Race Report – Triathlon SA Winter Duathlon Series Race 3

This was my 3rd duathlon of the season. All 3 were exactly the same course, so the idea was that I’d improve my times from Race 1 to Race 3. Of course, that was before Race 2 happened!

Race 2 was done on, as it turned out, not one but two flat tyres. So it could only get better from there!

The weather conditions were significantly better than last time – it was still a bit windy but it was a lot warmer.

It was clearly the bike leg that needed improvement. All I needed to do was have both tyres adequately pumped up, and use my gears properly. Simples!

The day before the race, I got a parcel from Mekong which included my brand new tri-suit! There was nothing wrong with my old one, but the Mekong one was just so pretty, plus I had been assured by several people that it would make me go faster, so naturally I had to have one! And this duathlon would be the perfect opportunity to try it out!

It fit perfectly and was uber-comfy!

On arrival at Victoria Park, I racked my bike and coach Kent (the one who pointed out my flat tyre last time!) came over and checked my tyres – they both got the thumbs up!

There were a few familiar faces out there, notably ultra running mother/daughter team Heather and Ally, both doing their first duathlon. Kristie was back again, and Karen and Daryl were there as spectators this time (Karen having had a bike mishap during the week).

After the race briefing we were split up into our waves – Open and Under 40 athletes in the first wave, 40 and over in the second, and Short Course in the third. (I was doing the long course again – 4km run/16km ride/2km run. The short course was half those distances.)

It was quite warm out there, for the first time in any of the duathlons I did take advantage of the cups of water near the start/finish line on most of my running laps!

On the first run I started reasonably conservatively on the first of 4 laps but then my competitive side kicked in and I decided to try to pass as many people as I could on the run. I would probably pay for it later but it was my chance to get a bit of a head start on the bike leg!

First run leg – so far so good! Official race photo by Colin Graham (Geosnapshot)

According to Strava I finished the first run in 17:59 and got through the first transition in 13 seconds – I’m not sure about that T1 time but I’ll take it!

It took me a few hundred metres for either of my feet to click into the pedals, which was a bit frustrating, but eventually I did get them in! Riding past the grandstand (with wind assistance) I went into a higher gear (as per Shane’s advice from the first duathlon) which really helped to stop my legs from going too fast!

Looks like I’m going really fast here! Official race photo by Colin Graham (Geosnapshot)

The trickiest part of the course as always was the ‘hot dog’ hairpin turn (so named because on the map it kind of looks like a hot dog – they probably could have called it something else but it is a family-friendly event!) It took a few laps before I got it sorted – and as per previous races, as the laps ticked by, there were less and less people left out there to potentially be trying to pass me!

I did get passed on my left a couple of times but mostly people were really good and called out as they were about to pass me on my right.

All in all, the ride went pretty smoothly. My Strava time for the ride was 37:46, compared with 44:08 in Race 1 and 47:43 in Race 2. It was all because of the suit!

Concentration face! Official race photo by Colin Graham (Geosnapshot)

Then I went through T2 just behind Kristie (T2 was 39 seconds according to Strava) and headed back out for 2 more laps of the run course. Kristie didn’t use bike shoes so her T2 was a lot quicker than mine, giving me something to chase in the run!

The second run was a bit slower than in Race 1, maybe because I’d really pushed hard on the bike. Thankfully, it was significantly better than Race 2 (EVERYTHING about Race 2 sucked!)

Can you tell I’m nearly finished? Official race photo by Colin Graham (Geosnapshot)

Gosh, 2km feels like a long way!

On the second lap I decided to try to pass as many people as I could. Although my legs felt pretty heavy, I guessed everyone else would be in the same boat! When I got to the last few hundred metres there were a couple of girls I decided I needed to at least try to pass. I actually ended up passing one RIGHT on the finish line, that was a good feeling – for me at least!

Almost there! Official race photo by Colin Graham (Geosnapshot)

My overall time was 11 minutes faster than Race 2 and around 6 minutes faster than Race 1. So it was an overall PB as well as a bike PB – a great way to end the series!

Thanks to Triathlon SA and all the volunteers for putting on the series, I have learned a lot from the 3 races and I know I still have a lot to learn! One of the things I love about the triathlon scene is that people are really friendly and encouraging, and always willing to offer a tip or two to help a newbie like me!

I’m still deciding whether to go to the final race in the Barossa Valley (there’s a hill in the bike ride, but there is wine in the Barossa…). Decisions, decisions!

Race Report – Barossa Marathon 2018

I thought I was done with marathons?

The last marathon I ran was in April 2017, that was the Boston Marathon and that probably would have been a good one to go out on.

The original plan for 2018 was to run Gold Coast and qualify for Chicago in 2019, with the ultimate goal to (eventually) do all 6 majors and get that epic medal. But 17 weeks out from the Goldie, when I was contemplating the start of the training programme and dreading the long road runs, I thought to myself, ‘Why am I doing this if I clearly don’t want to?” and consequently Gold Coast fell off the programme. If I really wanted to run Chicago I could go in the lottery or worst case scenario, pay my way in. (I justified this by thinking of the money I would save by not doing Gold Coast – flights, accommodation etc).

The idea of running Barossa came into my head in May, at the Adelaide Marathon. One of my regular running buddies, Dean, had decided LITERALLY AT THE LAST MINUTE to run the Adelaide Marathon, and had done quite well. “Maybe, just maybe…” I thought, “I could run a Chicago qualifier at Barossa!” That sounds good in theory, but you have to know that Dean is a committed road runner, and does long road runs every Sunday, whereas you’d normally find me out on the trails, or doing some kind of event. I can’t seem to commit to one kind of running! Add the multisport stuff to that, and you can see why 16 weeks of long road runs does not compute for me!

So anyway, in June I bit the bullet and entered Barossa, but for the first time ever I purchased the insurance that would allow me to get a refund if I decided running Barossa was a terrible idea. And I wasn’t going to tell anyone I was doing it, but over the coming months people somehow managed to get it out of me!

At the time I entered I was 100% focused on the Adelaide 12 hour which was my ‘A’ race for the year. After the 12 hour I had 5 weeks to get myself up for Barossa. 1 week after the 12 hour I was pacing the 10k at Greenbelt, so effectively that meant I was going into Barossa with a 4 week training programme, instead of the traditional 16. If I could make it work with a 4 week programme, maybe marathons weren’t so bad after all!

So, in other words, this was probably one of the most ambitious things I’d ever attempted!

Now I wasn’t going from ‘couch to marathon’ in 4 weeks of course. Having run over 100km 5 weeks ago, the distance was never going to be an issue. (I’d also run 3 runs over 30km in the leadup to the 12 hour). It was the speed that I was concerned about.

In the weeks leading up to the 12 hour speed was the last thing on my mind. I did all my training runs at comfortable pace and it was only the odd parkrun where I would really try to go for it.

After Greenbelt I had a chat to club coach Kent about what sort of training I should be doing for the 4 weeks (normally taper time, but it’s hard to taper when you haven’t really started training for real!) He said that I didn’t need to do anything big, just join the rest of the Marathon Mentor training group runs and do whatever distance they were doing.

The first Sunday run was meant to be 32km, but I found myself running on my own (and hadn’t thought to bring music with me) so ended up cutting it back to 30km which was plenty. I’d forgotten how different long road runs were, compared to runs around the Uni Loop where I could keep everything in my car. 2 weeks out I ran 21km with Beck (also doing the marathon, although at the time she still hadn’t entered – her goal was more around finishing and it was likely we wouldn’t be running together) and then last weekend it was a very enjoyable 16km with Kent, and 2 other runners who were doing the marathon, Lachy and Kristina.

I started doing tempo runs once a week – usually on a Thursday, as Tuesday was more of a recovery pace.

Pace wise I wanted sub 3:45, which, last time I checked, would qualify me for Chicago – even one second under would be enough. With time being of the essence, I decided to go back to what I was doing a few years back when I ran my first Barossa Marathon – I made myself a pace band, using the MARCO calculator. (Start slow, then gradually build up the pace and allow for a little drop off in pace at the end). Last time I’d used a pace band I decided to ignore it from quite early on, but it was worth having just in case it might be useful and keep me on track!

My pace band – all I had to do was check the time on my watch as I passed each kilometre marker! Simples!

The weather was looking fine albeit cold – I would need layers at the start!

As I will always do if I am able to, I had ‘special drinks’ organised for the drink stations. It was only Gatorade, but the reason why I would always opt for bringing my own drinks, is because I can just grab a bottle at the drink station, rather than drinking from a cup and then having nothing until the next drink station. This way I could grab a bottle at the first drink station and hang onto it until I reached the next one, and have a drink whenever I felt like it! As always I also had to make my drink bottles distinctive so I wouldn’t waste time looking for them – I went with blue and yellow electrical tape. (I’d attached straws to my bottles at the Adelaide Marathon in 2016 but although that made them easy to spot, I noted in my race report that they were very annoying to carry! So I wasn’t going to do that again!) There were 3 drink stations where we could have special drinks, and we’d pass each one twice (once on each lap) so I had 6 x 250ml bottles. Given the cool weather I thought that would be enough, and there was always water at all the drink stations if I needed anything more.

Race eve fuelling was as per tradition – pizza and cider! This was my 7th marathon and every single one of them had been preceded by the same race-eve meal! The pizza was from Sonny’s Pizza Bar – highly recommended, with an extensive vegan menu!

Dinner of champions!

Gear-wise I went with tried and true – from the top down, I had a white 2XU hat, Mekong ‘Vegan Beast Mode’ top, rainbow arm warmers, 2XU compression shorts with black lululemon skirt over the top, 2XU ‘Run Boston’ calf sleeves, lululemon socks and my last pair of Brooks Ravenna 6 shoes (no longer available, and the new Ravennas are all wrong for me, so after over 4 years in Ravennas I’m going to have to find a new road shoe after this!)

I kept an eye on the weather forecast, and although there was little chance of rain (excellent!) it was looking like being very cold, especially in the morning! Last time I checked they were forecasting a maximum of 13 degrees in Tanunda, and an overnight minimum of about 4. There was a real possibility I might need to wear gloves at the start. I had not quite decided whether to wear a T-shirt or singlet – I wore the T-shirt but took the singlet with me, in case I changed my mind. I had never run a marathon in a T-shirt before!

I got a ride to Tanunda with Kirsten and Nigel, Kirsten was going for around 3:45 too, and husband Nigel happened to be the 3:45 pacer! So hopefully we’d all be running together, although my plan would have me only overtaking him right near the end. But then, I rarely stick with a plan in a marathon…

It was pretty cool when we arrived in Tanunda but not as cold as I thought it might be, so I decided not to bother with the gloves, but I did stick with the T-shirt rather than the singlet.

At the start I positioned myself near Chantel, the 4 hour pacer, with Nigel and his pink 3:45 balloon in front but in sight. The plan was to run the first 3km at 5:30 pace, whereas Nigel would be running even splits, aiming for 5:20 minute kms from the outset.

