From ‘athlete’ to sloth – aka ‘The Summer Of Jane’

Hey friends, it’s been a while, and although very little has been going on in my world since my last post, I thought it would be nice to post a little update in case anyone is interested!

If you’re a Seinfeld fan you may understand ‘The Summer Of Jane’. If not – Google ‘The Summer Of George’. Basically, George gets a 3 month ‘holiday’ from work and starts with all these grand plans of what he was going to do with his time, and finishes up as a sloth!

So last time we met, I had just been diagnosed with a fracture of the pelvis and had been instructed to do minimal weightbearing on the affected left side, no lifting, no swimming or cycling, basically no exercise at all, with the possible exception of some light seated upper body exercises.

I did go to the gym once. It was a logistical nightmare – while I could lift 4kg dumbbells sitting down, I somehow had to get them from the weight rack to the seat. So I put my gym membership on hold for a few months.

I bought a set of crutches (the thinking being that it would be cheaper than hiring them for 8 or more weeks – not that I was expecting to need them long term). I definitely made the right choice with the elbow crutches – have you ever used underarm crutches? I have. Forget about it! The big advantage is that I can let go of them to do stuff, and they stay attached to my arms. They say you have to have slightly more upper body strength to use them, but if you can manage them, they’re definitely the way to go. (Interestingly, I read that elbow crutches are the preferred option in most of the world, except for our friend America. Over there, they are specifically for people with long term disabilities. Another good reason I didn’t go over there with them!)
I kind of figured that dragging myself around on crutches was more than enough upper body workout without having to go to the gym. I’m fully expecting to end up with Michelle Obama arms!
Oh, and I wore out a pair of crutch tips after 7 weeks. I’m going to say it’s because the crutches are cheap and nasty and not because I’ve been walking too much!
OK now to the plus sides of having to use crutches to get around.
Disabled parking, aka ‘rock star parking’. I don’t use it all the time, only if there isn’t a normal park close by – the proximity to where I am going, is more important in my case than the size of the park. Although, given that I am unable to unlock my door from the driver side, the extra width does come in handy sometimes! (And before you ask, yes I do have a permit!) Free parking in the city is also a bonus, although I don’t go in there too often – again I’m not supposed to walk too much, and going to town invariably requires a fair bit of walking!
People are generally pretty courteous – opening doors (although I have worked out a pretty good method of doing it myself) and bringing coffees to me rather than me having to carry them (Spoiler alert – I can’t carry a coffee!) A couple of times at winery cellar doors I was looked after very well – special shout out to Alpha Box & Dice where we were seated on a very comfy lounge chair and the guy brought the wines to us rather than me having to flamingo at the bar!
I have to get help with putting the bins out/bringing them in, doing my weekly shopping, putting clean linen on the bed, and washing my sheets/towels. HATE THAT! Luckily for me I am able to do everything else I needed to around the house. And If I need just a few things I can manage a small shop myself. The first time I put the goods in my backpack to carry them, but then I decided that was a bad idea. Although I don’t think that anyone would suspect I wasn’t going to pay for them, it would be a pretty damn good scam if I was dodgy!
Carrying stuff around the house is the biggest problem. I did fashion a carrying tray out of a (never used) kitty litter tray, reusable bag, bulldog clip and a lanyard, and that worked well the one time I used it, but I didn’t trust if for anything heavier. Consequently I ended up eating a lot of meals sat at the kitchen bench (which I often do anyway, as I usually end up with a cat or two on me or in my food if I sit on the lounge!)
I spent the first week or so trying to find a plastic stool so I could sit in the shower to wash the lower part of my right leg (the only bit I couldn’t do standing up, because I can’t stand on my left leg) – you know those plastic stools that are shaped kind of like an hourglass? Many’s the time I’ve seen them in client’s houses and advised them against using them in the shower for safety reasons. But do you think I could find one? In the end I managed to find one from IKEA (I did have to assemble it myself but it was one of your easier assemblies!) which worked a treat!
Logistics aside, probably the thing that concerned me most in the beginning was, what the hell am I going to do? No work, no running, minimal walking – doesn’t leave a lot, does it?
Firstly I set myself a few rules. One, once I got out of bed in the morning (which was usually quite early as my cats would need feeding), I would close the door and not go back in there until bedtime. Two, no TV until 6pm (except on weekends if there was sport on, of course! And if there’s cricket on during the week, of course that’s an exception too!) Three, I have to leave the house every day, even if it’s just for a coffee!
Coinciding with the start of my leave was the Adelaide 6 Day event – a running event that is of absolutely no interest to me in terms of participating, but was a great way to spend a few hours each day, hanging out at the track, cheering on the runners and chatting with the volunteers and supporters.
Coffee. Well, maximum 2 cups a day, and never at home (I currently don’t have any coffee in the house). If I didn’t have a post-run coffee group to join in with (Thursday and Sunday are regular days) or a friend to catch up with, I’d try out a few new local coffee shops each week. We are definitely spoiled for choice!
Going out for lunch on a weekday is a rare treat, something I have managed to do quite a few times! And I even got to go to a “Not The Melbourne Cup” lunch that was catered by my favourite vegan Greek food truck (Staazi and Co – is there another one?)
I don’t normally watch a lot of TV but given that I don’t have to get up early for running or gym, I stay up a lot later than usual so I watch a bit more TV than I normally do. (I really got into the later seasons of ‘Two And A Half Men’ and also ‘The Office’)
One thing I was doing before that I am thankfully still able to do, is sort of play a bit of piano and guitar. I can now play pretty much the whole of Bohemian Rhapsody on piano (not particularly well, but you’d be able to recognise it!)
I tried colouring in. I bought a couple of books, one which was a Monet book. As you can see from the picture, I am not about to quit my day job!

I did a couple of jigsaws. I found I couldn’t sit and do it all day, 90 minutes at a time was about the max! I did 2 1000 piece puzzles (with the ‘help’of my cats), the first one took me a week and the second one 9 days.

I’ve done a bit of tidying up around the house – sorting through papers, books, CDs, DVDs. I got rid of a box that had been in my lounge room for 6 years. (That box contained my 72 Derwent pencils from school – which was my inspiration for trying colouring!)

I managed to cull 4 boxes of work stuff down to 1, using the scanning app on my phone and ditching the hard copies once I’d scanned them. That was VERY satisfying (and cleared my dining table so I could do jigsaws!)
I’ve made a few trips (OK, a lot of trips) to second hand book stores and op shops – partly to donate stuff, but mostly to buy more stuff. I could have spent a lot of money at the Lions Bookmart in Tusmore, the Oxfam shop in the city, the OG Book Exchange in Klemzig, and 2 different Savers stores. Luckily for my bank balance, I was limited to buying what I could carry!

I read a lot! I’m not normally a big reader but I can happily sit all day on the couch reading and listening to Triple M Hard N’ Heavy. I mix it up between mostly novels and biographies. In particular in the beginning I was looking for inspiration in the form of stories about people who have overcome challenges far greater than what I am currently dealing with!

Special mention to Adelaide’s own SJ Morgan’s new novel ‘Hide’ – I went to the book launch on a Sunday afternoon and had finished reading the book by midday the next day – genuinely unputdownable!

To stay in touch with all things running, I volunteered at a few events (Heysen 105 and Cleland trail championships) as well as at a few different parkruns – running or not, Saturday is ALWAYS parkrun day! It’s a great way to keep involved when you can’t participate yourself – the free coffee is just a bonus!

I started a social media detox. Initially, because I wasn’t enjoying seeing everyone’s running posts. And although I’m sure I have missed out on a lot of news and events, it was actually really great. I hate to think how much time I’ve wasted in the past on mindless scrolling! Instead of the aforementioned scrolling and posting about every incredibly tedious thing I was doing (actually, I don’t think I post THAT much) I’m focusing on actual proper human interaction and doing stuff. I highly recommend it!

2 months down and another month to go before I can get rid of the sticks and hopefully start walking. On the plus side(s), I am now allowed to start swimming, AND the cricket is on.

So hopefully soon this screen on my watch will stop taunting me!

Well that’s about it from me – might post another update around Christmas time!

Change of plans…

So, it turns out I’m not running Chicago Marathon anymore. Or New York. Or even going to the USA for 5 weeks. Instead I am on my couch watching crappy daytime TV – yay!

I think it goes back to the 24 hour race in July, and the training that led up to it. The training and the race all went really well, and I eased back into running not too long afterwards.

4 weeks after the 24hr I ran a respectable half marathon.

After 8 weeks I did my first trail race in ages and had a fantastic run.

5 days after that I had a twinge in my hip during a run which steadily got worse (thought it was an adductor muscle), walk/jogged the rest of the way, and contemplated not running the City-Bay Half Marathon that Sunday. I got on the Voltaren and rested and it seemed to have settled so I turned up to run on Sunday.

I managed to run 1km super slow and it flared up again so I decided to walk/run the rest of the way. Whatever it was, there was the possibility I might have to run/walk Chicago and NYC so this would be good practice. I tried to run a few times but it just wasn’t happening so I decided to walk the rest of it. I really wanted that medal! (Plus, I’ve never DNFed and I certainly wasn’t going to start now!)

The 21.1km took me 3 hours 10 minutes I was very close to last place. But I got there. (And I wasn’t last!)

Last piece of bling I’ll be earning for a long time!

Once I’d sat down in Nat’s car for the drive back to her place (from where we had carpooled) I could hardly walk – I managed to get home and put my feet up on the couch for the rest of the day.

On Monday Beck messaged me telling me I needed an MRI ASAP as she strongly suspected a pelvic stress fracture. Wednesday I got the MRI. If you’ve never had an MRI before, it’s vey loud so they give you headphones with music to distract you from the noise. The first song I heard was Bon Jovi’s ‘Keep The Faith’ which I thought was a good omen.

It was not. Beck’s suspicions were correct. Chicago was out, NYC would be a walk at best.

On Friday Beck had received the MRI results and essentially there was no chance of walking NYC. It wasn’t just your standard stress fracture – the bone had broken right through in one place and a second stress fracture could result in an unstable pelvis if it progresses to a full fracture. She indicated that the likely management would be minimal weight bearing for at least 8 weeks.

Initially I was keen to go ahead with the trip – there were a lot of things I WOULD be able to do – but over time things started to pop into my head. Getting around airports, wrangling luggage. shopping, stairs, bunk beds… All would be tricky if I was essentially on one leg!

So I decided that if I was to be on crutches I would postpone the trip – I deferred my Chicago entry to 2020 so I would not need to re-qualify. (Having said that, there is no guarantee I will be able to run a marathon by then, but I have nothing to lose!)

It’s likely to be at least 4 months before I can slowly get back to running.

As someone who used to run 5 days a week, it’s a bit of an adjustment – at the moment I can’t even swim or ride to get my cardio! (And my 1300+ day streak of doing a 5 minute plank every day has come to an abrupt end!)

My Garmin is taunting me! YOU JUDGEY BASTARD!

So yeah it’s pretty shitty but not the worst thing that has ever happened to anyone and I will definitely come out with some good lessons (‘don’t run City-Bay on a broken pelvis’ being one of them!)

What to do for the next 8+ weeks? I am going to spend more time practising my piano and guitar (and even thinking of taking up drums – for a upper body workout!), watching bad TV (and hopefully some good!) and doing a tour of Adelaide’s coffee shops! Gonna smash some upper body workouts at the gym! Maybe do some kind of online course? Or maybe I’ll just watch the first 14 seasons of Supernatural – all 300+ episodes!

If anyone has any other recommendations for things I can do sitting down, I’d love to hear them!

Race report – TRSA Mount Crawford Challenge 2019

What a fab morning we had at Mount Crawford!

On Sunday I took part in the Trail Running SA Mount Crawford Challenge for the first time. I had previously volunteered at this event twice – most recently 2 years ago when it was a rain and mud fest (and I was very glad to be wearing gumboots, and doing roles that allowed me to be undercover most of the time!) I’d never run there before, until TRSA put on a social run a few weeks ago where we ran in the rain for most of it but managed to dodge the worst of the weather (the hail and epic winds came later!) and our leader (who shall remain nameless) managed to get us lost several times!

It was my first (and most probably last) TRSA trail series race for this year. I had run their Five Peaks ultramarathon earlier in the year and I still stand by my statement that I’m never doing that one again!

I had volunteered at a drink station at the previous event at Kuitpo Forest, and although Mount Crawford wasn’t in my plan (I am, after all, supposed to be training for 2 road marathons) the joy and enthusiasm of the runners at Kuitpo was infectious and I couldn’t help signing up!

Preparation was ideal – I had a few glasses of wine after parkrun on Saturday (as you do) and then that night celebrated a milestone birthday of one of my awesome running buddies (leaving early of course as it would be an early start!).
At said birthday drinks, which happened to have a unicorn theme, I wasn’t sufficiently ‘unicorny’ so Tracey put a unicorn headband on my head. I jokingly said I would run in it the next day, to which she replied, “You totally should!”

Being a ‘cupless’ event, I was prepared with my race vest and 2 bottles of Gatorade, plus a Clif bar. I had no idea how long I would be out there for my 24ish kilometre run but I figured that should be enough to get me through. Knowing that there was likely to be some rain, I put my rain jacket in my pack ‘just in case’ – that would only be used if the rain was really heavy, as it does get a bit warm when running (I ran a lot of the 24 hour in it, but I was expecting to be moving a bit faster on this occasion!)

The other distances on offer were 35km starting at 7am (that was a big ‘NOPE’ from me!), 15km and 8km. I was tossing up between the 15 and the 24, and in the end chose the 24 as I don’t think I have done enough long runs for my marathon prep (the first marathon being in just under 5 weeks, and the second in just under 8), and a 24km trail would probably equate to a 30k flat road run.

I got a lift up with regular running buddy Riesje who was also doing the 24km. TRSA strongly encourages carpooling due to lack of parking space at their events (and the huge numbers of runners they attract!). Personally I prefer to drive by myself but I am happy to comply with their request because I can understand it would be a logistical nightmare if everyone thought like me! The parking situation was that people who carpooled got priority parking (ie rock star parking right near the start/finish

area) and those who didn’t had to park quite a long way away. As we went past the ‘park of shame’ (not really) where the solo travellers had to park, Dej who was one of the attendants, said if one of them got in our car we would have 3 people then we’d get chocolates (for having 3 or more people in the car)! Win-win, win for us and win for the extra 2 people we picked up who didn’t have to walk all that way! I thought that was a great idea!

Amazingly given the numbers of runners we didn’t have to queue up for the portaloos – that’s usually the way it goes, if you’re running a little bit late you can guarantee there will be a huge queue! The 35km had already started and the 15km didn’t start until 45 minutes after us (I think the 15km was the most popular option) so the crowd wasn’t too bad when we arrived. (I think having the 2 longer distances worked really well – there were 103 finishers in the 35km and 120 in the 24km, if there had been only one ‘long’ distance that would have been quite a crowd setting off all at once! Plus it weeded out all the silly people who did the 35km)

It wasn’t as cold as I thought it might be – I had layers on at the start but I was down to my usual T-shirt and arm warmers well before the race briefing. There was a fire near the start line which many people were gathered around, but I didn’t want to get anywhere near it – I might get just that little bit too comfortable and not want to leave! I had left my sunscreen in the car because I thought it would be very optimistic to put sunscreen on, but I noticed Jim putting some on in the bag drop area and he offered me some, I figured it couldn’t hurt – the sun MAY come out at some stage! I asked someone else if they thought sunnies were required and the response was an emphatic “No”, plus she said it was just extra weight to lug around! I’m not sure how much her sunnies weigh but I don’t think that would have been too much of an issue for me, however I did not want to carry anything in my hands and they wouldn’t fit easily in my race vest front pockets, so I opted to go without.

