Well it’s been nearly 2 months since my last blog post. An unusually quiet period for me in terms of events! So I thought I’d better do an event!
The Summer Trail Series is a 4 race series from December to March, with a short and long course for each event. You can enter the whole series, or you can enter race by race – the series gets you a discount, and there are also age group trophies at the end of the series as great incentive to commit to the 4 races! I’ve never managed to do the full series, but last year I did 3 out of the 4 races and managed to sneak in for 3rd place in my age group.
I wasn’t doing the series this year. The December race coincided with the Adelaide Test match, and it was just going to be too much of a rush to do the race, get home, and be at the cricket in time for the 10am start. I have another event on which clashes with the March race. So at best I could do 2 out of the 4 races.
Back in December, just before Race 1, I received a pre-event briefing email which I thought was weird because, as I said above, I wasn’t doing the series this year. Just to make sure, I checked the start list – and there was my name! I had totally entered the series and forgotten all about it!
Fast forward to this weekend, and I was throwing a few options around. Option 1 was a charity bike ride, associated with the Tour Down Under. Karen and I had tentatively planned to do the 80km ride. It would have been my longest ever ride. Except, I hadn’t been on the bike since Murray Man, over 2 months ago. I think I kind of needed to build up to that. Option 2 was a long training run for the Track 100km which is now just under 2 weeks ago and for which I am grossly undertrained. (The Track 100km was another good reason not to do a bike ride – I have a rather spectacular scar on my knee from Murray Man weekend to remind me why a bike ride so close to a big event is NOT a good idea!)
Option 3 was to run the 10km at Cleland. I’d never run this particular event in the series before, because it had always coincided with my being in Thredbo. No Thredbo this year meant a rare opportunity to run this race! A 10km trail run sounded a lot more appealing than a 3 hour loop run or a long hot bike ride. Plus, I’d already paid for it! I might as well run it!
It was very close to the area where I do a lot of my trail running, but on trails I rarely run on. So that was pretty cool!
It was surprisingly cold and windy in the morning, many of us (myself included) rocking up in shorts and singlet, anticipating a hot one. My fingers actually went white before we started! Still, we knew that once we got moving, we’d warm up quickly!
I also had on a small race vest with a snake bandage (precautionary – highly unlikely to be needed in these conditions) and 2 small bottles of Gatorade (because this was a ‘cupless’ event, plus I prefer not to stop at the drink stations in the shorter races if at all possible!)
On the way from the carpark to the start/finish area, we walked past a koala just hanging out, halfway up a tree, wondering what all the fuss was about!
As always there were a lot of familiar faces there, including Scuba and Chantal, who I hadn’t seen for AGES!
The short and long courses both started together. I was probably a bit close to the front for my liking (we had assembled to listen to the race briefing, and in hindsight I probably should have been a bit further back!)
I didn’t really have any expectations. Given that I wasn’t doing the series, I wasn’t even fussed about age group placings. It was just nice to be out there, doing something different!
The start was a bit tricky, with a VERY tight left turn only about 100m from the start, while we were all quite bunched up. Luckily there were no pile-ups around here (at least not that I saw!)
The first little bit was relatively easy, a nice little downhill to get the legs turning over. We soon hit the first hill, and I tried to go for as long as I could without walking, but it wasn’t too long before I started walking up one of the hills. (I may or may not have been influenced by seeing people in front of me walking!)
I ended up walking a fair bit on the hills, and was surprised by how fast some of the other runners overtook me running the ups! (One of them, Toby, was returning from injury so was walking quite a lot but always seemed to catch me on the uphills!)
I mentioned earlier how it was cold. I had brought gloves, not for warmth but for protection in case of a fall. I had put them in my race vest before I left the house, so I couldn’t forget them. And promptly forgot they were in there so didn’t put them on! (Luckily, I didn’t fall! Winning!)
Part way into the race the tips of the 4th and 5th fingers on both hands went purple. I was going to ask first aid superstar Susan about it when I finished but they had returned to their normal colour by then!
Somewhere around the 4-5km mark the short and long courses split, with trail running legend (and I don’t use that term lightly!) Kym telling us all where to go!
The only wildlife sighting of the run came near one of the drink stations towards the end of the race, when a big kangaroo bounded onto the track. I saw the movement from a distance, and was surprised when I approached the drink station, to see him just sitting there, not remotely bothered by all the people running past! Eventually he went back into the bushes – I was a bit tempted to get my phone out and get a pic, but it was a race after all, and I see roos pretty much every time I go out on the trails!
At one point we were accompanied by a LOT of walkers going the other way at which point I realised we were on the main Mount Lofty track. Even at what most people would consider an ungodly hour on a coolish Sunday morning, it’s easy to see why the Lofty track is ‘affectionately’ known as the ‘Lorna Jane Highway’! (If you’re not familiar with Lofty, this video should sum it up for you! And if you are familiar, it will give you a good laugh!)
I was glad we were only on that track for a short time – it’s pretty much like running on a road, the dirt and gravel tracks are much more pleasant to run on!
The course was billed as 10km but at the briefing RD Ben said it was about 500m shorter due to the start line having to be moved. Consequently, when I got to 9km I knew there couldn’t be too far to go! I was running just behind Michelle, who I USED to be able to keep up with but not anymore!
We ran through the carpark so I knew the end was in sight. I did seriously consider, if I ran past my car, stopping to get my Keep Cup out on the way to the finish line – coffee was at the front of my mind! I didn’t see my car though so I didn’t have to make that call!
We turned off out of the carpark and the finish line was right there – albeit with a sneaky nasty little uphill finish! And as I was cruising up the hill I heard Scuba yell out that someone was catching me. So I sprinted! I finished just ahead of a group of 3 guys including Toby (I have to mention this as it is probably the one and only time I will ever finish ahead of him in a race!)
I just snuck in under the hour and made a beeline to the Stir Express coffee van (outstanding coffee as always thanks Neil!). I was certain I’d put some money in my pocket but I guess I hadn’t, and I couldn’t remember where my car actually was, so Scuba kindly offered to shout me – cheers Scuba!
Quick shout out to regular running buddy Arwen who was out there with me, still powering on at 38 weeks pregnant! I don’t think I would have been able to remain upright on a trail run with my centre of gravity so far forward but she managed to get through it without incident! A poster girl for active pregnancy!
Thanks as always to Ben and all the volunteers for doing your thing – it is very much appreciated! Maybe see you at the next one!
Point to Pinnacle was not really in my plans for 2018 but when I found myself in Hobart for a conference starting the day after this iconic event, I figured, it would be rude not to!
Dubbed as the world’s toughest half marathon, Point to Pinnacle is just like any other half marathon, really. 21.1km of running fun, from Wrest Point Casino to the top of Mount Wellington. Over 1200m of elevation gain in 21.1km. It is practically ALL uphill. Sounds like fun, huh?
According to the report, 2900 people thought it sounded like fun. A further 830 thought it would be more fun to run 10km uphill and finish at a pub.
I’m going to backtrack a little now because I wanted to share a little bit of my trip to Hobart – my first ever trip to the Apple Isle! I decided to extend my trip beyond the conference and the race, and spend just over a week here.
Scroll down to the picture of the frog bride and groom if you want to skip the travel blog!
I decided to do a tour of Bellerive Oval, and on quite a gloomy Thursday afternoon I Ubered to the oval only to find that I was the only person on the tour! A personalised experience! It was kind of surreal as there was a game starting there a few days later, and the Tasmanian team were training while I was there. We still went into the home dressing room and quite a lot of the players were in there – my tour guide Glenn even showed me the showers (after first checking that there was no-one in there!) – they seem a bit more relaxed here, I can’t imagine being able to access the rooms WHILE THERE ARE PLAYERS IN THERE, at any other ground in Australia! (Consequently you’ll find I didn’t take any photos inside the rooms!)
One of the striking things about this ground is that the beach is literally RIGHT THERE. If you’ve ever watched a game from there on TV you would have seen the scenic shots of the river and the beach but you can’t quite appreciate it until you see it in person!
On Friday I booked a full day trip to Richmond and Port Arthur.
From there we made our way to Port Arthur, another very beautiful place!
On Saturday I did the obligatory parkrun (Queens Domain, for those playing at home – the closest one to where I was staying) and then hit the famous Salamanca Market – on every Saturday. I spent a good 3 hours here including gin and beer tasting, first and second lunch, and a bit of shopping too!
On Saturday night I managed to find a vegan pizza about 100m from where I was staying, and paired it with a Spicy Mule (purchased from the market) – ginger beer, vodka and chilli. Surprisingly very delicious!
I had been chatting to my 3 roommates on Saturday afternoon about the Point to Pinnacle, so they were all pre-warned that I would be up early in the morning! Fortunately I woke up just before the first of my 3 alarms!
I decided to use my large running vest, with both 500ml bottles filled with Gatorade, and 3 Clif bars. This was based on the assumption that I would be walking a fair bit. There were drink stations along the way of course, but I figured it would be good to have drinks on me the whole time.
The walkers set off at 7am and the runners at 8, with both groups having a cutoff time of 11:40am. 3 hours 40 sounds pretty doable but I didn’t know how much would be runnable and how much I’d be walking. If I had to walk most of it, I might be struggling to make cutoff! I set myself a goal of getting under 3 hours but I didn’t think that was particularly realistic. Anything under cutoff would be fine!
Once I was ready I booked an Uber, with the theory being that if for some reason I couldn’t get an Uber, I would have enough time to walk to Wrest Point (about 2.5km away). That wouldn’t be ideal, but at least I’d get there! Fortunately I managed to get an Uber and while I was waiting, I got chatting to a group of runners from Melbourne and we ended up sharing the Uber. One of the guys had done it before and had done about 2 hours 15. That was fast!
On the way to Wrest Point we passed the walkers just after they’d set off. There were a lot of them (as it turns out, about 1800) and at some stage along the road we’d be passing them!
At the start line I saw a girl in a Barossa Marathon top, so I went to chat to her, I hadn’t seen any familiar faces and I didn’t know if there were any South Aussies out there. Turned out she had lived in SA last year and had run the marathon. While chatting to her one of her friends told me that there was a flat/even a bit downhill section at around the 10km mark. Something to look forward to!
The 10km Point to Pub started next – another group we’d eventually be catching up to (well, the slower ones, anyway!)
After a pre-race warmup led by a group of Mo Bros (Movember is the main charity partner of the event) we lined up at the start line and were sent on our way by MC Pat Carroll in a very loud jacket!
I decided to try to run the first few kilometres, because that was supposedly the ‘easy’ bit. It was cool at the start but it didn’t take long to warm up!
I decided to go with my new favourite tactic of not looking at my watch. As long as I kept running I knew I’d make cutoff. And there were course markers every kilometre so I’d know how far I’d come (or, how far I had left to go!)
As it turned out, it was all ‘runnable’. Don’t get me wrong, I could totally have walked a lot of it. But once I started running and set a goal to keep going as long as I could, I just took it ‘one kilometre at a time’ and just kept running!
It wasn’t long before we started passing walkers – firstly the Point to Pub walkers – the Point to Pinnacle walkers, with an hour head start on us, would come later.
Someone had put a sign on a post that said (something like) “Good luck runners and walkers” and one of the walkers commented that it was nice for them to mention the walkers! I quickly said, “We’ll all be walkers soon!” – at that stage I was still expecting to walk but hoping to put it off as long as I could!
I passed a couple pushing a pram and I jokingly asked for a lift. Surprisingly I was the first person who’d asked that question! Probably not the last though!
Around the 8km mark there was a bank of portaloos (from memory I think that was the only bank on the course) so I decided to make a quick pit stop. I didn’t time it but it had to have been less than a minute. Not that it really mattered – time was not an issue!