I’d had a toilet stop as soon as we’d arrived at the start, and had planned on another but after I took my bag to the bag drop area, I looked at my watch and it was 7:21 and the race briefing was about to happen – with a 7:30am start, I would be pushing it to get to the toilet again and make it to the start in time! Oh well, I thought – there’s always portaloos out there if I really need it! I’d never had to stop in a marathon before but then again there were a few other ‘firsts’ in this particular marathon!

My first few kilometres were spot on pace. The first drink station was only about 2.5km in, and I didn’t need a drink at this stage but this was one of the designated ‘special drinks’ stations so I grabbed my bottle which was easy to spot! Not long after this I saw the first portaloo and decided to go for it – I’d got a bit ahead of time by now (from memory this was the 4km mark) and just passed regular running buddy Sarah. I eventually found the door (the portaloo had been positioned so the door was AWAY from the runners – which made sense I guess!) and when I checked my time afterwards it was less than a 50 second stop. Plenty of time to make that up, and definitely worth it!

I’d already passed a few other familiar faces – Lachy and Kristina, Annie, doing Barossa as a training run for Berlin and Chicago marathons, as well as Chris (doing his 100-and-somethingth marathon) prior to my pit stop so I could use that as a bit of a gauge as to when I was back on track. I was about 30 seconds behind pace at 4km, but I’d got to 30 seconds ahead by 6km. Hopefully that wouldn’t come back to bite me!

I’ve said this every time I’ve run Barossa but I’ll say it again. I love how you get to see everyone multiple times! The nature of the course means that sometimes you don’t get to see everyone on every ‘out and back’ but over the course of the marathon I reckon I saw just about everyone! A lot of my friends were doing the half marathon so I got a real boost when I started to see them!

The prize for ‘having way too much fun for a marathon’ has to go to Jenelle, celebrating her birthday (and what better way to do it?) and her running buddy Anthony. We saw them multiple times and they ALWAYS looked like they were having a ball!

Probably around the 10km mark I was starting to move further and further away from the pace I was SUPPOSED to be running. I was actually approaching 5:20 average pace, which was meant to happen right near the end. Clearly I am not disciplined enough to follow such a specific pacing plan! So I decided to ditch the plan and instead to try to catch Nigel and then let him do all the work!

By now I could see the 3:45 pace group and although I seemed to be getting faster in relation to my plan, I didn’t seem to be making up any ground! At one stage I decided to time how far behind them I was – at one stage I was 25 seconds behind, and a few kays later it was 13 seconds. My new goal was to catch them by the halfway mark. It did eventually happen around the 20km mark – Kirsten was still on the ‘bus’ along with quite a few others.

We reached the 21.1km mark in 1:51:50. Double that and you have 3:43:40 – perfect pacing so far! (And I would expect to negative split, given the time I’d lost on the toilet stop!)

What I hadn’t factored in was the wind. More on that later!

We noticed that the 4 hour pacer had lost her balloons, as had the 3:30 pacer (the latter actually before the start!). One of the other runners in our group, Bart, was asking me about alternatives to balloons to make pacers more visible, given that balloons are annoying (both for the pacer and for those right behind!) and often do pop or float away! Bart had the idea that the pacers should wear a distinctive colour, “one that no-one else wears” and we decided we needed to invent a colour, we could call it ‘Pacer’ and it would be ‘hi-vis mustard’. As well as that, to make the pacers visible to people a bit further away, in lieu of balloons, they should wear Viking helmets. So take note Race Director Ben and organiser of pacers Kent!

As had happened the last time I ran Barossa, one of my drinks somehow went missing! The special drinks were at drink stations 1, 4 and 5. After picking up my first drink at the 2.5km mark, I was never without a drink in my hand. One of the drink station volunteers, Naomi, actually had my drink ready to hand to me as I approached the drink station! (As an aside – the TOTAL amount of stoppage time I had during the marathon was 48 seconds. That would have been entirely accounted for by the pit stop. That meant I did not have to stop for one second at the drink stations – having my own bottled drinks ready to grab definitely saved me a good amount of time!) Still, I had 5 drinks throughout the race and that seemed to be enough. I don’t do gels, I did carry a Clif bar ‘just in case’ but I didn’t end up using it. My fuel consisted entirely of Gatorade. It was a bit of an adjustment from the ultra mindset where I eat when I’m walking – given that I try to avoid walking in marathons!

There were a few people ahead of us that I kept seeing on the turnarounds and seemed to be getting closer to us. One was my old ‘nemesis’ (meant in the nicest possible way!) Graham, and the other one was Leon, who had not done much running at all since the 24 hour, hadn’t run at all in the last 2 weeks, and had told me at the start he was aiming for 6 minute/km pace, and around 4 hours 15. He was WELL ahead of the 3:45 pace group for the first half of the marathon! It would be interesting to see if I was able to catch either of them!

Did I mention the wind?

So we were faced with 40km/h wind gusts for much of the second half. It seemed that we were running into it more than we were running with it. It was the only thing that was going to stop me getting my goal time, as I was otherwise still running very comfortably. Barossa is a flat course but when we were running into the wind it was like running up a really steep hill. Or into a brick wall. (You hear about ‘The Wall’ in marathons – that point where you’re running really well and then suddenly, usually around the 35-36km mark, you just lose it! Well in this particular marathon it wasn’t a metaphorical wall, it genuinely felt like we were running into a brick wall!)

When the wind hit us, I dropped back from the pack – I couldn’t seem to keep up! Thankfully there were periods where we had the wind behind us, so I was able to pick up the pace a bit and catch up with the group. There were only a couple in the group by this stage – Kirsten had dropped back, and Bart had gone on ahead.

I did eventually catch up to Leon – he said he had been running well up to about 20km but then started to feel it!

I had stopped looking at my watch altogether when I’d caught up to Nigel at the 20km mark. It was easy to do as my watch was under my arm warmer. Consequently, when I was a bit behind him, I had no clue if I was on pace or not! (He was trying to run just ahead of 3:45 pace, and he had started ahead of me, so I had a bit of a buffer, but I wasn’t sure if the wind would prove to be my downfall – the effort required to push against it might leave me with nothing left at the end!)

If there was ever a metaphorical wall for me in this marathon, it was at the 40km mark. I’d just gone past a drink station, we were still running into the wind, and Nigel seemed to be getting further and further away, and with him, my hopes of getting a sub 3:45. Even though I’d told myself (and others) at the start that I was hoping for sub 3:45 but not expecting it, I’d got this far, and it would be pretty devastating to miss out only by a few seconds! I told the people at the drink station “I’m done! I’m finished!”. Even though I had only 2.2km to go (or, in terms I understand very well, one lap of the Uni Loop!), the finish line seemed very far away…

Pretty soon after that I saw running buddy Nat, not running this time but just there to support all of us, so that gave me a little boost!

All smiles (I think – it’s hard to tell!) when I saw Nat!

The countdown was on – less than 2km to go. And not too long after that, FINALLY, that stupid wind went away! Or maybe I changed direction. Either way – happy days!

We turned a corner, onto a bike path, where I realised I was making ground on Nigel and did eventually catch up with him! THAT was a good feeling!

Just before I caught Nigel I saw Graham, running just ahead of the 3:45 bus. I called out to him to warn him I was coming after him – I didn’t want a repeat of last year’s Tower Trail Run where I’d passed him just near the finish, then he’d chased me down! No, I was MORE than happy to let him stay ahead of me! (When I saw him afterwards he said he hadn’t heard me call out to him, but he had heard Nat call out my name a bit earlier and realised I was getting a bit too close for comfort!)

Rather than the marathon and half marathon markers, in the final kilometres I used the 10km race markers as my main gauges – when I saw the 9km marker I knew we were into the last kilometre! I reckon I got this!

The finish line was different from when I last ran the marathon – previously it was on the road, but this time it was actually in the school which was the home base for the event. As we ran along the road I saw a whole lot of familiar faces – my friends who had done the half marathon, kindly waiting for Kirsten, Nigel and me to finish our marathons before heading off for lunch!

High five from Beck, just before entering the finishing chute! Thanks to Ali for the pic!

And then I heard MC Ryley on the mic, and I heard him say “3:43” which was the time on the clock, and at that point, with the finish line in sight, I knew I had my sub 3:45!

I crossed the finish line in an official time of 3:44:07, and got my sweet, sweet bling from Oliver before going over to the baggage tent, with thoughts of my vegan donut from Bakery On O’Connell at the front of my mind. There I found Graham and decided a ‘post-marathon-collapsed-on-the-ground-in-the-baggage-tent-selfie’ was in order!

Very happy with that bling!
A better shot of the bling!

Leon and Kirsten were not far behind me, and Annie and Sarah both also finished under 4 hours. As we were getting a bit cold and the half marathoners had been waiting for us for AGES, we left just as the presentations were winding up, and headed off for a lovely lunch and wine at the South Australian Company Store in Angaston.

Refuelling done right! Kirsten (far right) looking like she’s just run a marathon! Oh, wait…

I was getting a lift home with Beck and James, and I asked Beck if we could stop off at my favourite Tscharke Wines in Marananga, as my stocks were getting a bit low! She very kindly obliged – thanks Beck! Although I was a bit disappointed that they had sold out of the 2016 Cab Sav, apparently the new vintage is ready for bottling so I guess I’m going to have to plan another trip to the Barossa soon – oh well, if I must!

The view from the toilets at the delightful Tscharke Wines!

So, after a 16 month break between marathons, nothing has changed. They are still HARD! They still kind of suck! But I was so happy with how this one went, both for me personally, but also the event in general. The wind was the only down side, but the weather overall was pretty great, making the finish village a cool place to hang out while waiting for the rest of my friends to finish (except Neil – sorry Neil, we couldn’t wait for you! Neil was the sweeper. He would be a good couple of hours behind us!)

Thanks to RD Ben and the equally awesome Sheena for a great day, as well as all of the many volunteers who helped both on the day and in the leadup. I felt a bit bad that I couldn’t help out at all on this one, but I really wanted to focus 100% on me this time, and it paid off! Well done to all of the runners – you well and truly earned your bling in those conditions! Hope you’re all recovering well and planning for your next event!

So there’s a post script to all of this. Remember how my goal was to run sub 3:45 and qualify for Chicago? (And I FREAKING DID IT!) Well, out of curiosity, after I got home, I got on the Google and looked up ‘Chicago Marathon qualifying times’. And guess what? It’s changed!

NOW they tell me!

So that’s me done with marathons for quite a while – I don’t think I’ll do another one again until Chicago in October 2019. No, might just stick to ultras for a while!

Race Report – Triathlon SA Winter Duathlon Series Race 2 (aka ‘The Race That Sucked’)

Well, that sucked!

I didn’t want to write about this one, because it sucked. But then, you do have those days, and it would be unfair not to write about the sucky races, because they happen!

