This past weekend I followed up my Gold Coast marathon in the only way I know how – with a 6 hour trot around a 2.2km loop…
I did this event for the first time last year and if you’re interested you can read about it here: https://randomthoughtsandracereports.wordpress.com/2015/07/12/47/
Just in case you don’t want to read that, here is a brief synopsis of what the event is all about.
There are 3 events – 6, 12 and 24 hours. The idea is to cover as much distance as possible in the allocated time.
During the week, I ran on Tuesday and Thursday. Tuesday was a bit rough but by Thursday the legs were feeling pretty good!
The race being on a Saturday rather than the usual race day of Sunday, I opted to do my shopping at the Central Market on Friday night rather than Saturday. As I often do when I go to the market on a Friday night, I had dinner at the food court – an AWESOME vegan place called Pure Vegetarian. Plenty of carbs in there – noodles and pumpkin, along with some eggplant and chickpeas.
I was in bed reasonably early – I set my alarm for 4:15am so I could get to the start line at the Uni Loop super early – the plan being to get a spot as close to the start line as possible. I hadn’t organised a table or a spot in a tent, and I didn’t have any crew (not many 6 hour runners use crew) so my car was going to be my base camp. That way, if it rained (and the forecast for the morning was clear, but we all know the Bureau can get it wrong!) all my stuff would stay dry, and I’d have a place to sit undercover if needed!
Gear-wise, I would be better prepared than last year. For a start, GLOVES! It had been pretty chilly in the mornings and Saturday would be no exception. I went for ‘layer upon layer’.
The bottom half was the favourite Skins/lulu skirt combination and calf sleeves and socks rather than compression socks (I had a very iffy toenail from Gold Coast, which my awesome running friend and podiatrist Nat had very kindly patched up for me, and I thought the extra pressure from compression socks would be a bad idea) – I’d opted for black socks rather than white as I was fully expecting blood by the end of 6 hours! I’d also gone with trail shoes rather than roadies as the trail shoes are a bit bigger and therefore would give me more toe room.
On the top I started with a long sleeved running top, vest, arm warmers and a zip up long sleeved top. Also a buff to keep my ears warm. On top of all that I had a hoodie and track pants. And, of course, gloves!
Food-wise I went pretty simple. 2 white bread sandwiches. A new flavour combination – peanut butter and chocolate spread – like a Snickers! I also packed some nut bars, almonds and Lifesavers. Hydration would be Gatorade – I had a 500ml handheld bottle and also a big cooler bottle with 1.5 litres.
On Saturday I was up, breakfasted, dressed and out the door around 4:50. At the last minute I had thrown a singlet in my bag along with a T-shirt. I’d run all of last year’s event in long sleeves but it had been a cold, wet, miserable day. This time, the morning promised to be chilly but there was no rain forecast until the evening.
I got to the start location about 5:05 and got a prime parking spot, just near the food tent. The race started at 6am and I’d already collected my bibs and timing chip (I totally just wrote ‘chiming tip!’) so I had plenty of time to get myself organised. I was seriously considering running the first few laps in my trackpants and hoodie! I had all the gear I might need, located in the front seat of my car. My bag of sandwiches was open, and my singlet conveniently located on the seat so I could quickly grab it if needed. I also had my iPod and headphones on the seat, in case I needed them later. I hadn’t used them last year simply because it had been raining and I didn’t want to get water in them! I was pretty confident I could get through 6 hours without music but it didn’t hurt to have it there just in case.
Unlike last year, I was there in plenty of time for a pre-race portaloo stop (pre-race is ALWAYS the best time to use a portaloo – they get increasingly unpleasant as the day goes on!) and then all I had to do was wait for the briefing and the 6am start!
And we were away!
We started in the dark – I reckon it was probably about an hour before the sun came out.
Within the first lap I was passed by fellow 6 hour runners Sarah (a well known ultra and trail runner and a great competitor – her partner Robbie was also there, awaiting the start of the 24 hour) and Samantha who I didn’t know but who also looked to be a big threat. Plus another girl called Tia who I didn’t know, from the 12 hour event which started at the same time.
Last year I went in expecting nothing and was surprised to finish 2nd. This year I was hopeful of another podium finish but in the first lap I thought that was unlikely so I focused on my other goal of a 6 hour PB. I couldn’t remember exactly what distance I’d done last year but it was 60-point-something. So I’d aim for 61 just to be sure. I thought I’d count laps rather than rely on the distance my watch showed. 28 laps would do it.
After a couple of laps I took off my first layer, the zip-up top, and grabbed a sandwich from my car. I’d opted to lock my car – I had contemplated leaving it unlocked, but given that I’d worn gloves, my hands were functional enough to operate a key!
One hour in, I’d completed nearly 5 laps or 11km. It was a good start but that was with no walk breaks – walk breaks would be needed throughout the 6 hours, if only to get some food in. Eating real food as opposed to gels, you do need to walk in order to eat. I didn’t go in with a ‘walk/run’ strategy as I hadn’t needed it last year. I would run as much as I could and ideally only walk if I was eating. If I was doing 12 or 24 hours I would certainly be adopting a walk/run right from the start.
