Thredbo Fun and Fitness Week – Part 1

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This week I am in Thredbo for the Fun and Fitness Week (TFFW). It’s my first time here, and it’s such a fantastic place! Thredbo is known more as a winter ski destination but it has fantastic mountain biking and hiking/running trails which keep the people coming during the summer. It’s not a bad way to spend a week – running, hiking and various other activities by day, and drinking wine on the balcony or ‘chilling’ in the spa by night. The most difficult thing is trying to fit in all the activities and trying to choose between the different events/hikes on offer!

Saturday 9 January

Karen, Daryl, Geoff and I spent Friday night in Albury after driving all day from Adelaide. Our motel just happened to be across the road from the Albury/Wodonga parkrun – the only parkrun in Australia that crosses a state border. Of course we were going to run it!

About 300 other people had the same idea as us. The course follows the mighty Murray River, crossing the NSW/Victoria border into Wodonga and then back again. Other than a somewhat comical start, where 300 people converged from all angles just in time to run across a narrow footbridge, it was a lovely, scenic run. I’m surprised my Strava map for the first kilometre didn’t resemble an ECG readout!

Following the parkrun and a trip to the adjacent farmers market, we continued on our merry way to Thredbo. We arrived at the lodge around 1:30, giving us just enough time to unload the car, get our lift passes and make our way to the bottom of the chairlift for the Crackenback Challenge. For the uninitiated, this is a 1.8km run. Nice cruisy way to kick off the week, right? Oh, did I forget to mention the 600m elevation? And starting at 1500m altitude? The only word that could accurately describe it is BRUTAL. And there was not much running going on – well at least not by me! I followed fellow South Aussie David up the hill – I kept him in sight until almost the finish. He is like a mountain goat up hills and an absolute inspiration for someone easily old enough to be my father! At one point some smart arsed kid on the chairlift offered the guy behind me some Mountain Dew and then didn’t deliver. Now Saturday was a warm day and this guy didn’t have a drink on him, so it would have been appreciated. I turned around to him and asked him if he would like some Gatorade which he gratefully accepted. Later in the event there was a pretty high step to get up (the next day a few of us observed from the chairlift that there was a MUCH easier route, just a few metres to the side) and he was right behind me, so gave me a boost up. (I probably could have got up there on my own but at that point I wasn’t going to refuse assistance!) and when we eventually got to the ‘finish line’ he graciously let me cross first. It was a typically alpine way to start the week!

Sunday 10 January

The day started with a hike up Merritt’s Nature Track, finishing at the same place as Crackenback, but instead of 1.8km this walk was around 4km. So with the same elevation, it was a much less intense climb. It was still a challenging hike though, with so many stairs! A group of us decided to take the chairlift down, so we could get back in time for the ‘fun’ run in the village. (A few people opted to skip the run and descend via Dead Horse Gap instead.)

Thd ‘fun’ run was a 6km run consisting of 2 3km loops around the village. 6km is not a familiar distance for me, and after less than 24 hours at 1500m altitude, it was surprisingly challenging! There were a lot of young, serious looking runners wearing not very much and it was nice to be able to pass a few of them on lap 2 – I think they were shorter distance specialists but I’ll take it!

Monday 11 January

Today’s running event was the River Run – a 1 hour out-and-back fun run along a relatively new trail. It was quite a challenging course and apparently it was  carnage out there, with a number of people falling. The idea was that we turned around at 30 minutes, so everyone finished in around 1 hour. I didn’t quite make it under the hour as I found I had to walk a lot of the uphills on the way back. The suspension bridges were also interesting to run – I found that falling into step with the person in front was the best way to tackle these.

After the post-run barrel draw (a TFFW staple – today I was lucky enough to win a magnum of South Australian shiraz) we headed back to the lodge for a quick refuel before heading out for a Dead Horse Gap hike. We split into 2 groups – one hiking up and then back down via the chairlift, and the other taking the lift up and run/walking down. I opted for the former, along with Sue and Mandy. It was a challenging but stunning 10km hike – more stairs! We had a bite to eat at the Eagles Nest restaurant (highest restaurant in Australia) before making our way back to the lodge. I was ready for a nap but after a coffee I was ready to go again, and at that moment Karen announced they were going for a swim in a waterfall. I thought, “why not?” and off we went, along with Daryl, Geoff, David and Elizabeth. What was described as an easy 2km walk was more like 3, but we eventually reached the waterfall and quickly made our way down to the water’s edge. Karen suggested we leave our shoes on as it was quite rocky. That turned out to be a good suggestion as the rocks were slippery and some rather pointy. The water was cold at first but once we got in it was lovely and refreshing. The waterfall was at least as good as the spa (where we knew a number of our fellow lodge guests would have been at that moment) albeit about 30 degrees colder!

After a short dip we made our way back along the trail and that’s where the excitement happened. Walking with Karen, discussing the merits of bungee jumping, I froze. In front of us, pretty much taking up the entire width of the path, was a dirty big black snake! Expletives were uttered (my exact words were “F***, it’s a snake!”) and it didn’t seem to be bothered by that, continuing to doze obliviously! Eventually Geoff woke it up and it slithered back into the bushes, no doubt cursing us for disturbing his little siesta!

Tuesday 12 January

Given that the weather was good, and potentially looking a bit iffy later in the week, a group of us decided to do the 30km Range hike, a full day walk. We took the chairlift up together and hiked up to Rawson’s Retreat (a mostly uphill 4km or so, on steel grid and more steps!) where it was decision time. There were 2 ways we could go, the ‘traditional’ way and the reverse way. 6 of us went ‘traditional’ and the other 5, myself included, went the reverse route. I had had a chat to David the previous night (a different David – there are 3 Davids staying in the lodge) and he had suggested the reverse route would be the best way to go, so when Marg, Sally, Lorraine and Julie decided to go that way, I had no hesitation in joining them. (Plus, I hadn’t been able to keep up with the other group on the hike from the chairlift to Rawson’s, and I wanted to enjoy my walk rather than spend the whole time just trying to stay with the group.)

