water – a human misting station!

In 2016 the 50km runners and the 100km runners were all mixed in together, sharing the same lane. In 2017 the two groups were separated, with the 100km runners running in Lane 1 and the 50km runners running in Lane 4, separated by a line of cones. 2018 was the same as 2017, with the 50km runners starting partway around the track so that we would still finish on the finish line. (Because Lane 4 is longer than Lane 1, the number of laps we would run would be less than half what the 100km runners did, and it wouldn’t be a round number of laps). I didn’t actually know exactly how many laps it was, I just knew it was less than 125!

This year, for the first time, there was an official photographer for the first few hours – Tracie from Geosnapshot, who also happens to be an old school friend! I had suggested to her to come for the first few hours when she’d be able to capture everyone, we’d all look relatively fresh, and she’d get a bit of daytime and a bit of night!

We started right on 8:00. According to the temperature reading in the stadium, it had dropped from 34 degrees at 7pm, to 33 at 8. I started with my sunnies on but wouldn’t need them for very long. I was also wearing a tiara, as were Sheena and Tracey, in honour of Tracey’s birthday. I’d never run in a tiara before!

Race Director Ben doing the briefing before the 50km start. Official pic from Tracie (Geosnapshot)
Garmins at the ready! Official pic from Tracie (Geosnapshot)

It became apparent early on that I was going to have a huge battle on my hands in the form of a girl called Ina who I had never met before. But all I could do was just do my thing, and if it was good enough, then great, but if not, I could be satisfied in the knowledge that I could not have possibly done any more!

Early days. That’s Ina just behind me. Just going past the aid station! Official pic from Tracie (Geosnapshot)

I decided to just run for as long as I could, despite what I had originally planned to do – it was a RACE, after all!

Probably one of my favourite spectator photos – just sums up how much fun Tracey and Sheena were having out there! It was kind of infectious! Pic stolen from Tracey!

I started pretty comfortably, running consistent splits around the 5:20-5:30 mark. It was early days but all signs were looking good.

I ditched my sunnies early, however my aim was not that great so they landed a fair way from my base camp – I totally forgot about them, never to be seen again!

Getting rid of my sunnies! Pic thanks to Glen.

I got to 10k in just under 55 minutes (according to Garmin which we all know is not 100% accurate so you can take all these time splits with a pinch of salt!) which was the furthest I’d ever run on the track (ie without walking). I decided then to try to push through to the 2 hour mark, when we would have our first turnaround. The turnarounds were every 3 hours, presumably to break up the monotony of running laps around a 400m track! As the 100k runners had started an hour earlier than us, the first turnaround was at 3 hours for them but 2 hours for us. Our next turnaround would then be at 5 hours. I planned (hoped!) to be finished by then!

I can’t believe I actually ran in a tiara! Official pic from Tracie (Geosnapshot)

I can’t go any further here without thanking the fantastic volunteers at the drink/food station. As one who didn’t have a dedicated support crew, I relied on them. I was relatively self-sufficient, providing my own Gatorade and all my own food, but I did partake in some Coke a few times! At one point I decided I felt like water, and I grabbed a cup only to find it was warm! I was running with Kate at the time and she gave me the tip to ask for a cup of iced water which I did on my next lap. I’d ask on one lap for iced water on my next lap, and then one of the volunteers would have it ready for me. The iced water was magic! I don’t really like drinking straight water much, and when I do I tend to prefer it room temperature rather than chilled, but on this occasion it was just what the doctor ordered!

Practising my finish line pose – a LOOOONG way from the finish line! Official pic from Tracie (Geosnapshot)
With Graham, who always likes to blend into the background! Official pic from Tracie (Geosnapshot)

Even more so than the Coke and iced water, the aforementioned misting station. Hopefully I don’t forget anyone here (and there was one guy there whose name I didn’t know, so apologies in advance!) but almost every time I went past the food/drink station, I would get squirted, initially just with spray bottles which was fantastic, but a little later Kim started shooting everyone with her big arse water pistol (which she was clearly enjoying VERY MUCH!) I remember getting sprayed at various times by Kim, Katie, Linna, Elle, Ken and Merrilyn. SO GOOD!