I wanted to wear my cap to keep the rain out of my eyes, however I did also want to wear the unicorn horn which would have looked a bit silly over a hat so I decided to put up with the rain and be a unicorn!

The elevation in the 24km course was not huge, so I was able to run MOST of it (and probably COULD have run all of it if I’d wanted to) – however I did have to take a long hard look at myself when I took my first walk break going up the first biggish hill, and I was being overtaken. Now I have no problem being overtaken by runners when I’m walking, well I do have a problem with being overtaken by anyone at any time but at least in that case it is understandable. I do however have a problem with being overtaken quite comfortably by people walking! (At least it’s not as bad as being overtaken by walkers when you’re running – although that’s usually just a sign I need to stop running and start walking!)

Early stages – I didn’t see this photographer! Pic thanks to TRSA.

The course was very scenic, through a pine forest, some narrow bits and wide fire trails (which were super muddy!). It rained a little bit but never heavy enough for me to put my jacket on.

There were 2 drink stations along the course. Approaching the first one, there were some mysterious signs stating “Devil’s Head” with little pictures of devils on them. I had run through this area only a few weeks earlier and didn’t remember having seen these signs! Then we reached the drink station and there was the devil himself, it was all an elaborate promotion for the next TRSA event, “The Devil’s Nose” which unfortunately I won’t be able to do. I thought this was really clever, and just added something extra to the run, which I already enjoyed anyway!

The devil made me do it! Pic thanks to TRSA.

The second drink station, with an 80s theme, had funny signs on the way in and out, and 80s music blaring from the speakers – luckily I didn’t need to stop for a top up there, because otherwise I may have been tempted to stay and join the party!

I ran a lot of the first bit of the 24km on my own – once I’d settled into my place in the field, I didn’t overtake too many people, nor was I passed by many. We ran an approximately 8km loop before passing through the start/finish and commencing a larger loop which was identical to the loop the 15km runners did. The 15km runners started not long before I came through, so consequently it wasn’t long before I started catching up with some of them which was nice. Another big tick for TRSA and the way they design their courses – I saw quite a few of the faster 35km runners as well, and towards the end started to catch up with some of the 8km runners too.

On the second part of the course I caught up with 15km runner Glen, who the previous day had run his 64th marathon in a 12 month period. His goal was to run 65 marathons in the year leading up to his 65th birthday, which is on Thursday. He is going to run the 65th on his actual birthday. Most of the marathons have been informal (ie not official events, just a marathon distance). Quite a feat, and especially backing up from a marathon and doing a challenging 15km trail the next day!

All smiles with Glen! Pic thanks to TRSA.

When Glen started walking, his watch showed 11.8km and mine was just on 20. That meant that probably the 24km was not quite 24km. I don’t think I’ve ever complained when a trail course has turned out to be slightly less than advertised! (And to be fair, the times it has been longer has usually been due to navigational ‘mishaps’ on my part!)

The last bit of the course was along a fire track which was mostly clay-like mud and puddles. At this stage I didn’t care how muddy or wet my feet got! (I did tend to try to avoid large puddles early on, because you don’t want to run TOO far with wet feet, but with only a few kilometres to go it didn’t really matter anymore! Fun! And that was where I saw a few familiar faces, well actually it was a few familiar ‘backs of heads’ at first – Geoff and Janet in the 8km, Geoff doing his first trail event, and Janet who was well hydrated after the aforementioned post-parkrun wine!

Towards the end – still loving it and not regretting the unicorn at all! Pic thanks to TRSA.

The very end of the course was uphill. Of course it was, thanks TRSA, bit of a brutal way to finish but I definitely earned those brownies at the end!

In the end I stopped my watch at around 2 hours 20, I didn’t have any idea before the race what sort of time I might do, I had sub 3 hours in the back of my mind but having never run it before I didn’t really have a point of reference.

My main goals were to finish before all Maurice’s vegan brownies were gone (tick) and so Riesje wouldn’t have to wait hours for me (knowing she’d be well ahead of me) – another tick!

We stuck around for the presentations and to enjoy the fire for a bit, because the sun had come out towards the end of my run and it was very pleasant (once I’d changed out of my wet running gear into something warmer and drier!) Neither Riesje nor I won anything in the random prize draw, and as the prize draw wound up the rain started again so we legged it to the car (me by now in my Birkenstocks which are not exactly conducive to fast running in mud!) – another tick for carpooling and getting a close park!

I really enjoyed this run, one of the most enjoyable races I’ve done this year! Thanks to the TRSA committee and all the volunteers for making it a truly great morning – having been on the other side at the last event and seeing the volunteers briefing, it is a really well-oiled machine and no stone is left unturned, making for a fab experience all around! Well done to all the runners too especially those doing their first event!

Next up for me is something completely different, City-Bay half marathon next Sunday, and then hopefully will squeeze in a few more long road runs (ugh) before leaving for the US and the Chicago and New York City marathons – can’t wait!

Race report – Adelaide 24 hour 2019

Warning – long report ahead – best grab yourself a tea or coffee and make yourself comfortable!

This has been a very very long time coming.

I first heard about this event when I was running with the Nike Run Club in the city, quite a few years ago now (2013, from memory) and the leader of the group I was running with, Graham, was telling me about the Adelaide 24 hour race. Just as it sounds, it involves running for 24 hours, around the 2.2km Uni Loop, and seeing how far you can go in that time. I thought (and I told him) that this sounded incredibly boring and wondered what kind of mad person would do such a thing! Around this time I was introduced to Karen who had recently done this event. My opinion remained the same.

Skip forward a couple of years to 2015. “This looks like fun” I said. A 6 hour fundraiser run to help local runner Emma get to the 24hr world championships. My marathon training plan said to do about 30km that day, so I figured I could go along, get my 30km in and that would be it. As the morning went on, the goalposts kept shifting. 30km turned to 36km (my scheduled longest run before the marathon) and then 40, then I thought I might as well do a marathon, then I just kept going to the end of the 6 hours. From memory one of my running buddies Denis turned up after his long run, and just when I had decided I was done, he encouraged me to do one last lap with him. Garmin tells me I did 46.9km and I seem to recall there were quite a few food and drink stops in there.

I then signed up for my first 6 hour in 2015, going again in 2016 before stepping it up to the 12 hour in 2017 and 2018.

Every year, I’d enjoy what I was doing, and I’d come back on Sunday morning to see the end of the 24 hour. The first year I was like, “Nah, 24 hours, not for me” but then slowly but surely I started to seriously contemplate doing it. Especially after I’d stepped up to the 12 hour. After my first 12 hour, I thought “Yeah I’ll probably do the 24 one day, but I’m not ready yet”, especially knowing that I could improve significantly on my 12 hour. Finally, after last year’s 12 hour, I figured it was the only natural progression and I’d signed up for the 2019 24 hour as soon as entries opened!

Later this year I’m off to the USA to do both the Chicago and New York Marathons which is a pretty big deal. However, up until 10am on Sunday 14 July, the 24 hour race has been my primary focus since the beginning of the year.

I had planned to get a coach and a proper training programme when I did the 24 hour but somehow that didn’t happen. It’s really a step up from the 6 and 12 hour and while I had sort of ‘winged it’ the first time I did both the 6 and the 12, I couldn’t imagine that ‘winging it’ was a good tactic for the 24. However, knowing my penchant for signing up for events that add absolutely no value to my programme, and do not in any way contribute to my achieving my ultimate goal, I was pretty sure that no coach would approve of what I chose to do (prime examples being the Victor Harbor Triathlon and the Clare 5k race). So although I wasn’t exactly winging it, I was a little bit Hansel from Zoolander.

I ran the Track 100 back in January as part of my training programme (such that it was, with no coach and very little clue what I was doing!) and then went to Canberra to run the 12 hour event there. The Track 100 started at 7pm and I finished a little after 6am, and CBR went from midday to midnight. So I’d had a bit of practice running in the night.

I’d also done a fair bit of training on the Uni Loop, the site of the 24 hour event. Much more than I’d ever done in training for my previous runs there! I was curious to know just how much, so I added it up. Since the start of the year I had done 14 runs on the Loop, a total of 48 hours and 485km (220 laps!). That actually blew my mind a little bit when I worked it out! You could say I knew every damn piece of gravel and every speed bump/hill/mountain (depending on how many laps I’d done) in either direction!

My last training run on the loop was originally going to be a 12 hour overnight run, which gradually became shorter and shorter and eventually turned into a bit under 5 hours, 4 weeks out, which was my first time running the loop at night. Although I knew it exceptionally well in the daytime, I had heard stories of people getting lost on it at night (possibly delirious!) I was pleased to find out that, although there are a few little dark patches, it is exceptionally well lit and I wouldn’t need to run with a head torch!

May and June were pretty big months for me distance-wise, in fact my 2 biggest months ever. I had run 374km in May and then backed that up with 415km in June. Compare that to my weekly average over the last 12 months of just 57km, it’s quite a big jump!

A few weeks out from the event, I put the call out on the trusty Facebook asking for advice from people who had done the event (or similar) before. The most common piece of advice that came through again and again was to keep warm, especially overnight! This was something I hadn’t really had to deal with before – I’d always been able to get away with shorts/skirt (even in the hail in 2015!), and even on the overnight track races getting cold wasn’t exactly an issue (last year the temperature didn’t drop below 32 celsius!). The only time I had really had to deal with potentially getting cold overnight was in my last UTA when I ran in my fleece top for quite a while (but still in shorts) and in Canberra when I walked the last 4 hours (that time, I had changed into a hoodie and tracky dacks!)

2 weeks out from the event I was running with club coach Kent and we were discussing the merits of caffeine during an event. He said he’s not a coffee drinker so he finds caffeine very effective. Meanwhile, me over here, 3+ cups a day – possibly less effective! He suggested going off coffee for a week prior to the event. I thought that was a great idea so after my Friday post-run coffee a week out, it was decaf all the way! (I thought it was a great idea until I actually had to do it! But it would be worth it in the end, I told myself!)

Regular running buddy (and previous 24 hour runner) Michael had very kindly offered to lend me his van as a base during the event. That would mean I didn’t need to worry about setting up a gazebo/tent, and the bonus was that if I needed to have a power nap (I wasn’t planning to) I had an actual bed to stretch out on! And assuming that I wasn’t going to need it, my supporters Kate and Tracey would be able to have a nap in there! I could literally just rock up on the morning with all my stuff, put the stuff in the van, and away I would go! Simples!

I caught up with Kate and Tracey, both veterans of the 24 hour, for lunch on the Sunday before the event where we discussed logistics, and the kinds of things I might need her to do (ie make some sandwiches and mix up some more Gatorade) and she offered to go and get me coffee and donuts if I wanted! I picked both of their brains for advice but they both jokingly said they were probably not the best people to ask for advice on how to run a 24 hour, unless it was what NOT to do! (To be fair, both of them have completed at least one 100 miler!)

In the week leading up to the event I did very little running. The plan was a normal run on Tuesday, walk on Thursday, and nothing on Friday. I hadn’t run on the Loop (other than just passing through during a run) for 4 weeks so I was ready to face it again!

My ‘goal’ was to get to 100 miles (160.934km) which I think is a pretty common goal in a 24 hour. Looking back at the results from 2014-2018, 100 miles would be a guaranteed podium finish – however you never know who’s going to turn up on the day so let’s not think about podium finishes just yet! As is usually the case in these types of events, I would only be able to run my own race, couldn’t let myself get distracted by what other people were and weren’t doing, and the rest of it would take care of itself! (And if I had to do a sprint finish at the end of 24 hours for a placing, well let’s hope I’d be able to do that!)

I had been advised several times not to set a distance goal, because once I got there, I would not want to keep going! I seem to recall I set a goal of 50km in my first 6 hours and managed to get over 60, so it wouldn’t hurt to have something in the back of my mind, but I needed to be thinking “I’m going to run for 24 hours” rather than “I’m aiming for 100 miles”. Based on my 12 hour distances, on paper 100 miles looks very doable. But you never know what’s going to happen when our friend Fatigue pays a visit!

On Friday I took the day off and got myself a massage to loosen up the legs (turns out my quads and calves are very tight and massage therapist Amanda SO would have loved to go in with her elbows but knowing what was coming the next day, she took it easy on me! It really helped though!

There was a LOT of prep to do! I had a box of food, an esky of drinks, a bag of clothes for during the run, another bag of clothes for after, a bag of miscellaneous stuff for during, a chair, table, blanket, sleeping bag and pillow! Food-wise I made 8 sandwiches (4 peanut butter and 4 Mayver’s cacao spread) and I also had a bunch of Clif bars, Snackaballs, protein bars, Lemon Crisp biscuits, and salted chocolate! I wanted to have a variety of different flavours.

As per usual I didn’t look at the start list before the event (only to make sure my name was on it) because I prefer not to know – I can only do my own thing, and knowing who else is going to be out there shouldn’t change that! I knew Vicky was doing it, and I knew she’d been training and running really well, so I definitely saw her as a serious threat! Other than her, I didn’t know of any other big names on the female side, but this event always attracts good interstate runners so there were bound to be some!

My pre-race dinner broke with tradition, only because Friday night happened to be the annual Long Service dinner at my work, and I’d recently clocked up 20 years. I normally would have a big bowl of pasta, but I didn’t want to miss the dinner, so I put in a request for a vegan meal, and somewhat cheekily (assuming I’d be the only vegan there) asked for something with lots of carbs! It was an enjoyable night but I did feel like I needed a few extra carbs afterwards so on the way home I popped into the Bakery on O’Connell for a donut, planning to eat half and save the other half for the next day. Needless to say the second half did not survive the journey home!
I set my alarm for 7:30am, and had a quick look at the progress results for the 6 hour and the 12 hour. It was so weird to wake up knowing that the event was already happening!
I arrived at the Uni Loop just before 9am, and Michael arrived not long after me with the van. Given that the 6 and 12 hour runners were already out there, we both had to park a fair way away from the timing area, however we would be able to move the van closer once the 6 hour event was done and dusted.
He had thought of everything – in the van was a fully equipped bed, torch, all of the wet weather gear, spare beanies and a very warm hi-viz jacket. This was a man who knew what this event was all about!
Another 24 hour runner, Jac, arrived at around the same time as me. I don’t think she’d done the 24 before but she had done the 48 hour last year. Definitely another contender!
I collected my bib and attached my timing tag to my ankle. I did it up too tight. I realised this a few hours in, at which point I loosened it, but the damage had already been done…

The original plan was to use the van as the base and leave everything in there, however when Kate arrived we decided to have the food and drinks, a table and chair out in the NRG (Northern Running Group) tent, which was very conveniently located near the aid station, timing area and portaloos. I decided to leave my clothes in the van, because the last thing I wanted was for them to get wet should it rain! (And of course it was going to rain!)

With former 24 hour winner Barry, Kate, and fellow debutant Vicky!

Just before 10am we all gathered at the start line for the briefing by Race Director Ben. Not much different from my previous years running the 6 and 12 hour events, except he did make it clear that we could have ‘buddy’ runners to run occasional laps with us after the 12 hour race finished at 6pm as long as they stayed on the grass and not on the track itself. In previous years ‘buddy’ runners had been allowed on the track but the rules had been tightened up this year.

📷 Lachlan Miller

And away we went!

And about half a lap in, the rain started! GREAT, I had left my rain jacket in the tent. My rainbow arm warmers were wet by the time I got back there at the end of the lap, so I took them off and hung them up to dry, and quickly grabbed my rain jacket which would see quite a lot of action over the next 24 hours!
📷 Lachlan Miller

I used the same strategy I’d previously used in the 12 hour and 100km track events – run 25 mins and walk/eat for 5. Only differences were, the running would be a bit slower, and there would be sit down rest breaks. I had a vague aim of getting to 90km at the halfway mark, assuming I’d slow down in the second half and 70km in 12 hours is very doable, just over 10 minutes per km, actually walkable! However, I didn’t set any other goals or have a pace in mind. It was all very much by feel.