It was a lovely day, the scenery was just magic, the company was great and we stopped several times along the way to fuel up. We ended up taking about 6.5 hours, about 1 hour longer than the other group, which was just perfect pace for me. Sally and Lorraine ended up taking a 4km detour near the end to go to Mt Kosciuszko summit (the highest point in Australia) which looked amazing but I didn’t think I had it in me. I will get there at least once this week!

I spoke to Eric, 90-something years old, TFFW royalty, fellow South Australian and guest of our lodge, tonight after dinner. He said that when he was IN HIS 60s he completed the Range walk (at that time it was a timed event rather than just an informal hike) in 3.5 hours – amazing and inspiring, not that I have ANY desire to try to do it at that pace!

Stay tuned next week for a summary of the rest of the week!

Influencers…

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As it’s a bit of a quiet period in terms of racing/training, I thought this week I might try something different and reflect on a few people who had a big impact on my sporting (and personal) life in 2015. I’ve just picked out 6 because otherwise this would be an incredibly long post!

I’ll start with Karen. Karen has been mentioned before and probably has been the biggest influence on me (for better or worse!). She is a truly remarkable woman, ridiculously generous and selfless, a never-ending source of useful information, a great listener and giver of advice, and always up for crazy adventures and silly dress-ups!

When we first met I thought she was insane (and intimidating!) having just done 160km in the 24 hour event. History shows that I have now completed a 100+km ultra so now that doesn’t seem so crazy. But at the time – wow! She said that when we met she thought I was scary. Fair enough, I’d just shaved my head so I imagine I was quite a sight!

So in particular this year Karen’s influence has allowed me to (and this is just the tip of the iceberg):
– complete the 6 hour event 6 days after the Gold Coast Marathon (most people would have said that was nuts – for her part she went one better and did the 24 hour event 6 days after a 6 day desert race!)
– enter the 100km track race which is coming up at the end of this month – time will tell if that was a good idea!
– complete the Heysen 105 ultra – her advice and pre-race pep talk were invaluable.
– work on my swimming – encouraging me to enter an Aquathlon, and also letting me come to swim at her exclusive health club as a guest!
– get into cycling – my first ride with her was memorable for the fact that I fell off at 7.5km and wanted to quit, but she insisted that I keep going and made it all the way to Goolwa (25km – by far the furthest I’d ever ridden!). She then insisted that I needed to come for another ride 2 days later which was much more successful, with no ‘unscheduled dismountings’! Oh and she also gave me some cycling kit so I can at least sort of look like a cyclist!
– be a running diva (in a good way) – even if the running is not going so well it’s important to look good doing it, preferably in colour-coordinated lululemon gear! However, her influence will only go so far here – hair and makeup done before a 6am group run is a bridge too far for me…
– go to Thredbo for the Fun and Fitness week – that is coming up next week and promises to be a fantastic week away (and no doubt material for a future blog post!)

Then we have Natalie. Nat is one of the organisers of my Thursday running group, a staple of my weekly programme. During this year in particular she has been great at listening to my issues during runs and giving some great advice (not always taken I must admit) – I tell you, group runs are the BEST therapy and also FREE!

Nat is also an excellent cyclist and was the one who first got me onto a road bike and using cleats. She has shown great patience and has always been willing to fit me in for a lesson! Not to mention let me use her son’s VERY NICE bike and also shoes! I have had 3 lessons with Nat so far and while she was away this past week she very generously allowed me to borrow the bike. I went out for the two aforementioned 20+km rides with Karen and the stuff Nat taught me is starting to fall into place! Look out world – my first triathlon is getting closer!

Also part of the Thursday running family is James. He is not only one of the group leaders along with Nat, but also the social organiser of the group – always keen to arrange dinners and impromptu Sunday drinks. And let’s not forget the legendary post-run breakfasts in his backyard!

But James’s biggest influence on me this year was two seemingly small but extremely significant gestures. Firstly, the night before the 6 hour event, at one of our regular group dinners, he asked me if I would like him to bring me a coffee during the run (the forecast was for cold and wet) which I gratefully accepted. And when he arrived with it, about halfway through the 6 hours, my spirits lifted and so did my performance – that coffee was just magic! Then at Yurrebilla, which was on a warm day, he messaged Beck, who I was running with at the time, to ask us if we wanted him to bring us anything. To which I quickly responded, ‘Lemonade Icy-Pole!’ And OMG if that was not the best damn Icy-Pole I’ve ever tasted… and again gave me the lift I needed at the time. Maybe it was the caffeine in the coffee. No doubt it was at least partly the sugar in the Icy-Pole. Either way, the man that brought me said treats had a massive impact on how well both of those events went for me!

Next let’s talk about Beck. Beck and I have run together a lot in the past year, on roads and trails, and in training and in events. We seem to have very similar pace so it was great to run all of the Yurrebilla training runs, and most of the event itself, with her. We were also going to run Heysen together at least to start with (Beck was doing the 57km but we all started together) but that didn’t quite work out – she did end up finishing second in her event though – not too shabby! Yurrebilla we ran together until 38km, I don’t know how things would have gone had I not had Beck’s company for that first part, but I’m sure that it would not have been as enjoyable! As a fellow physio we always have plenty to talk about, and with all the time we’ve run together there’s been a fair bit of ‘running therapy’ thrown in as well!

Speaking of Heysen, one person who had a massive impact on my run that day was my buddy runner Kirsten. From the time I saw her just out of Checkpoint 4, to the time we crossed the finish line around 4 hours later, I had such a great time! (Hopefully she did too!) We had run together at times but never for a particularly long time. As a result we hadn’t really talked in depth before but by the end of Heysen there wasn’t much we didn’t know about each other! I really have no idea what my race would have been like without her help! Hopefully I can return the favour one day!