Just before 10km the Point to Pub runners and walkers veered off the main road to their finish line, so it meant we had the road to ourselves just for a little while!
And there was that flat/downhill bit – and then it was gone!
Back to the relentless climbing!
One of the coolest things was when we ran through thick mist. The best thing about that was that you could only see a few metres in front, therefore you couldn’t see what was coming.
Even though you kind of knew what was coming.
MORE F***ING UPHILL!
And then we broke through the mist and could see again.
I used the ‘look down and pretend it’s flat’ tactic a lot but it didn’t really work.
Along the way there were a few vehicles on the course – mostly police motorbikes but the occasional ambulance too. As there were so many walkers out there, I had opted to run on the right hand side of the road, so I wouldn’t have to keep going around walkers. One particular ambulance didn’t seem to like the fact that I was on the right side, even though I was totally off the road, and would not go around me! So I decided in a moment of silliness to try to outsprint the ambulance. That lasted about 5 seconds and then I moved to the left with everyone else and regretted it for a while – that was totally unnecessary!
With 5km to go I had to be ‘that’ person who said “Only a parkrun to go!”
The last 5km were the hardest, I had managed to keep running but it kept getting steeper!
Within the last kilometre there was a PA system blasting out AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck’. Because how can you not get fired up when you hear that?
And then, a woman ran up from behind me and pushed me into a finish line sprint – I was just plodding along at that point and didn’t realise quite how close I was to the end, so thanks to Susan for giving me a little push over the edge!
My official time was 2:28:34.9 and official time 2:28:08.5. Under 2:30, well beyond expectations! (Also easily my Personal Worst half marathon time, as expected!)
Unfortunately there was no view from the top due to clouds – hopefully I’ll get back up there before leaving Hobart, so I can actually see stuff!
After taking the mandatory photos it was time to board the bus back to the casino. Yeah – we weren’t going to run back down. Although some people did. including the dude in the banana costume. Because that’s totally normal. Imagine running 21km DOWNHILL? Surely tougher than running up?
The after party was great – everyone got a voucher for food (not vegan friendly sadly but I did have spare Clif bars and there was plenty of fruit) and a drink (happily they had cider as well as beer!), there were free massages, and some musical entertainment out on the deck. A great way to spend a few hours on a Sunday arvo!
While in line for a massage, I was chatting to a girl wearing an Ironman jacket, she had done a 70.3 at Busselton and said that Point to Pinnacle was tougher than that! I always knew runners were more hardcore than triathletes!
So in summary. Point to Pinnacle is a really unique event. I’m so glad I did it and I would recommend it to anyone who wants a challenge, and plus it’s a great opportunity to visit Tassie (I will be back!) Now I don’t think I’ll be rushing to do this one again, once is enough for me!
Thanks to all the wonderful volunteers for making this event happen – it’s one of the best organised events (and it really is more of an event than just a race) I’ve done! (I don’t think too many of the volunteers looked disappointed to be volunteering and not running!)
And well done to everyone who ran/walked/jogged/crawled/got to the top by any means necessary!
I always like to have a goal in mind. It might be a small one (getting through a triathlon without falling off the bike, for example) or it might be super ambitious (such as completing 100 miles in a 24 hour race).
And it might not even be sport-related. Such as, playing ‘Desperado’ by the Eagles on piano without needing to look at the music (sooo close!). And, writing a concise race report.
The Victor Harbor Half Marathon and 10k fell a week after Murray Man and two weeks after Heysen 35k – two of my ‘big’ events for 2018. So naturally, trying to be nice to myself after all that, I opted for the 10k. Not that I need to justify my decision. More on that later.
It was looking like a perfect day so I convinced Karen to come and have a swim in the lake with me afterwards.
It was the first 10k I’d raced in nearly 2 years. I didn’t really have a plan or a goal time (although I would have been disappointed not to get sub-50).
It was a nice civilised 9am start for the half, 9.15 for the 10k, so I had the luxury of a Sunday ‘sleep-in’ despite driving down from Adelaide that morning (approximately 85 minutes drive).
I had a shiny brand new Mekong singlet to run in, I hadn’t even tested it out yet other than on the 3 hour drive back from Barmera a week ago! The hardest part was trying to match it to a skirt or shorts! I ended up going with a green adidas skirt which in hindsight was QUITE short (and for that I apologise to those who ran behind me!) but the colours worked perfectly!
On arrival at Kent Reserve I ran into a well known photographer and encourager (who will remain nameless other than the fact his name starts with G and rhymes with Barry) who made a comment about me ‘slacking off’ by doing the 10k. I didn’t really have anything to say in response to that but actually I was fuming!
It happens often and I’m sure not just to me. “Why are you only doing the ….?”
THERE IS NO ‘ONLY’! Every distance has its own challenges. I chose not to run the half but some people actually may not be capable of running the longer distances. And some people might just be really good at the shorter stuff, and why wouldn’t they do what they’re good at? (And, as I and other people have said before, who is going to ask Usain Bolt why he’s ‘just’ doing the 100m and not the marathon?)
Actually, if there had been a 5km distance, I probably would have done that…
The half marathon seemed to be the more popular distance (running buddy Mark later commented to me, if you’re going to drive one and a half hours each way for an event, you might as well make the most of it and do the long distance – and I see his point, although I have driven 500km round trip for a 5km parkrun, so clearly that doesn’t matter to me!) so by the time we started the 10k, 15 minutes later, there weren’t too many people around. Just the way I like it!
I didn’t know a lot of the people in the 10k, as I mentioned above most of my Adelaide friends were doing the half. Julie was running the 10, as was Patricia who I knew from Adelaide and who I expected would be well ahead of me based on her recent City-Bay half marathon! There was another girl there Orla who I didn’t really know but I knew she’d be well ahead of me. And there were bound to be a lot of fast locals among that lot too! Karen and Daryl were both doing the 10k as well, and Karen and I were going to have a swim in the lake afterwards which we were both quite looking forward to! 12 year old Finn, son of Shane, was also doing the 10, and when I asked him what sort of time he was hoping for, he said he hadn’t trained, but was thinking around 50 minutes. Not too shabby!
I’m not sure exactly where I was positioned at the start. As always, people seemed to be very polite at the start line – no-one wants to put themselves at the front! Co-RD Simon quite rightly pointed out that if you started at the line you wouldn’t run any further than you had to! 10k was quite enough!
The 10k was a 2 lapper (the 21.1 being 3 slightly longer laps). We headed first along the Encounter Bikeway towards Goolwa (the bane of my existence – I’ve ridden on it twice and neither time ended particularly well, but luckily running on it was a different story), then a U-turn around a big tree where Sam was expertly marshalling, then back past the start, past the very familiar ‘Victor Harbor parkrun start line’ and eventually, after what seemed like an eternity, to the second turnaround point, back past the start, and then repeat!
Finn was well ahead of me for the first few kilometres – pacing it like a parkrun (except we were doing 2 parkruns) so I tried to keep him in sight as I got myself warmed up. I again opted to go with the ‘running blind’ tactic – not looking at my watch at all. I’d know how many kilometres I’d done as my watch would beep every time I ticked one off. And of course I’d know when I was halfway, because I’d go back past the start!
The 21.1k runners went the same way to begin with, but went a little further along the VH parkrun course (probably, about another kilometre!) Consequently, we did cross paths with the 21.1km runners throughout the race!
I made a point of greeting Gary chirpily (is that a word? It is now) every time I passed him. He was of course doing the half marathon and did not seem particularly happy to see me! (I tried to get a high five at one point – I am sure he didn’t deliberately snub me, I’m sure he was just ‘in the zone’)
I really liked the course for the multiple out and backs – I got to see pretty much everyone out there, on multiple occasions! I knew quite a lot of the runners anyway, but with the names on the race bibs I made a point of trying to call out people’s names as I crossed paths with them. Being quite a small community event, it was a really friendly atmosphere.
At some point, I think before the halfway mark, I found myself sitting right behind one of the other female 10k runners, who I later found out was Lauren. I’m quite sure she knew I was there, I wouldn’t have been more than 2 metres behind her at any stage in the second half, and I was constantly calling out to people. Not like sometimes when I am running behind someone and I am trying not to let them know I’m there! (Mind games!) With the out and backs, there was no way she wouldn’t have seen me.
At one point, I ran past Sputnik, doing the 21.1k, and he made some comment like “I didn’t stop, how did you pass me?” to which I responded as I passed, “It’s OK, I’m only doing the 10k” and I realised as soon as I’d said it, that I’d broken the golden rule! (It turns out Sputnik wrote a little something about this in his book, which I had read some time ago)
So, all through the second half of the race, sitting behind Lauren, I was thinking to myself. I was pretty sure there was no-one ahead of us except Orla, who was well out of reach. So therefore I was in 3rd place, which would be a pretty good day at the office! I had thoughts about calling out to her, knowing that she knew I was there and probably thinking “Just pass me already!”, that I wasn’t going to try to pass her. But I didn’t. I was quite happy to sit behind her, knowing that if I DID pass her, she would probably pass me right back. All that effort for nothing. No, I would just sit right where I was.
I was also mindful that Patricia was not far behind, and expected her to make a move at any moment!
The end came as a bit of a surprise, in fact had Lauren not been so close in front of me, I could well have missed the tight turn into the finish line and just kept running!
There it was, the finish line, with Lauren a few metres ahead of me.
Were we 2nd and 3rd? Or was someone else in between Orla and us that I hadn’t seen? I wasn’t going to die wondering!
The following photos tell the story!
I did feel a tiny bit bad about letting Lauren do all the work for so long and then taking her at the finish line but, a race is a race after all! (And to be fair, I did call out to her before I passed her, so if she’d had anything left, she would have had a chance to pick up the pace!)
So that was it, I’d managed to sneak into 2nd place, which completely justified my decision (that needed no justification anyway) to do the 10k. I would have been nowhere near the top 3 in the half! My time was under 50 minutes – approximately 47:30, well outside my PB but given that I haven’t raced a 10k in so long, and didn’t really have a pacing strategy as such, I am very happy with that time.
And the new Mekong singlet, which I hadn’t run in before, did the job nicely! When you’re running along and not thinking about the top you’re wearing, that’s an excellent sign! (Can they please start making running socks? I am so in need of a decent running sock!)
It was nice to be able to go back out on the course and cheer on the other runners (including, of course, Gary! My encouragement MAY have bordered on heckling at one point – sorry Gaz!)
Karen finished under an hour which she was happy with, coming off the 6 day event (something that holds absolutely no interest for me, but good on her and all those who did do it!) and we decided to mark the occasion with a photo at the finish line.
I think I may have succeeded in my goal to make this a concise race report! I can’t finish though without thanking every one of the amazing volunteers who made this thoroughly enjoyable event happen – especially co-race directors Simon and Isabella, and MC Andrew. (The rest of you – you know who you are! Thanks again!)
Oh and well done to EVERYONE who ran, even the slackers who only did the 10k!
I definitely plan to run this one again next year – and I’m not gonna lie, it will probably be the 10k again!
In November last year I completed my first triathlon, managed to win my age group and that was enough for me to call myself a triathlete! However I now don’t like using the ‘T’ word because that would imply I actually know what I am doing out there.
Then in March this year I took it up a notch, completing the Sprint distance at the Victor Harbor Triathlons – the standard was noticeably harder, the course significantly more challenging (especially the bike leg) and I realised I still had a lot to learn!
I’m not sure exactly when I decided I was going to do the Murray Man triathlon but the plan was to do the long course, which is a 70.3 (1900m swim/90k bike/21.1k run). I’m now very glad I didn’t do that, I was definitely not ready for something quite that big, but the fact I was not ready was actually not the main reason I opted for the Half distance.