The first race in the series went reasonably well after Shane gave me the tip about my gears. I had decided to try to do the whole series, if only to try to improve on my own times. Race 2 happened to fall the day after a very entertaining work function, so consequently I left it until the day to enter, just in case!

It was a windy day but thankfully not raining, so I decided to give it a crack.

The first (4km)  run was just OK – a bit slower than last time, but as I was managing to overtake quite a few people, it still felt OK.

Transition 1 went as well as can be expected. 22 seconds to change shoes and hat, grab the bike and head off onto the cycle course. 8 x 2km laps. Sounds pretty easy, right?

Well let me tell you it wasn’t. The bits where I was riding with the wind were just OK. The bits where I was riding into it were not. On a few laps I was almost blown sideways off the track! That wasn’t helped by the fact that on the first few laps people were passing me on my left – luckily there were no collisions, there could easily have been!

EVERYONE passed me. Almost everyone. The wind was a factor, sure, but everyone else had to contend with that too!

Not many people passed me on the last few laps. That was because almost everyone else had finished by then!

The one positive I could take out of the bike leg was that the hairpin turn seemed a bit easier this time. I had sort of got the hang of it at the last duathlon. I had learned that if you take it as a sweeping bend it’s a lot easier than trying to do a 180 degree turn! That didn’t stop one person from passing me on the inside as I was making the turn! (I would always check over my right shoulder 3-4 times as I approached the turn, to make sure no-one was approaching, and if I saw someone out of the corner of my eye I’d let them past so I had a bit of space. What I wasn’t doing was checking over my LEFT shoulder. Grrr!)

I knew to use the harder gears on the faster parts of the course but on this occasion the gears were just not working for me – the bike was not sounding normal, and I knew there was something not quite right but I wasn’t about to stop, I just wanted to Get. It. Done.

After what seemed like an eternity I made it back to transition. T2 sucked as well. The spot where I had had my bike, now had someone else’s bike in it, so instead of there being a nice gap for me to put my bike, it took me a while to actually find my ‘spot’! I had to wrangle the bike onto the rack and try not to get tangled up with other bikes, which wasted a bit of time. Then because of how the bikes were racked I had to get on my hands and knees to retrieve my running shoes and hat. In the process of taking my long sleeved top off I dropped my sunnies and one of the lenses fell out. Oh well, luckily it wasn’t sunny, I could manage to run 2km without them!

After what seemed like an eternity (59 seconds according to Strava) I was finally out on the last run leg to finish the race. My second run wasn’t too bad although my legs were completely like jelly to start with, more so than last time! When I look at my time for the second run leg I averaged 4:34 pace which is not too terrible. It certainly felt slower than that. I am sure I would have been able to overtake some people if there’d been anyone left out on course.

So that was it – Race 2 done and dusted. Not my finest moment by any means but a good learning experience!

Everyone else did well. Karen and Daryl placed again, as did Ros, who had done the short course. Cherie had successfully completed her first duathlon.

Karen insisted on a group photo, ‘because if there’s no photo it didn’t happen’. (I would have been quite happy to pretend it DIDN’T happen, but as I was in the photo, I guess that means it happened – plus it’s on Strava too so I guess that confirms it!)

Evidence!

As I was back at the bike rack putting my warm clothes on, chatting to fellow athlete Kristie about how much I hate sucking at things and should really stick to running, my club running coach Kent (also an experienced triathlete and Ironman) pointed out that my back tyre was flat (and had been for a good part of the race, if not all of it!) Which was nice because it means maybe I don’t suck quite as much as I thought I did! I suck at knowing and maintaining my bike but if I can get the bike right who knows, maybe I can become an adequate cyclist one day! (It wasn’t DEAD flat, just much flatter than it should be!)

Karen and Daryl showing off their bling. Me, the unwitting photobomber in the background!

So there you have it. Shortest race report ever! Thanks to all the organisers, volunteers and other athletes out there, and I guess I’ll be seeing you again at Race 3!

Oh and as a post script I was out today, got caught in the rain so stopped to look at a bookshop while I waited for the rain to clear. Found this. Think the universe is trying to tell me something!

Race report – SARRC Greenbelt Challenge 2018

Greenbelt Challenge was an appropriate name, as it turned out, in more ways than one!

This year for the first time, the traditional Hills to Henley (30km run along the length of the Torrens Linear Path from Athelstone to West Beach) was combined with the Greenbelt Half Marathon (formerly starting at the same place at Athelstone and finishing in the city). It made a lot of sense from a logistical point of view, I know there were some people who weren’t happy about the change (as there always is!) because they like to run both events. However, in the current climate, with a very congested running calendar, there are always going to be clashes.

The Greenbelt half had to change. One of the recent innovations at SARRC events is the finish line village, complete with food trucks, music and a stretch station. It’s a great way to keep people hanging around long after they’ve finished running, meaning that the later finishers still have a bit of a crowd to cheer them on!

Because of this, it wouldn’t make any sense to have the Greenbelt finishing where it used to, in the city. The finish line village meant that there needed to be just one finish line, and if need be, multiple start lines. The plan was for Greenbelt to start at Klemzig or thereabouts, and run to West Beach. It would still be a one way half marathon, but just on a different part of the river.

There would also be a 5k and 10k, as well as a 1k kids’ fun run, and if you ask me their medals were even better than those for the rest of us!

Medals are a big thing – I have to admit that I was strongly motivated to enter this event because of the unique ‘Triple Crown’ medals. This year, at the three Triple Crown events (Clare, Greenbelt and McLaren Vale), all finishers of all distances get medals, rather than just the half marathon finishers in the past. (In fact, two years ago, the only time I ran the 30k, back when it was ‘Henley to Henley’, the 30k runners didn’t get medals – I always thought it was a bit strange that you could get a medal for a half marathon and nothing for a 30k!)

I really like the inclusiveness we now have, EVERY finisher gets a medal, regardless of whether you’re a back-of-the-pack 5k’er or an elite half marathoner. What is really great about it is, it’s a fantastic way to progress through the year – start at Clare with a 5k, run the 10 at Greenbelt and build up to a half at McLaren! (I’m going the other way!) Or do a 5k at all 3 – the possibilities are endless!

The really cool thing is that the 3 medals link together to form a combined Triple Crown medal. And now I’ve done the first two, there’s no way I’m missing out on completing the puzzle at McLaren Vale! (And I bet I’m not on my own there!) Again there were complaints when the announcement was made – “What, I only get 3 medals for running 3 half marathons? Where’s the 4th medal for the Triple Crown?” It’s actually not that long that medals for half marathons have become a thing – I remember in 2014 doing my first half at Clare and there were no medals – imagine that? (And the Triple Crown has only been a thing for a few years – anyway, let me get off my soap box now and start talking about the actual event!)

The puzzle is 2/3 finished – just waiting for McLaren Vale to complete it!

The ‘Challenge’ came in due to the seemingly never ending road works on South Road and along the path. For one, an unprecedented ‘dead zone’ had to be created as 30km runners had to stop along the path due to the road works. The idea was (and I don’t know the full details of this so apologies if I got it wrong) that the time clock would effectively be stopped while the runners were stopped, and then start again once they got going. Kind of like when you use ‘Auto Pause’ on your watch. (There was talk of a temporary bridge but the cost of that would have been astronomical!) By all accounts it seemed to work quite well thanks to Malcolm and his timing gear!

The other issue was that parts of the path were closed, necessitating a late change to the half marathon course. It ended up having to be an out and back, although a lot of people I spoke to got PBs so although theoretically the traditional net downhill course would be faster, it didn’t seem to affect some people!

The beautiful weather probably helped – a bit crisp in the morning but not a hint of rain. It was a bit windy at times – at one stage after I’d finished my 10k two of us were holding down the SARRC tent to stop it blowing away despite it being pegged into the ground, and despite the best efforts of a number of staff and volunteers the finish arch had to be taken down before all the runners had come through – better it be taken down early than actually collapse on a finishing runner! I was lucky enough in the 10k not to be affected by the wind – we were told it would be a headwind on the way out and a tailwind on the way back, although I didn’t really notice the wind much at all!

I had offered to pace the 10k as I had at Adelaide, once again 1 week after an ultramarathon (for the 3rd event in a row!) and had my services not been required I would have run the 5k. No way was I doing a half marathon the week after an ultra although Glen managed to do just that after doing the 24 hour!

I had no costumes left to run in that I hadn’t already used, and being a coolish but dry day, I decided to go with the tiger onesie. I had previously done a few parkruns in it, but never 10k – I figured it should be fine! (In case anyone is wondering, the idea of the costume is to make me easy for other runners to spot out on course, especially if, as often happens, my balloon happened to pop or blow away!)

The before shot – with Voula (also doing the 10k with me) and Tahlia and Gary (doing the 5k). Pic by Tracie of Geosnapshot.

I had the week off from running after the 12 hour and had my first run back on Saturday at parkrun, a nicely paced just-under-30-minute 5k – perfect preparation for Sunday’s 60 minute pacing gig!

Coach Kent asked me to organise the pacers for the half marathon, as he was running the 30k, so he would be up at Athelstone in the morning. There were 3 pacers, and I just had to organise the helium balloons for them. There wasn’t a heck of a lot of helium in the tank so I thought I’d better do their balloons first, and if there was any helium left I’d get one for myself. Actually I would have been more than happy to run without a balloon and I figured people would be able to see me anyway, but as it turned out there was just enough helium to do me a balloon too – damn it!

Due to potential congestion on the course, both the half marathon and 10k were wave starts. I wasn’t sure what implication that would have for my pacing but it worked out perfectly as I was at the front of the second wave, so I started my watch on the gun (although there wasn’t an actual gun for the second wave – you know what I mean!)

The course was impeccably marked – there was no way I could have got lost! Where there was a fork in the path there was an arrow clearly marking which path to take. The only slight issue I had was looking for the kilometre markers – not that they weren’t there but I didn’t actually see one until the 4km mark – they were spray painted in green on the path. I spoke with Harry from the event team afterwards and he explained that they’d decided to just use the kilometre marker signs for the half and the 30k, because they were put out the previous day and it can get quite windy in that neck of the woods! Which makes perfect sense to me – I’d rather have spray painted markers (as long as I know what I’m looking for) than stand-up signs that have blown into the wrong place!

Running in the onesie was OK – although I did have to make an adjustment early on. My top button kept coming undone which meant my tiger head kept slipping off – I took one of the pins out of my bib and pinned the costume at the neck to hold it together. Rather that than running with one hand holding my head on and the other with my arm extended, continually looking at my watch!

I managed to pace it pretty well once I got into a rhythm – I did get confused at times, starting to follow the 30km signs on the way back, then seeing the green spray paint on the ground a minute or so later, and neither of those coincided with the distance on my Garmin! I had alerts set to go off if I went faster than 5:55 and slower than 6:00 (for the mathematicians among you, a 60 minute 10k equates to 6:00 per km)

When I had a few friends around me! Pic by Craig of Geosnapshot.

