Food for thought…

image

I must start this post with a disclaimer.  This is not advice, this is just what works for me!

I touched on diet and nutrition in last week’s post but I thought this week I would focus a bit more on pre,  during and post run nutrition. Again, this is just what I do and it seems to work for me (although I’m sure it could do with some improvement). One thing I’ve learned from running with a wide variety of people over the last few years is that everyone is very different and has their own things that work for them.

So I guess the best place to start is at the beginning – the ‘pre’.

I don’t really think too much about what I eat the night before a run, unless it is a marathon (and possibly before an ultra – I’ll let you know about that in a few weeks after I’ve done one!). I do find that when I do an early morning Pump class at the gym and I haven’t had much protein in my dinner, I do tend to struggle lifting the weights, but I don’t seem to have the same problem when it comes to early runs.

Pre-marathon it’s definitely pizza and cider… that has worked for me 3 times now and I have no intention of changing. I am sure this is at least 90% superstition but still… to change it now would be to tempt fate! (I did have the same meal before a particularly awful half marathon but I am certain it wasn’t my pre-race dinner that brought me undone that day!)

Breakfast is easy. It’s always pretty much the same. Before an early morning run it’s a nut bar. (Some people might say I am a nut bar, getting up that early to run!) I used to do the same before a parkrun but lately I’ve been getting up earlier and having a full breakfast – I think that’s certainly part of the reason why my times have improved lately but I think that’s a bit controversial,  and doesn’t work for everyone.

Breakfast is normally 2 hours pre-run (and always at least 2 hours if it’s a race) but I did test that theory once on a Sunday long run day when I had been out late the night before and couldn’t face getting up at 5:30 to eat breakfast! I gave myself an extra half hour sleep-in and had no issues as a result of having eaten 90 minutes pre-run.

The idea of NOT eating breakfast before a long run has been tested too… EPIC fail that was. I would absolutely sacrifice a few hours sleep to get that meal in… I did it this very weekend as a matter of fact. Got home at 2 and up at 6 to eat breakfast. I definitely struggled on that run but nowhere near as much as I would have,  had I slept another hour and not eaten. The one exception I would make to that is the Fanatics Christmas Day half marathon, which starts at 6am on Christmas Day. There is approximately zero chance of me getting up at 4am (or even 4:30) on Christmas Day for a social run. I did get up at 4am for the Gold Coast half last year but that was an actual race. With bling and all. And NOT on Christmas Day. Completely different!

My breakfast normally consists of cereal (I am partial to 2 Weetbix, a serve of muesli and a sprinkling of chia seeds) with rice milk. When I have travelled for events I have always taken my race-day cereal with me!
Prior to a race I will also have an XS Energy drink (sort of in the same vein as Red Bull but without the sugar – I find it doesn’t cause the massive spike and then crash that Red Bull has when I’ve tried it) about half an hour before the start. I do also sometimes have one before a parkrun when I want to go hard.

Now for the ‘during’. This depends if it is a race, road run or trail run. Last year I fuelled entirely on Werther’s Original hard candies for all road runs including my marathon. From memory I think I had 6 during the marathon… that was all I consumed other than water,  Voltaren (I only took 2 – late in the piece) and Rhodiola energy supplements (taken at about the halfway mark).

This year I have moved towards sports drinks. I started with orange Gatorade as I just happened to have some in the fridge,  and that seemed to work well. I now use the powder as it’s more economical, and also I don’t make it quite as strong as the bottled stuff. I’m using lemon-lime now and prefer that to the orange.

In my 2 marathons this year I have fuelled with said Gatorade and also musk Life Savers as a backup. No gels for me – I’ve never tried them and don’t particularly want to!

When it comes to trail runs, particularly those over 2 hours,  I use real food. Along with the aforementioned Gatorade and Life Savers, I like to bring a handful of raw almonds, a white bread sandwich with some kind of nut spread (natural peanut butter or my personal favourite, Mayver’s chocolate spread) and a nut bar cut into bite sized portions. So far the longest trail run I’ve done was 35km and that was more than enough food to get me through. I am also partial to Sesame Snaps which are compact and neatly portion-controlled as well as giving a nice little energy boost.

The ‘post’ varies a lot. Firstly I have started having a protein drink after every run, as I was finding it hard to get enough protein in a plant-based diet. After a Sunday long run I have a habit of getting a potato and lentil pie from the local bakery. After the Gold Coast marathon I had a curry and the next morning my legs felt great… so I guess now I’m going to have to have curry after every marathon! (I also had curry after the 6 hour event). After a long hard run it’s not so much a question of ‘what to eat?’, but more ‘how much?’

So there you have it. It’s not for everyone,  but it works for me!