There was a computer screen with live results just past the start/finish line but I didn’t end up stopping to look at it at all – I didn’t want to lose momentum or get psyched out by seeing what other people were doing. As long as I kept count of my laps I didn’t need any more information.
Among the runners were many familiar faces and some new ones. A lot of people had come from interstate which goes to show what a highly regarded event this is!
In the 12 hour was Wayne, back again after being the event ambassador last year. He was on fire – I lost count of the number of times he lapped me! There was Luke, well known for running in sandals! I asked him if he had cold feet – he said no, and he still had all his toenails! Might be something in that…
Rebecca I had met during the track 100k earlier in the year. She was aiming for 100k in the 12 hours after having finished second and missing out on the 100 last year. This was a training run for her. I asked, what is a 100k run a training run FOR? Oh, just a 100 miler next weekend! Also in the 12 hour was Matt, who along with Race Director Ben was the brains behind the trial 6/12 hour trail loop run I’d done a month or so back. He was also training a young guy called Tyler, only 15 years old, who is a real up-and-comer and was doing the 6 hour. Other familiar faces in the 12 were Toby, whose partner Bridget was doing the 6, Kath, who had done the 24 before but never the 12, and Anna, who I’d met last year at the same event. Early on I met Emma who was going for 100km and who had run last year through the night with Lee, the eventual winner.
The 6 hour had 60 listed starters, the most popular of the 3 distances on offer. Not surprising really – 6 hours is really doable and a good chance to do a first marathon or 50k.
I knew a lot of the 6 hour runners but a few need to be mentioned – Debbie and Karen got the ‘best dressed’ award for their matching tutus and Debbie was even wearing a blue wig for the whole 6 hours! Carolyn, who I didn’t actually meet until after the 6 hours was over, had only been running for a few months! Remarkable! The always quiet and reserved Michelle was there, modelling the new Yurrebilla T-shirt, along with her daughter Emma. The usual suspects from last year included Chris and Shannon who I would see frequently throughout the morning!
It wasn’t long before the gloves came off. Soon the buff was replaced by hat and sunnies as the sun actually made an appearance! Heading east in the back half of the loop, I was very grateful for the sunnies, as the sun was a bit blinding! Bit of a contrast from last year!
9:00 marked the halfway point and the first turnaround (turnarounds happen every 3 hours to break up the monotony!). I reached 14 laps right on 9:00 – I was halfway to my goal and right on track. 9:00 also marked the time when my friend Leanne arrived with the pre-arranged coffee (my coffee deliverer from last year, James, had abandoned me this year to go on a trail run!) which once again was MASSIVELY appreciated! I walked with Leanne as I drank my coffee and then she was off to have brekky with James and the rest of the trail running crew.
Amazingly, at some point in the morning, I actually decided it was too warm for the long sleeves! I was very glad I’d thrown the singlet in – the next time I passed my base camp (aka my car) I did a quick wardrobe change, leaving the arm warmers on just in case it got cooler again. It was a bit of a procedure which started probably 500m from the car – first I removed my Garmin, being careful not to accidentally stop it, then my arm warmers, and I had my key in my hand, ready. I got to the car and quickly changed the long sleeved top for the singlet, grabbed a sandwich and kept moving. Over the next few hundred metres I put my arm warmers back on and then my watch. In the process I realised my watch had stopped – disaster! I quickly started it again and checked my watch on my other wrist which displayed the time. It seems the watch had only been stopped for a minute or less – crisis averted!
Around this time the 24 hour runners started assembling for the 10am start. There were a few veterans, notably Barry and Karen. There was Marc, having a second crack at it after having to pull out due to injury last year. There were also a LOT of first timers! Rula was ably supported by Hoa and Bev. Tania, Katie and Laura were all also doing 24 hours for the first time.
I had my energy supplement not long after the 24 hour runners started. Not surprisingly, I passed a lot of them on the first few laps – they had a LONG way to go – while being regularly lapped by the likes of Wayne and Tia.
My pace was sitting comfortably around 5:46. 6:00 pace would put me at 60km, so even factoring in the inaccuracy of the GPS, I was well on track for a PB.
I reached the 5 hour mark. One hour to go! According to my watch I was on just under 51km which was on target. I was around the other side of the Uni Loop from the start/finish area. I set myself a goal – 5 laps, or 11km, in the last hour. That was ambitious (average pace 5 min 27 per kilometre) but achievable, and kept me focused for the last hour.
As per last year, my pace increased significantly over the last 5km or so. I managed to pull out a 5:13 right near the end! With about 15 minutes to go. I passed the start/finish line. Each runner was given a personalised sandbag with a flag sticking out of it. My average lap time was 12:44 (although I didn’t know that at the time) and I was confident I could get around one more time before time ran out. The sandbag was awkward to carry so I didn’t want to pick it up until I was sure it was my last lap.