I had booked the Friday and Monday off, the race being on the Sunday. My original plan was to go to the nearby Renmark parkrun on the Saturday (hence driving up on the Friday!) and to stay Sunday night rather than driving 3 hours home after a 7 hour triathlon!
But then, the greatest band in the world (well in my opinion anyway), Def Leppard, announced an Australian tour, which amazingly WAS coming to Adelaide, and the concert happened to be on that very Sunday! So that changed everything – I ‘downgraded’ to the half distance and planned to drive back to Adelaide on Sunday afternoon. That would make sure I had a bit of energy left for that night!
The half distance was 950m swim/45km ride/10.5km run. I didn’t really know what sort of time to aim for. Conservatively I thought 30 mins for the swim, 2 hours for the ride and 1 hour for the run, so altogether I SHOULD be able to do it under 3 and a half hours.
This was the first triathlon I’d stayed away from home for (Victor I drove down on the day) so it required a bit more preparation. I had a list and I double and triple checked it. It was a long way to drive back if I forgot anything!
I took a bit of a detour to visit the Woolshed Brewery for a tasting, a cider on the deck and a few takeaways (wish I’d bought more!)
Then I checked into the Barmera Country Club where I had a nice room overlooking the golf course and even a bed for my bike!
Given the lack of obvious vegan options for dining in Barmera (I checked my trusty HappyCow app and it said ‘there is nothing here’) I decided to go for a bit of a drive to find dinner. I ended up at the Golden Elephant Indian restaurant in nearby Berri. It laid claims to having the ‘world’s finest Indian cuisine’. How lucky was I, in little old Berri, stumbling across the best Indian food in the world? (FYI it was actually pretty good)
The rest of the evening was spent hanging out in the caravan park, which seemed to be the place to be for triathletes and their families – so many bikes! Perfect location too, within walking distance of the start/finish area and right on the edge of Lake Bonney. I must admit I am not a camper, so I would always go for a motel over a tent, but the Porteous clan (all 10 of them) had a pretty sweet setup and I did spend quite a bit of time there over the weekend!
Saturday morning I joined in a social ride on the Murray Man bike course, keen to get a look at the course and also try out my brand new Mekong bib knicks – I was yet to find a really comfortable pair of bike shorts!
The ride was mostly good – the course was pretty flat and nice bitumen road (although a bit bumpy in parts). I was at the back of the pack, but when I reached the T junction on the road the rest of them had stopped so I got off and promptly fell off the bike. It was a controlled fall though, I have done it many times before and I had my gloved hand ready to save myself. No damage done! I didn’t realise that they had only stopped to wait for me – if I’d realised that I would never have attempted a dismount! So then we got back on to head back to town, and I fell attempting to get ON the bike. I had been practising getting on and off the bike over and over during the week so I was pretty sure I had it under control. Evidently not. Ah well, isn’t there a saying, a crap rehearsal equals a great performance? I hoped so! (Shane later said he was thinking about getting his phone out after I fell off the first time, in case it happened again!)
We made it back without further incident, and then a few of us did a little run off the bike – also on the Murray Man course, which has a nasty little hill right at the start! Oh well, rather a hill at the start of a run than the start of a ride – or even worse, at the start of a swim!
Back at the caravan park I surveyed the damage, it was a bit ugly because it was on bitumen, but once I cleaned it up a bit it didn’t look too bad.
Ben, along with wife Dai, are the people behind the Mekong brand. I was also wearing a Mekong tri suit on Sunday. After this, I jokingly asked Ben “Are you sure you want Mekong associated with this?” pointing to myself.
There was a ‘Come and Try’ triathlon happening at midday on Saturday, not just for kids but also for anyone who was new to triathlon. Not long after that, registration and bike racking would open. We had to rack our bikes on Saturday and leave them there overnight. This was another first for me. At least I didn’t have to worry about anyone stealing my bike – I mean it’s a nice bike and all, but compared to the other ones in there…
The ‘Come and Try’ was great to watch, I noticed quite a lot of people (kids, mostly) opted not to do the swim, and instead run along the sand. I was pretty sure that was not going to be an option for me!
I stood near the dismount area as they were coming into T2 because I was interested in watching how people got off bikes and didn’t fall off. One kid had training wheels – I’m sure at least one person pointed that out and suggested that might be helpful for me! Some of the kids had some pretty fancy dismount techniques – but I wasn’t going to try a fancy dismount for the first time on race day, that could only end in disaster! No, I would just take my time and ideally stay upright.
One thing I would never have thought of, because I’d never needed to do it before, was letting some air out of the tyres when racking the bike. Because, it gets pretty hot in Barmera, and if you have high pressure in your tyres, and the air in the tyres heats up – well you can imagine what can happen! I took the caps off and unscrewed the valves but nothing – clearly I have never let air out of my tyres before, well not on purpose anyway! (Turns out you have to push down on it to make the air come out! I’m learning a lot here!)
For dinner, I was going to get pizza from a place in Glossop, between Barmera and Berri (partly because I like saying the name ‘Glossop’ – it rolls off the tongue nicely! ‘Cobdogla’ is another good one!) but Julie invited me to have (vegan) pasta back at the caravan park – an offer I gratefully accepted!
I got all my gear ready for the next day before heading over there. I remembered all my gear, but not a bag big enough to fit it all in. Turns out I need a triathlon bag now. Just when I thought I had everything I could possibly need!
Dinner was great, and I got a few last minute tips about nutrition from Ben, which kind of freaked me out a little bit because I hadn’t planned on having anything other than breakfast, and just Gatorade during the ride and run. I’ve never tried gels, and I have never been successfully able to get food out of the back pocket of my cycling jersey or trisuit while riding. I did put a couple of Clif bars into one of my bags, I might have half a one during transition and then shove it into my pocket in case I needed it on the run.
After dinner I went back to the motel and set 3 alarms for the morning as I always do on a race day! Transition closed at 7:15 (the long course race started at 7:30 and we started at 8) so I’d need to be there well before then. I slept with my timing strap firmly attached to my ankle so I couldn’t possibly forget it!
One of my pre-race traditions (running, triathlon, whatever!) is to listen to my ‘get psyched’ song, “Let’s Go” by Def Leppard. It took on extra meaning on this occasion because I knew that I’d be actually seeing them live that very night! A bit surreal!
I headed down as soon as I had everything ready, better to give myself more time than end up rushing!
Shane pumped my tyres back up for me, and Ben lent me a bike computer so I could get some extra data on the ride without needing to look at my watch. Anything that doesn’t require me to look anywhere but straight in front, will be helpful!
I had to time everything perfectly. Sunscreen needed to go on before transition closed, as I wanted to have it in there in case I needed to reapply it in transition. Ideally, I would go to the toilet BEFORE putting the wetsuit on.
Probably around the time transition closed, the MC announced that the water temperature was very warm, so it would be a non-wetsuit swim. He had me going for a second there, he quickly said he was joking, but I did see a few anxious looks about the place!
I watched the long course start, before starting the fun process of getting into the wetsuit!
The long course swim was 1.9km. They started half an hour before us. Some of them were out of the water BEFORE we started! Fast!
And before long it was our turn! I put myself near the back. I can swim OK but I’m not fast. And I prefer to have a bit of space around me if at all possible.
The swim started pretty badly because I couldn’t get my breathing right. Normally it takes me a minute or so to settle into the correct breathing pattern in an open water swim but this time it didn’t seem to be happening! Visibility wasn’t great because of my goggle sunglasses, but at least the cans were bright yellow so even I could see those.
I got to the first can, around the corner and then realised what was going wrong. I’d forgotten to put my head in the water and breathe normally like I would in a pool. I was so busy trying to keep the can in sight that I hardly put my head in the water! As soon as I put my head under, all was good!
I ended up doing the swim in just over 24 minutes. Because I like stats, I was in 63rd place out of 83 overall (so not last! Bonus!), 26th out of 37 females, and 11th out of 18 in my age group.
Now I know my transitions could use a bit of work but I figured as it was my first triathlon of this distance, I didn’t want to rush and forget something important. Wetsuit off, socks and bike shoes on, half a Clif bar eaten, helmet and sunnies on, and 3 and a half minutes later, I was ready to roll!
I had a bit of a wobble getting on the bike but it was all good – away I went!
Within the first km or so I went past the Porteous clan sitting on the grass by the side, they cheered me, I did have thoughts of waving but I thought it was a bit early in the ride to be falling off, so I just called out instead.
I LOVED the ride. It was a nice flat course, with only a couple of turns. Where we’d stopped halfway on Saturday, we made a left hand turn and rode another km or so before making a U-turn and heading back. U-turns are the worst for me but I was glad the first one was without an audience. Once I got that first one out of the way, I was all good!
And FAST! I had estimated ‘under 2 hours’ for the ride, based on a 2 hour training ride I’d done a few weeks earlier, which turned out to be exactly 45km. The difference was, that particular ride was on the very hilly Victor Harbor triathlon bike course, and I stopped once and fell off once. So of course I was going to be able to go faster here!
I thought maybe I’d gone out too fast, because I was going much faster than I was used to, but I think it’s just a fast course.
I even overtook a few people which I wasn’t expecting. I don’t fully understand the drafting rules, but there was a technical official on the back of a motorbike going back and forth along the course, presumably keeping an eye on this. All I knew was there was a set distance you had to leave between you and the rider in front – I wasn’t sure exactly how far that was, but I’m not a great judge of distance anyway so I’m not sure how useful it would have been for me to know that.
It’s a bit different from running, where you can quite happily sit on someone’s tail for a whole race if you want to!
Anyway, every time I got closer to someone (ie they were riding slower than me) I had to decide whether to drop back or pass them. Initially I’d pass them every time, and then I decided I really needed to save some legs for the run, so I started dropping back more. But if I had to drop back twice in a short space of time, the next time I got too close, I’d pass them.
Other than getting on and off the bike, U-turns were my biggest concern, and there was one right near the start/finish area, with a lot of spectators around – needless to say I took this one VERY cautiously!
As I approached the end of the bike leg I got a bit bold and decided to give the Porteouses a bit of a wave as I went past. There was a bit of a wobble so I decided not to persist with that! I had one very important job left to do before I could say “I got this” – get off the bike!
Luckily there wasn’t anyone coming up behind me as I approached the dismount line so I was able to take it very carefully. It wasn’t the most elegant of dismounts but importantly I DID NOT FALL!
My time for the bike leg was 1:37:25, an average speed of 27.7km/h, much faster than I had anticipated! Again looking to the stats, it was a slightly better picture than my swim. 55th/83 overall, 17th/37 females (top 50%!) and 9th/18 in my age category. Importantly I still felt relatively fresh by the end of it (some might say I didn’t go hard enough!)
T2 was naturally a bit quicker than T1 – swap shoes, swap hats, grab race number belt, grab drink bottle off bike (I hadn’t had anything to drink or eat during the ride) and away to do the bit I actually know how to do!
It wasn’t the most enjoyable run I’ve ever done – although I did enjoy the feeling of overtaking people. It was getting hot, and the course had a few little hills in it.
The run course was 2 laps. There wasn’t a heck of a lot of shade. The hardest bit for me was the bit where you run along a dirt road. There was zero shade there and it felt kind of like running through the desert.
I started a bit too quick, looking at a sub 50 minute finish (my conservative estimate was under an hour but I was seriously hoping I’d go well below that) and after a few kilometres I wasn’t able to keep up that pace.
There’s not much more to say about the run – I just put my head down and got it done. Compared to my ride when I didn’t eat or drink anything, I had an entire 500mL bottle of Gatorade on the run!