It’s a challenge, this pacing caper! I do enjoy it, I’ve now done 6 half marathons and 2 10ks (and a couple of parkruns, informally). It was pretty quiet out there this time, I didn’t have too many people running with me but I did have a few people thank me afterwards. I ran with a young lad called Jack for a little while in the second half who is a regular at West Beach parkrun and ended up finishing a few minutes ahead of me – not a bad effort for his first 10k (although he did tell me he’s done City-Bay, and I told him that when I was his age I couldn’t even run 1k!)

Once I had my wardrobe all sorted out and could concentrate on running! Pic by Craig of Geosnapshot.

Towards the end there were a couple of kids offering high fives so I high fived both of them, jokingly saying “I need to power up!” and then one of them gave me a second high five! I always try to get at least one high five in!

And then RIGHT near the end, around the time my balloon popped, there was another kid with a sign that said “Tap here to power up” so of course I had to get that last little boost to get me to the finish! I ended up just under 59:30 so I was pretty happy with that.

Pacing or racing, the finish line is always a welcome sight! Pic by Tracie of Geosnapshot.

I ended up staying for a good few hours after I finished my 10k, the atmosphere and weather were great and it was fantastic to catch up with a whole lot of running friends – what else would you rather be doing on a beautiful Sunday?

Tiger with a medal, on a beach, in the middle of winter. Nothing to see here!

Thanks to all the volunteers who made this event a fantastic experience, and well done to all the runners/walkers who took part!

And a special thankyou and congratulations to Ben and the event team for overcoming all the obstacles to make this event happen – the goal posts kept moving but they didn’t let that stop them! HOPEFULLY (and I think I say this every year) next year the roadworks will be done and we can go back to a one way half marathon (and, dare I say it, I might even attempt the 30k!)

Lapping it up – Adelaide 6/12/24 Hour Event 2018

This was my 4th consecutive year participating in the Ultra Runners SA (formerly Yumigo!) Adelaide 6/12/24. It also marked the 10th anniversary of the first 6 hour event (back then, if you’d told me this event would later become a staple on my calendar, I would have strongly encouraged you to seek psychiatric help!)

My first 6 hour was three years ago in 2015 – it also happened to be my very first ultramarathon. (The 2018 12 hour was my 14th) After having gone into it without a clue or a plan (backing up from a marathon, at least I had the training in my legs), I went back to do it ‘properly’ in 2016. Last year I made a last minute decision to do the 12 hour and I learned a lot, so I decided to go back and do it again, to try to do it better!

Here’s the short version. Ran for 3 hours, turned around and ran the other way for 3 hours, turned again and ran the other way for 3 hours, turned once more and ran the other way for 3 hours, then finished.

There shouldn’t be too much to say about a race like that, should there?

I’d prepared a lot better than last year, given that 12 hours was in the plan since, well, the day after last year’s 12 hour!

Since UTA100 8 weeks ago, my focus had been on this event. It really was my ‘A’ race for the whole year. I had done 4 solid training runs over the past 6 weeks, broken up by a trail half in Mount Gambier and a duathlon. My training runs were 3 hours, 4 hours, 6 hours and 3 hours. I used the strategy of 25 min run/5 min walk throughout all of those runs. My first 2 training runs were way too fast (30km in 3 hours and 40km in 4 hours – not sustainable over 12 hours!) but I nailed it on the 6 hour run, covering 55km, and then ran the last 3 hour run with 6 hour first timer Gary.

My pre-race dinner was from Pure Vegetarian at Adelaide Central Market – pumpkin, chickpeas, spicy eggplant and noodles – lots of carbs! And a glass or two of red wine to wash it down.

Race fuel was similar to last year – a mix of peanut butter and chocolate spread sandwiches (3 of each), Clif bars and nut bars. I also had some mashed sweet potato with salt but didn’t end up using any of that during the race. The plan was that on every 5 minute walk break I would eat either half a bar or a quarter of a sandwich. I had 6 bottles of Gatorade and 2 extra serves of powder. I’m not much of a drinker especially in cooler weather so I was confident that would be more than enough.

I’d also included a caffeination schedule – a shot of cold brew just before the start, at 2 hours, 6 hours and 10 hours, an energy supplement at 4 hours and an energy drink at 8 hours. Caffeine every 2 hours. I’d done a couple of the training runs with cold brew and it seemed to work well. In previous years I had enlisted running buddies James, Leanne, Kate and Beck to bring me coffee at strategic times. This time I wanted to be self reliant, to have coffee ready when I needed it, and to be able to quickly down it rather than have to waste time slowly sipping it and/or burning my mouth! I’d put the coffee in empty vanilla extract bottles, which was an interesting conversation starter when people saw me drink it!

I had music – my waterproof iPod that I use for swimming, with a nice upbeat playlist on it. I was only planning to use that for short periods, mainly between the end of the 6 hour and the presentation. I’d never run in this event before with music, but that was mainly because it had always been raining and I didn’t want my iPod to get wet! This year, I not only had a waterproof iPod, but amazingly it looked like it was going to be a fine day!

I’d gone with toe socks which I’d only just started using, they had worked well on a trail run last weekend and people seem to like them, so I decided to give them a go (instead of taping my toes like I did last year).

It was pretty chilly at the start so I had my beanie, gloves and Boston Marathon jacket as well as my normal race gear. I was set up in a tent with the ‘Vegan Beast Mode Team’ – consisting of fellow 12 hour runner Ian from Melbourne along with another Melbourne runner Cheryl, and the awesome 24 hour trio of Kate, Tracey and Sheena, being ably crewed by Sheena’s daughter Elle. I had all my food and drinks set up within easy access so it would just be a matter of ‘grab and go’. I didn’t want to waste time on fuel stops! Consequently I had a bit of sandwich in the pocket of one Spibelt and a nut bar in the other one. Ready to go on the first walk break, so I wouldn’t need to stop at the tent for an hour or so! I’d managed to get a car park just next to our tent – winning!

With Kym, Annie (using the 6 hour event to get her long run in!) and Gary! (Thanks to official photographer Gary D for most of these photos!)
I think I’m just trying to keep warm but it kind of looks like I’m praying! Annie looks relaxed and focused!

To fit with the theme, I wore my brand new Mekong ‘Vegan Beast Mode’ T-shirt. (I had never run in this particular top, but I had run in a lot of other Mekong tops before, so I wasn’t concerned about the whole ‘don’t try something new in a race’ thing! (As it turned out, Sheena, Tracey, Kate and another vegan runner Ryan were all wearing the same thing! (I had spare tops to change into later, as I had never run 100km before wearing the same top throughout!)

The 6 and 12 hour runners kicked off at 6am, after the briefing from Race Director Ben and a special mention for 6 hour runners Kym and Graham, two of the three runners to have completed every one of the 10 6/12/24 events. (the other one was Colin, who would start 4 hours later in the 24 hour). Initially the event started as just the 6 hour, and eventually the 12 and 24 were added to make it the event it is today!

And away we go!

My goal was to beat last year’s 102.7km. I was aiming for 105km, as this would be the furthest I’d ever gone in one hit (my previous best being Heysen 105 in 2015, which actually ended up being around 104km). I’d aim to be on 55km at the 6 hour mark, giving me a bit of a buffer, expecting I would slow down in the second half. Last year I did 57km in the first half and just under 46 in the second – I was aiming to be more consistent this time. Last year I also had to change my walk/run strategy after 8 hours – I wanted to try to keep the 25/5 going as long as possible this time.

I started out running with Gary, who was utilising the same run/walk strategy as me (after we’d successfully used it on the run we did together) and he had alerts set on his watch, so while I was running with him I didn’t really have to look at my watch! Intermittently we were joined by Belinda who was also doing her first 6 hour.

Early days with Gary! A great way to kick off the day!

I hadn’t looked at the 12 hour start list. It’s my thing. I prefer not to know who else is going to be there until I’m actually out there! I knew one of them, Kay, who I’d met on my first training run this year. She was aiming for 56km, her first ultra! Other than that, I didn’t know who I’d be up against! I was fully expecting to see Amelia, who had thrashed me (and the rest of the field) last year and it wasn’t until a few laps in when I hadn’t been lapped yet, that it occurred to me that she wasn’t there, and I had no idea who I was competing against! Actually I did know who I was competing against – 2017 me! I had to follow my plan to the letter, and I wasn’t going to let what other people were doing, interfere with that. I wasn’t going to look at the computer screen at all – I would keep track of my laps (47 was the magic number) and that would be all that mattered!

In the 12 hour we also had Randell who was aiming for a sub 10 hour 100km. So the only way I’d be seeing him would be when he was lapping me! Uli was there too – he just never looked like slowing down, I did tell him at one point that he made me feel totally inadequate as a runner, and he was always so damn chirpy (much like Randell!)

One of the few times I was actually running alongside Uli and not chasing him!

We had a few visitors during the morning – the Uni Loop is a very popular place for runners especially on the weekend, and it’s hard to go for a run there without bumping into someone you know! Nat and Beck came past on their long run quite early on, and then again on their way back – it was great to see them!

You never know who you’ll ‘run’ into on the Uni Loop! Thanks Nat!

Another visitor was Voula who came to support Gary and myself with coffee and donuts! Voula and a few other regular Sunday runners were going to have lunch with Gary to celebrate Gary finishing his first 6 hour. Of course, I wouldn’t be having lunch with them – I’d still have another 6 hours to run!

The first 3 hours went pretty smoothly and I was running with Gary for most of it, until he dropped the pace a bit and I went on ahead. I was conscious of not going out too fast, but I still wanted to be on 55km by halfway.

3 hours marked the first turnaround. Sally and another girl, in giraffe onesies (because, why not?) informed me that I had 15 seconds to go before turnaround time. In other words, I could keep running another whole lap before turning around, or I could stop, wait 15 seconds and turn around now. I was all psyched up for the turnaround so I decided to go with the latter (I was walking anyway at this stage).

The turnarounds offer a change of scenery of sorts, as well as the opportunity to see a lot of the other runners that might be just behind or ahead of you, who you otherwise might not see!

From 9am we started to see some of the 24 hour runners arrive and get set up – they would start at 10. There were a lot of familiar faces there. Each time I went past our tent I tried to relay the message to the girls that there were some donuts on the table if they wanted any – I’d made a trip to the nearby Bakery On O’Connell for some of their famous vegan chocolate donuts!

10am came and we were joined on the track by the 24 hour runners. It was a record field for this event – possibly due in part to it being the Australian 24 hour championships. Consequently, along with being a relatively large field, it was also a star-studded one – including 2018 UTA100 champion Brendan Davies. I wondered how long it would be before he started lapping me! Also among the 24 hour field was Felix, an international runner and fellow vegan!

And it would be remiss of me not to mention the most distinctive person in the 24 hour, Thor! Actually his name is Stewart but he ran the 24 in full Thor costume complete with wig and hammer! And even when I saw him in the late stages of the 24, he was still in full Thor costume! Now that’s dedication!

Thor!