Those spray bottles were MAGIC! Thanks Gary for this pic!

I was also wearing a buff around my neck by now, as well as one on my head, so when I got squirted/tipped a cup of water over myself/squeezed a sponge over myself, the buff would get wet and keep my neck cool for a while.

I was not watching the live tracker, and although I was using my Garmin to check my kilometre splits as the kays ticked by, I knew it wouldn’t be accurate. I quickly lost count of laps (which wouldn’t have been all that useful anyway given that I didn’t know how many laps we were doing!) and so I was just running, not trying to maintain any particular pace, just running by feel.
The first indication I had of where I was positioned was when Ben did a progress update over the PA system, all I heard was that I was 2 laps behind Ina, and as far as I could tell she wasn’t walking, so therefore neither was I! I didn’t hear who was in 3rd place for the women and how far behind she was, but it didn’t matter – as long as whoever it was didn’t pass me, I would stay in front! And as long as I kept running, she probably wouldn’t pass me!

At the 2 hour turnaround mark I was on a Garmin 21.3km (which was probably more like 20, but still on track for a sub 5 hour 50k). I was still relatively comfortable and I wasn’t going to die wondering, so I kept running. The next goal was 25km which was (for the mathematicians among you) the halfway point. Again, 25km on my watch wasn’t really 25km but it was close. I figured once I hit 26km on the watch I was probably halfway! And still running…

Trying to keep photographer Tracie entertained! Official pic from Tracie (Geosnapshot)

30km was the next goal. 30km was how far I had run last Sunday and I hadn’t been able to manage to run the whole distance then, so to be able to do it here would be a great mental boost. According to Strava, I reached the 30km mark in 2:49.

“Only” 20km to go!

An earlier photo, when I was still relatively fresh! Official pic from Tracie (Geosnapshot)

The next goal was to tick off the marathon distance. In most of my marathons, I have run the whole way. I’d never previously RUN that far nonstop in an ultra, often because of undulating terrain that necessitates walking at times, and in the loopy ultras I seem to like, it’s about not going out too hard early and having nothing left at the end!

Tracie had left the stadium around 9pm and came back a few hours later to snap some photos of us looking not quite so fresh, and also there was the added bonus of being able to capture some of the 50km finishers. Not long after she came back, I was closing in on the marathon distance and just under 4 hours. Even though I know it wasn’t an accurate distance, in my previous marathon at Boston I had JUST missed the sub-4 by a matter of seconds, so to get a sub-4 here would be very pleasing! When I realised how close I was, I SPRINTED past Tracie and she wondered what I was doing – I explained it afterwards! I got the sub-4 by a matter of seconds – not bad considering I had done only one 30km run in preparation for this event and that’s it!

I knew I was getting close. Ina was getting further away and showed no signs of slowing down or walking, but despite the fact that I knew I was definitely going to get second place, I figured I’d come this far, I might as well go the whole hog and run the full 50km – something I’d never done before! Running the whole way would also be the best way to ensure a sub-5! I was talking to someone along the way who had had some walk breaks and had found it hard to get running again.

Given that I was treating it more like a marathon than an ultra, it’s not surprising that I didn’t eat anything during the run. I had enough Gatorade to last me (and a couple of bottles left over) and I ran the whole way with a bottle in my hand. I had the occasional Coke and that was it – just as I would in a marathon. It’s hard to eat food while you’re running (as it happens it’s also hard to drink Coke out of a cup – I managed to spill it down the front of my legs on one occasion so I had to ask the guy with the water pistol to shoot me in the legs to wash it off!) and I don’t do gels.