Last but not least I’d like to mention Barry, a local ultra-running LEGEND and one half of the Yurrebilla Race Director team with his lovely wife Bev. Not only did he direct the event that was the highlight of my running year, he was so encouraging and supportive to me and to all the other Yurrebilla newbies. One of the most memorable moments was between Checkpoints 2 and 3 at Heysen when we found ourselves running together (having also run together for a short while after Checkpoint 1). Barry said he was not surprised that we were running together as he saw us as quite similar athletically. That blew me away as he is such a great runner! He also said, when I mentioned that I had selected the 8:30 start group for this year’s Yurrebilla, that this was the right group for me as it is the elite group! Massive thanks to Barry for all his support and filling me with confidence!

So there you have it – six of the best from 2015!

Looking ahead to 2016!

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Last week I reflected on some of the highlights of 2015 and promised to reveal my goals for 2016 in this week’s episode!

2015 was quite a year! Full of ups and downs, but definitely more ups than downs! Some pretty good results, some pretty poor decisions on my part, some amazing experiences!

My No. 1 goal for 2016 is to complete the Ultra-Trail Australia 100km race in the Blue Mountains. It was my inspiration for entering the Heysen 105 in October, so I would be confident that I could complete a 100k. I entered the day that entries opened (good thing, because it sold out in under 48 hours), have just booked my flights in the last couple of weeks, and already I know of a whole lot of friends who are also going. It’s going to be a whole lot of fun and a massive challenge! It’s nice that all finishers are getting medals next year, unlike in the past when you got a belt buckle if you finished under 20 hours, and anything between that and the 28 hour cutoff got you a lousy sticker! I’d almost rather finish in 27.5 hours because there would be a massive crowd gathered for the presentations, and I’d get the best reception! I don’t really have a goal time in mind yet but plenty of time for that! A week in Thredbo in January for the ‘Fun and Fitness Week’ will be great training for running in the mountains!

Next, I want to qualify for the 2017 Boston Marathon. I have Gold Coast earmarked as my goal race for several reasons. It is known as a fast course. It is about 6 weeks after my 100k so the timing is good. I ran my PB there this year. I do also have some unfinished business there. Although it was ultimately a successful race for me, I didn’t enjoy it as much as my other 2 marathons… crossing the finish line the feeling was more relief than elation. And the trip ended on a sour note so… I need to go back!

Boston is kind of like a rite of passage for marathon runners – it is the world’s oldest annual marathon and one of the 6 annual ‘Major’ marathons (thanks, Wikipedia!). It would be an ideal way for me to celebrate my 40th birthday, and I already know other people who are hoping to qualify, plus it’s been way too long since my last trip to the States. So yeah, that is happening!

My first big event of 2016 will be the 100km state championships. 250 laps of a 400m athletic track. Sounds fun, right? I’m not quite sure if I’m prepared for this but I’ve entered, so I’ll give it a crack. I’m hoping to finish under 10 hours but I think that might be a bit ambitious. The cutoff time is 12 hours so anything under that will be good!

As many readers of my blog will know, I am planning to complete a triathlon next year. I’m currently aiming for April but if that doesn’t happen, I’ll aim for something towards the end of the year, in the 2016-2017 triathlon season. I’m thinking of a Tinman. I think that’s achievable. I don’t have any desire to do an Ironman although a 70.3 does have a nice ring to it. I just can’t see how I could fit Ironman training in around full time work. If I could quit my job (or at least significantly reduce my hours) and still afford to live, maybe I could. To me there are only 2 ways that could happen – a lottery win, and/or a rich husband! Both are equally likely I reckon!

I need to buy a bike. I WANT a Garmin Fenix 3 watch but I have decided (for once) to be sensible and buy a secondhand 310XT which will do the job nicely AND hopefully leave me with enough for a decent bike. I guess a bike is more important than a fancy watch! Cycling is new to me but after a few lessons I’m slowly getting the hang of cleats.

Swimming I am reasonably confident with, having been a fair swimmer in my youth. Yesterday I completed my first aquathlon (swim/run) including my first open water swim. Possibly a topic for a blog post in the near future! I’d like to work on ocean/lake swimming – swimming from one jetty to the next, and there is a big open water swimming event in February which I will most likely enter.

There are a few other ‘minor’ goals too. I’d love to break the 20 minute barrier for a 5k. I’m close – 20:24 is my best time. It will happen one day! I’d also love to do a sub-50 City-Bay 12k. Once again I am getting close!

I also want to run the Clare Half again – more unfinished business from 2015! I won’t aim for an overall PB like I (foolishly) did this year – Clare is a tough course and it’s difficult to run a PB there.

Running aside, but still related, I want to sort out my nutrition… I haven’t quite got it right yet and the somewhat inadequate diet combined with some crazy mileage resulted in weight loss that to a point was beneficial to my performance but went a bit past what I would consider healthy. Where I am now, I am pretty happy with. Some of my photos from earlier in the year look a tad unhealthy. I know eating disorders are very common among runners and other athletes and it’s easy to see how but I don’t think I was ever out of control… I know some people who look like they’ve gone too far…

And just because putting it out there means I’m more likely to do it, I want to try to get back into daily planking. I have gotten WAY too slack with that. Surely I can find 5 minutes a day? And yoga/Pilates/BodyBalance – I need to fit in one class a week – that’s not too hard is it?

I started 2015 hungover like most of the last 20 years. I will probably finish it sober – I’m hoping to finish in what I now believe to be the best way possible – a night trail run with awesome friends! I’ve gained so many new friends this year – many more than I’ve lost!