📷 David Fielding Photography – twinning with Ryan who was doing the 6 hour! A rare moment of sunshine!

The first milestone was the finish of the 6 hour at midday. With 45 runners in the 6 hour event, this would significantly reduce the number of runners on the track. I reckon between 10am and midday there were more runners on the track simultaneously than there had ever been before!

Early pic from Chantel while the sun was out, with Rhys.

I wasn’t really keeping track of distance, and the only reason I was looking at my watch was to know when my walk breaks were. I remember in previous years I’d make a note of where I was at after each hour, but I couldn’t be bothered doing that this time! According to the post on the Ultra Runners SA Facebook page with the 6 hour results, I was on 45.5km after 5 hours, 2.5km behind the leader, Sabina. I might have had an idea of the distance but I definitely had no idea what place I was in, and who was leading. It’s pretty pointless knowing that at such an early stage, so much can change in such a long event! Jac and Vicky were both looking super strong and could easily have been ahead of me too as far as I knew. That’s the beauty of these loop events!

📷 Lachlan Miller
Another great thing about this event is the camaraderie. I got to spend time with a whole lot of fantastic people, friends old and new. You’d run with someone for a few laps, then you might not see them for a few hours, and then there they were again. I shared laps with Glen (aiming to do the equivalent of 3 marathons, as part of a very admirable goal of running 65 marathons in a year, the final one to coincide with his 65th birthday), Ian (aiming for a PB, a legend of the SA marathon and ultramarathon scene and all round good guy!), Adam (originally from SA but now living in Canada) and Annabel (Australian ultra running legend who was not enjoying our ‘balmy’ Adelaide weather!). Stephan was another one I ran into regularly, he was using the 24 hour purely as a training run for the upcoming 6 day event. People have asked me if I’ll do the 6 day. The answer is 100% no, especially when I looked at the dates and realised I will be in San Francisco when it finishes! No, definitely not my thing. Huge admiration for those who can back up day after day like that!

One of the great stories from this event was Rhys from Melbourne. A few days before the event, Ben posted on the Facebook page that there was only one place available in the 24 hour race. A sellout, that had never happened before! Who knew there were so many crazy people out there? My crew, Tracey and Kate, both joked about taking the last place, but in the end it was Rhys who made the last minute decision to come over for the event! All of 19 years old, he had never run more than 50km before! We had some great chats during the course of the day and night, he has got some big goals and I wish him all the best! In the end it wasn’t to be his day, he didn’t quite make it to 100km but still a huge distance PB!

📷 David Fielding Photography

And of course it wouldn’t be the Adelaide 24 hour without Merle and Trish, always cheerful and happy for a chat! And Merle was hard to miss in the dark with her head lamp with the red light on the back!
Speaking of head lamps, I opted not to use mine (I’d brought it along just in case) but there were times when I wished I had worn it – the rain we’d had over the past few days had left a few significant puddles on the loop, mostly in the aforementioned dark patches, and it seemed like I managed to step in all of them!
Backtracking a little, back to when it was still daytime! I ran half a lap with Amelia, eventual winner of the 12 hour (that half lap nearly killed me!) who had been planning to do the event anyway but fortunately it also coincided with her being in Adelaide for work for a week! Apparently I said something to her about her doing the 24 hour – I can’t remember exactly what I said – Amelia perhaps you can enlighten me? (Actually, if you’d like to do the 24 next year that would be great, give me a fighting chance in the 12 hour!)
Also back again for the 12 hour was Kay, who last year had wanted to get 56km and ended up getting 60 before stopping. This year she went the full 12 hours and got 87km – a huge PB – and also got 4th place and narrowly missed a podium finish! Well done Kay!
The 12 hour event finished at 6pm, as the smallest group of the 3 events, it didn’t make a huge difference to the numbers out on track. It was an ideal time to stop, regroup and re-evaluate. 8 hours down, 16 to go!
I think this was the longest break I took over the 24 hours, about 10 minutes. I did a wardrobe change, knowing that keeping warm was one of the most important things to do in the 24 hour! I changed from my T-shirt and skirt into leggings, and 2 long sleeved lululemon tops – the thin Run Swiftly underneath the thicker and warmer Runderful which I’d only just purchased for this very event, and which proved to be just perfect! (The zip pocket was also handy for snacks!)
I also changed socks – I had a few spare pairs of socks so I decided to change every 8 hours. Nothing like a fresh pair of socks after running for 8 hours! Didn’t stop the blisters though (I was glad it was dark in the tent when I changed socks – I didn’t really want to see what my feet looked like!)
At the halfway mark I was on just over 101km – just 1km short of my 12 hour total from 2017. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I was still in 2nd place, 6km behind Sabina. The men were clocking up some incredible distances – at the same time I’d just ticked over 100km, Matt (who never changed out of his singlet all night!) was on 143km and 2nd placed Kay was on 129!
It was time to re-evaluate my goal. With 60km to go and 12 hours to do it, unless I took an extended break, 100 miles was a no-brainer. I told Kate, on our first lap together, that I was re-evaluating my 100 miler goal. I said my new goal was 170km.
Before the race, I had ‘secretly’ set 170km as my ‘pie in the sky’ goal to keep myself motivated in the unlikely event that I reached 100 miles with time in the bank. Now, it had become a reality!
I had been told that the ‘witching hours’ between 2 and 4am would be the hardest, and also that once we hit 6am and it started to get light, everything would be all OK again!
Kate was off to Melbourne on Sunday to meet up with her girls who had gone over for a dance competition, so she had told me prior to the event that she was going to need to have a few hours sleep. No problems as far as I was concerned – she had put my food out on the table and made sure there was plenty of Gatorade there for me, and then disappeared to the van for a few hours! Between her and Tracey I always had everything I needed, for a while there I wondered where they were as I went past the tent, turned out for a lot of the time they were either running laps with Vicky, or sitting in Vicky’s tent next door to the NRG tent, because they had a heater! (Actually quite glad I didn’t have a heater, might have been too tempting to sit down for an extended break! Great for the crew though!)
I had brought 3 mobile chargers with the idea that I would keep my watch running for the full 24 hours. The battery life on my watch is meant to be 14 hours (I later found out that heart rate recording reduces the battery life significantly) so I was surprised when, just after 9 and a half hours, the watch died without warning, and just after I’d started a lap, too! My parents had come down on their way to dinner, I’d just had a 5 minute walk break not long ago but I figured an extra 5 min walk wouldn’t hurt, so Mum came and walked for 5 minutes with me, and that was when it happened. I was very annoyed, I was looking forward to having a 100+ mile run on Strava, as it is unlikely to happen again!
As soon as I got back to the tent, I got one of my chargers, plugged the watch in and kept moving. The watch turned on straight away when I plugged it in, so I started the GPS mode again. However, after only a few minutes, it died again (turns out you can’t record an activity when there is no charge in the battery, even if it’s plugged in) so I lost another lap! Finally, when I got back to the tent again, I went with plan B which was to carry my phone and record directly on Strava, while leaving my watch on charge at the tent. Thanks to Kate for keeping an eye on it, and also to Linna next door who has the same watch and helped Kate to make sure that it was charging properly!
For a couple of hours I let the watch charge and ran with my phone, it was a bit annoying to have to keep looking at the phone to see what time it was, but at least my run was recording and surprisingly it did not drain my phone battery that much in the 2 hours before I went back to my (now fully charged) watch!
I think it was probably around 8pm (10 hours in) when I started listening to music for the first time. Up until then, there had been enough going on with the 6 and 12 hour runners out on the track. I was glad I’d been able to get that far without music – I like to use it sparingly rather than relying on it all the time. I used my iPod shuffle (the waterproof one I bought for swimming, because I find lap swimming intolerably boring!) so it was a nice mix of upbeat music. I’d also downloaded some podcasts onto my other iPod. Normally I just listen to music, and occasionally on a weekend training run I’ll listen to sport on the radio. I once tried listening to a Dr Karl podcast while running along the coast, but it was so windy that I was struggling to hear it over the sound of the wind, so I gave up after that!
From 8pm onwards, I stopped every 2 hours for a 5 minute sit down and recharge the batteries (my batteries this time, not the watch!). That worked out well with my caffeine ‘schedule’ where I would have something with caffeine every 2 hours – mostly that would be a shot of cold brew coffee, but from 8pm I started on something that Kate and Tracey had put me onto, Panadol Extra, with caffeine – which worked a treat! I ended up using it at 8, midnight and 4am.
A little later in the night I decided to switch things up and change from music to podcast. I started with a few Hamish and Andy podcasts which resulted in a few LOLs!
I kept my 25/5 strategy going until 3am (17 hours) when I decided to change to 15/5. The idea was that it would be easy to keep track of where I was at (20 minute chunks was easy on the brain!) and that I would never walk more than 5 minutes at a time. There might be a point (like at Canberra) where I made the call that I was going to walk it in from here, but until that happened, I would not walk more than 5 minutes.
Somewhere around this time I met up with Annabel, and commented on her super efficient and fast walking! That was when she told me she wasn’t enjoying the cold weather. I didn’t actually think it was that bad (I’m sure the overnight weather conditions this year were better than what we typically get) but she is from Sydney and having lived there myself, I can definitely agree their winters are a lot milder than ours!
I think this was when she put the idea of 180km in my head. 100 miles was practically in the bank, 170km was firmly in my mind as my goal, and then – 180km? Dare I even dream?
Someone who is a fixture at this event is David. He does incredibly well on these loop events (I’d run with him this year at the SA Track Championships, and he had been doing the 48 hour at Canberra and also the coastalfunruns marathon back in June). He just goes and goes. He commented to me at one stage, that I was ahead of him (I think he was a bit surprised!) I was surprised too, but it wasn’t the first or last time I’d be surprised in this event!
The 15/5 strategy lasted for 2 hours. At 5am I dropped it back further, to 10/5. The 100 miler was imminent – I made the decision that once I reached the magical miler, I would walk. My legs still felt really good but my feet were burning and blistered. My running pace had slowed to the point where walking would not actually be that much slower. It was an easy decision!
Unfortunately due to the f***-up with my watch, I had to look at the screen at the timing area to know what distance I’d done. I was able to keep track of time still for my run/walk using the clock on my watch or phone, but the distance showing on my watch was meaningless.
I knew 100 miles was getting close, I think Kate was still asleep in the van and I wasn’t sure where Tracey was (Vicky had stopped by this time due to a leg injury – she’d done 127.6km and finished around 4:30am so I think she would have got the miler had she been able to keep going). I stopped at the aid station quite regularly through the night – it was nice to have some variety in my food, as much as I like my peanut butter sandwiches! I came up with the idea of taking one of my sandwiches and putting potato chips in it – yum! I got stuck into the chips pretty much every lap after that! I also started drinking Coke after about 13 hours and that went down a treat!
By this time I had changed from listening to H & A to a podcast Michael had put me on to, ‘Your Favorite Band Sucks’ – the Bon Jovi edition. Definitely recommend this podcast, it is pretty brutal but equally hilarious!
Anyway, as I was getting my Coke, I told the volunteers there (Debbie, Dione, Craig, Mandi and I think Cherie – apologies if I’ve forgotten anyone!) that I thought I was getting close to the miler. I knew where the marker was, having seen it on my previous lap. It wasn’t far from the aid station. The only thing I wasn’t sure of, was whether I would get there before or after the 6am turnaround. Craig checked on his phone and said I was on 160 point something so yes, that meant I was about to reach that magical milestone! Mandi went and checked the screen to confirm it. (The screen was visible to runners, however it was only useful when we were running in an anticlockwise direction – when running clockwise, we passed the screen BEFORE crossing the mat, and our name only appeared at the top of the screen when we crossed the mat). Debbie (as always, dressed to entertain, this time in a unicorn onesie – warm AND colourful!) offered to come with me and take a photo to mark the occasion! (Debbie also posted the pics on Facebook, and as I came past each lap, she would read me the comments people had posted – that was so nice to hear, thanks Debbie and also everyone who commented!)

From then on, it was walking all the way. If Canberra was anything to go by, I could do another 25km (although, the gravel surface of the Uni Loop was somewhat less forgiving than the athletic track in Canberra – every now and then I’d step on a bit of gravel the wrong way and I could swear it went straight through the sole of my shoe and into my foot!) which meant 180+ was definitely in my sights!

I figured it was time to go back to music, and I started with my favourite ‘go-to’ album, Def Leppard’s ‘Adrenalize’. Actually I thought I could probably listen to their music for the full 4 hours, but I didn’t even get through the one album, because as 7am approached, the 24 hour runners tended to liven up a bit and more people started coming out to watch/support, so there wasn’t actually that much time to listen to music!
There weren’t too many people still running by this stage, other than the 3 leading men, Matt, Kay and Darren (although I did see Darren walking at one stage, possibly eating noodles at the time – probably a good thing he was walking!)
6am, 20 hours down, 4 to go, and I’d already achieved my goal. I understood now why setting a distance goal could be problematic!
This was familiar territory to me. I am very used to running at 6am. Not so used to running at 6am after running for 20 hours with no sleep!
SARRC, the club with which I do the aforementioned 6am runs, has 2 running groups on a Sunday morning, at 7am and 7:30am, starting at the clubrooms on the Uni Loop. So there was something to look forward to – a few friendly faces heading out on their morning run! It was great to see so many familiar faces!
Around this time, David caught up with me again and said we were dead level. I said, you’ve got me then, because I’m only walking now. He congratulated me on a great debut 24 hour event – 180km was a great distance, he said it had taken him a while to get to that!
A few others came out in the later stages of the race too – Beck came along with her daughter Alice to run a few laps (and walk one with me!) and Chantel came and walked with me for a bit too, and took some photos.
📷 Blinkz Photography Australia – with Chantel. For more pics from the last hour, see https://www.facebook.com/296866950715728/posts/751777915224627/

Unfortunately the weather wasn’t super kind – the BOM had forecast rain in the afternoon which would have been fine, but it rained (not heavily, but solidly) for the last few hours. I guess it wouldn’t be an Adelaide 24 hour event without rain! Still, it could have been a lot worse!

Mum and Dad came down again, and Mum walked a few laps with me.

Around 9am my friend Tracie came down to take some photos. She is doing a photography project about ‘Emotions’ and was looking for subject matter. I suggested the last hour of the 24 hour race would be a good place to capture a few emotions! She got some really great shots! For the full gallery, see https://www.facebook.com/296866950715728/posts/751736968562055/
📷 Blinkz Photography Australia. With Kate, Tracey, Chantel and Mum.

Somewhere around this time I cracked the 180km barrier. Never in a million years would I have dreamed of a number like that – and still an hour to go!

Not long before the end, Tracie told me that she thought I was in 1st place – she said I’d passed Sabina! (At that stage, I didn’t know that I was in 2nd or that Sabina was 1st) I couldn’t quite believe that! But then, 180km was more than the winner did last year, so I guess it was possible! (She was a bit confused though because there was someone called Kay on the list who was ahead of me but I was first female – turned out Kay is actually a guy, pronounced ‘Ky’)

I’d told Kate and Tracey I didn’t want to know where I was placed, because I wouldn’t be able to do anything about it, especially once I’d made the decision to stop running and walk it in. However, as we headed out for the last lap, Kate asked me if I wanted to know, and she confirmed that yes I was indeed first. And by quite a margin too, she said!