I made it around in plenty of time, grabbed my sandbag on the run, and pushed it to the finish. I was looking at my watch – I knew I was about a minute out, and not long after that, there was the siren to signify the end of the 6 hours! I dropped my sandbag and made my way back to the start. Some smart person pointed out that we could walk straight across the grass rather than all the way back around! This was when I met Carolyn who had just completed a marathon after only a few months of running! My legs were so stiff after I stopped running, it was incredible!
After a slice of vegan pizza I quickly went back to the car to get some warm clothes on, take off my shoes and put my comfy sandals on (SUCH a relief!) and await the presentation. I was told I’d done 28 full laps, plus the part lap which was yet to be measured. So it was definitely a PB, I was stoked with that!
The medals were presented to the females by distance covered (lowest to highest) and then to the males in the same order. As names and distances were read out, I thought, I could be a chance here! I hadn’t looked at the computer screen because I hadn’t really contemplated a placing, but once 4th place had been announced and I hadn’t heard my name, I knew I was on the podium! 3rd place went to Sarah on 57.668km and then 2nd was Samantha on 58.155. Next, I was blown away to be announced as the first female on 62.199km and rewarded with a sweet trophy and bottle of Fox Creek Vixen (sparkling red, my favourite!). There was also a perpetual trophy which would have both the male and female winners names engraved on it. The male winner, Paul, had done an amazing 74.274km! I was 5th overall out of the 6 hour entrants (out of 58 starters, 34 females). Needless to say, I was pleased!
After treating myself to a vegan pasty and donut from the nearby Bakery On O’Connell, I went home for a shower and to get my compression tights on – ahhhhh!
As I got organised to head back down to the Uni Loop for the end of the 12 hour, I got a missed call from Race Director Ben. I quickly called him back and he told me there had been a mixup with the results. Immediately I knew what he was going to say. In the event briefing it was stated that 12 hour runners were eligible for placing in the 6 hour event. Tia from the 12 hour had lapped me 3 times so of course she had covered more distance in the 6 hours! I had seen that in the briefing but assumed I must have read it wrong, it didn’t really seem fair! I was relegated to 2nd, still a podium finish, and Ben said I could keep my wine. I told him (possibly a bit tongue-in-cheek!) “I’ll bring back the trophy but you were never getting that wine back!”
So I made my way back to the Uni Loop, trophy in hand to return to Ben, to see the end of the 12 hour. I was expecting to see Tia fly by multiple times but surprisingly didn’t see her at all.
Just after the finish, and before the presentations, Channel 7 news were doing a live weather cross. Ben had got Michelle to organise some people to be ‘pretend runners’ to run small loops past Tim, the weather guy. I was one of the ‘pretend runners’ – most of them were volunteers and supporters – I think Michelle and I were the only ones who had participated in the actual event! Luckily I keep ’emergency running kit’ in my car so I threw on my old running shoes and shorts over my compression tights and socks. A few people said they saw us on the news – pretty cool! (By the 4th ‘lap’ the Channel 7 guy said that was enough. My legs said the same thing!)
The presentations for the 12 hour followed soon after. I was surprised to find out that Tia had finished second (no disrespect to the actual winner) – then found out she had pulled out after 100k in less than 9 hours and wasn’t there for the presentation! D’oh, I should have kept the trophy! (Just kidding!) The winner was Rebecca who had done 104km and was a very deserving winner! Third was Emma who had just missed out on cracking the 100km milestone. In the men’s 12 hour Wayne was a clear winner and Toby was 3rd, amusingly taking home the ‘3rd female’ trophy!
I stopped off at a nearby convenience store to buy a couple of loaves of bread after they had run out at the food tent, and was tempted to order myself an Indian takeaway but decided to have homemade curry from my freezer. Curry, wine, chocolate was my recovery meal!
Sunday morning I went to see the finish of the 24 hour. The eventual winner, Nicole, was looking strong and still running which was remarkable (most people were walking by now). Barry was in second place overall (first male) and on track for a PB. It was great to see such amazing performances – Nicole ended up breaking the course record and Barry got his PB. They were both worthy winners! Most of the 24 hour runners were looking a little worse for wear at the presentation!
In preparation for this event I re-read last year’s blog. I am very happy with how my run went and I managed to avoid making the same mistakes as last year. I said last year that I would like to do the 24 hour ‘one day’. Without Gold Coast the week before, next year could have been the year for it. But now, unfinished business and all, I am determined to give the 6 hour another crack. If I can come into it fresh, unlike the last 2 years, I’m confident I can get another PB, and who knows, maybe I might even go one better than this year!
I was talking to Sarah and Robbie on Sunday morning (Robbie had pulled the pin due to injury but not before completing 100k for the first time – remarkable given that for a lot of it he was wearing what looked a lot like full scuba gear!) and Sarah had said she had struggled with the loop concept -she has the endurance but feels she is much better suited to trails. Which got me thinking. I love road running, trail and even track. But maybe loops are my ‘thing’! I’ve done 2 6 hour races now and finished second both times, and got first female in a 100k loop race. Weirdly enough, I seem to enjoy the monotony!
Well done to everyone who participated this year and ESPECIALLY to all the volunteers and of course Ben for making it all happen! See you again next year!