I really don’t know what 2016 will bring, but what I do know is, if 2015 is anything to go by, it will be quite a ride! (pun intended)

2015 in review

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Well we’re almost at the end of 2015 (scary as that is) so it seems like an appropriate time to reflect on the year that has been!

So many highlights. A few lowlights but no need to talk about those!

I think if I had to choose one highlight for the year it would be the Yurrebilla Trail 56km ultramarathon. It was much anticipated and of all the events I ended up running this year, Yurrebilla was one of only three that had been on my radar at the start of the year. (For those playing at home, the others were Barossa Marathon and the City2Surf in Sydney which I had already entered back in December 2014)

My Yurrebilla race report: https://randomthoughtsandracereports.wordpress.com/2015/09/28/race-report-yurrebilla-56km-ultramarathon/?preview=true

Entries are open for 2016 already and I intend to enter before the end of this year. I anticipate that it will be a regular fixture on my calendar, whether it be as a runner or a volunteer.

There were so many other highlights and I’m just going to touch on them briefly. And I will no doubt miss some too!

Barossa Marathon was my favourite of the 3 marathons I’ve done so far. It wasn’t my best time – that came 6 weeks later at Gold Coast – but I think it had something to do with being in front of a ‘home’ crowd with so many familiar faces cheering us on, and also so many friends running in the various events, that made it so enjoyable. I won’t be running the Barossa Marathon next year (next week I’ll explain why) but I do plan to be there either as a volunteer or maybe running one of the shorter events. Probably volunteering though. My race report: https://randomthoughtsandracereports.wordpress.com/2015/06/01/race-report-barossa-marathon-24-may-2015/

Next highlight – the Yumigo! 6 hour event, just 6 days after the Gold Coast Marathon. As challenging as the weather conditions were, I actually enjoyed (almost) every minute and was surprised and delighted to end up with a podium finish. I plan to do the event again next year if I pull up OK after Gold Coast – either the 6 or the 12 hour, but probably the 6. Not quite ready for 24! My report for the 6 hour: https://randomthoughtsandracereports.wordpress.com/2015/07/12/47/

The City2Surf was another highlight, not just because it got me back to Sydney, a city I called home for a short time! The biggest fun run in the country, of course I had to do it at least once! Despite the mishap at the start I had a great run and cannot wait to do it again! Race report: https://randomthoughtsandracereports.wordpress.com/2015/08/10/race-report-city2surf-9-august-2015-3/

Being a pacer at both the Adelaide and McLaren Vale half marathons was such a fantastic experience. Being a volunteer and still getting to run, how good is that? My Adelaide report: https://randomthoughtsandracereports.wordpress.com/2015/08/23/your-pace-or-mine-pacing-the-adelaide-half-marathon-2/

I hadn’t planned to run City-Bay this year but managed to get a free entry so of course I decided to run it! I managed to get a new PB which will be VERY tough to beat. I think I actually enjoyed it this year and I may well be back next year! My report: https://randomthoughtsandracereports.wordpress.com/2015/09/20/race-report-2015-city-bay-fun-run-7/

The Masters Games was meant to be just a bit of fun but ended up also being quite lucrative (in the bling sense) as I walked away with 3 medals. More importantly I got a long-awaited half marathon PB (by nearly 5 minutes) which like my City-Bay PB will take some beating! My HM (and McLaren Vale HM) report is here: https://randomthoughtsandracereports.wordpress.com/2015/10/11/two-halves-make-a-whole-right/

If you told me this time last year I would run a 100km ultra this year I would have told you to lay off the mind-altering substances. But it turns out that hypothetical person was not so crazy as I did complete the Heysen 105km ultra back in October (and I still have the tan lines on my legs to prove it!) Despite a few things not going to plan (which you can read about in my report below) I LOVED it! Such a great day! https://randomthoughtsandracereports.wordpress.com/2015/10/25/race-report-heysen-105/

That just about sums it up – plus on the  non-competitive side, I managed to beat my 2-year-old 5km PB and am edging ever closer to breaking the elusive 20 minute barrier.

It really has been quite a year! Next week I’ll talk about my goals for 2016!

Race Report – Yumigo! Summer Trail Series Race 1 – Ansteys Hill

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I didn’t even know where Ansteys Hill was until last Wednesday night when I ran it with one of my semi-regular groups. I actually prefer NOT studying the course before running an event. (Except for Yurrebilla and Heysen where the training runs leave you with few or no surprises come race day!)

This was my first race since the Kuitpo Forest event in November. As regular readers (if there are any!) may recall, I had a pretty crap preparation for that event but ended up having a great run, so I joked that my pre-race prep from now on had to consist of copious quantities of wine, constant snacking and no actual dinner. Fortunately it didn’t come to that (although the aforementioned night WAS a great night), with my pre-race meal consisting of some pretty special pizzas thanks to running buddy Tory and her pizza chef extraordinaire husband Charlie.

My week had been up and down. I had been for a more successful swim on Monday (non-leaky goggles, yay!) and 2 relatively easy runs on Tuesday and Wednesday. Then on Thursday I got a bit carried away running with newcomer to our group, Peter. I blame him but it may have been me who set the pace. Either way I ran a lot faster than I have run in a long time. My left hip started complaining almost immediately the run was over. It is an occasional problem, usually in runs over 40km and when I run fast, and when I run up hills. Fortunately Sunday’s race would be ‘only’ 12.5km but it did involve hills and presumably would also involve running fast. I was a little concerned…

My Friday hill run was a struggle. Saturday’s parkrun I initially was going to ‘jog’ but after a slow first km (due to starting near the back) I quickly settled into a rhythm and ended up with a sub-25. Not as fast as recent weeks but comfortable. I then went for a good solid half hour swim and felt great after that.