And then, that magical moment – getting my ‘sandbag’ with my number on it, which I would drop when the hooter went off at 10am. I’d seen the 6 and 12 hour runners collect theirs and thought my turn would never come! Chantel, Mum, Kate and Tracey joined me for the last lap. They suggested that I might even get another full lap in – I never thought that would happen, although we did get quite close (Mum was setting a cracking pace).

And then – the hooter went, I dropped my bag, and it was over!

Amazingly, everything felt pretty good, except my feet. I put it down to a few things – the massage on Friday, the slower pace, and the flat track. After the Tower Trail Marathon 3 weeks ago I couldn’t really run properly (and walking wasn’t all that easy either) for a good few days, but after this one, sure the legs were a bit stiff but nothing I hadn’t experienced before! If not for the feet, I might have even been able to go out for a sneaky jog on Monday!

Thanks Gary for this pic, with Mum and Dad.

After celebrating briefly with friends and family, I headed back to the van to get changed into warm clothes. I got a bit light headed after I’d been sitting for a bit, probably not surprising after going 24 hours with minimal stopping and no sleep. Susan from First In Sport First Aid came to check up on me, my blood pressure and heart rate were fine but my blood sugar was a bit low, which was easily fixed with some Coke! Kate had got me some hash browns which also went down a treat!

I laid down on the bed for a few minutes while awaiting the presentation. Luckily it stopped raining in time!

The 24 hour perpetual trophy is named after (and endorsed by) ultra running legend Yiannis Kouros, who still holds the world record for a 24 hour track race, a phenomenal 303.5km, set right here in Adelaide in 1997. He is one of the few ultra runners that I’d heard of long before I even considered taking up running (I remembered him from the old Sydney to Melbourne ultramarathon days back in the ’80s!) When this trophy was first introduced in this event a few years back, I never in a million years would have imagined that one day MY name would be on it! And yet, here I was!
📷 Blinkz Photography Australia. With overall winner Matt who clocked up almost 253km!

As I write this, it is now Tuesday morning and I am amazed at how good my legs feel! I managed a short recovery walk today – hampered only by blisters on my feet, which should heal pretty quickly!

So, what next? My next scheduled event is the half marathon at the Barossa Marathon, I won’t be setting any time goals for that one (at least that’s what I’m saying now!) – I’m treating it purely as a training run for the Chicago Marathon.

And now for the thanks!

Firstly, thanks to every single one of the runners out there in the 6, 12 and particularly the 24 hour event for making it actually kind of fun! It’s hard to believe if you’ve never done something like this before, but I never once got bored running round in circles (OK sure the direction changes helped!) because of all the encouragement and chats with the other runners. You are all awesome!

Thanks to Graham for planting the seed by telling me about this event in the first place (even though I thought you were insane at the time) – great to see you out there albeit briefly this time around!

Thanks to Emma for really properly introducing me to this type of event! It’s an honour to have my name on the Kouros Trophy along with yours!

Thanks to Amanda (Glide Massage) for freshening my legs up on Friday! I will be back!

Thanks to the spectators who came out to watch, particularly in the later stages, it was great to see such a big crowd at the finish, despite the weather!

Thanks to those who were crewing for other runners, who never failed to give encouragement to me as I went past!

Thanks to Tracie for coming down and taking some great pics, hopefully I gave you what you needed for your project!

Thanks to Chantel for coming down on Saturday and Sunday, for some fantastic photos also, and for sharing a few laps with me!

Thanks to ALL of the volunteers, particularly those who were out during the ‘Witching Hour’, you must have been very cold and tired and everything you did was appreciated! But anyone who volunteered in any small way, I can’t thank you enough. (Special kudos also to those who did the measuring of the part laps, particularly the 12 hour which was done in the dark, and the 24 hour which was done in the rain!)

Thanks to my crew, Kate and Tracey, for ensuring that I could keep rolling on and making sure I always had everything I needed – and for joining me for the occasional lap too! Legends the both of you!

Thanks to Susan and her crew for always looking after us! Susan, be thankful you didn’t have to deal with my feet!

Thanks to Michael for supplying the van, a whole lot of extra gear I hadn’t even thought I might need! And for helping me get my shoes off afterwards and guarding the door while I got changed – your help really made a huge difference (and I know Kate appreciated the van too – although I hear she had some trouble getting out of it!)

Thanks to Mum and Dad for coming down to see me on Saturday night and again on Sunday morning, and for driving me home afterwards and helping me with getting the gear into my car and then back out again, and basically for everything really!

And I think that sums it up, epic report from an epic event!

Oops I almost forgot. One last one. Thanks to Ben for putting this event on every year, for without you none of this would have happened! Every event, every year I go on and on about how I don’t know how you do it and how you ever find time to spend with your wife and 2 (soon to be 3) kids, and yet you do. Event after event. You are truly Superman!

OK, I think that’s it. I’m out. See you at Barossa!

Race report – Tower Trail Run 2019

This was my 3rd straight year running the Tower Trail Run. You can read about my 2017 experience here and 2018 here.

I will try to keep this one brief. I have said that before.
The original plan was to do the 21.1km, as I had done the 2 previous years. In fact, I had entered that distance when the earlybird entried opened.
Then, I looked at the calendar and realised that the Adelaide 24 hour event was just 3 weeks after Tower (as it always is) but as I am doing the 24 hour this year (as opposed to the 12 hour the past 2 years), I thought I’d better up the distance. Call it a long training run. Time on legs, and all that. So I upgraded to the marathon distance.
This is the first year of the Five 50 Ultra Series, the brainchild of Steve, one of the Trail Running SA committee. The Tower ultra distance (56km) was the second leg of the five (Five Peaks being the first, and the remaining 3 being Federation Ultra Trail, Yurrebilla and Heysen). Consequently, the ultra distance numbers were WAY up on last year! Nothing like an extra bit of bling (a bonus medal awaits the finishers of the 5 series) to encourage people to turn up!
I had considered the ultra, but as I am not able to complete the series this year, and I wanted to be able to do a good run at the 24, I thought the 56 was a bit too far. 42 was perfect!
The course for the 10.5k, 21.1k and 42.2k was the same, just with a different number of laps. The 56km, like the 42, was 4 laps, but the laps were longer, including a lap of the iconic Blue Lake.
The now traditional pre-Tower dinner took place at the famous Metro Cafe, and my choice of meal (which may have raised some eyebrows) was a curry – one of several vegan options on the menu, and the dish I am almost certain I had last year. We had the back room pretty much booked out, with a large contingent of Adelaide runners having made the trip down to the South East.
We were led to believe that it could get as low as -4 degrees overnight, so I was prepared with my fleece gloves and fleece jacket I’d bought for UTA. I still went with the skirt and compression shorts, as my legs don’t tend to get cold. I also put on a fleece headband to keep my ears warm. In the end, it was fortunately nowhere as cold as we’d thought it might be, and I didn’t end up using the fleece. And there was only 10% chance of rain, so I threw my rain jacket into my drop bag but was pretty sure it wouldn’t be needed.

I ran with my large race vest, although with drink stations every 5km or so it is entirely possible to run this one without carrying anything. I prefer not to stop if possible, so I had on me 2 bottles of Gatorade, some ‘Snackaballs’ (salted caramel are the BOMB!), a Clif bar and a peanut butter sandwich cut into quarters. In my drop bag (left at the finish line, which I would pass 3 times along the way) I had another sandwich, more balls, more Clif bars and some more portions of Gatorade powder. I figured I’d probably stop halfway and top up whatever I’d used so far.

I knew the field for the marathon was small, but I hadn’t looked at the field before the race. I find it not very useful – firstly, people enter on the day, so you can’t get complacent if you don’t see any ‘big names’ on the list, and you might get ‘psyched out’ to see a name on the list of someone who doesn’t even turn up on the day. So I was surprised to see, at the start line, that I was one of only 3 women in the field of 15. Guaranteed podium finish! Beauty!
4 laps was going to be a challenge, but probably good preparation for the 24 hour, come to think of it!
I decided to go uber-conservative for the first lap. This one would be a warm-up.
During the race briefing, Race Director Phil pointed out (specifically to me!) that the tripping hazard that had been at the start line last year, had now been removed, but there was another one elsewhere in the course to look out for. This could be fun!

And they’re off! Photo by K8 Photographics.
As we set off up the road for the first section, I sat back around mid-pack and watched a few of the faster runners, including the eventual winner, Howard, take off. Before too long I caught up with them, including Dannielle and Adrian (both from the South East) and ran with them for a short while. Adrian said he had only taken up running in November last year! It wasn’t too long before we came to a steep, ‘rooty’ downhill section, and they both took off, no way was I going to try to keep up with them at this point! Adrian got so much speed up going down one hill that he overshot a turn-off! (No danger of that happening to me!)
The great thing about this run was that there was no pressure. I knew I was going to get top 3 as long as I finished, there was no goal time (I did estimate, based on my previous runs here, that I’d do between 5:00 and 5:30, probably closer to the latter), and I figured, the slower I went, the more time I’d be on my feet, which would be all the better for the 24 hour! So no matter how well (or badly) I ran, there would be something good to take out of it!

In the forest. Photo by Debra Thompson.
On this theme, I ran with my watch covered up, as I had in my previous marathon. Time was essentially meaningless!
The course is really challenging, scenic and varied. Quite a lot of steps. I wonder if anyone counted them? The first lot of steps was just after we went past the Blue Lake. I remembered from previous years, not to even bother trying to run them. I experimented with walking up the side rather than using the steps, but I found that a bit slippy (the ground was mostly pretty dry) so just plodded my way up the steps.
Early on in the race I encountered some of the ultra runners. While running very briefly with Joel (before he took off) he asked me what my goals were for the race. I first said “Well, to finish in the top 3”. He was probably thinking “Wow, that’s a bit arrogant!” before I quickly pointed out that there were only 3 of us in the race! I then said “To finish, and not break!” and “5 to 5 and a half hours”.
There were 2 places on the first (I like to call it the ‘reccy’) lap where I wasn’t quite sure which way to go. Firstly, after the first Tower climb, we descended and came to a field with a sports oval on it. Landing on the oval, I couldn’t immediately see where to go, and I stopped, initially planning to wait for the next runner to come along, before I saw the arrows along the side of the oval indicating the way. The second place was probably with about 1km to go on the lap, after the climb up the grass, and there was a group of hi-vis volunteers up the top of the hill. I started making a bee-line towards the people, until I realised that there was a path I was meant to follow. From then on, I had no issues with navigation! That’s the beauty of a looped course!

Oh and I thought I found the tripping hazard too – a large tree had fallen across part of the track. The options were to try to limbo under it (I’m not that bendy), to take a running jump over it (I just know that would have ended in disaster) or option 3, to stop for 2 seconds and carefully climb over it. It was kind of fun the first time, but less fun as the race wore on! (Incidentally, ultra runner and housemate Mark later showed me a photo to prove that on his last lap, it was gone – someone had come along during the race and removed it!)

Turned out that wasn’t even the tripping hazard Phil was referring to – he didn’t even know about the tree until well into the event!

Back in the forest! Photo by Debra Thompson.
First time around, and I remembered this from last year too, at the bottom of the grass hill, there were a few tables with containers of snakes, ‘to help you up that bloody hill’ as the sign said!
Speaking of snakes, I had my snake bandage in my pack – it just lives in there, I certainly did not expect to encounter any of our slithery friends out there. I did notice a few signs along the trail that said ‘Shared environment’ with what I later realised was a picture of a snake! So they are around the area, but unlikely to be out and about in the cooler weather! I later saw a post on Facebook that a snake was spotted on that very trail that very weekend!
Towards the end of lap 2 I caught the first of the half marathoners, I could recognise them from a mile away, housemates Daryl and Kym. They were on their first of 2 laps. A bit later on, heading up to where the (lolly) snakes were, we found that the ultra marathoners (I assume) had eaten them all! The signs were still motivating though!
I thought I might have had a problem getting past the halfway mark, given that I’d originally been doing the half, and having only ever done that distance here. However, as it turned out I had hardly used any of my food, and less than half of my drinks, so there was no need for me to stop. So I ran through the finish line as quickly as I could, and back up to the road, before I could think twice about it. And you know what? It wasn’t that bad. My mind was prepared to be running 4 laps, so the thought of stopping after 2 didn’t even enter my mind!
Let’s talk a bit now about the Tower climb, the hardest part of the course. According to the Strava segment it is 400m long with an elevation gain of 70m, a grade of 15.2%. That is pretty damn steep! I think with the success of the event this year, it’s time to put that escalator in, OK Phil?

The marathon and ultra runners had to do that climb 4 times.

I had in my mind that when I reached the Tower on my 3rd lap, I’d have broken the back of it. Don’t get me wrong, the 4th climb was still a beast, but at least I knew that once I’d done that, I only had 3km to go. Walk in the park!

I was tempted to stop and take a photo at the Tower but ‘race mode’ kicked in and I just kept pushing on.
On my 3rd lap I ran into Sally and a few others doing the half marathon. I hadn’t known it up to this point but Sally told me that the top of the Tower was 3km from the end, and the top of the grassy hill was 1km to the end. It’s amazing how much more enjoyable a run can be when you have no idea how far you have to go until the end!

Pic by K8 Photographics.
I reached the end of my 3rd lap just after housemate Karen finished her half marathon – I thought about trying to catch her (I now like to call it ‘doing a Graham’ after an incident at the finish line in 2017) but again with the big picture in mind, I decided a sprint finish with a lap still to run, would be asking for trouble! It got a bit congested at that stage – I think some people had forgotten that some people still had further to go when they crossed the finish line! Again, I quickly ran through the start/finish area and back out for my last lap, before I had too much time to think about it! As it turned out I didn’t need to stop at all, I still had plenty of food and drink left.
It was really handy actually. I had 4 pieces of sandwich, and given there was absolutely no way I was ever going to be running up to the Tower, I ate one piece on each lap, which was also helpful in case I forgot which lap I was on! (I did sneak a look at my watch once, on the final lap, JUST to make sure I was indeed on my last lap. I saw 35km on my watch so I knew I was definitely on the home stretch! And quickly covered my watch up again, all the way to the end!
On the final climb up the grassy hill I thought I may have been hallucinating as I saw what looked very much like a unicorn coming down the hill towards me. I wasn’t hallucinating, it was a unicorn (or at least a girl in a unicorn onesie) – I didn’t get her name but she was out there encouraging people on the last climb! It was great to see her, especially considering I was into the last kilometre or so by that stage! She would have got some serious hill reps in that day!
The finish line kind of snuck up on me the first time. There were a few signs – one I remembered from the previous year “The Tower Trail Run is not fun, it is HILL AREAS” which I found quite amusing, and after seeing the sign I looked over and saw the finish line! That happened again on the second lap! By the 3rd lap I was all over it. And finally on the 4th lap, I decided to drop my race vest by one of the signs so if there was a finish line photo I could get one without my vest on, and made my way to the finish line!
MC Nikki announced my name and asked if I was finishing, I quickly checked my watch again just to be sure – yes this was definitely the end for me! As I was getting myself a long-awaited cup of Coke from the drinks table, I heard Nikki on the mic suggesting that I would do the ultra next year. I very emphatically shook my head. I most definitely would NOT be doing that!
It wasn’t until a minute or so later that it occurred to me to look at my time – I was pleasantly surprised with an official time of 5:02:46 – and only about 5 minutes behind the winner, Dannielle!

Slower with each lap – but still reasonably consistent!
My first priority after that was food – loaded fried from Natural Born Grillers – I probably could have had a second serve of those – so good!
Presentations followed not long after 3rd placed Dawn finished, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that my prize was a $75 voucher from The Athlete’s Foot (I treated myself to a nice new pair of Skechers casual shoes – because it seems like the only shoes I ever buy these days are running shoes!)