I feel the need…

image

As you probably know by now, I love to run. I love running with friends, hitting the trails, catching up for coffee afterwards, taking random selfies. But most of all, I like to run FAST.

When I first started running, I wasn’t too worried about pace. My main concern was lasting the distance, which seems funny now! My first 5k race was run in 26:29 and I was stoked with that. That was almost 3 years ago now… how time flies!

I’ve since run well over 100 5km runs. Some of these have been races (I have placed in a couple, with one first and one third place) but the vast majority have been parkruns (I did my 100th parkrun back in June). My parkrun PB now is 20:24 – over 6 minutes faster than my first 5k race!

I first broke 22 minutes back in May 2013 – I am a stats nerd so I have to point out here that this was one year (to the day) before I ran my first marathon. It would be over 2 years before I would break 22 minutes again. I was convinced it was a fluke – maybe the course was measured slightly short that day, maybe there was a stopwatch error. I didn’t have a GPS watch back then so all I could go by was the time on the website.  I was sure that there was some kind of mistake and I couldn’t see how I would ever break that PB.

In 2014 I was mostly running 23-25 minutes. I only broke 23 minutes twice at parkrun that year. From 9 May this year, I have done 13 parkruns, and other than two of those running with my Mum who is a newbie (and somewhat reluctant) runner, I have run under 23 minutes every time.

My elusive PB finally came, after 750 days (I told you, I am a stats nerd) on 13 June. This was 3 weeks after the Barossa Marathon and 3 weeks before the Gold Coast Marathon. I took 9 seconds off my PB and then the following week proved it was no fluke by breaking it again, this time by only one second. (It’s not smart to smash a PB. It’s smarter to break it by just a few seconds, so you give yourself a chance to get another one… it’s a great feeling to beat a PB, whether by 1 second or 1 minute!)

In my first parkrun after the Gold Coast Marathon and the 6 hour event in consecutive weekends, I took another 17 seconds off my PB. I remember I held back in the last 500m as I wanted to give myself a chance of bettering it next time!

All up, I’ve done 5 PBs in my last 9 parkruns, including one at Victor Harbor parkrun. My last PB was 2 Saturdays ago – 20:24. This was my first EVER time under 21 minutes and nearly a minute faster than my previous PB! The Saturday just gone, I came within 4 seconds of equalling it.

So why am I spouting all these figures? Not to brag… (OK maybe just a little bit –  I am pretty happy with those numbers!)

After 2 years between PBs, why am I now able to run so much faster?

Speed training is something I have dabbled in, but never really committed to. Any day of the week, some mornings and some evenings, there are speed training sessions happening. I already do 5 regular runs a week and don’t want to drop any of them,  and thus have found it hard to fit in a speed session. I’ve tried sessions with various clubs – SARRC, Adelaide Harriers and Adelaide Running Crew. Monday nights with the Harriers was probably the one that fit best into my routine but once I started doing Sunday long runs, I felt that I needed Mondays to be a non-running day. So, since January, I haven’t done any speed sessions as such.

parkrun is my speed session now. 5km, going as fast as I can, from go to whoa. Not your ‘traditional’ speed session that includes short intervals and recoveries, but it seems to be working for me. I usually manage to take it up a notch at the end… even if I feel like I’m giving it my all, somehow seeing the finish line gives me an extra kick!

I almost always eat a full breakfast (cereal with rice milk) before parkrun, and sometimes I will have a sugar free energy drink half an hour before. I had been doing these things for a while though, long before I found my speed.

The only change I have made to my preparation in more recent times is the warmup. Previously I would never bother warming up – I would use the first km as my warmup. Starting in the middle of the pack (and we’re talking 200-300 people here), it would normally take me 500m (at least) to hit my stride. Now, I will do a 2km warmup about half an hour beforehand, and force my way to the front of the pack at the start. All of my PBs this year have been preceded by a warmup. I still don’t warm up for longer distances eg half or full marathon, as I feel there is ample time for that in the first few km. In a 5k though, I have realised that to do a really good time you have to be at the front of the pack and hit the ground running!

My weekday morning runs have been getting faster too. In recent weeks I have had a few runs at well under 5 min/km pace… some closer to 4:30. Previously I’d be happy with 5:15 – 5:30 pace.

I think I mentioned in an earlier post that this year I have run PBs over a range of distances – 5km, 10km, 14km and 42.2km. I came agonisingly close to a 21.1km PB at the Greenbelt Half… I only missed out by 10 seconds. City-Bay (12km) is coming up in a few weeks and I am confident of a new PB there too.