Getting near the end – can you tell? Official pic from Tracie (Geosnapshot)
You can hardly wipe the smile off my face! Official pic from Tracie (Geosnapshot)

Not long after I reached the ‘marathon’ some of the faster runners started to approach the end. One of them, Justin, when I ran with him for a bit, was 2 laps ahead of me. It turned out he knew Tracie too – that is SO Adelaide! As we crossed the timing mat someone called out that Justin was on 100 laps and I was on 98. I managed to keep track of laps after that! At one point Tracie had asked me how many laps the 50km runners were doing, and I didn’t know but someone around me said 118. Actually it was 119 (the first lap being just a part lap, so it was really 118-point-something). I had around 20 laps to go – the end was in sight!

From then on I started counting up laps (I didn’t want to fall into the trap of counting down until I knew I was down to maybe 5 laps) and it was a good way of distracting myself!

I remember saying to Tracie at one point “I don’t want to do this anymore, I’m done!”. This is probably that photo! Official pic from Tracie (Geosnapshot)

In the 100k event there was a clear leader, Darren, who reached 50km in just 4 hours! I planned to stick around afterwards long enough to see him finish – it was unlikely that I would get to see any of the others finish! The rest of them were motoring along – Stephan was there to do it all again after coming up short by about 4km last year. The extra 2 hours should have made a finish a no-brainer for him, but the weather conditions were going to make it very difficult!

The rest of the girls in the 50k were looking good but the ones who were clearly enjoying themselves the most were Tracey and Sheena! Sheena was doing her thing that I remembered her doing last year, she would walk quite a lot, but then break into a sprint! On a few occasions when they came up behind me they would sprint to get past me, then back into a walk again!

The next thing I was waiting for was for the 3 runners ahead of me to finish, then I would know I was nearly done! Andrew was first, closely followed by Ina. Next was Justin, but when he came up behind me, I had caught up a bit, he had had a pit stop so when we crossed the timing mat Ben told us we both had 2 laps to go. Which was great, except that on MY previous lap Ben had told me that I had 2 laps to go! I asked him to check it because if I was on my last lap I would run it quite differently than if it was my penultimate lap! Imagine the devastation if you crossed the line having gone hard on what you thought was your last lap, and then being told you had a lap to go? Nope, it was definitely my second last lap. I took it relatively easy on that lap (2:25) and when I got to the bell lap it was on! I got to my chair, took off the buff I’d been wearing for the whole race, and put on my pink fedora to finish the race!

I had intended also to drop my drink bottle but forgot. Tracie was at the finish line taking photos, and I didn’t want my drink bottle in the photos, so I threw it off to the side of the track about 50m from the finish and sprinted my way across the line! I had finished in 4:53:43, only 23 seconds behind Justin in the end! My last lap was by far my fastest, 2:06. It’s amazing what you can pull out when you know you only have 400m left to run! (My average lap pace throughout was just under 2:29)

YAAAAAASSSSSS! Official pic from Tracie (Geosnapshot)

FINISHED ! So good! I was beyond stoked, I never would have expected to be able to RUN 50km nonstop in these conditions (it was still 32-33 degrees by the time I finished) with limited training, and although I had hoped for a sub 5 hour finish, again the weather conditions meant that it was hardly a foregone conclusion! Fastest 50km, first all-run 50km, could not be happier!

With Justin just after the finish! Official pic from Tracie (Geosnapshot)

After getting my medals (one finisher medal and one 2nd place medal) my first thought was getting my shoes off! I went back to my chair and sat down, and everyone’s favourite first aid person Susan came over to me and offered to take off my shoes for me! How nice it was to finally get them off AND to find not one single blister on my feet! (I had put tape around both feet, at the arches, as I always do for long distance events, but I hadn’t bothered to tape my toes – I’ve only done that once or twice and I didn’t think it would be necessary for 50km) I had to remove my calf sleeves myself though – they were VERY tight! (They had been tight when I put them on!)

I had my vegan donuts ready and there was ample pizza this time (last year I had missed out, but then again I had run the 100km so it had been a lot later by the time I was ready for it!) – this year ALL of the pizza was vegan! ALL OF IT! We are taking over the world, one ultramarathon at a time!