The run was just over 53 minutes, with an average pace of 5:01 minutes per kilometre. Now you can see why I call myself a runner rather than a triathlete. 20th/83 overall, 5th/37 females, 2nd/18 in my age category. So while it didn’t feel like a particularly great run, as part of a triathlon it was actually not that bad!
The finish line! I was very happy to see it and ring the bell to signify a PB (which was always going to happen, given that it was my first tri of that distance!) I was pleasantly surprised to be given a medal – I wasn’t expecting one for the short course! I later realised I didn’t have my timing chip on anymore and was worried I might have lost it – apparently it was taken off by someone else while I was getting my medal! Very sneaky, I didn’t even notice!
Oh and the time! My watch showed 2 hours 59 and seconds, but I knew I’d stuffed up my Garmin when exiting the swim, I’d pressed stop instead of lap, and I wasn’t sure exactly how long it was before I’d started it again. It wasn’t until quite a while later when I got my bag with my phone in it, that I looked up the official results and my official time was 2:59:45 – that was beyond my expectations!
The recovery area was great. They had everything – massages, food, drinks… you name it!
I went out to watch the rest of the competitors (mostly long course but some short) still out on the course and was glad I’d opted for the short – it was really heating up by now, the forecast max was in the mid 30s.
Then I heard they had booze in the recovery area so I headed back for some more hydration!
Once the bike course was closed I was able to get back into the transition area and collect my bike and assorted crap – then I could hang out in the recovery area some more until I needed to leave to get back home.
I got to see Ben and Shane finish, they both found it pretty tough going, and Shane said he hated it from the first stroke of the swim, BUT he did keep going to finish his first (and evidently last) 70.3!
I left just after 2pm to make the long journey home. Often it’s a bit of a letdown at the end of an event you’ve been training for, it’s a bit like “what do I do now?” Except on this occasion I knew EXACTLY what I was going to do.
I was going to get rocked.
When the question “Do you wanna get rocked?” is asked, there is only one acceptable answer.
I got home, quickly showered and changed, and headed into the Entertainment Centre to finish the day in style!
Anyway, back to Murray Man (sorry for the little detour but it was important to the story!)
Thanks to all of the organisers and amazing volunteers for making this event happen. It was very well organised, it caters to all levels and although I am still a bit of a noob, I didn’t feel out of place at all there. Special thanks personally to the Porteous family for their amazing hospitality and to Shane and Ben for their help and encouragement to this newbie!
Well done to everyone who competed, particularly those doing their first triathlon, and/or first 70.3! And big kudos to ALL the long course competitors in particular because you guys copped the worst of the conditions!
I’m actually a little disappointed I won’t be able to come back next year but I will have to console myself with the fact that I will be in New York preparing to run the New York Freaking Marathon! 2020 I will return!
2018 was my 4th consecutive year participating in the Heysen 105.
My first Heysen 105 was in 2015. A lot of things went wrong (lost car key, fell over, got epically lost, in that order) but I absolutely loved it and went back for more in 2016. I still don’t see how I can improve on how I went in ’16, so I haven’t been back to do the 105 again since!
I decided to give one of the shorter distances a crack last year – running the 35km. Again I managed to add a bit of distance to the course.
This year my aim was to improve on my 2017 35km time and get under 4 hours. All I needed to do was not get lost and it should be a no-brainer!
I’m mostly telling you this for my own benefit if I run this again and re-read this report in preparation, my pre-race dinner was some excellent food from Pure Vegetarian at Adelaide Central Market. And a cider of course!
My day started early, with 3 alarms set for 3:05, 3:10 and 3:15. I had most of my gear prepped but allowed myself plenty of time to get ready before my departure time of 4:00am. I went for the exact same kit as last year’s 35km (because I couldn’t really blame the kit for getting me lost) except I used lululemon socks and my trail shoes were brand new (still Salomon Speedcross 4, just a new pair as the old ones were a bit worn!)
I made it to Myponga, the 35km finish line, by just after 5am, in plenty of time for the bus. I tried to have a little snooze on the bus but it wasn’t happening! Sam, who had run the 105km last year but had downgraded to the 35km this time, and I were having a chat about our plans for next year. The Adelaide 24 hour came up, and Sam said she was planning to do it, saying “sounds like fun!” A couple of guys in front of us turned around as if to say “WTF??” and I burst out laughing, saying “What’s wrong with us???”
We stopped in Victor Harbor for a toilet stop, given that there are no toilets at the start line.
Pretty soon we were at the start line at Newland Hill, plenty of time before the 7am start (in fact, we’d not long missed the 6am 105km start group – but we would see some of those runners along the way). I’d done my gear check the week before so all I had to do was collect my race number and I was pretty much ready to go!
At the start I caught up with Rebecca, who I had last chatted with at the pre-race dinner the previous week, who was doing the 35k too. When she saw me she told me she’d “had an accident” – what she meant was, she had ‘accidentally’ (a.k.a “my finger slipped”) switched from the 35k to the 57k, which would be her first ultra – and hadn’t even told her husband! Kate had talked her into it apparently – that didn’t surprise me, she ALMOST talked me into the Hubert 100 miler while we were walking laps together during the 24 hour race! (Rebecca had originally entered the 35km thinking that we were running the LAST 35km of the 105, not the first! The elevation profile of the last 35km is VERY different!)
I said to Sam, with about 20 minutes to go before the start, that I only had 2 things I needed to do – “sunscreen and wee”. Sam laughed and said “I thought you said WEED!”
One thing I really liked about this year was that the 35km runners started with the 57km and 105km runners at 7am, instead of at 6:30 like last year. Firstly, it theoretically meant an extra half hour sleep (although it didn’t, because the bus was still at the same time, plus I had a longer drive to get to the start line this year). Secondly and more importantly, it meant that there would be more people around throughout the run. Last year, with only a small field in the 35km and a separate start wave, it got a bit lonely out there at times!
Last year my plan was to run the first 17-18km to Checkpoint 1 at Inman Valley. After the navigational mishap I did end up walking a bit, but other than that I did manage to run the whole way, so there was no reason why I couldn’t do it this time.
We started just after 7am, I was about mid-pack. One thing that surprised me was how fast some of the 105km runners started! One of them was Kent, who had done a few very speedy 50k ultras but this was his first 100km. He ran behind me for a short while, saying I was stopping him from going too fast too early! He ended up passing me before long and I never caught up with him again!
Also in the 105km were Steve, who was the brainchild behind the SA Five 50 Ultra series which has been generating quite a lot of interest! The series is 5 ultramarathons of around 50km in SA, some in Adelaide and some regional, and next year for the first time there will be medals for anyone who completes all 5, and prizes for those with the fastest combined times. As a current Board member of SARRC, the organisation which puts on the Yurrebilla 56k ultra, I am the Yurrebilla ‘rep’ for the series. One of the other races, the Federation Trail ultra in Murray Bridge, is organised by Morgan, who was also running the 105k (his first hundy!). The three of us had a bit of an impromptu ‘meeting’ in the early stages of the race before those two took off, another couple of very speedy 105k runners!
There was a fair bit of road in the beginning and as always I had a buff around my neck to pull up over my nose and mouth when cars went past on the dirt roads.
Early on I managed to catch up with Jenny (57km) and Dave (105km) who I had done a few trail runs with in the leadup to Heysen. Although they were running further than me, they left me to eat their dust very early!
After what seemed like an eternity, we reached my favourite type of trail, nice wide soft fire track through the forest. I was running with Ryan at this stage, also doing the 35km, and he agreed that this was the best kind of trail!
I was determined to avoid getting lost, particularly at the spot where I’d missed the turn last year. With many more people out on the trail than last year, that was less likely to happen, but also it’s a bit dangerous to follow people, assuming they know where they’re going! I certainly wouldn’t encourage anyone to follow me, unless they’re keen for an adventure!
Anyway I was so busy trying not to get lost, before I knew it, I was approaching Inman Valley Road and the re-route to the hall which was the site of Checkpoint 1. It seemed kind of pointless running up the road to the checkpoint only to do a quick U-bolt and go straight back where I’d come from, but it was part of the course – the only thing I had to do was get my number checked off the list and I was outta there! (I had plenty of food and drink so there was no reason to stop) I later found out that Adam, who had infamously got lost with me last year, was at that checkpoint volunteering!
I forgot to mention I was running blind – once I’d started my watch at the start line, I had covered it up with my arm warmer and wasn’t intending to look at it again until I stopped it at the end! So I didn’t know how close I was to the checkpoint until I was practically there! And somehow I’d managed to miss the spot where I’d got lost last year – I’d made the turn without even realising it!
That was the easy bit done. The second half would be WAY harder.
I managed to run the first few kilometres after CP1, and found myself actually hoping for an unrunnable hill so I could start getting some food in! (I hadn’t had anything to eat up to that point as I’d been running the whole way). Eventually I hit the uphill road bit I’d remembered from previous Heysens, and it was time to smash a Clif bar!
I was carrying: 1 litre of Gatorade plus enough powder to make another litre, 4 different Clif bars, a peanut butter sandwich and a different nut spread sandwich, and 2 small packets of sweet potato crisps. As always I had WAY more food than I was expecting to eat. Most of that would be eaten while I was sitting at the finish line later!
I caught up with Daniel during this section and we ran bits and pieces together. He was doing the 105k (I think his second) and was smashing it at that stage! We chatted about the merits of sleeping in the back of the car (he’d slept in the back of his car the previous night, and his car was even smaller than mine! I was planning to sleep in the back of the car at the 105k finish line) among other things.
One bit I had completely forgotten about, and I have NO IDEA how, given that I’d done it 4 times before, was the climb out of Myponga Conservation Park. It was NASTY! Beautiful, but nasty! I did grab a sturdy stick at one stage to help me up some of the climbs! Strava says that bits of it are a 30% gradient. Not sure exactly what that means but it is STEEP!
Somewhere along here I caught up with Merle who was one of the 6am starters in the 105km. She asked me how I was going and I said “F***ed!” I said it laughing though. I knew I could not have too much further left to go!
Daniel had told me that the last 6km was on road, so I knew roughly how much further was left, but I still didn’t look at my watch.
Somewhere during the climby bit, a fence jumped out at me. I went splat, but I had my cycling gloves on so I just grazed one knee and my hands were protected. I bounced, kept going, and forgot all about it until other people saw the blood and asked me about it!
The road bit wasn’t much fun but at least I knew it was ‘about a parkrun to go’ when I reached it!
Along the road I overtook a few people, mostly 105km runners. I tried not to let my excitement show – they still had a LOOOOONG way to go!
I caught up with a 105k runner called Sam. During the conversation he informed me that I had 2.5km to go – this was the first time I actually knew where I was in relation to the finish line! I picked up the pace a little after this – the end was in sight!
Somewhere around here I distinctly smelled watermelon. It was so weird! I don’t even particularly like watermelon. I knew it would be at the finish line but I wasn’t craving it, watermelon doesn’t have a very strong smell, and even if it did, we were WAY too far away from the finish line for me to be actually smelling it! (I even asked the guy behind me if he could smell it, pretty sure he thought I was a bit strange!) Needless to say, there was no watermelon in sight!
I got to the finish line and stopped my watch – my time was around 3:55:30 (give or take a few seconds) – I’d cracked 4 hours! And someone told me I was in second place, I actually had no idea what place I was in, with the 3 different distances all starting together. I knew there were plenty of women ahead of me but I had no idea who was in the 35k! As it turned out, only one of them! She was already long gone by the time I finished, she wasn’t a local so I didn’t know her and I didn’t even get to meet her! (I later checked my previous Heysen results and was gobsmacked to find out that I’d actually run from the start to CP2 a few minutes FASTER when I’d run my first Heysen 105!
Only a few minutes after me, Tracey finished – she had also broken 4 hours and got 3rd place. We’d run together the week before and I knew she’d be around my pace as she was also hoping to go sub 4.