Presentation!
It was a great day all around, all my housemates had a good day out too – celebrated that night with some delicious curry (another tradition for our group – takeaway Indian in a nice warm house!). And the weather could not have been more perfect!

All of the housemates at the finish line, not long after Mark had finished the ultra! Thanks to Karen for this pic!
Thanks once again to Phil and Nikki and all the fabulous volunteers for putting on another great event! And well done to all the runners – it’s not one of your easier runs, and you all did brilliantly!

My new shoes – feels just like wearing slippers! Thanks again to The Athlete’s Foot Mount Gambier for sponsoring the prizes!
Definitely recommend this event – from the new 5km event to the 56km for the nutters, there really is something for everyone!
See you all next year!

Race report – coastalfunruns UNI Coastal marathon

I have run one coastalfunruns event before – back in February 2017. The beauty of these events is that they are low cost, frequent, low pressure and super friendly! It worked out well for me that time as I felt like I needed a half marathon in the lead-up to Boston, and none of my usual ‘go-to’ events worked out timing-wise. I must have been going reasonably well back then because I ran with Coralie for quite a bit of it and also with Carrie. Couldn’t quite imagine being able to do that now!

Most of the events are held at Semaphore along a nice flat coastal path, and occasionally in Port Adelaide or further afield, but I got a bit (disturbingly) excited when the UNI Coastal event was announced. (The ‘Coastal’ part is purely because the organiser is coastalfunruns – it is in NO WAY coastal!)

I may have mentioned this before. The Adelaide 24 hour event is my main focus for this year. I have been doing a lot of training at the home of this event, the infamous ‘Uni Loop’.

As I may have mentioned in last week’s Adelaide Marathon report, I had intended to run the Adelaide Marathon, using my 25 min run/5 min walk strategy, possibly as a 4:30 pacer. Then this event, a week later, was announced, and everything changed. A marathon around the Uni Loop? How could I not? (And what is wrong with me?)

I hadn’t quite worked out how I was going to approach this one – did I treat it just like a normal training run (which, let’s face it, I would have been doing anyway had I not entered this event) or did I treat it like a ‘normal’ marathon?

In the end I decided to do a bit of a combination – I’d eat like I do in an ultra, but I’d keep the walk breaks to a minimum.

I’d done a ‘practice’ marathon at the same location 2 weeks earlier and done it in just under 4:30, and that was with the usual 25/5 strategy, so I was hoping to go faster than that. Sub 4 would be nice but I wasn’t sure how realistic that was, given I hadn’t really been doing any fast stuff.

Given that it was not your typical marathon and it wasn’t my goal race, I didn’t bother with the whole tapering thing, just doing my normal thing during the week. Tuesday morning, instead of my normal road run, I went out to do a ‘slow’ lap of Chambers Gully with Jenny and Dave who had both done the Adelaide Marathon 2 days earlier. They go out regularly on a Tuesday and I have occasionally joined them (especially when I have a big trail race coming up and need to get more hills in) but in

general they are way too fast for me. I figured if there was ever a good time to go out and run with them, it was 2 days after they’d done a marathon! (They’d also both done Hubert 100km in early May, and Dave had only just got back from doing the Boston Marathon prior to that).

Then on Saturday afternoon I got a message from Jenny saying that Dave had convinced her to run the UNI Coastal marathon with him, but not to worry as it would be at an ‘easy’ pace.

Ha!

(Incidentally, I found out on Sunday that Dave had a slightly different interpretation of who convinced whom!)

Saturday night was a traditional pre-marathon dinner – pizza (from Sonny’s Pizza Bar – THE BEST!) and cider.

I wasn’t quite sure what the setup was going to be with the aid station. I have a preference for lemon-lime Gatorade so I had prepared 8 x 250ml bottles. I thought this was way more than I’d need but in my last couple of 4 hour runs I’d used 3 x 500ml bottles. Unfortunately I couldn’t find the small pop top bottles at Woolies so they were screw top bottles, but they would do! (As it turned out, they had lemon-lime Gatorade at the aid station so I needn’t have bothered!) I’d made myself one peanut butter sandwich (cut into quarters) and I had 2 Clif bars and a bag of salted caramel Snackaballs which I have recently found to be a great ‘on the run’ snack – compact, easy to eat while running AND delicious!

On arrival at the Uni Loop on Sunday morning I met Ryan and Randell and I remarked, “oh wow, there’s going to be some fast people out there today!” Ryan asked “who?” and I said, “obviously, you guys!” I knew Ryan was doing the marathon – like me, as a training run for the Adelaide 24 hour. Randell is doing the 12 hour event but as it turned out he was just out doing a training run.

I got my rain jacket (which I really didn’t want to run in – it gets too hot!) and my small race vest, as well as my esky with all my drinks and food, and made my way out to the start/finish area. There I ran into Dave and Jenny, Dave had brought a table and kindly let me share it! Ryan also put his gear on the table and I just had to take a photo…

(I don’t like bananas but there were a few times during the run when I was SOOO tempted to steal one… history shows they were FAST bananas too!)

There is a toilet in the clubrooms a little way along the loop, which would be open for most if not all of the race, however before we started, we were directed to the 24 hour toilet block. It’s a bit sketchy so Marlize, Dave, Jenny and I all walked over there together. (It was good to know where it is as I have an overnight training run planned and the one thing I thought might be an issue was a lack of available toilets. I will be advocating going there in ‘teams’ though!) It was a bit gross and completely dark, but thankfully Dave had his phone on him and very kindly shone his phone torch through the window which worked wonders (actually, on second thoughts, I may have preferred NOT to be able to see!).

Note to self – head torch required at night!

I was umming and ahhing about wearing the race vest – I could put 2 bottles in it, and probably the whole sandwich, and then I wouldn’t need to carry anything in my hands. I’d never done a marathon in a race vest before, and I’d never done a run at the Uni Loop with one, and ultimately I decided against using it.

Along with the marathon there was also a half marathon and a 10k (just the 4 laps – that sounded pretty appealing!)

I was happy to see that Marlize, who had beaten me in my first 6 hour race here 4 years ago, was ‘only’ doing the half marathon! Also doing the half were Dani (doing the 6 hour), Neil (also doing the 6 hour and who also ran in a ‘hot lap’ race just prior to the main event – not a bad warmup!), Erika (who, I seem to recall while I was running with her, is THINKING about doing the 6 hour), Gail and Trish (who is doing the 24 hour), Julia (who is doing the 6 hour and who I didn’t see at the start – turns out she couldn’t find the start location and started 10 minutes late!) and Kay (doing the 12 hour).

Not entirely surprisingly given the nature of the race, there was a small field of just 8 starting the marathon. David, who does a marathon practically every week and is also doing the 24 hour for the umpteenth time, the aforementioned Ryan, Jenny and Dave, myself, the organiser Chris (also doing the 24 hour), and two guys I didn’t know, Chris (who ended up not finishing) and Stephen.

The 10k had a few familiar faces in it too – Dani’s daughter Sammi (also doing the 6 hour with her mum!), Cheryl and Amelie. I didn’t see too much of them as they ‘only’ did 4 and a bit laps!

The starters (minus Julia!)

I decided to try and stick with Jenny and Dave, and if that didn’t work out, I’d grab my iPod from out of my esky (a good thing I’d put it in there too, as it rained for about the first half of the race!) That lasted maybe about half a
lap! I didn’t see them after that but towards the end I fully expected to be lapped! I was lapped (3 times) by Ryan, and once or twice by David, a couple of times by Neil in the half and I think once by Marlize in the half.

Given that I had decided to treat it as more of a ‘race’ than a ‘training run’, I changed my nutrition strategy. Instead of eating every 30 minutes while taking a 5 minute ‘walk break’, I decided to eat every 3 laps, and just walk for long enough to get my sandwich/Clif bar in. However, on my first ‘food break’ I started eating my sandwich while still running, and realised, it is actually possible to eat and run at the same time! So I ended up not walking at all during the race, and still managed to eat 3 of my 4 pieces of sandwich and 1 Clif bar! I realise that most people would use gels for this reason – to be able to get nutrition in while still running – but I have avoided gels all my running life and don’t intend to change that anytime soon!

At the same time that I got my first bit of food, I grabbed one of my Gatorade bottles. As it was a cool morning, I ended up actually only drinking two of them, but straight after the race I had one, and I had a couple more over the course of the afternoon. Ordinarily I’d probably drink a bit more than that (and probably should have drunk more on this occasion!)

I always listen to music in my Uni Loop training runs, but use it sparingly in races. If I’m running with someone else I prefer to chat, and the great thing about these loopy events is you do get to see people along the way (whether you’re lapping them or vice versa!) On this occasion, being a smaller race and with less and less people there as time went on, the music was called into play quite early (pun intended!) – although if I was running with people I’d always turn the music off and chat for a bit. The person I would have chatted with most was race organiser Chris – I think I ran with him about 3 times during the race – he was doing his 200-and-somethingth marathon, he had run Adelaide last weekend and he was just out for an enjoyable morning, socialising and chatting with all the runners. I think at some point I may have said to him “If you put another event on here, I’m in!”

I had a bit of unexpected company along the way, from people not in the race. I got to see a lot of the SARRC Sunday runners – there are 2 main groups, one starting at 7 and one at 7:30, starting from the clubrooms which are on the loop. The 7:00 group had gone by the time we started but I did see a lot of them on their way back, and I got to see the 7:30 runners before and at the start of their run. (Actually I shouldn’t call it unexpected company – as a runner you CANNOT go out on the Uni
Loop on a Sunday morning and not run into someone you know! It is an impossible task!) One of the 7:00 group, Maree (aka Supergirl) was running towards me, then past, then did a U turn and ran with me for a bit – she had run from home and was on her way back. We had a bit of a chat about our training plans for the Chicago Marathon which we’re both running.

Also out for a short ‘jog’ was one of the Garys who did the marathon last week and is also doing the 12 hour. He had come out just for coffee with the 7:30 runners but I think they’d done a short run post-marathon and had all finished coffee by the time he got there – so he came and ran half a lap with me instead!

I had recently acquired a new computer and put my iTunes library onto it. I had copied the library from an external hard drive but the playlists had to be manually recreated. As I had recreated them from scratch, I had got rid of a lot
of songs I never want to listen to, and had added in new ones I hadn’t listened to in years – it was fun to go through my entire music library of 9000+ songs! I had 2 playlists – one ‘general’ one of about 900 songs, and one specifically for swimming, which
was all upbeat songs and which was much smaller as it had to fit on my waterproof iPod shuffle. I’d opted for the iPod Classic and the longer playlist on this occasion.

I ‘discovered’ a few songs in this race that were great for running! Quite an eclectic mix too, as always – for example ‘Feel the Love’ by Rudimental and ‘F***ing Hostile’ by Pantera (I had to resist the urge to break into song during the
latter one!)

One familiar face who I had met at this very location during a training run last year (from memory we were running in opposite directions and she was wearing an Adelaide 24 top, so it was pretty obvious what she was training for!) was Kay. She was doing the half marathon but when I caught up with her she was thinking about pulling out as she had some leg issues (I can’t remember specifically) and her physio had instructed her that if she started limping, she had to stop. She didn’t have too far left to go and was pretty keen to finish! She was training for the 12 hour again after having done it for the first time last year. From then on when I saw her (I think only 2 more times), I’d say “No limping!” and then the next time I saw her she was heading to the finish!

One really cool thing about this race, and something that I’ve never experienced before as I’ve only done time-based rather than distance-based events here, was the fact that, given the length of the loop and the 3 distances, runners had to complete their last full lap, then head back out along the loop for various distances before turning around and heading back to the finish. Therefore, whenever I saw a runner with a bib on running towards me, I knew they were heading to the finish line so I could give them a bit of a cheer!

I had my watch covered up during the entire race and that was actually really liberating. I mentally counted my laps, which is not that hard on a 2.2km loop. At one point towards the end I snuck a look at my watch when it beeped to indicate I’d finished another kilometre, just to make sure that my count was correct (which it was) and then quickly covered it up again. (One of the tricks I find with counting laps is, always count up, never down, at least until you’re on your last couple of laps!) I ALMOST checked my half marathon time but decided against it. I had no idea what the time was or what pace I was running. Unlike when I ran ‘blind’ at the Great Southern half, I DID know how far I’d gone!

I had a rough idea of the placings in the marathon, based on how frequently people lapped me. Ryan was leading by a good couple of laps and not surprisingly was first to finish in 3:19:20. David, who we worked out was a lap ahead of me
(even though I was sure he lapped me twice!) finished second in 3:38 which is a phenomenal time especially when you consider how many marathons he runs! I actually passed both of them at different times when they were walking. Now that’s not fair – they both walked a bit during the race and still finished miles ahead of me! My marathon PB is a touch under 3:36 and I can assure you there was NO walking during that one!

Speaking of ‘not fair’, let’s come back to Jenny and Dave. Refresher – Dave had run Boston in April, both had run Hubert 100km in early May (Jenny’s first 100km ultra) and both had run the Adelaide Marathon just a week ago.

I’m grateful that I didn’t get lapped by them. It’s probably the closest I will ever get to either of them in a marathon! And I really like both of them, they are both great runners, and very modest about their achievements, but I just don’t think it’s fair that they can do all that in such a short period of time and STILL beat me by a good 10 minutes! (Chris jokingly said he was going to disqualify them if they lapped him!)

Dave and Jenny at the finish line!

For a while there I totally forgot they were there! Being about 10 minutes ahead of me, they didn’t quite catch me to lap me, but when I occasionally looked across the sports fields to the other side of the loop, I never saw them (and Dave would have been hard to miss in his hi-viz yellow!). Unlike the timed Uni Loop events that I’m used to, there were no turnarounds where you got to see all the people who were less than a lap ahead of or behind you!

I managed to start my final full lap before they finished theirs – I was pretty confident they wouldn’t lap me! Small win!

I never did start counting down laps, always up. The end of lap 18 (so just over one lap to go) would have been a food break but being so close to the end I thought it wasn’t worth bothering – it wasn’t as if I was going to get any benefits from eating something now!

As I passed the start-finish line at the end of 19 laps (41.8km, to be precise) I saw Jenny and Dave for the first time since very early on in the race. I left my drink bottle and iPod on the table and said “I’ll be back” – I heard someone say “Sprint finish!” and I did start sort of sprinting – I forgot how far 200m is – that marker seemed to take FOREVER to reach! But that wasn’t the hardest bit – the hardest bit was doing a 180 degree turn, at pace, after running 42km in one direction, and running that last 200m back to the finish line!

As I crossed the line I heard Steve, one of the two main volunteers along with Antonietta who were there for us in the cold and rain all morning, call out my time, and it started with a 3! So after being just a little bit grumpy about Dave and Jenny beating me quite comfortably while taking it relatively easy, I was actually really stoked to get a sub 4 – I genuinely had no idea if I was or wasn’t going to get it, until I heard him call it out!

It wouldn’t be a race report without thanking the volunteers and on this occasion I can thank each and every one of them by name. Both of them, in fact! Both of them being regular parkrunners, I suspect both of them would have loved to be involved in another event happening that day, the ‘Longest parkrun’, 7 ‘unofficial’ parkruns in one day. I was a bit disappointed to find out it clashed with this event, because I was also really keen to give it a go.

Thanks Steve and Antonietta for everything!

Looking at the timetable for the day, and given that I was expecting to finish the marathon by 11:45 (4.5 hours) and the 5th of the 7 runs started at 1:30, it was entirely logistically possible for me to join in the last 3 parkruns (Lochiel, Pakapakanthi and Torrens). Logistically yes but physically? Who knew? I thought I’d give it a go. A 24 hour race is a test of endurance and running on tired legs. What better way to train for that than by running 3 x 5km runs, with about an hour’s break in between each one, and two hours’ break in between the marathon and the first 5k?