Race day the niggle was still there but I wasn’t going to let it stop me. It was to be, after all, my last race for a good few weeks so there would be plenty of time to recover afterwards. Plus I could always substitute some runs for swims if I had to.

I got to the start line at 6:30am, an hour early, as car parking was limited. Despite a forecast top of 30 degrees C, it was cold when I got there! It was great to see so many people and so many familiar faces… trail running events in SA have really taken off this year!

This event was part 1 of a series of 4, one a month over the traditionally quiet summer months. It is run by Yumigo!’s Ben Hockings and once again he put on a wonderful event with a fantastic team of smiling volunteers. It was my first time running one of these events. I’d opted for the 12.5km long course because I think I tend to come good later in races, so the longer distance suits me better. Plus, both events were the same price so I’d get better value for money!

The race started with a hill. Hip not happy. Jane not happy.

But as I settled into my stride I loosened up. I didn’t feel the hip much after that. I did wish on numerous occasions that I had gone for the short course…

The short course started 5 minutes before the long course (I think because of the much larger than expected turnout!) That meant that, as we went along, we were passing short course runners. Now I am one who likes to know who my competition is, so I did ask a few people along the way, “Short or long?” This is completely acceptable in this situation but if I said it to a guy at the pub…

My biggest problem during the race, probably for the second half (I wasn’t looking at my watch) was a very sharp rock in my shoe, just under the heel. Every now and then I would manage to work it forward so it would be under my arch, but it kept finding its way back to my heel. On the downhills, which I otherwise enjoyed, I was running on my toes to take the pressure off my heel. Stopping to remove the rock was NOT an option!

Towards the end I could see a female runner in front of me. She had to be a long course runner. We had passed the finish line (which would have been my finish if I’d done the short course) and were on our additional loop. I was running with Leon and Neil at that stage and said “I can’t catch her, she looks too strong!”. They thought otherwise, and between them they expertly paced me to the point where I passed her. I managed to stay in front but was frequently looking over my shoulder to see if she was coming back at me. (I spoke to her after the race. Her name was Jenny and she finished not long after me. Turned out she wasn’t as strong as she looked – I need to stop psyching myself out!)

I knew a placing was out of the question – the top 3 were Lauren who is just a machine, Kazu who finished second at Yurrebilla and Bronwyn who finished third at Heysen and first at Kuitpo. In the end I was 5th female which I was pleased with. 4th in my age group though, ouch! Talk about being born at the wrong time!

At the end I saw Andy who I’d met at Kuitpo after following him for a long time on Instagram. He is about to move to the UK so it was great to run one last race with him before he leaves! I look forward to following his UK adventures via social media!

All in all it was another wonderful trail event – well done to Ben and his team – a perfect day!

I can highly recommend the Trail Series for runners of all abilities. I will definitely be doing more events in the series in the new year!

A few of my favourite things…

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It’s been a bit of a ‘meh’ running week for me. Maybe because it’s been hot, maybe because I’m still recovering from my epic swimming session on Monday, maybe because it’s the ‘off-season’, who knows? I did enter a 100km track event which takes place next month, so I do at least have a short-term goal to focus on!

I didn’t even run on Sunday morning. The trail group ran at 6am – much too early for me! I couldn’t even drag myself out to the SARRC end-of-year race, which I somehow managed to win last year! Saturday night I was out at Le Diner en Blanc, and had spent much of the previous few days preparing food for that.

Which got me thinking… even though it would mean 2 straight weeks NOT writing about running, why not dedicate this week’s blog to another of my great passions, FOOD!

Almost 3 years ago I made the New Year’s Resolution to quit eating meat – at least until my planned trip to the US 3 months later. I thought vego in the USA would be a bridge too far! Well as it turns out, that trip never happened, so I kind of just kept going! In 2014 I decided to try vegan – well that’s still a work in progress, but at least all the food I make for myself is plant-based.

In the past 2 years I have ‘discovered’ some fantastic ingredients and recipes, and found that you can eat really really well on a plant-based diet!

I’ll admit I have a few weaknesses. Especially in the current hot weather, I find it hard to say no to really good gelato!

Anyway, today I thought I’d share some of my favourite ingredients and what you can do with them!

CHICKPEAS
I think chickpeas would have to be top of the list. I eat them pretty much every day in some form. Half a can with a salad is great for protein. Smashed up with avocado and either some Himalayan salt (another new ‘discovery’ for me) or dukkah, is divine, and on a sandwich or toast is the quickest, easiest lunch you’ll ever make! Then of course you can use chickpeas in dips – you can’t go past a good hummus! I’ve never tried it but I’ve seen a few cookie recipes using chickpeas that I’m keen to try!

Speaking of sweet things, did you know that the canning water from a can of chickpeas can be used to make meringue? It turns out that the juice has very similar properties to egg white so can be used as an egg white replacer, including in meringue! I’ve made them several times – so light and airy! And so much fun to see the look on people’s faces when they try one and then you tell them what they’re made of!

Finally there is chickpea flour which can be used to make eggless quiches – super easy and surprisingly good! The texture is a little different but with the right seasoning they can be really tasty.

AVOCADO
Smashes up really well with chickpeas. I usually have half an avocado in a salad for lunch. Others use it as a spread, in smoothies, and of course guacamole. Sooo creamy and delicious… I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to decide I like it!

I still haven’t got around to trying it in a dessert (eg chocolate mousse) but I can now see how it would work. I have tried some incredible avocado gelato (not vegan – as I said I’m still a work in progress!)

COCONUT
I love coconut! It can be used in so many ways. There is the ubiquitous coconut water which is supposedly the best thing ever – for me, the jury is still out and I haven’t quite got my head around the flavour. I use coconut oil a fair bit – great for cooking, and AMAZING in raw desserts. Desiccated and shredded coconut (I’m still not sure exactly what the difference is) is great in cakes, cookies, energy balls and also in salads. Coconut chips are pretty tasty! Let’s not forget coconut milk and cream, used for desserts such as chocolate mousse, and also in curries and soups. Then there’s a slightly different type of coconut milk, the one that is used as a substitute for dairy milk. I’ve used it in smoothies and it has a definite coconut taste but seems to work really well!