Probably since about May (just before the Barossa Marathon) I have started paying a bit more attention to my diet. I follow a mostly plant-based diet and I thought it could use a bit of tweaking, particularly in preparation for running an ultramarathon later in the year,  so I planned to see a sports dietitian for some advice. In preparation I started using MyFitnessPal to record my diet, so I could show that to the dietitian to see how I could improve. I actually haven’t made it to a dietitian yet but I have discovered a few things.

Protein seemed to be lacking quite a bit, despite having quite a lot of nuts and legumes in my diet. I started using a vegan protein supplement after exercise, and that seems to have helped a lot.

Calorie intake was an eye-opener. Most days I would consume less (often a LOT less) than I was burning… especially on Sunday long run days. I take the ‘calories burned’ figure with a pinch of salt because it is based on body weight, distance run and possibly heart rate – it is not an exact science.

Take the 6 hour event for example. That day I consumed 3870 calories (almost twice what I should have on a non-exercising day) but I burned 3860… leaving a deficit of close to 2000 calories!

Obviously that sort of pattern is not sustainable, but it’s easy to see how, with training for 2 marathons in 6 weeks, with minimal break (I ‘took it easy’ for the weeks before and after each marathon but I didn’t feel like I needed a break from running altogether, like I did for 3 weeks after my first marathon), followed by a 6 hour run the week after, I found myself about 8 or 9kg lighter than I was at the start of the year.

Another thing that I am absolutely convinced has contributed to that, is the fact that I have been drinking a LOT less this year, since I made the decision to take a break from soccer. I would almost always have a cider or 2 after training and games, and also when I wasn’t doing long runs on Sunday mornings I would often go out and have a few too many on Saturday nights! Now, I still go out, but (mostly) only have one or two drinks. No more wasted Sundays for me! Instead of a few drinks after soccer I now have coffee after a run… MUCH healthier!

I’m also making a concerted effort to eat less crap… I still enjoy sweet treats (my weakness!) but rather than eat say half a block of Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate, I can satisfy my desire for chocolate with a few squares of good quality dark chocolate. If I’m going to eat cake, I’d rather pay a bit more for a cake from a good bakery (or better yet, bake it myself, and then I get the added bonus of licking the bowl!) than get a cheap supermarket cake whose ingredient list is as long as your arm and contains more ‘numbers’ than actual food ingredients! I love to cook and bake and try out new recipes, rather than buy processed foods.

How did we get here? We were talking about speed and now I’m analysing my diet!

It is a fact that if you’re carrying less weight, running at the same speed will feel easier,  and running with the same effort will cause you to run faster. Up to a point… clearly there is a tipping point.  I have not reached that point (nor do I intend to!) I don’t want to be ‘That Person’ who is so obsessed with diet and exercise that they won’t go out with people for dinner because they can’t control every last thing they put in their mouth. Or ‘That Person’ who will forego a social activity because it clashes with a scheduled run. (If you’re interested in reading about someone who did become ‘That Person’ I recommend reading the book ‘Fit Not Healthy’ by Vanessa Alford)

All things in moderation!

“Your pace or mine?” – pacing the Adelaide Half Marathon

image

Yesterday I had the honour and privilege of being a pacer in the half marathon at the Adelaide Running Festival. It was a no-brainer for me really. I had decided early on in the year that I was not going to enter any of the events, having committed to the Barossa Marathon, and my later decision to enter the Gold Coast Marathon confirmed my decision. 2 marathons in one year was plenty for me! Besides, my focus after Gold Coast was always going to be trail and ultra training. So very early in the piece I had emailed Michael, the event director, and offered my services as a volunteer. I didn’t care what role I did, I just wanted to be involved in some way.

Some time later, I received an email from SARRC seeking pacers for the marathon and the half. I definitely didn’t have another road marathon in me, I was completely unprepared for that, but I could always manage another half! As volunteer roles go, this is a pretty good one as you also get to run!

For those unfamiliar with the concept,  a pacer is someone who runs at a set pace, with the aim of finishing just inside a specified time. The idea is that those runners who want to run around that time, can follow or run with the pacer,  then they don’t have to concentrate on their pace, they can just ‘sit back and relax’ while the pacer does all the work! The pacer is usually carrying brightly coloured balloons to make themselves visible, and often wearing a wacky outfit.  Yeah…  I could do that!

When I had had my shit run at Clare earlier in the year, and had seen how much my friend Sarah had enjoyed pacing her friend in her first half (in a MUCH slower time than me), I thought “There’s something in this pacing caper… I should really try it one day”

So, with little hesitation, I put my hand up to pace 2:15, well within my capabilities (all my halves have been in the 1:40s). I was quickly talked out of this. I didn’t do the sums at the time, but 2:15 is an average pace of 6:23 per km. In contrast, my best half marathon for this year was an average pace of 4:53. Although it should theoretically be easy to run at a much slower pace than my best, it really isn’t! The easiest pace is your natural pace. Anything much faster or slower than this is an effort. I’d be exerting more effort than those who I was pacing! So I quickly changed to the 2:00 pacer which is average 5:38 per km. MUCH more comfortable for me!