But first things first, a quick photo op of the top 2 men and women in the 50km. Tracie’s camera battery was about to run out so she wasn’t able to wait for the 3rd placed man and woman to come in. We got to the podium, and Tracie wanted me to stand on the ‘3’ spot, to which I replied, “No, I was 2nd! I’m not standing on the 3” (I was already standing on the ‘2’ spot while I was saying this!) I presume it was to spread us out across the podium but I was having none of that! In the end we all stood on the ground in front of the podium. MUCH better!

Top 2 men and women in the 50k! Official pic from Tracie (Geosnapshot)

Justin had a beer in his hand so I thought it was an appropriate moment to crack open the cider!

The 50km runners kept finishing. Matthew, Andrew and Toby finished in quick succession, followed closely by 3rd placed female Gabrielle, who I hadn’t met before. I went over to her picnic rug to have a bit of a chat and a photo.

With Gabrielle near the finish line.

Not long after that, Graham finished. I could see him coming (the hi-viz yellow top giving him away!) and for half a second I did think about chasing him to the finish (as he had done to me at the Tower Trail Run) but as I was in my Birkenstocks by now and comfortably sitting down, I quickly decided against it!

I eventually got around to having some pizza and donut – I started off just taking one piece of pizza (remembering how devo I was when I missed out last year!) and then realised that there was a CRAPLOAD of pizza. And did I mention that it was ALL VEGAN?

It was nice to be able to just sit back and relax, drink my cider and watch the world go by. And by ‘the world’ I mean ‘crazy runners’! I found a great spot, just near the finish line, actually on the long jump pit. Imagine lying on the beach, but on a towel so you don’t get sand all over you. That was what it was like – I could have stayed there all night!

Chilling on the long jump pit!

A little while after fellow Team Vegan member Ryan, I was at the finish line to see Kate, who was accompanied by the ever-present Tracey and Sheena. Of course they were a fair way off finishing themselves, but they were there to join in Kate’s finish line party!

It was apparently pretty early on who the likely winner of the 100k event was going to be. Darren was going from strength to strength. Being separated by 2 lanes, I didn’t see him lap me as many times as he undoubtedly did, but when I heard speedy footsteps 2 lanes away, I knew who it was!

At 3:16am, in a super impressive time of 8:16:19, Darren crossed the line to win the SA 100km track championship. I didn’t see him walk once!

One thing I had wanted to do the last 2 years, and quite a few times during the 50k this year, was have a lie down on one of the high jump mats – they looked so damn comfy! Well eventually Kate and I decided to go and try it out, and were soon joined by super volly Michelle, taking a brief break from her marathon volunteering shift! Like the long jump pit, I probably could have stayed there all night rather than going home! Probably should have, actually! (Remind me next year!)

The main reason Kate and I were hanging around was because we had to see Tracey and Sheena finish – they were having a little bit too much fun out there! We kept moving though – at one point we considered joining the two of them for a lap, except that was against the rules, so we wouldn’t do that, plus there was no way we were going to do any jogging! Instead we just walked an easy lap around the outside of the track. I think the fact that we hung around for a while after finishing, helped my recovery. I may otherwise have gone straight to bed, but while waiting for the girls to finish, we moved around a reasonable amount! (Recovery Tip #1: try to keep moving as much as possible straight after, and keep lightly active the next day!)

Before too long, ultra running legend Kym finished (he has now done every Yurrebilla 56k, every Heysen 105k and every track champs 50k – a fairly exclusive club of which he is 100% of the membership!) leaving Tracey and Sheena with Lane 4 all to themselves!

Somehow Sheena was 2 laps ahead of Tracey. We wondered what they were going to do, because I couldn’t see any scenario in which they wouldn’t finish together! We soon found out.

At 4:16am Sheena crossed the line to complete the 50k, with Tracey still 2 laps behind. What did Sheena do? Well, she kept going, of course! After having run 50km (118ish laps) she went and ran another 2 laps to finish with Tracey! That’s friendship for you! (If it was me I would have taken a 2 lap break with 1 lap to go, and let her catch up! But that’s just me!)

It was so great to see the two of them finish together, what better way for Tracey to celebrate her birthday?