CASHEWS
I love raw cashews but the main thing I use them for is cashew cream – the best! I use it in raw desserts – so easy to make and so creamy people will struggle to believe that there is no cream in it! I also throw a handful into my homemade rice milk to add a bit of creaminess.

CAULIFLOWER
Where do we start? Steamed cauliflower. Cauliflower curry. Cauli puree as a substitute for potato mash. Cauli ‘rice’ in ‘fried rice’ or ‘risotto’. One of my all time favourite soups – curried cauliflower. Cauliflower ‘steak’. So versatile. (I’ve written ‘cauliflower’ so many times I’m now looking at it, wondering if I’ve spelled it correctly!)

DATES
Who doesn’t love a hot date? Dates are a fantastic natural sweetener and binder, making them the ideal base for most vegan energy balls. I also use them with ground almonds to form the base for raw cheesecakes/tarts. You can also make caramel with them but I haven’t got around to trying that yet!

So there you have it. Just a few of my favourite versatile ingredients. Do you have any favourites?

Getting into the swim of things…

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Last week I got on the bike (albeit very briefly) for the first time in around 4 years. I got the idea of maybe trying a triathlon one day. There was one missing link…

I spent this past weekend watching the historic first day/night Test cricket match, complete with hi-viz pink ball. The early finish gave me 2 unexpected free days. I also may have overindulged during those 3 days of cricket watching so I thought some form of physical activity was a no-brainer.

I don’t have a bike yet… I have a money box that, when it is full (hopefully by the end of the year), will contain enough money to buy me a decent bike. (I  look forward to seeing the look on the salesperson’s face when I walk in to buy a bike with $2 coins!)

But I digress! Yesterday while reading the Sunday Mail, waiting for the cricket to start, I noticed that one of the sports stores has a sale on swimwear… was this a sign?

So today I went and bought some bathers (those that know me would be unsurprised to learn that hot pink was involved!). Being a warm day, it seemed like) the perfect opportunity to test them out! (Test the waters, if you will!)

As there is an outdoor pool conveniently located about 2.5km from me, I decided to run there and back. I had goggles but they were a bit old and I wasn’t completely happy with the way they fit. I presumed that once water was involved, I’d get a tighter seal.

After an easy run, I got into the water and away I went! No, as it turned out, the water did not improve the goggle situation. I’d have to stop after each 25m lap, goggles full of water. In the beginning I probably would have had to stop anyway – amazing how tiring swimming is when you’re unaccustomed to it!

After doing a total of 200m freestyle (on one occasion I managed 2 laps back to back – 50m, woohoo!), impeded by my leaky goggles (yeah yeah I know, a poor tradesman blames his tools) and lack of swim fitness, I went back to my old favourite, breaststroke. That proved much easier – I managed 2 100m sets with a 200m in between. I broke it up with some more freestyle but the goggles continued to leak. Perhaps I need to invest in a new pair! Although, they didn’t cause me any issues when doing breaststroke…

The logical thing to do would be to try backstroke – less likelihood of goggles filling with water! But I have enough trouble swimming in a straight line in an indoor pool with a line on the ceiling to follow, let alone outdoors! Maybe if I had the whole pool to myself I’d give it a crack!

All up I did 800m in just under an hour. I thought that was enough for my first time. I forgot how tired it makes you! And HUNGRY!

I’m a long way off being able to complete a triathlon swim leg – but hey, gotta start somewhere, right?

What’s next?

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3 years ago this week, I ran my first ever race. I could never have imagined where running would take me in the ensuing 3 years. Interstate races, overseas races, ultramarathons… back then my only goal (like many new SA runners) was to complete the 12km City-Bay.

Now I find myself in the ‘off-season’ and not quite knowing what to do with myself! This weekend I have had a break from running (other than a parkrun of course!) and a much-needed break from ‘everyday life’ in Melbourne.

I am looking for a new challenge! I rode a bike on Saturday for the first time in probably 5 years. It’s a bit like riding a bike… you never forget how! I did own a bike once – after having ridden it 3 times in 4 years I decided that as attractive as a dust-gathering bike looked as a display piece in my living room, the best option was to sell it. I did keep the helmet though so I guess I must have known that I’d ride again one day!

So what’s next? Well next year my 2 big goals are to conquer the 100km Ultra-Trails Australia event in the Blue Mountains, and to run a Boston Marathon qualifier, probably the Gold Coast Marathon, with the aim of running Boston in 2017. Of course there will be other events in between but those are the two big ones.

I think I’d like to do a triathlon one day. Not an Ironman. At least I don’t think so! Marathon training is exhausting. I run 5 times a week with the long run peaking at 3-4 hours. That works out at about 7.5 hours a week. And that’s just running! I have NO idea how anyone can fit that in along with enough swimming and cycling training!

Maybe a Tinman. I probably need to get a bike first! And I haven’t even thought about the swim leg yet! Swimming! In the open water! Aargh!

I guess one other factor to consider re doing a tri is that I’d need a new sports watch. Which could be a pro or a con depending on which way you look at it! On one hand I’d LOVE to be able to justify buying a new Garmin Fenix 3. On the other… my bank balance! On top of a bike and presumably some kind of tri-suit that’s a pretty hefty wad of cash!

So maybe the tri will have to wait. But it’s definitely in my mind, and once I set my mind to do something…

I have done a fair bit of shopping this past weekend and among my purchases was Tristan Miller’s ‘Run Like Crazy’, the story of him running 52 marathons in 42 countries in 52 weeks. I already have a few overseas and interstate marathons on my bucket list… I may regret buying this book! It cost me $3.50 from an op shop but it could end up costing me a whole lot more!