Just after the 24 hour runners started I decided it would be a good time to visit the portaloo. Silly me had to choose the broken one with no water – by the time Michelle told me this, I was already committed!

As 12:00 and the 6 hour finish approached, I encountered Gary again. He was on track for his goal of over 50km and doing well! When I calculated I was on my last lap before the siren signalled the end of the 6 hour, I picked up my iPod so I could drown out the sounds of the presentation, and focus on getting through the next few hours!

The iPod worked really well to distract me, however unfortunately somehow I’d unknowingly started it earlier and I ended up only getting just over an hour and a half worth of tunes before the battery died! Oh well, it was enough to get past the presentation! (I’d got a solid 6 hours out of it during my training run, so I was expecting to get a bit more than I did!) And I had brought a mobile charger so all was not lost – when I went past the tent again I plugged it into the charger for a few hours to bring back out again towards the end!

I’d made it to my goal of 55km at the halfway mark. From memory it was 25 laps, which equates to EXACTLY 55km (one lap being 2.2km). I got pretty good at calculating how far I’d gone based on the number of laps – I couldn’t rely on my Garmin watch, as they are always out by some margin especially on a loop event like this! So to get my 105 I just needed to get 50km in the last 6 hours. Simples!

8 hours was the next big hurdle in my mind, as this was the point last year at which I had had to revise my run/walk strategy. I’d started doing 13/2 and quickly realised that 2 minute walk breaks were useless, so had reverted to 10/5 from 9 hours to the finish. I really didn’t want to have to do that this time, but I had in the back of my mind that whatever I had to do, the walk breaks would need to stay at 5 minutes. No more, no less.

One of the great new innovations this year was the motivational signs – I believe Michelle was responsible for these! I’m not sure exactly how many of them there were, over the course of the first few hours they were gradually put up around the loop. All of them were double sided so it meant we had something to look forward to when we changed direction! Some of them put ideas in my head that weren’t there before (eg “Your feet hurt because you’re kicking arse” or words to that effect – well my feet didn’t hurt before that but once I had the idea in my head…)

This was one of my favourites!

I had the idea early on to get my ‘RUN LIKE SOMEONE JUST CALLED YOU A JOGGER’ sign out of my car. That sign had been pretty much living in my car since I’d made it for the 2014 Adelaide Marathon. Coincidentally, it was in almost the exact same spot as the start/finish area for this race, that I stood in my tiger onesie and cheered on the runners 4 years ago! As Michelle was going around putting up the signs, I told her where my car keys were and where my car was, and suggested if she wanted to she could use that one as well. And sure enough, a few laps later, there it was, conveniently displayed right near our tent – it was a good landmark so I wouldn’t miss my tent (although I did nearly run past it once!) – our tent was a bit set back from the path due to the ground being a bit uneven, so it was hard to see until you actually reached it. But with the sign there, you couldn’t miss it!

Early in the 24 hour I noticed that lap after lap, Merle and Stephan were running together, sometimes with Merle’s running buddy Trish. I jokingly said “People will start to talk!” – they were chatting constantly the whole way! And then later I encountered Merle and Trish but no Stephan – apparently he’d ‘ditched’ them and gone on ahead – so later on when I ran into Stephan again I jokingly had a go at him for taking off! It’s this kind of camaraderie and good fun that makes this event what it is – a great fun day out!

10 hours came and I was still on my 25/5 run/walk, and relatively comfortable although the sign that said ‘Blisters are braille for awesome’ was starting to speak to me – I was certain there were at least a few blisters on my toes, and was thinking maybe the toe socks were a bad choice! It was at this time that I decided it was time for another hour of tunes, so I grabbed the iPod but to my horror it hadn’t charged at all – absolutely NO battery! Devastated! However thankfully I did have a backup – I had my prized iPod classic with its 9000-odd songs, and had thankfully also thrown in a normal set of running earbuds (the earbuds that went with the waterproof iPod only had really a really short cord, which was perfect when I had the iPod clipped to the back of my hat, but would not work with the Classic that I would need to carry in a pocket. So next time around the loop I grabbed the Classic and the normal headphones.

This was the only time when I really got shitty during the race, and it was only because of stupid technical issues! Sheena was near me at the time and she commented that she’d never heard me swear, I got all my swearing for the day out in that couple of minutes! The iPod was fine, it was the ear buds I just couldn’t get in! They were those ones that hook over your ears and I was getting really frustrated having tried seemingly every way to get them in! Sheena’s suggestion of stopping to do it properly was a great one and I did acknowledge that but I wasn’t having any of it – no stopping today!

Eventually I did get them in and decided that the appropriate track to kick off this part of the race was ‘Detroit Rock City’ by Kiss. Boy did that give me a huge boost! If anyone had seen me a minute earlier and then once the music kicked in, they would have thought I’d had an injection of something really good! As the first song finished I saw Ben sitting on a bench, I now think that was the 100km mark and he was waiting to record someone’s 100km split – possibly Randell (who got the 100km in only a few minutes over the 10 hours he was hoping for).

I had my playlist on shuffle for a little while until I got to the next walk break when I had a bit of time to mess around with the settings and I put on my favourite running album, Def Leppard’s ‘Adrenalize’ which kicks off with ‘Let’s Get Rocked’. That usually makes me run too fast but luckily I was on a walk break for that one! I knew it was about 45 minutes worth of music which would take me through to 11 hours 20, and from then on I’d reassess whether I still needed music or whether I’d ditch the iPod for the closing stages.

The end of the album also coincided with around the time I reached the magical 100km mark! I remembered roughly where the little sign was last year, and had been looking for it but hadn’t seen it – I later found out that a few of the signs had been stolen, including that one – so it wasn’t just my lack of observational skills! Michelle’s husband Mark was sitting on the bench next to where the sign had been, and one of the other 12 hour runners, John, with whom I’d been going back and forth for the past 11 or so hours, was just ahead of me. I remembered him saying at some point he was going for an age group record. It was possible to get milestones recorded officially if you thought you were in line for some kind of record (age group or overall) but as I wasn’t in that league, I wasn’t doing that. However, John was, so that was when I realised that must be the magical 100km mark (which I confirmed with Mark)! A brief moment of celebration as I continued on! Last year I’d reached 100km with 20 minutes to go, this year it was more like 40. To get a PB I only needed just under 3km in that 40 minutes. To get my 105 I needed 5. And I was still hanging on to the 25/5, although I know my running pace was getting slower. Every now and then I’d switch to a ‘shuffle’ where I’d really shorten my stride and pick up the pace, barely lifting my feet. It worked well – really saves a lot of energy! Not really recommended on a trail ultra where you can easily trip over something, but on a track ultra it’s a great way to conserve!

With around half an hour to go, I was on 46 laps. I was hoping to get 2 more in that last half hour which would be well beyond my expectations! Even 47 laps would be 103.4km and a clear PB. Helping me was the fact that I wasn’t planning to take a 5 minute walk break in this half hour. I’d used up the last of my Gatorade but it wasn’t worth stopping to mix up another bottle now! (I’d been carrying a  bottle from the first walk break onwards! I’d taken between 3 and 4 hours to drink the first one but then somehow I’d managed to get through them all!)

When I got to 47 laps I saw my parents waiting at the finish line for me, I wasn’t expecting to see them as I knew they had dinner plans, so it was a nice surprise! Voula also came out again, this time with her puppy Bob who was a bit excited! I went to get my rock (each runner is given a personalised rock which they drop when the siren goes off to signify the end of the race, and then the volunteers measure the distance covered since the last full lap. That way you get a measure of the whole distance, not just the full laps) and Ben jokingly told me he couldn’t find mine! Luckily he WAS joking because I wasn’t about to stop and wait for him to find it! I had about 15 minutes to go and I was pretty sure I could get around again but I didn’t want to get 2km into the loop when time was up and not get credit for that 2km!

Voula and Bob ran with me for some of that loop although they did cut across the grass so they didn’t go the whole way! I knew I was going to get my 48 laps (105.6km) and probably then some!

I crossed the timing mat for the last time, still with a few minutes left, so I tried to pick up the pace a bit – no sense leaving anything in the tank! The siren went off, I dropped my rock and made my way back to the finish line!

Bob the puppy chasing me on my last lap!
Nearly there!

My official distance was 105.91km which was very satisfying! The plan worked perfectly and I was able to keep the same run/walk schedule going for the whole 12 hours which was extremely pleasing!

DONE!

And the top lasted the whole day – not a single issue, no chafing, no nothing! Kudos to Mekong for a great product!

This was early on but the top served me well all day!

I went to greet Mum and Dad (turned out Dad had been attacked by a possum which thought he was a tree and tried to climb him – luckily the first aid lady was there ready to attend to him – not that she was expecting to deal with a possum attack!) and Voula and Gary who had come back to see me finish.

COOOOOOOOKE!!!!

After Mum and Dad left it was time for me to grab some Coke (I’d managed to hold off drinking any during the 12 hours – MAN that tasted good at the end)! and a slice of vegan pizza, and then go see the first aid lady to look at my blisters. I probably had blisters on most of my toes and I put it down to the socks – I had managed to wear a hole through the bottom of one of them, although I didn’t get a blister where the hole was, strangely! Just everywhere else! (Toe socks are not for me, apparently!) While the lady (I can’t remember her name!) was examining my feet and patching up the bits that needed patching, Michael (who was also the course measurer) was very helpfully telling me that I should pop the blisters (which went contrary to what the first aider was telling me – I was pretty sure I was going to follow her advice and not his!) Michael also told me I was 2nd female which I didn’t realise up until that point – I was 5-6km behind 1st, which was far enough that there was really nothing I could have done to beat her. It was weird because I’d barely seen Kerrie (who was 1st) all day! Actually there weren’t many people in the 12 hour – only 20 in total, a much smaller number than either the 6 or the 24.

You don’t want to see a photo of my feet. This is much better!

After that I went back to the tent to get changed into some warmer clothes and have some wine and donuts! We then went back to the start/finish area for the presentations. This was the first time I could remember having an official photographer at the 12 hour presentations – being at night time, often we only get people’s phone photos, but this time official photographer Gary was there to capture the moment! Cheryl also got over 100km to finish 3rd (another runner I’d hardly seen!) and the men’s podium consisted of Randell, Uli and another guy Ben who I hadn’t met before.

Getting my bling from Ben!
The 12 hour podium photo – Cheryl, Randell, Kerrie, me and Uli
To the winners go the spoils! I’m behind Kerrie, I think telling Kay (obscured, in a meerkat onesie) that she’s in the photo!

I was also lucky enough to win a $100 voucher for The Running Company in the random prize draw – I guess the odds of winning are pretty good when there’s 5 prizes and only 20 runners in the event, of which a lot of them had already left (and you had to be there to be eligible for a prize!). Looking at my shoes at the end of the run, (and they were past retirement even BEFORE the race) I have a feeling I’ll be putting that voucher to use sooner rather than later!