Thankfully for all concerned, there was time for me to go home and have a shower before the first of the 3 parkruns, and I made a stop at the Bakery on O’Connell for a pastie and a Coke first! I had just got a new pair of 2XU compression pants in the recent sale, and I usually wear compression pants for recovery after a big run, so I figured it would be a good thing to wear for the parkruns! (They were great, once I got them on. Getting them on was quite the manoeuvre! As was getting them off later!)

And I did manage to get through the 3 parkruns, and I am almost certain it was a good thing to do, both from a training point of view and also recovery (I find it helps to keep moving as much as possible, within reason!)

The crew before parkrun #7 at Torrens!

The ‘Longest parkrun’ finished with a dinner at the nearby Wellington Hotel. As I already had curry in the fridge at home (as well as half a pizza from Saturday night!) I just went and joined them for a wine before going home to eat ALL OF THE THINGS!

With one of the Longest parkrun organisers (and fellow wine lover) Janet at the end of a big day!

I gotta say, and I’m sure I’ve said it before, that a loop marathon or ultra is not for everyone, but it is most definitely for me!

Thanks Chris, Steve and Antonietta and all those involved, and well done to all the hardcore runners – I am sure I will see a lot of you on July 13!

Race Report – Adelaide Marathon Festival 2019

2 weeks after deciding that half marathons were not really my thing, I was back again to do my 21st half (and 7th as a pacer), this time at Adelaide Marathon.

I have a long(ish) history with this event, having been involved in some capacity every year since 2014 (bearing in mind I have only been running since late 2012).

In 2014 I was that weirdo in the tiger onesie hanging out outside the zoo with a sign cheering on the runners.

In 2015 I ran for the first time, as a pacer (also for the first time!) in the half marathon.

In 2016 I ran the marathon for the first and possibly only time!

In 2017 I was back pacing the half again, and in 2018 I opted to pace the 10k for something different!

And here I was again, pacing 2:15 in the half.

I had previously paced 2:00, but the guidelines are that you should be able to comfortably run 10 minutes faster than the time you’re pacing. Given that I ran just under 1:51 at Great Southern, 2:00 would have been a stretch! We also had a 2:06 pacer, which seems like a really odd sort of time until you realise that it is exactly 6 minutes per kilometre. I probably could have done that but I figured 2:15 was a good option (and I had paced that time before).

Actually, I had originally offered to pace 4:30 for the marathon, as part of my 24 hour training, running 25 mins/walking 5 mins. I ended up changing to pace the half instead, and so glad I did! As it turns out, I ran 42.2km a week or so ago and it was only JUST under 4:30. I possibly could have paced 4:45 but 4:30 would have been a disaster!

I hadn’t thought too much about what I was going to wear – I always dress up when I am pacing, not just because it’s kind of fun, but mostly because it makes it easier for the other runners to see me. Then, a few days before, in a conversation on a running group Facebook page, one of my friends Maree commented that she’d be out in her Supergirl costume cheering on the runners somewhere in the latter part of the race. That reminded me that I had a Supergirl costume myself, that I had worn when MCing Yurrebilla last year, and I had not yet run in it! Perfect!

On Saturday night I went to a pre-race dinner which included a number of interstate and overseas visitors and was really enjoyable, and being a running-related event it was a nice early finish! (With WAY too much food!)

I had planned to get to the Adelaide Oval before the marathon started at 7. The half didn’t start until 8, and coach Kent wanted all the pacers there by 7:30. So I set my alarm for 5:45, and then quickly realised that I was going to have to get a move on to get there in time! With road closures, I needed to allow a bit of extra time to get there. As it turned out, by some miracle, I was at the Adelaide Oval by 6:40 – where else can you get up, get ready, drive to the race, park for free and be at the start line of a marathon less than an hour after getting up?

Rain was forecast, but fingers crossed it would not be until later in the day. I wasn’t sure if the dye in my Supergirl costume would run, and I didn’t really fancy dragging a soggy cape around 21.1km!

On arrival at the Oval I wished the marathoners well, especially Ben and Gary who were doing their first marathons. Ben had done a lot of halves and was significantly faster than me, but somehow hadn’t gotten around to running a marathon until now! Gary (aka the Paparazzi) had gone straight to ultras and then decided he might as well tick off the 42.2km ‘officially’ too!

Not so good for the runners, but great news for the pacers, was that there was no helium for the pacer balloons, therefore we wouldn’t have to drag balloons around! It did make it tricky for the other runners to find us, but luckily for the 2:15 half marathoners I was pretty hard to miss! We had pacer bibs as well as our normal bibs, the pacer bibs were to go on our backs. I decided there was no point putting my pacer bib on my back as it would be completely covered by my epic cape! So with some difficulty trying to get it straight, I pinned the pacer bib onto the cape.

There was a bit of confusion around the pacer bibs. I THINK that if we’d had balloons, they would have had our goal time on them. And that would have been the thing that people would have looked for. The pacer bibs had our goal PACE, mine being 6:24 (minutes per km). It probably would have worked quite well with the goal TIME on the balloons. Perhaps in future both the time and the pace could be printed on the bibs?

This was the first time I’d run this half marathon course. 2 years ago when I last ran the half, I think we were still doing that zigzag up to Wellington Square, which was sooo much fun the year I did the marathon and had to do it twice!

I really liked the course. This was my favourite of all the Adelaide Marathon courses I’ve run. I especially liked the bit where we ran into the Botanic Gardens, through a weird gate and along a path which I’d never actually run before, which is remarkable when you consider that I’ve been running for over 6 years and most of my runs have been in and around the city!

There seemed to be plenty of drink stations, although I only stopped at one during the race (and the Adelaide Harriers one RIGHT near the end, when I needed to slow down a little bit!). Normally in a half marathon I would carry a bottle of Gatorade but in cooler weather and at ‘pacer pace’ I figured I could probably do without it – as it turns out I didn’t really need anything during the run. Most of the drink stations were ‘manned’ by different running clubs/groups, with the most raucous being the RIOT Runners (complete with motivational signs) closely followed by the RMA station (complete with Louise in rainbow unicorn outfit – one of the kids had a little folding chair set up and I jokingly threatened to sit in it (except I didn’t, because I would have broken it, been unable to get out of it, or more likely, both!)

The only issue I had with the course, which was probably more of an issue for me being a pacer than it would have been had I just been running for me, was that some of the kilometre markers were not in the right place, and I completely missed seeing some of them (that could have been my lack of observational skills, or maybe they weren’t there). I’d run Great Southern with no kilometre markers, and although it was a bit weird, it was OK because I was just running by feel anyway. However, as a pacer, you do rely on the markers to get the pace right.

I had set my watch to alert me if I went faster than 6:20 and slower than 6:25. I also started my watch on the gun rather than when I crossed the start line about 15 seconds later – that meant that if anyone finished ahead of or with me, would get under 2:15. It did take me a couple of kilometres to hit my goal pace. And then the 2km marker appeared to be out by quite a way (my watch read 2.2km at this point – GPS watches are always a little bit out, but to be 200m out after 2km would be highly unusual!) so I wasn’t actually sure if I was on pace or not. Rather than relying on doing maths in my head every kilometre, I worked out that 32 mins for every 5km would have me spot on 2:15 pace. So every 5km I’d be able to gauge where I was at based on the marker. I think I was pretty spot on at 5km but unfortunately I couldn’t see the 10km marker!

Almost invariably my watch shows that I’ve gone further than I actually have. Therefore, if I ran at 6:24 pace by my watch, I would almost certainly be too slow. So I was aiming to run at about 6:20 by my watch – just in case anyone thought I was running too fast! (I was probably going marginally too fast in the beginning while I was trying to get my pace right. It’s an improvement on 2015 when it took me 7km to hit my goal pace!

The 14km marker really threw me – my watch said I’d gone about 13.6km. Most of the other markers indicated a lower number than my watch did. This was on War Memorial Drive, coincidentally almost exactly in the same spot I’d been in the tiger onesie 5 years earlier, and we soon figured out what the problem was – the marker was meant to be on the other side of the road, and when we went past it again after a little out and back section, we confirmed that it was pretty much in the right spot, just on the wrong side of the road!

There was another one, I think around 17km, where my watch said 17.5km. I don’t expect them to be perfect, they’re just a guide after all, but I know as a pacer I really do rely on them, and as other runners are relying on me to set the right pace, they are pretty important! (I wonder if there’s any way the kilometre markings could be spray painted or even chalked on the ground, as a backup?)

So now to the best bit about pacing, and the reason I come back and do it again and again.

Even though my finish line photo will show that I didn’t have any other runners on my ‘bus’ at the finish line, I know for a fact that I managed to get at least a few runners across the line in under 2:15, and others who were behind me and couldn’t quite catch me, were still happy with their times as a result of having followed my flowing red cape!

Early on I ran with Annette and Sarah, I can’t remember the details of what they’d done before but from memory I think Sarah was hoping for a sub 2:30. She was going to try to stick with me for 15km and then see how she went from there. I told her that if she stayed with me for 15km she would be able to do a lot of walking in the last 6km and still make it comfortably under 2:30. Annette had some knee issues so she was walk/running, and wasn’t loving the hills (a bit like me!) – she had been talked into doing the half by someone who had then bailed – from memory I think she moved interstate so I guess that’s a valid excuse! I saw Annette off and on during the race, she caught up with me in the last little bit where we had to run up Morphett St and back.

Then there was Kim, who had run the Sydney half marathon last weekend and was hoping to go a bit quicker here in Adelaide. She was in training for the most gruelling of events, the Marathon de Medoc, and she commented to me that she was dressing as Supergirl. (If you haven’t heard of Medoc, look it up, the gist of it is that they have wine and cheese at the drink stations and EVERYONE dresses up – this year the theme is superheroes! Could I? NO!!!!)

Running with me from about the 14km mark until I sent them on their way, were Katie and Phil, who had only recently started running, and who had never run 10km before doing the double parkrun on New Year’s Day. Since then they have done 5 half marathons, are doing their first marathon in July! And I think it all started with parkrun! (Recently I have been telling people that the 6 hour race, as part of the 24 hour event, is a ‘gateway drug’ – well I could very easily say the same thing about

parkrun!) I jokingly said to them that they’d be doing their first 100 miler next year…

When I went past the Oval to the final drink station (where I grabbed a drink) I realised I was a bit ahead of time and tried to slow my pace down quite a bit as I turned the corner into Pennington Tce. I realised that I was still going to be well under my goal time so I walked for a bit up the road, until I reached the driveway into the Oval at which point I started running again. As I was walking I cheered on all the half marathoners (and marathoners of course, although they didn’t really need my encouragement, being sub 3:15!) as they went past me to complete their race.

Onto the Oval I went, and once again I realised my pacing was a bit out, and I ended up having to really pick up the pace to finish on time! Supergirl #1 Maree (she’s the original Supergirl) saw me come in and ran with me to the finish which was quite cool – and on my watch I finished in 2:14:59. Which is not too bad for a 2:15 pacer, although you probably wouldn’t say it was great pacing if you saw my last few kilometre splits!

That awkward moment when someone else turns up to the party in the same outfit…

After finishing, and getting another piece of bling for the collection from Annie or Tina (I can’t remember which one of them actually gave me my medal) I caught up with a few of my 2:15 ‘bus passengers’ who had all managed the sub 2:15. Most excited was Katie who gave me the promised massive hug and got a selfie to commemorate the occasion!

With Katie and Phil, two very happy finishers! Thanks Katie for the photo!

I later spoke to a few people around the place (because I couldn’t bring myself to change out of my Supergirl costume) who said they were just behind me and although they tried to catch me but didn’t, they still achieved what they wanted to. Kim was one of those – she beat her time from Sydney last weekend and was happy with that!

During the week I had got myself some new shoes from Joggers World thanks to a prize I’d won from SARRC after the Clare event. I’d never run in Mizunos but I am extremely happy with these shoes so far!

I then went and got myself a well earned coffee, and caught up with Voula who had not long got back from doing the London Marathon, and who had done the 10k. Then we went out to the Plaza to see the runners in the last kilometre or so (it’s actually a pretty cool spot to watch from if you’re waiting on a particular runner – you can cheer them on as they go past, then have plenty of time to get back into the Oval and down to the finish line before they finish!) I saw 3:45 pacer Coralie go by with debutant Ben, and a few minutes back from them was regular running buddy Gary doing his 3rd marathon (his first being Adelaide 2016 which was the year I also ran).

After that I went back into the Oval to hang out at the finish line and watch other runners finish. I was down on the ground when marathon newbie Gary finished, and he barely had his medal around his neck before he had the phone out again taking happy snaps to mark the occasion!

Thanks Gary for this pic at the finish line!

Tina and Annie had to go at 12, and I don’t think there was anyone scheduled to take over from them on medal duty, and Sheena (who I believe had been there since 2am) said she’d do it, at which point I said I’d do it for a bit. It was actually
quite fun, I’ve never done that job before, probably because it’s a volunteer position that is never hard to fill! One guy wanted to be the one to present the medal to his wife, which was a pretty special moment! And a woman from Hong Kong, was really excited to see her husband finish, so I offered for her to present the medal which she did!

The weather turned pretty ugly later – I was very glad I’d decided to ‘just’ do the half – I got a little bit wet in the last kilometre but it was just a passing shower. Towards the end, I was sitting up in the grandstand, waiting for the
runners to get about halfway around the Oval before running down to present their medals, then straight back up the stairs again! One of the guys who was working the PA system lent me his jacket, and someone else handed me a Mickey Mouse umbrella while I was standing in the rain (before I realised I could just as easily do my job from undercover) – thanks to both of those guys!

Last year I was there to see the last finisher – with a generous 8 hour cutoff, everything was still in place. This year, with a 7 hour cutoff, once 2pm had passed, the staff had to start packing up so that the Oval could be vacated in time. (In fact, the finish arch had been taken down some time earlier due to strong winds threatening to bring it down on a finishing runner!)

In the final hour or so, we were constantly being updated re how many runners were out on course. (This illustrates the importance of notifying one of the organisers if you pull out of a race – if you don’t cross the finish line, and if you don’t tell anyone you’ve pulled out, we think you’re still out there!) At one stage MC Pat Carroll said there were 16 runners still out there in the rain and wind – by some amazing coincidence I happened to have exactly 16 medals in my hand! As it turned out some of those people had actually pulled out, and by the time 2pm rolled around I only had 2 medals left in my hand. With the remaining 2 runners (of which only one actually finished according to the official results) still a long way from finishing, I took advantage of a short break in the rain and made the bolt back to my car and off to celebrate with my running buddies!

Well done to all the runners that participated, especially those doing their first marathon or half marathon, and especially especially the ones who were out in the gnarly weather and still finished! In all my years involved with Adelaide I can’t recall it ever raining before! And from a selfish point of view, SPECIAL congrats to the people on the 2:15 bus!

The volunteers always get special thanks but never has it been more deserved. SARRC staff, Race Director Ben and Office Manager Sheena were there from arse o’clock till who knows when, and put on another stellar event. There were a lot
of volunteers involved – I can’t mention all the roles because I would forget someone. From those that helped with setup in the early hours of the morning when I was still in bed, to those who were packing up the gear while I was enjoying a glass of wine at the pub, and all those who were out on course and in the stadium braving the weather and giving amazing encouragement to the runners – THANK YOU ALL! And I’d like to take this opportunity to remind people who run these events, that there is always room for more volunteers, and there is always the opportunity to volunteer AND run as well. I particularly enjoyed handing out the medals for a few hours!