Maybe I need to take up a cheaper hobby… maybe I should give knitting a crack…

I want it all!

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Many runners specialise in a particular type of running, be it sprinting, middle distance, marathon, ultra. Road, track, trail. For example, you can’t imagine seeing Usain Bolt lining up on the start line for a marathon. My friend Karen says she doesn’t really get going in anything less than 100km.

But I want it all!

My first experience of running, when I took it up 3 years ago (my first race was 3 years ago this week – happy runniversary to me!) was a 5km fun run. I must now have done that distance 120 times or more.

Early on, probably within the first six months or so, I met the aforementioned Karen and also Graham who both mentioned the 6/12/24 hour event which I thought sounded both incredibly boring and somewhat insane. But this year I did the 6 hour and I definitely plan to do the 24 hour one year!

Within my first 12 months of running, (probably inevitably, given the type of people I was increasingly spending time with,) I had signed up for my first marathon. It was around 18 months after my first fun run that I actually completed said marathon. Certainly not something that had even entered my mind when I first took up running. It’s amazing what peer ‘pressure’ can do! (I say ‘pressure’ because no-one really tried to talk me into running a marathon. It just kind of happened. Everyone else was doing it, so I thought, “Why not?” And just because I know some of you will be thinking it, NO, if everyone else jumped off a cliff, I wouldn’t do it!!)

Even before my first marathon I almost got talked into running my first ultra – I managed to resist that temptation but did eventually run my first ultra this year.

6 months ago I had no intention of running a 100k but it’s funny how things happen. I was inspired to run The North Face 100k (now Ultra-Trail Australia 100k – will take some getting used to) after being over in Katoomba for it this year. As a 100k ‘taster’ I decided to run the Heysen 105 – not an event that was ever on my radar. And I did it – and loved it!

In amongst all that I have run a number of half marathons – I really enjoy that distance. It’s long enough that it’s an accomplishment to finish, but short enough that you can train for it and still have a life outside running. Plus you generally get a sweet medal which makes it all worthwhile as we know!

And then of course there is the event that motivates a lot of Adelaide runners, newbies and elites alike – City-Bay. That was the event that I was aiming for after I completed my first 5k and it’s a good benchmark to see where I’m at – I’ve run it every year since I started running. I LOVED my first one, didn’t so much enjoy the second (possibly because I knew what was coming) but I got my mojo back this year and managed to set a new PB.

Also this year for the first time I tried racing on a track at the Masters Games. I loved the feel of the surface and I’m hoping to get in a few more track races over the summer season. I also want to try some shorter distances – 800m and 1500m – I did a mile race in the Masters last month and quite enjoyed that – it was over before I knew it!

Then there are the shorter trail races – I managed to do quite well at my last one so the Yumigo! Summer Trail Series seems like a logical progression, followed by the state Trail Championships in April.

What else?

The Big Red Run – 6 days in the Simpson Desert. Not something I had ever really considered doing but I went to the info night last week just out of curiosity, and found myself actually getting quite excited at the prospect! (I just need to get past the fact that I’d be living on dehydrated camping meals for 6 days – ugh!)

100k state championships. On a 400m track. Overnight in January. Yes, I’m tempted. Yes, I know that’s 250 laps. Or to put it another way, 20 parkruns. Still tempted!

So you can see my problem. I’m dabbling with the idea of getting a coach but I  pretty sure they would want me to focus on one particular surface or distance and I wouldn’t know which to choose!

I want it all! Is that too much to ask?

Race report – Kuitpo Forest 21k

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TERRIBLE preparation. FANTASTIC day!

2 weeks ago I was recovering from the Heysen 105k ultra. Yesterday I was back in Kuitpo Forest, where Heysen ended. The last section of Heysen 105, through Kuitpo, is technically the easiest part, so naturally I was anticipating a relatively easy run. How wrong I was…

The Kuitpo event was run by Trail Running SA which is a new organisation, having split from SARRC a little under 12 months ago. TRSA had already put on several successful events, with the low cost and beautiful locations being some of the selling points.

Last weekend I was in Goolwa, chilling with a group of girlfriends. Other than a bit of shopping at the markets and some funky local stores, we spent a hell of a lot of time eating ALL OF THE FOOD and drinking ALL OF THE WINE! 

Saturday morning I snuck out to Victor Harbor for a sneaky parkrun but other than that there was very little physical activity done that day apart from moving my hand to my mouth, alternately containing food and a wine glass. We had planned to go to the local restaurant for dinner (walking distance, so we didn’t have to ‘rock/paper/scissors’ for who had to drive) but after grazing on the deck all afternoon and into the evening with dips, crackers, bread, olive oil and dukkah, wine and chocolate, it became apparent at around 8:00 that we weren’t going to make it to dinner. I had certainly eaten plenty but it wasn’t the ideal pre-race ‘meal’. Not to mention the fact that I had drunk practically NO water all day… all I’d had to drink other than wine was a can of Coke with lunch. Another less than ideal piece of preparation. I said to my friends that if I had a good race, then I’d have to have the same preparation for every race from now on!

I got to bed around 12:15 and my alarm went off at 5:50. Second night in a row of less than 6 hours sleep. Not enough for this little black duck!

Staying away from home before a race you have to be prepared in advance. Well on Friday from the time I left work at 4 to the time I hit the road just after 6, I was running around like a chook with its head cut off. As it turned out I forgot a couple of things. I forgot to bring sports tape to strap my feet to prevent blisters, and I also forgot to bring my trusty XS Energy drink. I guess that’s not so bad. I could have bought tape in Goolwa but I decided to wing it. With proper socks, and no threat of rain to cause wet socks and subsequently possible blisters, I would be fine without tape. The energy drink… I’d just have to see how I went without it!