Then it was time to sit down, take off my shoes and socks, and raid my race vest for food!
It was a nice day to sit and just watch the runners come in! I was glad to be finished as it was starting to get a bit warm. I chatted all things triathlon with Shane for a while, he was waiting for his wife Emily who was also doing the 35km (dare I say it maybe a bit reluctantly) and was giving him regular updates via text of how much she was enjoying herself out there! (ie not very much!) At some point in the conversation I’m pretty sure he said he’d do the 105k again!
After hanging out at CP2 for a while I then made my way to CP3 via the Sip N Save at Mount Compass where I got myself a six pack of cider. I hadn’t been to CP3 before except while running the 105, so it was nice to see it from a different angle!
I got there just in time to see Jenny finish, she got second place in the 57km! She later told me she had fallen (quite early on) and hurt her shoulder and a rib, and a few days later it was confirmed she had actually fractured a rib!
I hung out at CP3 for a while – I saw Sirelle finish 3rd in the 57km and then dash off to buddy run Tina in the 105km – now that is impressive! I was tired just thinking about that!
Jenny had been waiting a while for the 3rd place finisher, so they could do a trophy presentation and Jenny could get going, so Jenny’s husband went for one last drive up the road to see if anyone was coming. If there was no-one there she was going to have to leave. As it turned out there were TWO 57km runners pretty much together. He leaned out the window and said to them, “One of you is going to finish 3rd!”
I was hoping to see Rebecca finish her first ultra but I also wanted to get to the finish line in time to see the winner, so I ended up having to leave before seeing her!
I got to the finish line where they had the couches and fires set up like last year. Michelle and Mark had done a lot of the work and it looked really great! A perfect way to kick back after running 105km (or in my case, 35km!)
I won’t write too much about the rest of the night, mostly because I slept through most of it, and I didn’t take very many photos.
One ‘funny’ moment was when Joel, who had been an impromptu buddy runner for Steve for one section, had given me some car keys to look after for Sean, who was Steve’s official buddy runner. I thought that was quite funny as Joel obviously hadn’t heard the story of me losing my key in 2015! I told Joel in great detail where I was going to put the keys, so he could tell Sean, in case I happened to be asleep when he got back! I was actually awake when Steve and Sean finished, and I gave Sean his keys straight away, and then a little bit later on Sean came up to me and asked me if I knew where his car was – unfortunately I didn’t! So there you go, in 2015 I only lost my key, but at least I knew where my car was!
I went to sleep in my car around 10pm and woke up about 2:30, just in time to fall asleep in my chair! In between naps I got to see Dione finish her first 105k. I missed seeing Kim finish her second Heysen, and I also missed seeing Kym and Kate finish (Kym has done every single Heysen) but had a bit of a chat to all of them around the campfire!
I had brought my guitar along like I had done last year, but this time I couldn’t be bothered getting it out – it just took up space in my car, and made my sleeping quarters just a little bit tight!
I had intended to help with the packing away, as I had last year, but I had somehow managed to sleep right through it! Sorry guys!
So that’s Heysen done for another year. I can safely say I won’t be back next year – I have just been accepted into the Chicago Marathon and I have also paid a deposit for New York. And in 2020 I think it will be my time to volunteer as I will be doing the full Murray Man which will be a week or two later and I will be wanting to save my legs for that!
Well done to everyone who participated, whether they finished or not – special congrats to all the people who completed their first Heysen, first ultra or first 100km!
And of course thanks to Race Director Ben and all of the fantastic volunteers – special thanks to the volunteers at CP2 where I spent a big chunk of the day – I don’t know all their names but Kirstie, Estha, Paul and Derek were a few of them – thanks to all of you! And to the first aid guy who cleaned up my knee!
I’ll finish with this. If you’re interested in a challenge but don’t think you’re up to an ultramarathon distance (or just don’t particularly WANT to run an ultra), definitely consider the 35km. But don’t expect it to be easy – it is definitely the hardest section of the 105km! You can walk it or run it – there’s plenty of time to finish. Heysen really does have something for everyone!
I guess I had better explain myself a bit more here. Just a word of warning, it’s going to be a little while before I actually get to talking about the McLaren Vale event. (If you want to skip the lead-up just scroll down to the picture of my cat licking a chickpea can)
I’ve just come into a particularly busy period of running and multisport events. 7 events in 7 weeks (which also means a lot of blog posts coming up!)
The timing of the events is tricky. Trickiest is the one week gap between the Heysen 35k (which I also ran last year) and the half Murray Man triathlon (my first Murray Man event, and third official triathlon). Finding the time to train adequately for both of these, around full time work, has been a challenge to say the least!
For the McLaren Vale Half Marathon event this past weekend, I chose to do the 5k (the other options being 10k and the half mara). It was the final event of the 2018 Triple Crown, and this year for the first time there were medals for all distances, and the medals from the three events fit neatly together to make a pretty picture – I had done the first two events and I wanted to complete the set! Given my relatively busy schedule of events, and wanting to really be able to put in a good Heysen, I figured 5k was the best option. Somewhat naively I thought I could probably do a long trail run on the Saturday and still be able to put in a good 5k at McLaren Vale! (Whereas I wouldn’t have even considered that if I had been running the half!)
Common sense prevailed and I ended up doing my long run on Wednesday after work, taking advantage of the first week of Daylight Saving (giving me a good few days recovery) and managed to finish before it got dark! Not something I’d want to do all the time but it’s nice to know it’s an option!
Trying to fit in cycling and swimming around the usual road and trail runs has been challenging, especially swimming which I don’t particularly enjoy. Following the black line for lap after monotonous lap can be mind-numbingly boring, although that has become somewhat more tolerable since I splashed out (pun intended) on a waterproof iPod shuffle! Still, I’ll take boring any day over the alternative which is swimming in West Lakes, known to be fairly heavily populated with jellyfish which can grow to the size of dinner plates (my friend Karen ‘lovingly’ refers to West Lakes as ‘booger soup’ which I think is a pretty accurate description!) – I will hardly put my head under water there, let alone open my eyes to see ‘what lies beneath’!
So when the opportunity arose to take a road trip down to Victor Harbor (the location of my last triathlon in March) and have a swim in the much more pleasant Encounter Lakes, I took it!
Two weeks ago I’d had my bike fit done (FINALLY!!!) by Hamish at Complete Physio down in Victor, and Shane had very kindly offered to go for a little cruise along the coast the following morning after parkrun to test it out! (He’d also told me to bring the wetsuit down for a swim in the lake but I wussed out of that one – too cold for me!)
This past week Shane had posted on Facebook that he was planning a full on triathlon training session on Saturday including a swim in the lake, a 2 hour bike ride and 1 hour run, and invited people to come join. Initially I had planned just to come for the swim – I wanted to get at least one open water swim in before Murray Man – but I had thrown the bike in the car too. I wasn’t sure quite how that would work and I thought I’d be way too slow on the bike, but it didn’t hurt to have the bike in the car just in case!
I definitely wasn’t going to do the run. The plan was to do the Victor Harbor parkrun (because it would be rude not to!) then the swim, and MAYBE a little ride. Definitely not the run. I’d done plenty of running already for the week. Plus I was ‘racing’ the next day.
Anyway, I went a bit harder at parkrun than I ordinarily would the day before the race. Then I had a FABULOUS swim in the lake – I had my head underwater for most of it and eyes open too! The plan was to swim for 30 minutes and I was expecting to do about 1000m in that time (based on my only previous accurately measured 1000m open water swim) and actually according to my watch I did over 1300m – surprisingly faster than I swim in a pool! Must be a fast lake!
The bike ride did end up happening – it was meant to be on the Victor Harbor triathlon bike course, and started out that way, but I managed to get myself super lost right near the end and did a Tour of Victor before eventually finding my way back to the car, a little over 45km in just under 2 hours with some challenging hills (45km being the distance of the half Murray Man bike leg so that was a great confidence booster!) and it felt great – really getting a feel for the new bike setup and the seat having being raised approximately 7cm!
I decided still not to do the 1 hour run but ended up doing an ‘easy’ 3km run off the bike because it’s always good to practise that. And then of course smashed a Coke in record time and ate ALL OF THE FOOD!
So now we move on to the McLaren Vale event on Sunday.
This year was my 5th consecutive McLaren Vale, having run the half marathon the previous 4 years (2015 and 2016 as a 2 hour pacer, and 2014 and 2017 for myself!) so this year it was kind of weird to be watching the half marathoners getting ready and just standing off to the side knowing it was still an hour before I would start running! (And some of the lead half marathoners would be nearly finished by then!)
Numbers were great, with almost 1300 entrants across the 3 distances including over 800 in the half marathon. Even the 5k, which usually has quite a small field, had 177 entrants and eventually 149 finishers! It goes to show that if you put on quality events, the people will come! The weather was also not terrible – it had rained a fair bit overnight and more rain had been forecast for Sunday but it looked like that would hold off until the afternoon. It was pretty warm too – even when I arrived at about 7:15am I hardly needed my hoodie! The only issue was possible strong wind – it was enough of a factor to stop the finish arch being put up for fear of it blowing away!
I got to see the half marathon and 10k starts, as well as the half marathoners coming back through the finish area at about the 7km mark before heading back out again. This is the point in the half where if you’re not having a particularly good run and are having any thoughts about pulling out, it is a bit too easy to pull out – after all, why run another 14km if you’re already at the finish line after 7?
At the start of the 5k I was near the front. In the front line of runners there were 5 females and a couple of guys. Generally if you line up at the front you mean business, either that or you’re just way too ambitious! So I pretty much knew I was in 6th place, and it would be nice to be able to improve on that, but at least hopefully no-one would overtake me and I’d be able to hold on to 6th!
This was the first SARRC event to introduce age group medals, similar to what they have in triathlon and duathlon events. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd male and female in each 10 year age group in each of the 3 events would be awarded a special medal (along with the finisher medal everyone gets!) I thought it was a great initiative – it gives those of us who aren’t likely to win overall trophies, a chance of winning something! I didn’t know the 5 girls ahead of me but hopefully they weren’t all in my age group and I might be a chance!
At the start I very nearly tripped over a kid in an Adelaide Harriers singlet who started just behind me but then passed me straight away but after managing to avoid falling before the start line, I got into a bit of a rhythm and tried to keep the lead pack within reach. There was an uphill bit pretty early on but then it seemed reasonably flat. There was a 42m elevation gain overall in the 5km which is something but not huge. The elevation map on Strava makes it look like a mountain!
Trying to keep up with the fast runners was a mistake, I definitely went out too fast in the first kilometre (4:20) and then paid for it in the next two (4:51 and 4:53) and never really managed to get back to the pace I should be able to run. I’d call it a rookie mistake but after 6 years I probably can’t use that excuse anymore! It was warmish but the sun really didn’t come out for real until after we’d finished, and the wind wasn’t really a factor. So the conditions were probably as good as could be expected.
We encountered some of the half marathoners – it hadn’t occurred to me that we shared the same course, and realised that running with my head down was probably not the best option! I managed to keep the 5th female runner in sight thanks to her bright pinky purple SARRC top, and I don’t think she really got away from me but I never seemed to be able to make up any ground either!
Towards the end I saw Gary with his trusty camera, he managed to catch a few action shots and also got a bit of language from me – apologies to the man with the kid in the pram who also got to hear the fruity language! Who knew 5k could elicit such a reaction from a normally mild mannered person?
I managed to hold on to 6th place, and finished in an official time of 23:49 (50 seconds slower than the previous day’s parkrun!) – seriously that was hard work!
Had to sit down for a few minutes to catch my breath after that one, before ‘recaffeinating’ and taking the obligatory bling shot with the 3 Triple Crown medals together against the backdrop of the vines. (Shout out to Stir Express for the outstanding coffee!)