I hung out in the tent with Elle for the next few hours, refuelling (I had about 2 of my 6 sandwiches left, which were quickly consumed – that meant I’d eaten pretty much an entire loaf of bread that day on top of several Clif bars and nut bars!) and cheering on the 24 hour runners especially Kate, Tracey and Sheena. I wasn’t really doing much in the way of supporting (to be fair, I wasn’t really capable of much at that stage other than cheering) but Elle was doing a stellar job supporting the 3 girls, along with Lachlan who came down and did some laps.

I tried to have a sleep in Tracey’s tent out the back, but that wasn’t happening, so eventually I decided the best thing to do was go home for a few hours sleep in my own bed, which also meant I got to have a shower (THE BEST!). I woke up around 4am and headed back down to the Uni Loop around 5:30 to watch and support for the last few hours. When I arrived, Lachlan informed me that Elle was asleep in the tent, Sheena was about to get taken off in an ambulance, Tracey was finished, and he hadn’t seen Kate for a number of hours. My plan had been to do some laps with the girls, as long as they were only walking, and I’d left my running shoes at the track along with a fresh pair of socks (WITHOUT holes) in preparation. Oh well, it looked like that wasn’t happening, so I went to hang out with Vicky (who was backing up with a volunteer stint after finishing 2nd in the 6 hour – machine!) and Dione at the food tent. Where they also had a heater. Best place to hang! I brought what was left  of the donuts from the previous day, and also made a quick trip to the bakery for coffee and a sausage roll for Ben!

Fresh as a daisy after a shower and a couple of hours sleep in my own bed!

Not long after this, Kate surfaced – she’d had about a 7 hour rest break and was ready to go for the last 3 hours! I offered to walk a few laps with her, and my offer was gratefully accepted! Her mission was to get to 110km and she was on 99 – just 5 laps in 3 hours!

A beautiful time to be out walking!

We were walking at a reasonably brisk pace, every now and then Kate would break into a shuffle and although I tried I couldn’t go with her, so at times I’d cut across the grass to catch up with her! There was a fair bit of socialising going on as well as a bit of coffee drinking, so consequently we had to pick up the pace in the last few laps otherwise she wasn’t going to get her goal! Not only did she get her 110km she actually kept going after crossing the line for her 50th lap, until the siren went off! (Although she didn’t reach the distance she’d done last year, she also didn’t end up in hospital this time so surely that’s a win!)

I think it was great for me too, partly because I needed to keep moving and stretch my legs after the 12 hour, but also I got to see what the end of a 24 hour looks like, from a runner’s point of view rather than just a spectator! In previous years I have always gone to see the end of the 24 hour, and even when I’ve had thoughts about wanting to do the 24 hour one day, watching the runners stagger around in the final hours has made me never want to even contemplate it! This year was different. Firstly, I think I’ve achieved as much as I can in the 12 hour. I don’t think I can improve on this year’s effort. Maybe if I dedicate myself to this event and train specifically for it for the whole year, but if I want to continue running trails and road races as well, I don’t see how I could possibly do a better 12 hour. Kate is one person who has been egging me on to do the 24. She said it’s not for her, and she never wants to do it again, but she thinks it would be right up my alley. And I think she may just be right…

Also encouraging me to ‘step up’ is Glen, who ran the 24 hour this year as well. I had no idea until afterwards that this was his first time doing the 24! So he was encouraging me based on NO experience! (I asked him afterwards if he still thought I should do it and if he’d do it again – the answer to both questions was a resounding ‘Yes’!)

Last year, when I stayed all night and saw a lot of the 24 hour runners at various stages, I had no desire to do the 24. Here is a direct quote from me from last year: One of the pluses of staying overnight after finishing the 12 hour was getting to see the 24 hour runners through the middle of the night. Watching them made me decide I NEVER want to run the 24 hour. Although, I do want to do a 100 miler one day and I’m sure a trail miler is not in my future, so I guess I will have to do it eventually. Give me a few years!’

Now – I think I might just give it a crack next year!

How’s this for an elevation profile for 48 laps of a 2.2km track? Something wrong with this picture methinks!

It was great walking the last 5 laps with Kate because we got to see most of the other 24 hour runners who were still going. Felix was going from strength to strength, never looking like slowing down, and ended up winning, and in doing so, obliterating the course record to finish on just over 260km! Second place was a runner called John who just looked super strong and smooth throughout, and his distance would have been good enough to win most years! In third place was Brendan, who Kate and I passed on our last lap, and I said to Kate “We just passed Brendan Davies – you don’t get to see that too often!” OK, admittedly he HAD done more distance than both of us combined, but still… small win!

In the women’s race, the winner was Heather who had passed me fairly regularly while I was still running, and looked super strong. Second place went to Anna (another vegan on the podium!) for the second year in a row, followed closely by a runner I hadn’t met before called Melissa, who astounded me with her crazy fast walking pace!

Congratulations to everyone who participated, particularly to those who dipped their toes in the 6/12/24 water for the first time, and I hope to see a lot of you back next year! It was a pleasure to share the track with you all! I always have to thank the volunteers and this event is no exception! The volunteers who had the ‘witching hour’ shift deserve special thanks and I’m sure I will be appreciating them even more next year! Thanks also to everyone who cheered us on, whether they were there supporting other runners or just out to give everyone a boost! (Special thanks to the crew with the maracas and clappers – you guys were one of the highlights of every lap and I really missed you when you weren’t there! I’m not sure who you are but I hope you’re there next year!)

And as always big congrats and thanks to Ben for making this such a fabulous, inclusive, fun, challenging, brutal, delicious and enjoyable event!

So who’s going to come out and run with me next year?

Race Report – Triathlon SA Winter Duathlon Series Race 1

Last year I completed my first duathlon and yesterday I decided to give it another crack! Last time I did the ‘Enticer’ course (now ‘Short’ course) and I did the whole thing in my running shoes (with the proper racing pedals) – this time I decided to step up to the ‘Long’ course and the big girl cycling shoes. (I don’t like riding in normal shoes anymore – it’s funny how when you get used to cleats after numerous times falling off, it’s hard to go back!)

The race consisted of a 4km run/16km ride/2km run. The run lap was 1km and the bike lap was 2km, so that meant a 4 lap run, 8 lap ride and 2 lap run.

This time I actually had the multisport thing working on my watch so it was easy to keep track, I was able to count laps but if I was uncertain I could always look at my watch and easily know if I was on my last lap!

It was a cool day and there had been rain earlier, so I was pleased to see when I arrived at Victoria Park that the track had dried out (I’ve never ridden in rain or on a wet track/road) and the sun was shining. If the strong wind could have dropped off for an hour or so, it would have been perfect racing conditions!

The race was divided into 3 waves – elites, teams and all other long course athletes up to 39 years, followed by the long course athletes 40 and over, and finally the short course athletes. I was of course in wave 2.

As it was chilly I’d opted to race in a long sleeved top (but with a T-shirt underneath, in the event that I was warm enough after the ride).

When I racked my bike, I remembered the rookie mistake from last time – doing up my helmet strap and hanging it off my handlebar. This time the strap was left undone and the helmet left on the ground with my bike shoes, hopefully not to blow away before I got to the bike leg! I have got the hang of how to rack my bike at the start of a race!

Also in the race were Karen and Daryl, SARRC club coach Kent, first time duathlete Kristie, and probably my biggest triathlon influence Shane (who also tried his best to talk me into backing up with another duathlon this morning at Victor Harbor!)

It’s always tempting to try to smash out the run, because it’s the bit I can actually do properly! I was mindful of not spending too much energy on the first run, but pretty much did it anyway. My first lap was my fastest, and I ended up finishing the run leg with an average pace of 4:27 minutes per km. I did pass Kent on about the 3rd lap and I figured that would be the only time I would be ahead of him all day, so I might as well make the most of it!

T1 went smoothly – I was in and out of there in about 51 seconds. I know I could improve on that time if I did the ‘bike shoes on the bike pedals’ thing but I’m pretty sure that would not end well! I wheeled the bike to the ‘Mount’ line, got on and my feet slipped into the pedals right away. So far, so good!

Now came the fun part. 16km is not a long distance on the bike but when it comes in the form of 8 laps, it feels surprisingly long! (It feels even longer when you actually ride 18km, or 9 laps- more on that later!)

At the start there were quite a lot of other riders out there, most of whom were faster than me, so I was careful to keep left and let them past. It definitely feels wrong to be letting people pass me but when it comes to cycling I am still a total noob!

The course was relatively easy except for one hairpin turn which I remembered from last year. I would slow right down, almost to a stop. As I approached the turn I would glance over my shoulder to see if anyone was coming up behind me. I’d let them pass so I was able to take my time making the turn. It was actually easier this time around, with the cleats. At first I was still slowing right down, and making it harder than I needed to by doing a really tight turn, but as the laps passed by it started to get easier. Part of why it got easier was because there were less people coming up behind me as I approached. That was because there were less people out there, because most of them had already finished the ride! I reckon around the 5th lap I finally realised that if I took it wide it was MUCH easier!

The other thing that made things a little easier from lap 5 onwards was when Shane passed me and told me to put my bike into a harder gear. I was wondering why it was so hard – my legs were spinning like anything! As soon as I fixed that, suddenly it got easier! Shane later told me that he’d spotted the issue as he passed me earlier, but of course couldn’t tell me until the next time he passed me! (He may or may not have been that person who rode a whole extra lap – and still beat me quite comfortably!)

Around lap 7 Karen passed me, I was expecting this as she is a much better rider than me. I wasn’t sure if she was on the same lap as me or a lap behind, as I’d been a fair way ahead on the run.

Finally, after what seemed like forever, the bike was done! I can’t see my lap splits (for some reason no-one has made it a Strava segment) but I would be willing to bet my second half was quicker, because of being in the right gear and also not slowing down as much on the hairpin. My overall bike time was 44 minutes. Not particularly impressive but it will be good to compare my time when I do this course again!

T2 was a bit quicker than T1, 50 seconds this time. Karen was already there and left just before me. I quickly changed my shoes, helmet to hat and took off my long sleeved top and went to finish this thing off!

As always the legs felt like lead (it actually felt like my knees wouldn’t bend, for some reason!) and it felt like I wasn’t really moving at all, but my pace was actually not too bad, and I was able to pass quite a few people on the 2 laps, without getting passed by anyone! Pace-wise was pretty similar to my first run, with the 2km taking a touch over 9 minutes.

Unlike a marathon, or half marathon, or 5 or 10k, it’s hard to gauge what is a good time for a multisport event like this. The only thing I can really compare my time to, is my own time when I do it again. I think there are 4 races in the series and if I can I’d like to do all 4, just to see if I can improve on the bike leg (and possibly the transitions, although I can’t see how I could take much time off those without attempting something I am definitely not ready for!)