So there you have it, my 21st half marathon. And (possibly under the influence of a glass of red and the encouragement of my running buddies) on Sunday afternoon I signed up for half marathon #22…

All about the bling – Great Southern Half Marathon 2019

You know what I really hate? When people say “Oh, I didn’t train, I’m just doing it for fun”.

I heard that a few times in a short period at the finish line of the Great Southern Half Marathon yesterday!

Now I’m going to talk about the fact that I didn’t train for said event either. That’s not to say I’ve been doing nothing – I’ve been doing plenty, just nowhere near enough training that is helpful for running a good half!

I entered really early – and I paid the extra $10 for the medal. I really like that concept. Plenty of people would rather the option of paying less and not getting a medal that will only end up in a shoebox or a drawer anyway. Me – I have plenty of shoeboxes! Bring on the bling!

Leading up to the event, initially I thought I hadn’t run a half marathon since September’s inaugural City-Bay half – which was actually a really good run for me, my second fastest half ever, and so it should be, being more downhill than uphill! Then I remembered November’s Point to Pinnacle. I’m not sure if I can really compare that to any other half marathon I’ve done, being 1200m of climbing. Even if I did count that one, it had been well over 5 months since I’d run a half marathon (and indeed, since I’d run 21.1km without walking!)

All of my long run training since then has been on trails (with plenty of walking) or on a flat track with scheduled walk breaks every half hour. So I had kind of forgotten how to run long without walk breaks!

My goals for Great Southern were modest. My A goal was to finish without having to walk, and my B goal was to finish. By this time I’d seen the medal and there was NO WAY this was going to be my first DNF! If I did have to walk I would
practise my fast walk I’d been doing in my last 2 parkruns and for the last 4 hours of the Canberra 12 hour (I’d got my time down to just under 36:30 for 5k).

I had no plan, no pacing strategy, nothing. I had no idea of the course other than the fact that it had a fair bit of sand running in it.

For me, this race was 100% all about the bling. It was ridiculous, huge, heavy, tacky, bright, outrageous, possibly even ugly. AND I WANTED IT!

The weather was good – it’s always a bit iffy with these coastal events – if you get a nasty headwind like they did down here a few years ago, it can be a very bad day!

Amazing shot of the start! Official race pic.

It was a nice late start – 9:30, which suited me very well. I aimed to get there at 8:45 which as it turned out was not early enough – by the time we walked the 800 or so metres from the carpark to the event area, I barely had time to queue up for the portaloos, put sunscreen on, clean my shoes and drop my bag off before we were being called to the beach for the briefing and start! After nearly an hour in the car a little leg loosener would have been good so in hindsight getting there at 8:30 would have been much better and less rushed. (They did have the fancy portaloos though, with soap and all, so that’s a big tick!)

I was running with arm warmers, even though with the 9:30 start, it wasn’t actually that cold! The benefit of that was that I could start my watch and cover it up, and not look at it again until I had crossed the finish line.

It was very weird! With no kilometre markings, and no watch, I had no idea either how far I’d gone or how much time had passed. My watch beeped at me at the end of every kilometre but I quickly lost count of those!

The course, as I stated earlier, started with an out and back section along the beach, with the 10km runners starting 10 minutes after us. There was a bit of traily stuff through the scrub (nothing too technical – the general consensus from those who had run it before, was that road shoes were best) and quite a bit of road. It was relatively flat, and thankfully not windy. The conditions were pretty ideal.

Early stages on the beach (with all my friends!) – thanks Laura for this pic!

We started to catch up with some of the 10k runners, and when we reached the point where the 10k runners turned left down the Esplanade to the finish line and we went right for who knows how long, I asked one of the marshals, “Is it too
late to change to the 10k?” I bet I wasn’t the first or the last to ask that question!

Official race pic – running along the Esplanade towards Pt Willunga.

That Esplanade bit seemed to go on FOREVER! It wasn’t long before we encountered the lead runners coming back the other way, but it would be a LONG time before I would reach that turnaround point at Port Willunga! As I later found out, the point where we split from the 10k was approximately the halfway mark, and it was just over 4km to the turnaround. From the turnaround it was about 6km to the end.

I didn’t see this, but if I had, I’m sure I would have said something like “Hey that’s not fair, he’s got twice as many legs as me!” Official race photo.

I had totally forgotten how hard half marathons are! This was my 20th road half marathon, I later worked out! This was the one I had been most unprepared for, and it definitely showed!

By the time we got back to the beach again, I figured we were nearly there, and as I ran past 10k tailwalker Tim, I said “Please tell me we’re nearly there!” to which he replied, “Only about 2km to go!” I had thought it could only be less than 1km so I wasn’t too happy to hear that, but at that point I definitely was going to be able to achieve my A goal which was something!

The visibility was good, so I could see the runners ahead of me and where they were going. Much to my dismay, I saw them turn off the beach and go UPHILL to the finish line! How rude! I heard that in previous years they’d finished on the beach and that was kind of what I was hoping – again if I’d studied the course I’d have known where the finish line was but sometimes I prefer not to know! I was CERTAINLY glad not to have known about the 2km of sand at the end!

The first I knew of the time was when I ran up the ramp and I heard “1 hour 50” – far from my best, but still well under 2 hours, which, even though I didn’t set a time goal, was about as good as I could have expected! I ended up going just under 1:51 and promptly announced my retirement from half marathons. 20 is a good number!

My half marathon bling collection – there were no finisher medals at my first half, at Clare in 2014.

Then I pretended to collapse under the weight of the RIDICULOUS medal that I was handed after I crossed the line! I reckon they need to have a competition where people have to come up with creative uses for the medal! I think it would be
really handy for self defence! I also believe that next year the fast runners should be forced to run with that thing around their neck – that’ll sort ‘em out!

All in all it was an excellent event – an interesting course, perfect weather, great atmosphere, wine at the finish line, and the epicest of medals! Congrats to Matt and team for a very successful 4th Great Southern event (over 1000 registrations this year compared with 18 for the first event!) As I have now decided that I should avoid races of distances between 5km and 50km, maybe if they put on a 5km event next year I will come back!

Wine and ridiculous bling – 2 things that will keep me coming back!

And yeah… I’m sure there will be more half marathons in my future!

Possibly even this one!

Race Report – 2019 SARRC Clare Valley Half Marathon Festival

The Clare Half has become something of a fixture in my running calendar. In 2014 it was my very first half marathon. In 2015 I had one of the few races where I’ve considered DNFing before getting ‘redemption’ in 2016.

In 2017 I changed it up a bit, doing the 5k as I was only a few weeks out from running the Boston Marathon and it was a bit late in the piece to be running a hard half. It was also the first time I’d driven up on race day, usually preferring to spend the night up there before the race (Clare being close to a 2 hour drive from home).

2018 was different again, opting to be a pacer for the half and probably having the most enjoyable of all my halves here!

Clare 2019 wasn’t even really on my radar. After having been there 5 years straight, I figured I had done everything I needed to there, and instead I’d do a long run to train for the upcoming 24 hour race.

But then, a couple of weeks ago I went to a presentation for the Ultra Runners SA Summer Trail Series at which I received my trophy from January’s 100k Track Championships. Ben, the head honcho of URSA and also the Race Director for SARRC, said he’d have my trophy for last year’s Track Champs within a few days, and he’d bring it to Clare. Thing was, I wasn’t going to Clare. Now I know that I would have got my trophy another time if I hadn’t gone to Clare, but over the next few days I thought about it and thought ‘bugger it, I’m going to Clare!’

I entered the 5k (the other options being the 10 and the Half). I’d run the Half 4 times, I hadn’t been doing any Half training, so there wasn’t much incentive for me to do the Half! Especially now that we get medals for all distances! No, 5k was my best option! (Plus, next weekend I’m running the Great Southern Half for the first time, and I didn’t fancy the thought of 2 halves a week apart!

I went up to Clare on Sunday with 2 running buddies who were both doing the Half. Consequently I was there WAY early (the 5k started 45 minutes after the half) which was good – it gave me plenty of time to get psyched and slowly peel off the layers (it was slightly chilly when we arrived – it always seems to be a few degrees cooler in Clare!)

Even though I wasn’t going to be out there very long, I put sunscreen on – one of the 10k runners, Kerry, commented that I was being a bit optimistic (to be fair, I was still wearing a beanie and a hoodie at the time) but later in the morning my decision would pay off!

The numbers were impressive! 382 finishers in the 21.1k, 168 in the 10k and 119 in the 5k.

The half marathon start!

The half marathon and 10k headed south along the Riesling Trail (the Half turning around at Penwortham) and the 5k went north. Consequently, we would not encounter any of the HM or 10k runners until we approached the finish. I was hoping to be done before the first half marathoner but you never know how fast they are going to be!

We all started on the oval like last year, which meant a slight uphill run from the oval to get to the Riesling Trail!

Lining up at the start line for the 5k I positioned myself just behind the front row, which was mostly kids. I was aiming to get under 23 minutes, something I hadn’t done in 4 months, and where better to do it than in an actual race?

Away we went, and I was in 4th place out of the females as we approached the carpark. By the time we hit the Riesling Trail I had managed to get myself in front.

The race itself was pretty uneventful – I do think I probably went out a bit too hard in the first kilometre (which I ALWAYS do!) and consequently my second kilometre was my slowest!

Early on I was passed by a couple of boys who I think were brothers, and they were sitting just in front of me for most of the rest of the race. I was also passed by Alex who always seems to be just in front of me in races, and who I later found out is in the 70-74 age group! I had thoughts of trying to catch him or at least keep him in sight, but catching him proved an impossibility!

On the way back, the two brothers must have tripped each other up and both fell, but quickly bounced back up and kept going! I asked them if they did parkrun – they said they did, so I concluded that these were the types of kids who knew how to run a 5k (unlike a lot of kids I see at parkrun who go like the clappers for about 500m and then fall in a heap!)

I did pass them with 1km or so to go but they would get me in the end!

The last kilometre was hard! Again, probably because I went out too hard. It was downhill so it should theoretically have been easier – but when is the last km ever easy?

Coming off the Riesling Trail, I was passed by an Adelaide Harrier coming from the other direction. I wondered if it was a half marathoner but it turned out the half marathoners were a few minutes away, he was in the 10k. (I later realised that if it was a half marathoner, his time would have been 1hr 8 minutes which would have been somewhat implausible!)

Coming round the back of the oval, for the 6th time in as many years, I knew the finish line was close. I was pretty sure none of the other females were going to catch me but I did keep looking over my shoulder. The brothers were there – I could hear them picking up the pace and I knew that they were going to catch me, and also that I wouldn’t be able to chase them down! They passed me just before we ran into the finish chute. I did take the foot off the gas slightly when I realised there was no-one close behind me.

Soooo glad to be finished!

When I stopped my watch my time was just over 23 minutes (23:04) but looking at the official time later, I JUST scraped in!

Can’t get much closer than that!

Chatting to the first aid staff who were checking in on everyone as they crossed the line. I remarked that a 5k is every bit as hard as a 21.1k! (It’s just a little bit shorter!)

BLING!

I then had the privilege of seeing the half marathoners and many of the 5k and 10k finishers come in. Both David and Gary did better than expected which was good because I had to ride home with both of them!

Trophy presentation!
A really cool trophy! (better pic below!)
Thanks to official photographer Tracie for this pic – check out https://geosnapshot.com/e/sarrc-2019-clare-valley for more event pics!

After the presentation we headed to the Little Red Grape bakery in Sevenhill on the recommendation of Gary. It seemed to be a popular choice among runners! We then hit up a couple of cellar doors, Skillogalee and Kilikanoon and did not walk away empty handed!

Kitty approves of my choices! And there’s that trophy again!

THANK YOU TIME!

Thanks firstly for David for driving and allowing Gary and me to give the Clare wine region the appropriate attention! And then, of course thanks to all the volunteers. This event takes a lot of work to put on, the fact it is so far from Adelaide poses a challenge but many of the volunteers (and indeed the runners) come up from Adelaide for the weekend, and the local community has always been very supportive too!

And I reckon I will be back again next year for the 7th year running (pun intended) – might try something different next year!

TRSA Five Peaks 58km Ultramarathon 2019

Trail Running SA’s Five Peaks 58km 2019 was my 17th ultramarathon, and my 8th (and possibly last!) trail ultra.

This was the second running of Five Peaks, and you can read all about my experience last year here.

I entered this year’s event when the pesky super early bird pricing came out back in November. I note that I paid for the insurance in case I wanted to pull out!

Last year I used Five Peaks as a training run for UTA100. I had been doing quite a bit of hills/trails, and I had done all the official training runs.

This year, it didn’t really fit into my plans at all. I had been doing a lot of long flat stuff in preparation for Canberra 12hr, and very little in the way of long trail runs. All I’d been doing was 2 short trails during the week to try to make my legs remember how to run hills. And 3 weeks after Canberra, here I was doing a very challenging trail ultra.

The week before Five Peaks I had got a new tattoo on my wrist. It wasn’t until after I’d had it done, when my artist was going through the aftercare, that I found out I wasn’t supposed to do any excessive exercise (in particular, sweating) for 2 weeks.

Oops!

I thought fleetingly about pulling out, but then decided I’d just rinse it with water at each drink station, to rinse the sweat off.

On the Thursday before the race I had a really good trail run, the best one I’d had since October last year. It might have had something to do with the fact that I caught up with super speedy Randell while running down Winter Track, making me run faster than I normally would! Randell was also doing Five Peaks, starting at 7 like me because he was underprepared (ordinarily he would be in the fast 8am wave!) – I said I’d see him at the start, and possibly at the finish line if he was still there by the time I finished!

The weather forecast was good for Sunday – a top of around 23 with no rain forecast. Although we need rain, I was happy to wait until AFTER Five Peaks. Then, it can rain as much as it wants! No rain during the week meant that it wasn’t going to be muddy/slippery underfoot and most importantly, there would be no water flowing through Echo Tunnel and I’d be able to walk on the low side and not hit my head on the roof! It also meant there was no need to carry a rain jacket, or pack a change of clothes/shoes for Drink Station 3 like I did last year!

It had been 12 months since I’d run a trail ultra, so I’d kind of forgotten what to do in preparation! I was thankful for last year’s race report, to remind me what I needed to do!

I packed 3 sandwiches cut into quarters (2 peanut butter and 1 mixed nut/seed butter) and 2 Clif bars. I expected to be out there between 7 and 8 hours, and I’d worked the food out based on eating something every 30 minutes like during a track ultra. It doesn’t work so well during a trail ultra, as I have to be walking to eat, and I don’t like to walk unless it is uphill, but I was satisfied that there would be enough food, and enough variety. There would also be plenty of food at the drink stations in case I felt like something else!

Drinks-wise I had 2 bottles of Gatorade to start, with 4 portions of powder to refill. That seemed like a lot but I didn’t want to run out! I also took 2 vanilla essence bottles, because at DS3 there was going to be cold brew coffee! I’d probably have a cup there, but I thought it would be nice to take some ‘for the road’! In addition I had a soft flask for extra water and a collapsible cup for Coke.

In my pack I also had a change of top even though I probably wouldn’t be needing it given the weather conditions.

My race kit was very similar to how I started last year – pink Mekong T-shirt and matching Groovy Gaitors, and rainbow arm warmers. Everything else was black! I really like the Mekong tops for races, especially the ones where I’m going to be wearing a race vest. The fabric is super cooling, it does get very wet but is extremely comfortable to run in. I had also purchased a new pair of white Goodr sunglasses the day before – I’d actually gone into BKT-Trail to buy a soft flask and then I remembered that they stock Goodr and I thought, I need a new pair because the ones I have don’t match my outfit!