After this I helped out on MC duties for a while – it was challenging with so many people out there, I found it too hard to read the names off the iPad as they approached the finish line so ended up just reading the names off the bibs – and I definitely missed a few but hopefully managed to capture most people! (The ones without names on their bibs were a bit harder!)
The kids fun run, a relatively new addition to the programme but now a firm fixture at SARRC events, was a bit of fun too – Race Director Ben asked me to be a marshal – luckily it was a pretty easy gig because as I am known for being a bit ‘directionally challenged’, I’m probably the last person you’d want to rely on to ‘tell people where to go’! Pointing is actually pretty hard work – I noticed a bit of muscle soreness in my right shoulder but I’m assuming that was from the swimming and probably not from what had to have been only about 6 minutes of pointing!
I hadn’t looked at the official results but was still hopefully I might sneak in for an age group placing – in the end I was second in my age group behind Leonie who I’d kept in sight for the whole 5k but hadn’t quite managed to catch – there was only 15 seconds between us too! Still – bonus bling is always nice!
Congratulations to all the runners especially the majority of the half marathoners who had to deal with the warm conditions later in the morning! Also as always a huge thanks to the volunteers – extra special thanks to Voula who was supposed to be running but gave up her run at the last minute to give out medals at the finish line, and her husband John who had the unenviable and I can imagine difficult task of being the sweeper for the half marathon – on a bike! I would DEFINITELY have fallen off! Last but not least well done to the event team Ben, Sheena and Malcolm for putting on another great SARRC event!
City-Bay has been a staple in the SA running calendar for over 40 years now. When I first started running a little under 6 years ago, my first goal event was the City-Bay 12k (as it is for many new runners) and I completed it 4 times, in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. 2016 was a bit disappointing as I didn’t get close to my 2015 PB (which I now realise was significantly wind-assisted!) so I opted not to run in 2017.
I hadn’t really planned to run it again, and then in 2018 the half marathon was added. I was a bit dubious at first, but then I realised, “Hang on, this could be a fast one!” The last 12k, the same 12k that the 12k runners do, is essentially all downhill. Yeah, the first 9k is kind of uphill, but it’s not really THAT uphill. The only thing that could possibly make it not a fast course would be strong winds!
So I decided to run the half, my first ‘proper’ road half for the year, my last one being McLaren Vale in October 2017, which was not as fast as I would have hoped.
My half marathon PB was a touch under 1:38, set in the Australian Masters Games nearly 3 years ago. I kind of ignore that when I’m thinking about PBs. It was the only time I’d ever broken 1:40 in 18 half marathons, and I hadn’t got close since. My next best half was Barossa in 2016, 1:41:45.
The only downside I could see to the half marathon was the arse o’clock start, scheduled for 6:15am at Morphettville. That was to ensure that all the half marathon runners were well past the city and on their way back to the Bay by the time the 12k kicked off at 8:00. There would be nothing worse for an elite 12k runner trying to win one of the not insignificant cash prizes, or any runner wanting to go for a good time or a PB, than having to dodge tiring half marathoners!
My hope was to be finished by the time the 12k started – that would be a sub 1:45 time, which I had just missed at McLaren Vale. The coolest thing would be standing near the finish line watching the elites (and other friends not far behind them) finish! I’d never seen the ‘pointy end’ of the field before, apart from at the start line and at the presentations!
During the week I had happened upon an old ‘pace band’ from a previous half marathon (not sure which one!). The 21k split was 1:41:17. I would be happy with that! I contemplated wearing it but decided against it – I’d just go by feel.
I was lucky enough to get a lift with regular running buddy Riesje and her family (I say running buddy but I can’t keep up with her these days – I’m usually eating her dust!) so we didn’t have to worry about parking at Morphettville. We got to the start area at around 5:45 which just gave us enough time to queue up for the toilets and JUST make it to the start line in time! (We later found out there was a large block of portaloos at the main Morphettville carpark on Anzac Highway, but by the time we found that out there would not have been enough time to get there and back for the start. I must remember that for next time!)
I opted not to wear my compression shorts as I normally would for a half marathon, because they would have looked weird under the floral skirt I’d decided to wear. I’d worn the same skirt for my last City-Bay and thought it was time to give it another run! I also went with the compression socks I’d worn for my last City-Bay, it was a bit of a risk because I have been known to get black toenails from said socks, but I liked the look of them!
Nutrition/hydration wise I’d just bought a bottle of Gatorade and hoped that would be enough to get me through. That’s no different really from what I would normally do in a half, except normally I mix my own Gatorade and use my own handheld bottle. This way, I figured I could ditch the bottle once it was empty. The only thing I hadn’t factored in, was trying to drink out of the Gatorade bottle (a wide-mouthed bottle, rather than the pop-tops I’m used to) while running. A pop-top water bottle may have been better, although I did find the bottle shape fitted nicely into my hand.
The start was delayed a bit, possibly due to the toilet queue, and possibly waiting for a tramload of punters to arrive? I caught up with Amelia, told her I would see her at the finish, to which she responded she was just up for a ‘jog’ today, bearing in mind that her jog is faster than my sprint! I also saw the 2 pacers, Coralie was pacing 1:40 and thought I might be near her, I thought she was out of her mind as sub 1:40 is pretty far off for me at the moment, but I thought it might be nice to try to keep her in sight at least for the first km or two! I didn’t know the 1:45 pacer but I did know I wanted to stay in front of him!
And soon we were away – I started my watch and then covered it up, not to be looked at again until I crossed the finish line!
One of the first things I noticed was the ’20km to go’ sign – I’ve never seen that before! I know they have ‘x km to go’ signs throughout the 12k but I’m not sure if I like being told I still have 20km to go!
The first 9km was uphill-ish. I needed to avoid getting caught in the trap of going out too fast (like I did once in the Clare half marathon). Of course, it was hard to gauge that without looking at my watch!
In the first few kilometres a LOT of people overtook me. That was not right! I wasn’t going THAT slow, was I? Eventually I worked out that they had probably started late (maybe stuck in the toilet queue) and were naturally faster than me anyway, so ordinarily they would have started ahead of me and I would not have seen them. Once I figured that out I forgot about them and settled into my own rhythm.
Despite the road being supposedly closed, there were a few cars trying to get out of driveways onto Anzac Highway. ‘Oh no you don’t!’ I thought to myself (OK maybe I said it out loud, and maybe those weren’t the EXACT words I used…)
We were also overtaken by a couple of cyclists at one point, out for their morning ride and not to be deterred by the road closure and thousands of runners! They DEFINITELY were not meant to be there! This was OUR day!
The turnaround point was just before North Terrace, a few hundred metres away from where the 12km runners were undoubtedly gathering. The clock on the Town Hall as I passed showed about 7:02 – I’d hoped to turn around by 7am but as we’d started late, I supposed 7:02 wasn’t too bad!
The run up King William Street was where we got to see most of the other runners for the one and only time in the race! (In the other distances you don’t get that at all, as they’re all ‘point to point’). On the way to the turnaround we saw the people ahead, and on the way back towards Glenelg we saw the runners behind us. Happily the 1:45 pacer was still a fair way back!
The last 12k was relatively easy – apparently there was a bit of a head wind on the way out, and a bit of a tail wind on the way back, but it wasn’t really noticeable. The weather was perfect – actually you could almost say it was warm when the sun came out! Once we were ‘homeward bound’ the ‘x km to go’ signs didn’t seem so daunting!
One thing I noticed about the half marathon that I hope can be changed somehow next year, was the lack of atmosphere. The volunteers were all there and I tried to thank as many of them as I could, but the crowds that generally gather to watch the 12km, well they were probably still in bed like most normal people! I don’t expect to see crowds that early on a Sunday morning, but it would be nice to have a bit of music to get us fired up! There were a number of bands along the route, and many of them were setting up as we ran past, but they wouldn’t actually start playing until later. And that’s fair enough, it’s a long day for them already. Perhaps there could be a PA system with a radio set up in a few spots along the way?
The kilometres ticked by pretty steadily. When we reached the ‘5km to go’ sign I was just behind Sonja and another girl who I didn’t know, and I said “Just a parkrun to go!” The other girl said “I prefer to break it down into laps of the Uni Loop!” To which I responded “Yeah I have a love/hate relationship with that place!” Plus, for me, a parkrun generally equals a relatively fast run, however most of my Uni Loop running is slow and steady and interspersed with walking. Probably not a helpful analogy for me, but as I said at the time, “Whatever works for you
I was mindful that I had neglected my high fiving duties (to be fair, there were limited spectators to high five!) so when we turned off Anzac Highway into Brighton Road in the last kilometre I made up for it by high fiving as many of the CFS volunteers who lined that part of the course, as I possibly could!
And then we turned into Jetty Road where I really picked up the pace as the finish line was really close now! And finally I managed to find a kid to high five (my ‘policy’ is to try to get at least one high five from a kid in every race!) just before turning the corner to the finish line where I saw the time clock.
From memory I thought it said 8:02 – not too far off my planned finish time of 8:00. The 12k leaders were probably a kilometre in by now!
I crossed the finish line, stopped my watch and only then did I look at it – 1:41:33 (my official time was a whole second quicker!) – I was pleasantly surprised! My second fastest out of 19 half marathons! Admittedly it WAS a fast course. But I think if I’ve ever got a chance of breaking 1:40 again, this would be the event to do it!
After catching up with a few other half marathoners and collecting my gear bag, I headed back to Jetty Road to watch the elites finish – that was one of the highlights of the day!
After seeing the elites with their accompanying flag bearers, I got to see quite a lot of friends finish the 12k too, including Kristie who was 2nd female in the elite walker category (behind an Olympian, so that’s not too shabby!)
Then it was time for some R&R – first stop was the Westpac Red Zone – a VIP area for customers and staff, where everything was laid on including food, coffee and free massages! Thanks Westpac!
I caught up with running buddy Kate who had cracked the sub-60 in the 12k, and we grabbed a coffee and sat down at a table to get a massage!
I probably could have stayed there all day but I had places to go and people to see, so after the presentations I headed off with Maree (who had also done the half marathon) to find her car at Morphettville and then she gave me a lift home – thanks Maree!
The half marathon has definitely got me interested in this event again! While a great event, I felt I’d given the 12k all I could and the chances of getting another PB there were pretty slim. However, I definitely believe I can improve on my half marathon time so hopefully the 21.1km will become a regular part of the City-Bay!
Thanks to the organisers and fantastic volunteers for putting on yet another fantastic event! I look forward to running it again next year and hopefully getting another PB!
This was my 3rd duathlon of the season. All 3 were exactly the same course, so the idea was that I’d improve my times from Race 1 to Race 3. Of course, that was before Race 2 happened!
Race 2 was done on, as it turned out, not one but two flat tyres. So it could only get better from there!
The weather conditions were significantly better than last time – it was still a bit windy but it was a lot warmer.
It was clearly the bike leg that needed improvement. All I needed to do was have both tyres adequately pumped up, and use my gears properly. Simples!
The day before the race, I got a parcel from Mekong which included my brand new tri-suit! There was nothing wrong with my old one, but the Mekong one was just so pretty, plus I had been assured by several people that it would make me go faster, so naturally I had to have one! And this duathlon would be the perfect opportunity to try it out!
On arrival at Victoria Park, I racked my bike and coach Kent (the one who pointed out my flat tyre last time!) came over and checked my tyres – they both got the thumbs up!
There were a few familiar faces out there, notably ultra running mother/daughter team Heather and Ally, both doing their first duathlon. Kristie was back again, and Karen and Daryl were there as spectators this time (Karen having had a bike mishap during the week).