All in all it was a fab afternoon out, the weather was pretty great! The wind was a factor but I guess we were riding with it as much as we were riding into it, so it kind of balanced out! I learned a lot (as I always tend to in these kind of events)! Although it would be tempting to stick with running which I know I can do reasonably well, I enjoy the challenge of doing something I am not all that good at – and there’s no pressure to perform, I’m just out there trying to do something different and broaden my horizons a bit!

Thanks to all the volunteers who put this event on – great bunch of people! Well done to all who participated – it certainly seemed to have been raced in very good spirit, with the elites sharing the track with the novices quite happily! Congrats to all the winners (including Karen and Daryl who both got age group placings!) Special thanks to Shane for the tip that made the second half of my bike leg SO much better – much appreciated!

Bring on the next one!

But first – 12 hours running round a 2.2km track. Next Saturday. Stay tuned!

 

Race Report – Tower Trail Run 2018

Last year I ran the Tower Trail Run in Mount Gambier for the first time. You can read all about it here.

I loved it so much I just had to go back!

This year I’d opted to run the half marathon again (2 laps) although the competitor in my kind of wished I’d gone with the marathon (4 laps) when I saw only 2 women on the provisional start list! Along with the single lap 10.5km event, this year an ultra distance (56km) had been added – it was 4 laps like the marathon, but the loop included a lap around the iconic Blue Lake. Something a bit special just for the ultra runners!

This weekend was also the weekend of the Pichi Richi marathon (starting in Port Augusta) and also the launch of the Port Augusta parkrun. I have always been keen on Pichi, the idea of a one-way marathon (like Boston, only on a much smaller scale!) appeals to me and I was thinking that I might give it a crack next year. The timing has never worked out before!

Joining me on this trip were Karen, Daryl and Wendy who had also made the journey last year, as well as Wendy’s partner Graham. We were all doing the 21.1km.

A road trip from Adelaide to Mount Gambier would not be complete without a stop in Coonawarra for a wine tasting. This year we went to Zema Estate on Friday afternoon on the way there, and Redman on Monday morning on the way back. I thank Karen and Daryl for indulging me as they are both non-drinkers, although at Redman Karen managed to occupy her time with the resident ‘wine dog’ while I was doing my tasting! I love Coonawarra, it’s so compact and the wines are fabulous!

Wendy and I sampling some of Zema’s wares!

Friday night I had arranged to meet a vegan friend, Mount Gambier local Rose (who I hadn’t actually met in real life, just on social media) and her fellow vegan friend Karl, visiting from Sydney. We had some fantastic vegan burgers and fries at the new burger joint in town (not just vegan, also catering to omnivores!) – Natural Born Grillers. It was great to chat about running and vegan deliciousness with a couple of like-minded people!

A Saturday morning in Mount Gambier, particularly for a runner, would not be complete without Mount Gambier parkrun. I’ve done a lot of different parkruns now (I think 31 globally?) and I have to say this is my favourite. It’s a bit challenging, with a few little hills (up until the launch of Cleland it would have been the most challenging parkrun in SA) but with the most incredible view over the Blue Lake. I always find myself getting distracted by it on the way out (it’s an ‘out and back’ course) – run run run run run – oh, look at the lake! – run run run run run – oh, still the lake, wow! – etc etc! It was particularly distracting the first time I went there, as that was in December when it’s actually a really striking blue. In June it’s more of a blue-grey but no less impressive!

And a parkrun in Mount Gambier must always be followed by coffee at Metro, probably a big part of the reason why it is my favourite of all the parkruns. Even though on this particular occasion they didn’t have any vegan cakes in!

Karen trying to choose just one of the amazing looking cakes!

It rained a bit on parkrun but the promise was for a dry morning on Sunday which would be perfect – last year it was pretty wet, but I still loved it! A dry, cool morning would be ideal!

A tad wet and chilly!
Some of Team Adelaide after parkrun!

The rest of Saturday was spent wandering around the shops, dodging showers. I remembered Ecologie Organics, the organic store, from last year, and that when I went last time, they were going to start serving hot food about a month later. Sure enough, they had a lot of lovely vegan lunch goodies, I went for a vegetable soup which was perfect on a cold, wet winter’s day!

Sorry for the language – I saw this coaster in a shop and couldn’t help myself!

We stayed at the same place as last year, very conveniently located within easy walking distance of both parkrun and the start of the race. On Saturday night we went back to Metro for dinner and were joined by SA running legend Kym, who had originally signed up to do the marathon but had decided to join the cool kids in the half instead.

On race morning Kym had to get down to the start line early to change from the marathon to the half, and rather than hang around at the start line in the cold, he came down to hang out at our place while we got ready to walk up. Somehow he had managed to put his back ‘out’ while going under some bunting, so Karen helped him out with some Deep Heat before we all wandered to the start line.

At the start line Race Director Phil gave the briefing and a couple of warnings about dangerous sections of the course – one of them being the concrete pretty much RIGHT on the start line – he commented that it would be pretty bad to trip over literally ON the start line! There was also a downhill trail section early on with a lot of tree roots to be careful of, but that was the trickiest bit.

With Karl and Rose (Team Vegan!) at the start! Pic stolen from Karl!
Karen and I trying to blend in!

My time from last year was just over 2 hours 20, so I was hoping to improve on that this time around, although I hadn’t been doing a lot of trail/hill running recently (my main focus being the 12 hour event in mid July) so I couldn’t really expect anything too spectacular! Also, I was running with arm warmers as per usual, and my newish Garmin watch has a built-in heart rate monitor which needs to be against the skin to work, so consequently my watch was covered for pretty much the whole race. That suited me fine – it worked for me at UTA100!

Away we went at 8:00!

The start of the half marathon. Photo: K8 Photographics

Very early on in the race (before we hit the trail) fellow Adelaide runner Andy, who I had met and run with last year at Mt Gambier parkrun, commented that he had seen my post. I asked him “Which one?” thinking he was referring to a Facebook post. “The Heysen one” he replied, at which point I realised he was talking about an ACTUAL POST, the post in the field around the 60km mark on the Heysen 105, where Justin had immortalised me with a plaque to commemorate the spot where I had infamously got lost during my first Heysen! I really must get down there and visit said post – I haven’t run the 105 since the plaque was put up, so I haven’t really had any reason to go down there!

I won’t talk too much about the course itself because I covered that pretty well last time. It’s a very ‘up and down’ course, with not a lot of flat in between! I ended up walking a lot of the hills, especially the big one up to the Centenary Tower (the ‘Tower’ after which the Tower Trail Run is named!) as I felt I really couldn’t have run them any faster than I walked them.

The elevation profile. This is for the half (2 laps) and around 800m total elevation gain. A few little walk breaks in there!

We encountered a few of the marathon and ultra runners out there but they were few and far between. Probably because there were vastly more runners in the 21.1k and the 10.5k (the 10.5k didn’t start until after I’d commenced my second loop) than in the marathon and ultra. The marathon was by far the smallest – only 10 starters – probably because a lot of the runners who would previously have done the marathon would have been tempted by the prospect of running the inaugural Tower ultra!

I opted to wear my small race vest with 2 small bottles of Gatorade, as well as a couple of bars just in case, but I wasn’t expecting to need those for that distance. It wasn’t hard to slip them into the pockets of my pack and they didn’t weigh me down too much!

Love this pic, really captures the enjoyment! Photo: K8 Photographics

Around halfway through the first lap I met up with Andy again, and we would end up running pretty much the rest of the race together. It was really enjoyable, once again I hadn’t planned to run it with anyone, but it’s always nice to randomly meet up with someone along the way that is of the same pace and have great chats with them!

Unfortunately I was looking down at this point but this is a great illustration of how much I enjoyed myself out there! Photo: Darren Galwey Photographics

Have I mentioned the volunteers yet? They were FABULOUS. There were a few aid stations along the way, I didn’t need to use any of their services as I’d come prepared to be self-sufficient (as I prefer to do – I don’t like to stop if I can avoid it!) but it was always nice to see their friendly faces. The marshals were also very friendly with very clear directions so I never felt like I was in danger of getting lost (which, considering my history at Heysen as outlined earlier, is very important!). There were also HEAPS of photographers out there, and the photos were fantastic (the course is very photogenic in itself!). As I approached one photographer, my nose was running a bit (as it tends to do in the cold) and I called out “Can you please Photoshop out the snot?” to which Andy responded “Can you photoshop it IN?”

Another lovely touch was when we were approaching the end of the first loop and there was a table out in a field with lollies on it for the runners – that’s just one of those things that makes this event so special!

Other than the other runners, we kept encountering a guy called Troy, a mate of Andy’s who was out supporting. It would have been nice of him to bring a couple of ropes to tow us up the hill, but the support was appreciated nonetheless!

It was nice at the halfway mark to see the 10.5k runners waiting to start, a few familiar faces among them! They gave us a great cheer as we went past to start what Andy described as the ‘victory lap’ (We just had a ‘warmup lap’ and a ‘victory lap’. No proper racing laps!)

Towards the end of the second lap, probably with a few kms to go (I didn’t look at my watch but I knew the Tower was about 3km from the finish and we’d passed that) I started to get a bit hungry but I knew we were close enough that I would make it to the end. Still, it was good to know I had snacks if I needed them! From that point on I decided to run, even on the uphills (which weren’t too bad after the Tower) because I knew I didn’t need to conserve energy anymore!

Always good to see a funny sign out on course! This was near the start/finish area, and I will admit I didn’t get it first time around!

The second and final lap finished with a bit of a sprint when Troy reappeared to give Andy a bit of a push to the finish. This was roughly the spot where Graham and I had fought it out in an epic finish line sprint last year! It was nice to know that again I still had a bit left in my legs!

Thanks to Karen for this finish photo of some of Team Adelaide – from left, Graham, me, Kym, Wendy, Karen, Daryl and Ian (all half marathon finishers)
A few of the girls! Sandy, Fiona and Bee had all run the whole thing together! Thanks Karen for the pic!
Wendy, me, Merle and Karen showing off our bling – thanks to Karen for the pic!
There were a lot of us there from Adelaide and this wasn’t even everyone! Thanks Karen for the pic!

In the end I was a couple of minutes slower than last year, but given that I wasn’t looking at my watch, hadn’t really done a heck of a lot of trail training, and really enjoyed myself out there, I couldn’t really be disappointed!

Thanks to Phil and Nikki and all of the fantastic volunteers for making this event a highlight on my calendar – definitely got it pencilled in for next year (will be inked in once the date is confirmed!) I had planned to go to Pichi Richi but I can’t resist coming back to the Mount! I would highly recommend this event to anyone who likes a bit of trail fun and for those in Adelaide it’s a great excuse for a weekend away in a pretty fabulous location!

A post-script to the event. Last year I was unfairly branded a monster by Karen at our post-run stop at seaside Port Macdonnell, because I told her not to feed the seagulls chips until we’d all had enough. You know, because they’re pests and they won’t leave you alone if you give them one! Well Karen and Wendy decided to have their revenge this time around.

We’d finished eating so it was OK. All is good., The seagulls are happy.
‘Throw chips at Jane!’ they said. ‘The seagulls will attack her!”