I got up at 4:30 (which was effectively 5:30, thanks to Daylight Saving finishing!) and left home around 5:15. (I’m not sure why I’m bothering with these details, it’s not as if I am going to be running this race again!). I made it to Belair just in time for the 5:45 bus (factoring in the walk from the carpark to the bus) and on the walk to the bus I ran into regular running buddy Mark.

I took a seat at the front of the bus, it wasn’t until I sat down that I realised that sitting next to me was Trevor, a very good runner from Victor Harbor doing his first ultramarathon. I had spoken with him briefly last weekend after the Granite Island Run, and gave him a few helpful tips during the bus ride! (Not that he would be needing them, as a sub 3 hour marathoner!)

Unlike last year, the bus arrived in plenty of time for me to do all the usual pre-race stuff and have a chat with a few people while waiting for the 7am start. 7am was the ‘main’ wave – with the 6am group being for people who felt they needed the extra hour to finish, and the 8am group being for ‘outright racers’. I was definitely where I belonged!

Thanks Gary for this pic – with Hoa at the start line!

I couldn’t hear the race briefing, so hoped that there was nothing crucial in there that I needed to know!

And away we went at 7am.

There were a few little bottlenecks early – I had forgotten about that from last year! After starting to run across Foxfield Oval we all had to slow down to a walk to get through a gate in single file!

I knew the first section would be the worst. There is approximately 2200m of elevation in the whole course, and half of it is in the first 18km. If I could make it to Norton Summit (Drink Station 2) I could make it to the end!(‘Five Peaks’ is a lie, there are more than five peaks, but three of the ‘official’ peaks – Black Hill, Rocky Hill and Norton Summit – are in that first section.)

I’m no mathematician but I can count more than 5…

I tried to take it relatively easy in that first section – there was nothing to be gained by going hard or trying to run up some of the hills, I needed to conserve energy for the end! Consequently there was a LOT of walking.

I reckon I tripped at least 5 times in that first section, kicked a rock into my ankle and almost went over on my ankle stepping off the edge of the road. But, I didn’t fall! (I had my cycling gloves on for protection – my hands did get quite sweaty but I thought I’d be tempting fate taking them off, so I left them on for the duration! AND I DIDN’T FALL! Winning!) I saw one guy fall and one girl fall twice, all in that first bit! And at the finish line so many of the people I spoke to had fallen – I almost felt a bit left out!

I made it up Peak 1 (Black Hill) without too much trouble, and then we reached Drink Station 1 at the base of f***ing Chapman’s Track (which leads to Peak 2). I didn’t need any refills but I asked Debbie to squirt some water on my tattoo. (I have to keep it covered up for 4 weeks. Having it covered up means more sweating!)

Approaching DS1. Thanks Justin for this photo!

And then I started climbing up that f***ing hill that seems to go on forever. (I think it could be accurately renamed ‘Heartbreak Hill’ – I don’t think we have one of those in SA but much like HBH in the Sydney City to Surf run, you get to what you think is the top and are lulled into a false sense of security only to find that there is MORE UPHILL. Blah!)

I did actually think about quitting during the Chapman’s climb. But there was no real reason to, other than I just didn’t want to do it. Physically I was OK, and time was never going to be an issue (I had 8 hours 45 minutes to make cutoff at the last drink station at 49km). Plus, I was never going to stop before DS2 and once I got there, I would have broken the back of it. Further incentive for NOT quitting was the fact that I have never DNF’ed a race and I didn’t want to start now, especially with no good reason!

Official pic from TRSA – photographer Bec Lee – in Morialta near Deep View lookout.
Brenton and I ran together for a short while heading up to Norton Summit. I told Brenton to run when I saw the photographer, he said “How about you run and I walk, and make you look good?” Official TRSA photo from Steve Trutwin.

I did make it to Norton’s in just under 2 hours 35, about 7 minutes slower than last year. And unlike last year, I did stop for a while here – I needed to reapply my sunscreen (something that was not an issue last year) and top up my drink bottles.

Kudos to the marshals here at Norton Summit. For anyone who is not familiar, it is a very tricky intersection at the top of a hill where 5 roads meet. Cyclists and motorcyclists like riding here (I’ve done it once or twice myself!) To get across the intersection we had to do about 4 crossings, and as the road is not closed, we had to wait for a safe moment to cross. The last road crossing before the drink station, I swear I was there for about 2 minutes (it was probably more like 30 seconds) as we waited for a convoy of cars (marshal Janelle said that they’d had no traffic all day up to that point!)

After putting on my sunscreen, because it was getting quite warm by this point, I decided to ditch the arm warmers and tie them to the back of my pack in case I needed them again (also because no-one would recognise me without them!)

But the climbing was not over – far from it!

The next section was a bit shorter, ‘only’ 9km but this was the section where we had to go through Giles Conservation Park and Horsnell Gully. Somewhere along here I decided I needed help on the hills so I found myself a sturdy stick (more
like a branch) which had a nice little ‘ergonomic handle’. His name was Sticky McGee. I had originally planned to just use Sticky until the next drink station. I’d used sticks before but only for short periods and as soon as we would hit a flat or downhill section where I was able to run, I’d ditch them, because I didn’t want to carry them while trying to run. Given that I wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire when I was running, I didn’t mind running with Sticky for a bit!

We exited the conservation park onto Coach Road and then I knew that the next drink station couldn’t be far away – and the drink station was ALMOST the halfway mark! I was trotting along towards DS3 when I saw the sign that said there was
cold brew coffee and that certainly put a spring in my step!

At DS3 I had a cup of cold brew and also filled my 2 small bottles for later. Here I met up with Simon who was just ahead of me at that stage, and he said he wished he’d thought of bringing ‘takeaway bottles’ but he did have a couple of cups of coffee at the aid station. I also had some Coke – there was only a little bit left in the bottle, and it wasn’t until I’d emptied the bottle and filled my cup that I realised that was the last of the Coke that they had! Coke and cold brew, what more could you ask for? (That drink station also had cold boiled potatoes and potato chips – I had a handful of chips but didn’t fancy the potatoes on this occasion)

After all, an ultramarathon is really just a moving smorgasbord… Thanks Justin for this pic and Roasted On for the coffee!

I’m sure it wasn’t just a coincidence that my race picked up a bit after that. I’d had some coffee, some Coke, some salty chips and I still had my friend Sticky with me.

Somewhere in the next short section (the next peak and the next drink station was 6km away at Mount Lofty Summit) I caught up with Mark, who I had run with a bit in the early stages. We are often around the same pace so we stuck together for a while. By the time we got to Mount Lofty in about 5 hours, I was pretty confident we’d make it to the end in under 8 hours (the last training run, which I’d done 2 weeks ago, only a week after Canberra, I’d done in just under 3 hours).

At Mount Lofty I caught up with Simon again for a quick selfie – that was the last I saw of him until the finish line! (I found out later that he was posting regularly on Facebook at the drink stations and the Peaks, and he probably told the story of the race better with a few photos and captions than I am telling it in many many more words!) Mount Lofty was also where I got myself some brownies – yum, thanks Maurice!

With Simon at Lofty – and you can just make out Sticky McGee!

(Mount Lofty was also the drink station that I had totally missed last year. I still don’t know how I managed to miss it! Must have been in the zone!)

I decided that I’d keep Sticky with me until I got out of Cleland – I knew that once we hit Mount Barker Road there was a few kilometres downhill where I might actually be able to run properly, and I thought Sticky might hold me back!

The Cleland bit went FOR BLOODY EVER! It didn’t help that an extra 2km had been added on to the Cleland section this year – I initially thought that the TRSA Committee were just sadists (and I may have said that to a few of the committee members at the finish line) but I later found out that it was to ease the congestion at the start of the 23km event. So 23km runners, I hope you appreciated the reduced congestion – we really took one for the team there! (By the way the extra 2km was all uphill and felt like about 10km). Below is the whole course with Cleland circled, and a close up of the Cleland bit.

It was funny how many people I encountered in this section were REALLY looking forward to running on the road for a bit! (Which is weird for trail runners!)

I have an alternative theory about the extra 2km. The TRSA committee, last year and this year, have all volunteered at this event, being a new event. I’m sure some of them want to run it. So they decided to make it even more brutal than
last year, so many of the runners (like myself) would decide that they never wanted to run it again, they would instead volunteer, and then the committee would be free to run it. Then they would take out the extra bit and go back to what it was last year.

Somewhere in Cleland I lost Mark – I was sure he would catch up with me (and looked over my shoulder several times expecting to see him) but that was the last I saw of him before the end!

After what seemed like forever (and I’d be interested to know exactly how long the Cleland bit was) I thanked Sticky (Marie Kondo style!) and sent him back to his natural habitat before hitting the bitumen for a short while!

Along Mount Barker Road I saw a couple of familiar faces standing on the side of the road – Mum and Dad, who live nearby and had come out to cheer me on! I had originally told Mum that I would be finished between 7 and 8 hours (my theory
being that I should be able to do it quicker this year than last year, given the more favourable weather conditions – at that stage I hadn’t factored in the extra 2km) but when I saw them I said I couldn’t imagine finishing much under 8 hours. At that stage I still thought I was on track for sub 8 hours. It would be close, but it was doable!

Thanks to Mum for this pic!

Not long after catching up with Mum and Dad was the next drink station, at the end of the road section.

Looking way too happy approaching DS5! Thanks Justin for this pic (he gets around!)

At this point I decided not to bother reapplying my sunscreen – it had got quite sunny and warm earlier, but it had now cooled down a bit and become quite overcast. I had sunscreen packed in my race vest, so I could stop and reapply at any time if I decided I needed to. Plus, the next (and last) drink station was ‘only’ 4km away. After passing DS5 I was kicking myself that I didn’t check
the official distance – all the drink stations had a distance marked on them, and I could then compare it with my watch to see how ‘out’ my Garmin was. (Note to newbies – GPS watches are ALWAYS out, in my experience they usually tell you you’ve gone further than you have, so you should never trust them. They are really a guide only!)

The next section was through cow paddocks and included Peak 5, Brown Hill, before descending to McElligott’s Quarry. Last year we’d had ‘close encounters’ with the cows but they seemed to be keeping a low profile this time around!

DS6 was manned by the Southern Athletic Club. The official distance was 49km and my watch said 49.3 – that’s pretty accurate! Dani helped me fill my drinks and ‘water’ my tattoo before wishing me all the best for the last section!

DS6 was followed by some downhill switchbacks before we hit the dreaded Brownhill Creek Road. It’s actually not that bad, it just seems to go on forever, and it’s a gentle but relentless climb. Luckily we spent a bit of time off the road, on trails on both sides of the road. One bit of trail was quite new – I’d run it for the first time 2 weeks ago in the final training run, and it was a nice relief from what we’d done earlier – some nice shady bits, lots of greenery and nice and gentle underfoot with pine needles.

Along here I caught up with Garry, who I hadn’t met before but I recognised his T-shirt as a 2016 UTA T-shirt, which was also my first UTA, so we chatted about that for a bit. I also noticed he (like me) still had a UTA timing tag attached to his backpack!

The end was in sight when we reached the end of the road and the Pony Ridge climb, which I mistakenly thought was the last climb. I tried power hiking up the switchbacks, because I knew that to get sub-8 I couldn’t afford to take it easy
at all!

Even though I’d run this exact section only 2 weeks earlier, I had forgotten how much climbing there was in this last section! There may have been some swearing every time I saw another bloody hill, and with every hill my sub 8 hour dream
got a little bit further away…

How’s that for a finish! Not what you want after 50-odd kays!

I think it was still on the switchbacks that I saw Gordon, who was out supporting and taking photos. He told me there was ‘only 4.5km to go’. That threw me a bit because I thought we were closer to 4km to go – I was still assuming my watch was 300m over. If I had 4.5km to go, 8 hours was looking iffy, especially if there was any more climbing to come!

Thanks Gordon for this pic!

Which, of course, you know there was!

I ran whenever I could, and walked when I had to. Even though normally I walk up the hills in an ultra, when I’m that close to the end I run some of the uphills as well as the downhills and the flats.

Into Belair National Park, the finish line got closer but still seemed so far away. It wasn’t until I reached Echo Tunnel (which took FOREVER) that I thought I was really near the end. Even then there was still seemingly a long way to go!

Somewhere around Echo Tunnel – official TRSA photo from Steve Trutwin.

The committee had outdone themselves this year. Last year the tunnel had been lit up with fairy lights, this year as well as the fairy lights we also had disco lights! Like 2 weeks ago, I walked on the low side. A few people were walking
on the high side – rookie mistake!

Time was of the essence so I tried to power home. There were a lot of walkers out by this stage so it was challenging at times to get around people. There was one girl in front of me near the end, she was walking and I really needed to get past her, so I politely called out “Just passing on your right” (earlier in the day I’d noticed quite a few people trying to pass slower runners/walkers on single track which is a bit dangerous – this section was plenty wide enough for me to get around her safely). She didn’t seem to hear me and was totally oblivious to the fact that I was there. I’m not even sure whether or not she was in the race. So I called out again, a bit louder this time, and as I passed I noticed earbuds in her ears. I really don’t like earbuds or any kind of earphones especially during trail races, for this very reason. Even if not in a race, I prefer not to have music on the trails – I like to hear nature, after all, isn’t that kind of the point? But having music on during a race can be quite dangerous!

58.3km (or what I had assumed would be the finish line) came and went, and not long after that, the clock ticked over 8 hours.

I wasn’t far away from the finish line now – I could hear MC Karen on the mic and the cheering at the Main Oval. Time to get it done!

I crossed the line in just over 8 hours and 4 minutes. Not the sub-8 hours I’d been hoping for, but not too far off!

Other than doing more training, I can’t think of too many places I could have made up time on this race – I only stopped at the drink stations long enough to do what I needed to do, and when I looked at my time it was around 19 minutes
of stoppage time, between 6 drink stations. I ran all the bits I could run, and I didn’t stop at all other than at the drink stations. It wouldn’t have taken much to make up 4 and a bit minutes but still – there was nothing I’d obviously done ‘wrong’.

I think I only ate half of my 3 sandwiches, and one Clif bar, along with a couple of brownies and a couple of handfuls of chips. For 8 hours and 58km, that’s probably not quite enough. I think I hydrated quite well – I only ended up having
3 bottles of Gatorade, and from DS2 onwards I had one bottle of water and one bottle of Gatorade in my pack (as opposed to the 2 bottles of Gatorade I started with). I definitely had plenty of caffeine and sugar with the coffee and Coke!

I stayed at the finish line for a good few hours after that – enjoying watching the other 58km runners finish, along with the 23km runners who really looked like they were enjoying themselves, and in between, ‘debriefing’ with other 58km
runners! Luckily the weather was a bit more favourable than last year – I wouldn’t have fancied staying long under last year’s conditions!

Selfie with Gary at the finish line! Thanks Gary for this pic!

I had one suggestion to make to the committee – an idea I had during the first section. An 18km distance, starting at Athelstone at 8am with the fast 58km runners, and finishing at Norton Summit. Maurice, one of the committee members to whom I put this suggestion, quickly saw the flaw in what I thought was a perfect plan – finishing at Norton Summit with all the traffic – not a great way to finish a race! Still, I think some people would be quite keen to give this a crack…

Thanks to all the fantastic volunteers and the TRSA committee for putting on this event. And well done to each and every person who participated in the different distance races.

I mean no disrespect to the organisers when I say I have no desire to run the ultra distance again, however I would be really keen to give the 23km a good crack next year – the 23km runners I saw cross the finish line certainly looked like they were enjoying themselves a lot more than the 58km runners!

And yeah – I don’t think trail ultras are for me. I suck at hills! Give me the track any day!