I decided to try a new piece of kit on race day. My Yurrebilla singlet. I thought a trail event was an appropriate place to debut it. Hasn’t anyone ever told you NEVER try something new in a race? I was trying a lot of new things as it turned out!

I made it to the start line with an hour and a bit to spare. As always I didn’t time my portaloo visit too well… as race time approached I needed to go again but by then the queue was ridiculous so I decided I could hold on. I’d done it before and could do it again.

There were a LOT of familiar faces out there! Around 700 people had registered for the 2 events, the 21k and the 10k, and it seemed like I knew at least half of them! One person that I felt like I knew but had never actually met, was Andy, a friend from Instagram, who is very inspirational, having lost an amazing amount of weight and chronicling his journey via social media. It was great to finally get to meet him as we both did our first trail half marathon!

Time-wise I didn’t know what to expect. Other than when I have paced 2 hours, all my official halves have been sub-1:50. No way was I expecting to do anything like that in this event, given that it was a trail run! I was anticipating somewhere between 2:00 and 2:30, probably closer to 2:00.

Just slightly behind schedule (as Race Director and Chef Extraordinaire Maurice said was standard for trail events) we set off for the 21k just after 8am. It was a chilly start to the day – I had opted not to wear my traditional stripy sleeves, mostly I admit because they clashed with my singlet, but was wearing gloves up until the start, as my hands were numb from the cold! It was going to be a warm day though, and despite the fact that we were running in the morning, and the temperature in the forest was generally going to be cooler, many people would be affected by the heat.

I started slowly, although to be fair the first few km were uphill! I quickly caught up with Justin who first of all asked me what I was doing so far back, and then when we were discussing a recovery beach session for later in the day, said to me ‘But now you have to piss off and start racing!’ or words to that effect! (This is the guy who told me after Yurrebilla 56k that I’d had my fun and now it was time to start taking it seriously!) So I did. After a while I thought to myself, if it all goes pear-shaped later on, I’ll know who to blame! Previously I have always started half marathons quite conservatively. Not any more, it would seem!

It was a great course – it had a bit of everything. Not too technical, mostly wide track and a bit of gravel road. Some uphills, but all runnable. Some quite steep downhills. Some nice flat bits. There were two out and back sections which I really liked. You got to see all the other runners and encourage them along. I saw Andy both times and gave him a high five the second time – he really seemed to be enjoying himself!

There were drink stations but the trail running events are trying to go ‘cupless’ for environmental reasons. Hence a drink stop would literally be a stop – no ‘grab and run’ like in road events. I didn’t want to stop, and being a warm day (and me being already pre-dehydrated) I wouldn’t be able to get by without drinking. So I had made the decision to carry my small hydration vest with 500mL Gatorade in bottles and just over 500mL water in the bladder – any more would have been uncomfortably heavy to carry. Probably about half the runners were wearing either vests or bottle belts.

I settled into a rhythm. I flew down the hills and slowly plodded up. I managed to avoid walking, other than a couple of minutes with Jim, who had started 2 and a half minutes late but still flew effortlessly past me and stayed ahead of me for the rest of the race! Not bad for a guy who’s 60 and a relative newbie to running, putting people half and even a third of his age to shame!

On the second out and back section, at around 14km, I passed Beck who told me that I was 4th female. Oh no, why did she tell me that? Now the mind games would begin! I had seen the first two girls, one was Bronwyn who had finished about 40 minutes ahead of me at Heysen, and the other girl I didn’t know. They were pretty close together! The girl in 3rd place was also looking strong and I did not think I had it in me to catch her. I was happy at that stage to try to hold 4th place but I also knew there were a few girls not far behind me. No sooner had I had that thought, than I started to gain on the 3rd placed girl. Before I knew it, I was only a few metres behind and quite happy to stay there for the time being. This is where I started to get tactical. Up until that point I had been calling out encouragement to everyone passing the other way (this was still the out and back section), whether I knew them or not. Now, I went quiet. I didn’t know if she knew I was there but I thought if she didn’t know, I would try to keep it that way! I did notice that she wasn’t carrying any hydration and couldn’t help wondering if she might need to stop for a drink.

Then, at around 16km, she did! As much as I would have preferred to stay behind her, I had to make a move.

Having passed her and moved into 3rd, I needed to put a bit of distance between us. My next 2 kilometre splits were 4:14 and 4:32. I was reasonably confident that I had her, and if she was going to get back in front of me, well she was damn well going to have to earn it!

I kept the pace up until the 20th kilometre which was uphill. I did walk a bit there. I had a few sneaky peeks behind me and couldn’t see any other girls near me. I didn’t want to give anyone the opportunity to pass me and I didn’t want them to know I was struggling by letting them see me walk. I saw that Jim up ahead was walking so I figured it was OK!

Once I got over the hill we were into the home stretch. I kept looking over my shoulder but there was no sign of the girl I’d passed.

I crossed the line in 3rd place in 1:48.46, and the 4th placed girl was only a bit over a minute behind me – it was a near thing!

After going back to my car for a protein drink and then grabbing a coffee, I went back to the finish line to see other friends finish including Andy, still smiling! I was so happy for him!

The last order of business for the day was the presentation of the medals for the placegetters, followed by the random prize draw. The medals were something special, handmade ceramic medals by SA trail running legends Stirling and Jen Greeneklee. I didn’t win any of the random prizes but I did manage to position myself right next to the tray of vegan brownies made by our esteemed Race Director… I may have indulged in one or two… or five!

All in all it was a fantastic day – personally, a great race for me but just a wonderful event (so many happy smiling faces!) and great to see the SA trail running scene looking so healthy. Thanks must go to every single one of the fabulous volunteers who made the event happen!