But it all worked out OK in the end because one of them shat on Karen.

Karma, I say. Karma.

A few words about the Adelaide Marathon Festival!

I am going to try to keep this one brief. (Famous last words, perhaps?)

Last weekend was the 40th Adelaide Marathon and my 4th year of running in the event.

And in 2014 I was there as a spectator!

In 2015 and 2017 I was a pacer for the half marathon (2015 was my first ever pacing gig) and in 2016 I ran the full marathon with friend Beck.

This year, backing up from UTA100 I had originally planned to run the 5k but then I saw the medals for the full, half and 10k, and I decided I needed one! I thought a half would be a bit ambitious but I was pretty confident I’d have a 10k in me. And I emailed club coach Kent to ask if they wanted a 1 hour pacer (I knew there was no way I was going to be getting close to a PB, so I thought I’d rather try to help some other people get their goal times!)

This was what convinced me to run the 10k!

The marathon weekend kicked off with a gala celebration at the Adelaide Town Hall, hosted by the Lord Mayor and featuring special guests, marathon MC Pat Carroll and event ambassador Jess Trengove, fresh from her bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games. Along with those two VIPs were a number of other VIPs – the Adelaide Marathon Warriors and Legends. Warriors are those who have run 10 or more Adelaide Marathons, and Legends have done 25 or more! I can’t even contemplate running the same marathon that many times but I have huge respect for all those who have! It was a great night, I got to catch up with a lot of people and meet some new ones.

On Saturday was the Flamingo Fun Run for the kids – a great initiative, putting it on its own day. A few of my Board colleagues ran in the event and by all accounts it was a lot of fun!

Posing with the mascot!

Saturday was also bib collection day – the crew had been at the Oval on the Friday as well, but with many people working during the week, the Saturday bib collection proved popular! There were also a few expo stands there on Saturday, so people had the opportunity to browse before it got hectic on Sunday!

After collecting my bibs (one race number and one ‘PACER’ bib) I hung around and helped out with the fun job of unpacking the medals and bundling them into bunches of 20 to make it easier for the volunteers to hand them out! I had a great production line going with another volunteer, Peter, who was doing the bundling as I struggled to keep up with the unpacking!

I got to catch up with a whole lot of the volunteers for Sunday, as they came in for a pre-event briefing.

On Sunday I arrived  early for my event, getting to the Oval around 6:30 so I’d get to see the marathoners and half marathoners start, before the 10k start at 8am. Many of the volunteers had already been working for hours by then!

The marathon started at 7am and as always there were a lot of familiar faces out there! As per usual I was pretty happy not to be among the 450-odd runners heading off to run the 42.2km – but the marathon medal was SO pretty so I was ALMOST tempted! The weather was ideal – only a couple of drops of rain and not too cold!

After the marathoners set off, I went to collect my green pacer balloon – I had asked for a yellow or a green one. My outfit was chosen to fit with the hallowed turf of the Adelaide Oval – a retro green and gold Australian cricket shirt and matching cap, with more conventional running attire on the bottom half. My goal was to be easily visible but also relatively comfortable!

The half marathon started 15 minutes before us, and I knew a lot of runners in the half as well! A couple of my fellow Board members, Gary and Veronica, were pacing 2:00 and 2:06 (6 minute kilometres) respectively. There were 6 pacers altogether in the half, to go along with the 7 in the full – I don’t think I’d ever seen that many pacers in one of our events before! Pacing in the half would be tricky – there were around 1000 starters, so with all the congestion they’d probably be walking for a few minutes, and would then need to gradually pick up the pace.

When it came time to start the 10k, I wasn’t sure where to position myself! I was one of two pacers, the other being 50 minutes. On previous occasions, I’d mostly had pacers before and after me, so it was easy to position myself in between. This time I asked around, trying to find some people who were around 1 hour pace, so I could work out where I needed to be.

As for the marathon and the half before us, the 10k kicked off to the sound of AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck’. I’m pretty sure the last time I’d heard that song at the Adelaide Oval was when I’d seen AC/DC live there some years ago!

Thanks to Dani for this start line pic!

There were close to 500 people in the 10k so I did find it a bit hard to get going! I would have less time to make up any ‘lost’ time, so I needed to get moving as quickly as possible! My new Garmin watch allowed me to set a 5 second ‘window’ (as opposed to my previous one which had a minimum ‘window’ of 15 seconds) so I had my pace alerts set between 5:55 and 6:00. If I strayed outside this range my watch would let me know!

It only took about 1km to hit my goal pace and I managed to hold onto it the whole way, losing a bit of time on the uphills and trying not to gain too much on the downs! (In my first pacing gig, 3 years earlier, it had taken 7km to hit goal pace, what with the crowds and the undulating terrain!)

I had quite a few people around me but there were a few who were with me more than others. Amelia, a student from the USA who hadn’t been running much since she’d been in Australia for about the past year, was hoping to get sub 60 which was around her previous 10km time. Another girl Anna said she hadn’t run 10km for quite some time, and recently had only done 5km. I told her to think of it as 5km, and then after 5km wipe the slate clean and pretend she was starting 5km again! I wasn’t sure if it would work but it did! (I also spread the parkrun news to Amelia, she hadn’t heard of parkrun before and happily the 10km course took us right past the start of the Torrens parkrun course, which I duly pointed out to her!)

I didn’t stop at any of the drink stations but did remember to say thankyou to all the volunteers! I did see quite a few familiar faces out marshalling, including the ever encouraging Gary and the ever colourful Michelle and Tracey.

It was also great, as always, to see marathoners and half marathoners out on course – it really did seem like I knew everyone!

Towards the end I caught up with Board Chair Voula and fellow board member Gary’s daughter Tahlia, both carrying injuries and both of whom told me beforehand they’d be running with me. They’d been ahead of me all race but eventually I did catch them. Voula got behind a bit but I yelled out to her as she’d asked me beforehand to give her a push if she started to fall behind! It worked!

I was chatting with one of the other girls when I caught Voula and Tahlia, and Tahlia asked me to keep talking as it was a nice distraction! Then we caught up with a girl in front of us who had her iPod in and was loudly singing along – I suggested to Tahlia that if she wanted some entertainment she should stick closely with that girl!

Before too long (less than an hour, in fact!) we approached the entrance to the Adelaide Oval and the finish line. Around here I saw a familiar face, it was Matt, who was running the marathon but had somehow managed to miss the turnoff for the second lap and run into the stadium instead! (I’m sure a lot of marathoners would have been tempted to do the same!)

Into the stadium and onto the oval we went. I realised I was going to be a few minutes ahead of schedule so halfway around the oval I decided to stop and cheer some of the other 10k finishers on for a minute or two, until I got closer to the 1 hour mark. I had started my watch on the gun (something I always do as a pacer) so even those runners who had started ahead of me, were going to get under the 1 hour.

Thanks to Estha for this pic, taken just after I’d had my little break, hence it looks like I didn’t have any ‘passengers’ on my ‘bus’!

My clock time was 59:36 which was respectable although as I said I did have to stop to let the clock catch up! No way was I crossing the line in 58 minutes!

After finishing I had a quick chat with Anna and Amelia who were both happy with their results, and then headed off to get an all-important coffee before helping out at the merch stand which was doing great business, ably manned by Lee-Ann who had been there since about 4:30am! I quickly learned how to operate the Point Of Sale app so Lee-Ann could deal with other stuff, although I am a bit challenged when it comes to working iPhones so I had to ask the customers for help!

A happy group of 10k finishers – Tahlia and Voula in the front.

I caught up with marathoner Jenny who had had to pull out due to injury, and we happened to be out the front of the oval as lead runner John ran past, heading towards the finish line. I then quickly made my way down to the oval to see him finish, it was great to see a local runner take the win as this year there was increased prizemoney which attracted elite runners from interstate. It was the first time I’d have the privilege of seeing the winner cross the line – as a half marathon pacer I’d come in after the marathon winner both times, and when I ran the marathon 2 years ago – well needless to say I was also behind the winner!

I headed back down to the oval for a little while just before 10am, as I knew there would be a lot of marathoners coming in around the 3 hour mark. Just after the 3 hours I saw Amelia, who later told me she hadn’t had a great run but she did manage to get 3rd place – not bad for a ‘bad day’!

After that I spent most of the day in the merch area, chatting to fellow runners who all seemed to have really enjoyed the event, including a number from interstate.

I was almost tempted to join in the 5k, a new addition to the AMF programme, a fundraiser for Arthritis SA, which started at 11am and gave even more people the opportunity to be part of the event.

I saw a lot of the volunteers come back from their marshalling or drink station posts, including my vote for best dressed (with all due respect to Michelle and Tracey!)

The fabulous Cherie and Debbie!

And I had to get the obligatory selfie with marshal Gary, plus he took this pic which I thought was pretty cool!

Mmm, bling! (Didn’t taste as good as it looks!)

The rest of the day went pretty quickly and gradually the crowd began to disperse.

The highlight of the day, which a few people have posted about on Facebook but which I will also mention here, was getting to see not only the first finisher, but also the last. After around 7.5 hours, one of the Adelaide Marathon Legends (having completed over 30 Adelaide Marathons – I forget the exact number), Sue entered the arena and every person who was still at the ground was on the oval at the finish line to welcome her. AC/DC thundered from the PA system and MC Pat Carroll and the crowd gave her a rousing reception. It’s a shame that there weren’t more people there to see it, but hopefully in future years there will be more people there right to the very end (like at the finish of Yurrebilla!) And best of all, she made it back in time to get a coffee before the coffee shop closed (when I had spoken to her at the start, this was her greatest concern about being potentially slow!)

The Legendary Sue, wrapping up the Adelaide Marathon Festival with her thirty-somethingth Adelaide Marathon finish. More marathons than I will ever do! Thanks to Peter for this photo.

Following close behind Sue was Voula’s husband John who was the course sweeper, on a bicycle. I have a lot of respect for anyone who can sit on a bike for that long – great work John!

I managed to sneak away once Sue had finished, but a lot of the core team were still there and would have been there for a good few hours after that (after having been there well before dawn!)

So that leads nicely into the thanks. Anything I say here is going to be completely inadequate because it was a massive effort from a lot of people to make this thing happen. Being there from the start to the finish of the marathon I got to see a whole lot. I don’t want to leave anyone out, and I know there were a lot of volunteers there who put in a HUGE number of hours, but these are the people (some paid, some unpaid) who were there Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and for pretty long hours too: Race Director Ben, SARRC staff Cassandra, Lee-Ann, Paul and Harry, and super volunteer Sheena. Along with that we had Malcolm on timing, course measurer Don, and course marker Peter who started at something like 3am?

Thanks especially to them but also to every single one of the volunteers who helped make this what I would like to say the biggest and best Adelaide Marathon Festival yet! (I can definitely say it was the best one I’ve been involved with!)

Can’t wait to see what next year’s event brings!

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!