After the race briefing we were split up into our waves – Open and Under 40 athletes in the first wave, 40 and over in the second, and Short Course in the third. (I was doing the long course again – 4km run/16km ride/2km run. The short course was half those distances.)
It was quite warm out there, for the first time in any of the duathlons I did take advantage of the cups of water near the start/finish line on most of my running laps!
On the first run I started reasonably conservatively on the first of 4 laps but then my competitive side kicked in and I decided to try to pass as many people as I could on the run. I would probably pay for it later but it was my chance to get a bit of a head start on the bike leg!
According to Strava I finished the first run in 17:59 and got through the first transition in 13 seconds – I’m not sure about that T1 time but I’ll take it!
It took me a few hundred metres for either of my feet to click into the pedals, which was a bit frustrating, but eventually I did get them in! Riding past the grandstand (with wind assistance) I went into a higher gear (as per Shane’s advice from the first duathlon) which really helped to stop my legs from going too fast!
The trickiest part of the course as always was the ‘hot dog’ hairpin turn (so named because on the map it kind of looks like a hot dog – they probably could have called it something else but it is a family-friendly event!) It took a few laps before I got it sorted – and as per previous races, as the laps ticked by, there were less and less people left out there to potentially be trying to pass me!
I did get passed on my left a couple of times but mostly people were really good and called out as they were about to pass me on my right.
All in all, the ride went pretty smoothly. My Strava time for the ride was 37:46, compared with 44:08 in Race 1 and 47:43 in Race 2. It was all because of the suit!
Then I went through T2 just behind Kristie (T2 was 39 seconds according to Strava) and headed back out for 2 more laps of the run course. Kristie didn’t use bike shoes so her T2 was a lot quicker than mine, giving me something to chase in the run!
The second run was a bit slower than in Race 1, maybe because I’d really pushed hard on the bike. Thankfully, it was significantly better than Race 2 (EVERYTHING about Race 2 sucked!)
Gosh, 2km feels like a long way!
On the second lap I decided to try to pass as many people as I could. Although my legs felt pretty heavy, I guessed everyone else would be in the same boat! When I got to the last few hundred metres there were a couple of girls I decided I needed to at least try to pass. I actually ended up passing one RIGHT on the finish line, that was a good feeling – for me at least!
My overall time was 11 minutes faster than Race 2 and around 6 minutes faster than Race 1. So it was an overall PB as well as a bike PB – a great way to end the series!
Thanks to Triathlon SA and all the volunteers for putting on the series, I have learned a lot from the 3 races and I know I still have a lot to learn! One of the things I love about the triathlon scene is that people are really friendly and encouraging, and always willing to offer a tip or two to help a newbie like me!
I’m still deciding whether to go to the final race in the Barossa Valley (there’s a hill in the bike ride, but there is wine in the Barossa…). Decisions, decisions!
The last marathon I ran was in April 2017, that was the Boston Marathon and that probably would have been a good one to go out on.
The original plan for 2018 was to run Gold Coast and qualify for Chicago in 2019, with the ultimate goal to (eventually) do all 6 majors and get that epic medal. But 17 weeks out from the Goldie, when I was contemplating the start of the training programme and dreading the long road runs, I thought to myself, ‘Why am I doing this if I clearly don’t want to?” and consequently Gold Coast fell off the programme. If I really wanted to run Chicago I could go in the lottery or worst case scenario, pay my way in. (I justified this by thinking of the money I would save by not doing Gold Coast – flights, accommodation etc).
The idea of running Barossa came into my head in May, at the Adelaide Marathon. One of my regular running buddies, Dean, had decided LITERALLY AT THE LAST MINUTE to run the Adelaide Marathon, and had done quite well. “Maybe, just maybe…” I thought, “I could run a Chicago qualifier at Barossa!” That sounds good in theory, but you have to know that Dean is a committed road runner, and does long road runs every Sunday, whereas you’d normally find me out on the trails, or doing some kind of event. I can’t seem to commit to one kind of running! Add the multisport stuff to that, and you can see why 16 weeks of long road runs does not compute for me!
So anyway, in June I bit the bullet and entered Barossa, but for the first time ever I purchased the insurance that would allow me to get a refund if I decided running Barossa was a terrible idea. And I wasn’t going to tell anyone I was doing it, but over the coming months people somehow managed to get it out of me!
At the time I entered I was 100% focused on the Adelaide 12 hour which was my ‘A’ race for the year. After the 12 hour I had 5 weeks to get myself up for Barossa. 1 week after the 12 hour I was pacing the 10k at Greenbelt, so effectively that meant I was going into Barossa with a 4 week training programme, instead of the traditional 16. If I could make it work with a 4 week programme, maybe marathons weren’t so bad after all!
So, in other words, this was probably one of the most ambitious things I’d ever attempted!
Now I wasn’t going from ‘couch to marathon’ in 4 weeks of course. Having run over 100km 5 weeks ago, the distance was never going to be an issue. (I’d also run 3 runs over 30km in the leadup to the 12 hour). It was the speed that I was concerned about.
In the weeks leading up to the 12 hour speed was the last thing on my mind. I did all my training runs at comfortable pace and it was only the odd parkrun where I would really try to go for it.
After Greenbelt I had a chat to club coach Kent about what sort of training I should be doing for the 4 weeks (normally taper time, but it’s hard to taper when you haven’t really started training for real!) He said that I didn’t need to do anything big, just join the rest of the Marathon Mentor training group runs and do whatever distance they were doing.
The first Sunday run was meant to be 32km, but I found myself running on my own (and hadn’t thought to bring music with me) so ended up cutting it back to 30km which was plenty. I’d forgotten how different long road runs were, compared to runs around the Uni Loop where I could keep everything in my car. 2 weeks out I ran 21km with Beck (also doing the marathon, although at the time she still hadn’t entered – her goal was more around finishing and it was likely we wouldn’t be running together) and then last weekend it was a very enjoyable 16km with Kent, and 2 other runners who were doing the marathon, Lachy and Kristina.
I started doing tempo runs once a week – usually on a Thursday, as Tuesday was more of a recovery pace.
Pace wise I wanted sub 3:45, which, last time I checked, would qualify me for Chicago – even one second under would be enough. With time being of the essence, I decided to go back to what I was doing a few years back when I ran my first Barossa Marathon – I made myself a pace band, using the MARCO calculator. (Start slow, then gradually build up the pace and allow for a little drop off in pace at the end). Last time I’d used a pace band I decided to ignore it from quite early on, but it was worth having just in case it might be useful and keep me on track!
The weather was looking fine albeit cold – I would need layers at the start!
As I will always do if I am able to, I had ‘special drinks’ organised for the drink stations. It was only Gatorade, but the reason why I would always opt for bringing my own drinks, is because I can just grab a bottle at the drink station, rather than drinking from a cup and then having nothing until the next drink station. This way I could grab a bottle at the first drink station and hang onto it until I reached the next one, and have a drink whenever I felt like it! As always I also had to make my drink bottles distinctive so I wouldn’t waste time looking for them – I went with blue and yellow electrical tape. (I’d attached straws to my bottles at the Adelaide Marathon in 2016 but although that made them easy to spot, I noted in my race report that they were very annoying to carry! So I wasn’t going to do that again!) There were 3 drink stations where we could have special drinks, and we’d pass each one twice (once on each lap) so I had 6 x 250ml bottles. Given the cool weather I thought that would be enough, and there was always water at all the drink stations if I needed anything more.
Race eve fuelling was as per tradition – pizza and cider! This was my 7th marathon and every single one of them had been preceded by the same race-eve meal! The pizza was from Sonny’s Pizza Bar – highly recommended, with an extensive vegan menu!
Gear-wise I went with tried and true – from the top down, I had a white 2XU hat, Mekong ‘Vegan Beast Mode’ top, rainbow arm warmers, 2XU compression shorts with black lululemon skirt over the top, 2XU ‘Run Boston’ calf sleeves, lululemon socks and my last pair of Brooks Ravenna 6 shoes (no longer available, and the new Ravennas are all wrong for me, so after over 4 years in Ravennas I’m going to have to find a new road shoe after this!)
I kept an eye on the weather forecast, and although there was little chance of rain (excellent!) it was looking like being very cold, especially in the morning! Last time I checked they were forecasting a maximum of 13 degrees in Tanunda, and an overnight minimum of about 4. There was a real possibility I might need to wear gloves at the start. I had not quite decided whether to wear a T-shirt or singlet – I wore the T-shirt but took the singlet with me, in case I changed my mind. I had never run a marathon in a T-shirt before!
I got a ride to Tanunda with Kirsten and Nigel, Kirsten was going for around 3:45 too, and husband Nigel happened to be the 3:45 pacer! So hopefully we’d all be running together, although my plan would have me only overtaking him right near the end. But then, I rarely stick with a plan in a marathon…
It was pretty cool when we arrived in Tanunda but not as cold as I thought it might be, so I decided not to bother with the gloves, but I did stick with the T-shirt rather than the singlet.
At the start I positioned myself near Chantel, the 4 hour pacer, with Nigel and his pink 3:45 balloon in front but in sight. The plan was to run the first 3km at 5:30 pace, whereas Nigel would be running even splits, aiming for 5:20 minute kms from the outset.
I’d had a toilet stop as soon as we’d arrived at the start, and had planned on another but after I took my bag to the bag drop area, I looked at my watch and it was 7:21 and the race briefing was about to happen – with a 7:30am start, I would be pushing it to get to the toilet again and make it to the start in time! Oh well, I thought – there’s always portaloos out there if I really need it! I’d never had to stop in a marathon before but then again there were a few other ‘firsts’ in this particular marathon!
My first few kilometres were spot on pace. The first drink station was only about 2.5km in, and I didn’t need a drink at this stage but this was one of the designated ‘special drinks’ stations so I grabbed my bottle which was easy to spot! Not long after this I saw the first portaloo and decided to go for it – I’d got a bit ahead of time by now (from memory this was the 4km mark) and just passed regular running buddy Sarah. I eventually found the door (the portaloo had been positioned so the door was AWAY from the runners – which made sense I guess!) and when I checked my time afterwards it was less than a 50 second stop. Plenty of time to make that up, and definitely worth it!
I’d already passed a few other familiar faces – Lachy and Kristina, Annie, doing Barossa as a training run for Berlin and Chicago marathons, as well as Chris (doing his 100-and-somethingth marathon) prior to my pit stop so I could use that as a bit of a gauge as to when I was back on track. I was about 30 seconds behind pace at 4km, but I’d got to 30 seconds ahead by 6km. Hopefully that wouldn’t come back to bite me!
I’ve said this every time I’ve run Barossa but I’ll say it again. I love how you get to see everyone multiple times! The nature of the course means that sometimes you don’t get to see everyone on every ‘out and back’ but over the course of the marathon I reckon I saw just about everyone! A lot of my friends were doing the half marathon so I got a real boost when I started to see them!
The prize for ‘having way too much fun for a marathon’ has to go to Jenelle, celebrating her birthday (and what better way to do it?) and her running buddy Anthony. We saw them multiple times and they ALWAYS looked like they were having a ball!
Probably around the 10km mark I was starting to move further and further away from the pace I was SUPPOSED to be running. I was actually approaching 5:20 average pace, which was meant to happen right near the end. Clearly I am not disciplined enough to follow such a specific pacing plan! So I decided to ditch the plan and instead to try to catch Nigel and then let him do all the work!
By now I could see the 3:45 pace group and although I seemed to be getting faster in relation to my plan, I didn’t seem to be making up any ground! At one stage I decided to time how far behind them I was – at one stage I was 25 seconds behind, and a few kays later it was 13 seconds. My new goal was to catch them by the halfway mark. It did eventually happen around the 20km mark – Kirsten was still on the ‘bus’ along with quite a few others.