Post-race team photo!
VEGAN PIZZZZZZZAAAAAAA!

We stayed for a bit longer after that, chatting with a few of the volunteers and Susan. The conversation soon (as it always does) turned to hydration and wee colour. I made the mistake of telling Susan that I hadn’t been since before the race started (so this was about 9 hours later!) – she was horrified! Then when I did eventually go, she showed me a chart and asked me what colour it was – suffice to say I needed to drink a LOT of water to rehydrate!

I had one last look at the live results before leaving. Looking at Colin and Stephan, it looked like they should be able to make cutoff time but it would be a near thing – there wouldn’t be time for much resting!

Then I realised that I could have packed all of my stuff into the car while we were waiting for Tracey and Sheena, my 2 eskies, chair, bag of clothes and shoes, and all the rest! Luckily super volly Ziad was happy to help me carry my stuff so I only had to make one trip to the car! The security guards (who were there all night – what a boring gig for them!) escorted us to my car – apparently some weirdos hang out at the athletics stadium on a Saturday night! I wouldn’t have thought they would be any weirder than the weirdos INSIDE the stadium!

And then, just before 5am, I headed home. After unloading the car, having a shower and donning the compression tights (Recovery Tip #2 – put compression tights on ASAP after the event, ideally for 24 hours!) I finally got to bed at around 6am. If anyone had asked me how my Saturday night was, and I started by telling them I got to bed at 6am, they may have had quite a different picture of how the night went!

Sleeping is overrated as all ultrarunners know, so I was awake again by 9:30. First order of business (after making sure my legs still worked) was to check the final results – cutoff time was 9am! I was so happy to read that Colin and Stephan had both finished within the last 10 minutes. Stephan had made it with just over 4 minutes to spare! After he had missed out narrowly last year, I was over the moon for him! I would have loved to have been there to see it! In hindsight, I probably would have slept just as well lying on a high jump mat at the stadium than I did at home (especially on such a warm night!) I’m certainly not hoping for another night like this next year, but sleeping at the stadium would have been quite pleasant this time around!

And now for the thankyous.

Firstly, congratulations to everyone who turned up to run this year – much respect for braving the heat and getting out there and doing it anyway – in fact this year was a record field which is amazing!

And THANKS too, to all the runners, everyone as always was very encouraging and supportive, and it was great having the company out there!

Thanks to all the support crews, who were mostly there supporting other runners but were always happy to give anyone a cheer as they went past!

To all the people who came down to support us – it’s always good to see friendly faces on the sidelines and cheering – even though they probably would rather have been in the pool or inside with the aircon cranked up!

To Susan for helping me with my shoes and making sure I was rehydrating appropriately – and for everything you do for our running events! Always great to see you out there and even better to not require your services!

To Tracie, official photographer – it’s great to have some photographic evidence of the different stages of the race! Hope watching us run around in circles wasn’t too boring for you!

Then of course, all of the FABULOUS volunteers who kept us hydrated and as cool as possible in the conditions!

Oh and let’s not forget Race Director Ben. I’ve kind of run out of words! Another wonderful event (seriously I think I could cut and paste this bit and put it in EVERY race report!) and I don’t know how you do it, but please keep doing it! (Even though you did let me think I was on my second last lap when I actually had three laps to go!)

So I’m not even going to go down the ‘never again’ road. I am pretty sure I will be back again next year. I may give the 100km another crack (if the weather forecast is favourable) or I might try to improve on this year’s 50km! Actually I think the 50k was harder than the 100k (possibly due to the weather conditions this year, or the fact that I pushed harder in the 50k, or probably a bit of both!)

I can highly recommend this event to anyone who wants a challenge. The 50km is very doable for anyone – with a 13 hour cutoff time this year, you could walk it quite comfortably! Support is never more than 400m away and you don’t need maps, compasses or snake bandages! If you want an even bigger challenge give the 100km a crack – this year’s 14 hour cutoff is a lot more achievable and I can’t imagine you’ll ever find a flatter 100km race!

So, will I see you there next year?