We reached the 21.1km mark in 1:51:50. Double that and you have 3:43:40 – perfect pacing so far! (And I would expect to negative split, given the time I’d lost on the toilet stop!)
What I hadn’t factored in was the wind. More on that later!
We noticed that the 4 hour pacer had lost her balloons, as had the 3:30 pacer (the latter actually before the start!). One of the other runners in our group, Bart, was asking me about alternatives to balloons to make pacers more visible, given that balloons are annoying (both for the pacer and for those right behind!) and often do pop or float away! Bart had the idea that the pacers should wear a distinctive colour, “one that no-one else wears” and we decided we needed to invent a colour, we could call it ‘Pacer’ and it would be ‘hi-vis mustard’. As well as that, to make the pacers visible to people a bit further away, in lieu of balloons, they should wear Viking helmets. So take note Race Director Ben and organiser of pacers Kent!
As had happened the last time I ran Barossa, one of my drinks somehow went missing! The special drinks were at drink stations 1, 4 and 5. After picking up my first drink at the 2.5km mark, I was never without a drink in my hand. One of the drink station volunteers, Naomi, actually had my drink ready to hand to me as I approached the drink station! (As an aside – the TOTAL amount of stoppage time I had during the marathon was 48 seconds. That would have been entirely accounted for by the pit stop. That meant I did not have to stop for one second at the drink stations – having my own bottled drinks ready to grab definitely saved me a good amount of time!) Still, I had 5 drinks throughout the race and that seemed to be enough. I don’t do gels, I did carry a Clif bar ‘just in case’ but I didn’t end up using it. My fuel consisted entirely of Gatorade. It was a bit of an adjustment from the ultra mindset where I eat when I’m walking – given that I try to avoid walking in marathons!
There were a few people ahead of us that I kept seeing on the turnarounds and seemed to be getting closer to us. One was my old ‘nemesis’ (meant in the nicest possible way!) Graham, and the other one was Leon, who had not done much running at all since the 24 hour, hadn’t run at all in the last 2 weeks, and had told me at the start he was aiming for 6 minute/km pace, and around 4 hours 15. He was WELL ahead of the 3:45 pace group for the first half of the marathon! It would be interesting to see if I was able to catch either of them!
Did I mention the wind?
So we were faced with 40km/h wind gusts for much of the second half. It seemed that we were running into it more than we were running with it. It was the only thing that was going to stop me getting my goal time, as I was otherwise still running very comfortably. Barossa is a flat course but when we were running into the wind it was like running up a really steep hill. Or into a brick wall. (You hear about ‘The Wall’ in marathons – that point where you’re running really well and then suddenly, usually around the 35-36km mark, you just lose it! Well in this particular marathon it wasn’t a metaphorical wall, it genuinely felt like we were running into a brick wall!)
When the wind hit us, I dropped back from the pack – I couldn’t seem to keep up! Thankfully there were periods where we had the wind behind us, so I was able to pick up the pace a bit and catch up with the group. There were only a couple in the group by this stage – Kirsten had dropped back, and Bart had gone on ahead.
I did eventually catch up to Leon – he said he had been running well up to about 20km but then started to feel it!
I had stopped looking at my watch altogether when I’d caught up to Nigel at the 20km mark. It was easy to do as my watch was under my arm warmer. Consequently, when I was a bit behind him, I had no clue if I was on pace or not! (He was trying to run just ahead of 3:45 pace, and he had started ahead of me, so I had a bit of a buffer, but I wasn’t sure if the wind would prove to be my downfall – the effort required to push against it might leave me with nothing left at the end!)
If there was ever a metaphorical wall for me in this marathon, it was at the 40km mark. I’d just gone past a drink station, we were still running into the wind, and Nigel seemed to be getting further and further away, and with him, my hopes of getting a sub 3:45. Even though I’d told myself (and others) at the start that I was hoping for sub 3:45 but not expecting it, I’d got this far, and it would be pretty devastating to miss out only by a few seconds! I told the people at the drink station “I’m done! I’m finished!”. Even though I had only 2.2km to go (or, in terms I understand very well, one lap of the Uni Loop!), the finish line seemed very far away…
Pretty soon after that I saw running buddy Nat, not running this time but just there to support all of us, so that gave me a little boost!
The countdown was on – less than 2km to go. And not too long after that, FINALLY, that stupid wind went away! Or maybe I changed direction. Either way – happy days!
We turned a corner, onto a bike path, where I realised I was making ground on Nigel and did eventually catch up with him! THAT was a good feeling!
Just before I caught Nigel I saw Graham, running just ahead of the 3:45 bus. I called out to him to warn him I was coming after him – I didn’t want a repeat of last year’s Tower Trail Run where I’d passed him just near the finish, then he’d chased me down! No, I was MORE than happy to let him stay ahead of me! (When I saw him afterwards he said he hadn’t heard me call out to him, but he had heard Nat call out my name a bit earlier and realised I was getting a bit too close for comfort!)
Rather than the marathon and half marathon markers, in the final kilometres I used the 10km race markers as my main gauges – when I saw the 9km marker I knew we were into the last kilometre! I reckon I got this!
The finish line was different from when I last ran the marathon – previously it was on the road, but this time it was actually in the school which was the home base for the event. As we ran along the road I saw a whole lot of familiar faces – my friends who had done the half marathon, kindly waiting for Kirsten, Nigel and me to finish our marathons before heading off for lunch!
And then I heard MC Ryley on the mic, and I heard him say “3:43” which was the time on the clock, and at that point, with the finish line in sight, I knew I had my sub 3:45!
I crossed the finish line in an official time of 3:44:07, and got my sweet, sweet bling from Oliver before going over to the baggage tent, with thoughts of my vegan donut from Bakery On O’Connell at the front of my mind. There I found Graham and decided a ‘post-marathon-collapsed-on-the-ground-in-the-baggage-tent-selfie’ was in order!
Leon and Kirsten were not far behind me, and Annie and Sarah both also finished under 4 hours. As we were getting a bit cold and the half marathoners had been waiting for us for AGES, we left just as the presentations were winding up, and headed off for a lovely lunch and wine at the South Australian Company Store in Angaston.
I was getting a lift home with Beck and James, and I asked Beck if we could stop off at my favourite Tscharke Wines in Marananga, as my stocks were getting a bit low! She very kindly obliged – thanks Beck! Although I was a bit disappointed that they had sold out of the 2016 Cab Sav, apparently the new vintage is ready for bottling so I guess I’m going to have to plan another trip to the Barossa soon – oh well, if I must!
So, after a 16 month break between marathons, nothing has changed. They are still HARD! They still kind of suck! But I was so happy with how this one went, both for me personally, but also the event in general. The wind was the only down side, but the weather overall was pretty great, making the finish village a cool place to hang out while waiting for the rest of my friends to finish (except Neil – sorry Neil, we couldn’t wait for you! Neil was the sweeper. He would be a good couple of hours behind us!)
Thanks to RD Ben and the equally awesome Sheena for a great day, as well as all of the many volunteers who helped both on the day and in the leadup. I felt a bit bad that I couldn’t help out at all on this one, but I really wanted to focus 100% on me this time, and it paid off! Well done to all of the runners – you well and truly earned your bling in those conditions! Hope you’re all recovering well and planning for your next event!
So there’s a post script to all of this. Remember how my goal was to run sub 3:45 and qualify for Chicago? (And I FREAKING DID IT!) Well, out of curiosity, after I got home, I got on the Google and looked up ‘Chicago Marathon qualifying times’. And guess what? It’s changed!
So that’s me done with marathons for quite a while – I don’t think I’ll do another one again until Chicago in October 2019. No, might just stick to ultras for a while!
I didn’t want to write about this one, because it sucked. But then, you do have those days, and it would be unfair not to write about the sucky races, because they happen!
The first race in the series went reasonably well after Shane gave me the tip about my gears. I had decided to try to do the whole series, if only to try to improve on my own times. Race 2 happened to fall the day after a very entertaining work function, so consequently I left it until the day to enter, just in case!
It was a windy day but thankfully not raining, so I decided to give it a crack.
The first (4km) run was just OK – a bit slower than last time, but as I was managing to overtake quite a few people, it still felt OK.
Transition 1 went as well as can be expected. 22 seconds to change shoes and hat, grab the bike and head off onto the cycle course. 8 x 2km laps. Sounds pretty easy, right?
Well let me tell you it wasn’t. The bits where I was riding with the wind were just OK. The bits where I was riding into it were not. On a few laps I was almost blown sideways off the track! That wasn’t helped by the fact that on the first few laps people were passing me on my left – luckily there were no collisions, there could easily have been!
EVERYONE passed me. Almost everyone. The wind was a factor, sure, but everyone else had to contend with that too!
Not many people passed me on the last few laps. That was because almost everyone else had finished by then!
The one positive I could take out of the bike leg was that the hairpin turn seemed a bit easier this time. I had sort of got the hang of it at the last duathlon. I had learned that if you take it as a sweeping bend it’s a lot easier than trying to do a 180 degree turn! That didn’t stop one person from passing me on the inside as I was making the turn! (I would always check over my right shoulder 3-4 times as I approached the turn, to make sure no-one was approaching, and if I saw someone out of the corner of my eye I’d let them past so I had a bit of space. What I wasn’t doing was checking over my LEFT shoulder. Grrr!)
I knew to use the harder gears on the faster parts of the course but on this occasion the gears were just not working for me – the bike was not sounding normal, and I knew there was something not quite right but I wasn’t about to stop, I just wanted to Get. It. Done.
After what seemed like an eternity I made it back to transition. T2 sucked as well. The spot where I had had my bike, now had someone else’s bike in it, so instead of there being a nice gap for me to put my bike, it took me a while to actually find my ‘spot’! I had to wrangle the bike onto the rack and try not to get tangled up with other bikes, which wasted a bit of time. Then because of how the bikes were racked I had to get on my hands and knees to retrieve my running shoes and hat. In the process of taking my long sleeved top off I dropped my sunnies and one of the lenses fell out. Oh well, luckily it wasn’t sunny, I could manage to run 2km without them!
After what seemed like an eternity (59 seconds according to Strava) I was finally out on the last run leg to finish the race. My second run wasn’t too bad although my legs were completely like jelly to start with, more so than last time! When I look at my time for the second run leg I averaged 4:34 pace which is not too terrible. It certainly felt slower than that. I am sure I would have been able to overtake some people if there’d been anyone left out on course.
So that was it – Race 2 done and dusted. Not my finest moment by any means but a good learning experience!
Everyone else did well. Karen and Daryl placed again, as did Ros, who had done the short course. Cherie had successfully completed her first duathlon.
Karen insisted on a group photo, ‘because if there’s no photo it didn’t happen’. (I would have been quite happy to pretend it DIDN’T happen, but as I was in the photo, I guess that means it happened – plus it’s on Strava too so I guess that confirms it!)
As I was back at the bike rack putting my warm clothes on, chatting to fellow athlete Kristie about how much I hate sucking at things and should really stick to running, my club running coach Kent (also an experienced triathlete and Ironman) pointed out that my back tyre was flat (and had been for a good part of the race, if not all of it!) Which was nice because it means maybe I don’t suck quite as much as I thought I did! I suck at knowing and maintaining my bike but if I can get the bike right who knows, maybe I can become an adequate cyclist one day! (It wasn’t DEAD flat, just much flatter than it should be!)
So there you have it. Shortest race report ever! Thanks to all the organisers, volunteers and other athletes out there, and I guess I’ll be seeing you again at Race 3!
Oh and as a post script I was out today, got caught in the rain so stopped to look at a bookshop while I waited for the rain to clear. Found this. Think the universe is trying to tell me something!