At the moment I think I could probably beat my PB if I were to race a half marathon. I have managed to do PBs over every distance I’ve raced this year (12k PB came during the 14k City2Surf but I’m confident of an official 12k PB at City-Bay this year) except for that elusive half marathon! The good and the bad of pacing is that a PB is off the table. Good because it takes all the pressure off me. Bad because I could get frustrated knowing that I could run so much faster. But when pacing you have to have this mindset: “Today is not about me. It is about helping all these people to achieve their goals. My goal today is to get as many people across the line under 2 hours, as I can.”

Being a pacer is a big responsibility! You don’t want to let anyone down. Run too fast early and you could lose people, and they may not have the capacity to catch you again. Run too SLOW and you might miss the target time.

I heard a story last week about a pacer that clearly put himself first. He was a 3 hour pacer in a high-profile marathon. During the race he realised he was on track for a PB and he ditched his balloons (and in turn the people who were relying on him) and went and did his own thing! Needless to say those who were running with him were NOT happy! I don’t know if he got his precious PB but hopefully karma stepped in and he didn’t!

I’d never paced before, other than 30 minutes (6 minute kms) at parkrun when I still wanted to run but I was saving myself for a race the next day. I didn’t really know how to go about it, so I asked my knowledgeable Facebook friends for some advice. The general consensus was that I needed to talk and give constant encouragement to my ‘posse’. A constant pace was important,  something that had never been one of my strong points!

One of the things I decided to do to get my pacing right was to go out for a few runs at 5:38 pace. In the week leading up to the event I did 3 5k runs at race pace. In all of them I ended up averaging 5:35 which was not too bad. In fact in one of my regular runs that week I also averaged the same pace so that seemed to be my ‘comfortable’ pace! The later 5k runs were more consistent pace too, not so much up and down, so I was confident I could run at that pace on race day. My Garmin has a ‘pace alert’ setting and I had it set for 5:30-5:45 (15 seconds was the minimum ‘window’ you could set) so if I ran outside that range it would alert me.

Next item on the agenda was race kit. Well actually that was the first thing I had worked out. It’s useful for a pacer to wear an eye-catching outfit (as well as the coloured helium balloons) to be easily visible. It didn’t hurt that I also don’t mind getting dressed up and making a bit of a fool of myself! So I thought I’d go in my Snow White outfit (sans wig – I couldn’t see myself running 21.1km in a scratchy wig!) and yellow balloons. The socks I would wear were white football socks, which were NOT my standard Nike anti-blister socks, so I taped my feet in the blister-prone arch regions. On race eve I debated whether on not to wear a hat… I had never raced without one but it might look a bit weird with my Snow White headband on top of a hat! Decisions, decisions! (In the end, no hat won the day and I was glad of that because it looks much better in the photos. Always think of the photos!)

It had already been a fantastic running weekend. Friday night I had been to a function at SARRC with race ambassadors (and LEGENDS) Steve Moneghetti and Pat Carroll. Saturday those two had come and run Torrens parkrun with 300-odd others and I had managed a new PB – first time under 21 minutes for 5k! Given that I was going to have to run within myself on Sunday I thought a hard hit-out on Saturday wouldn’t hurt!

The alarm went off at 5:45am on Sunday and I was raring to go. All my kit and breakfast had been prepared the night before so it didn’t take too long for me to be ready and out the door.  The plan was to get there in time to see the start of the marathon at 7, the half starting 50 minutes later. Unfortunately the road closures which were supposed to start at 7, were already in place, so the subsequent detour cost me some time and I had a blonde moment or 2 trying to get out of the Adelaide Oval carpark! I didn’t get to wish everyone good luck for the race but I did get there just in time to see the start.

It was a bit cold but I didn’t have a matching jacket to go with my Snow White outfit so I decided to do an early bag drop and then went to get my yellow helium pacer balloon. Initially we were going to tie it to the bow at the back of my skirt but quickly realised that would result in those following me potentially having to look at my Skins-covered arse for the duration, so we quickly changed to the shoulder strap!

After posing for a few photos and wishing a few friends well (some of whom didn’t want to see me during the race… I didn’t take offence, that just meant they wouldn’t be doing as well as they’d hoped), and a quick media interview (promo for next year’s event, look out for that one!) it was time to head to the start line. It was ideal running weather, a bit chilly to begin with but the chill soon wore off and the sun was very warmly (pun intended) welcomed!

I had planned to start my watch as I crossed the start line but Min-Qi who was standing next to me said I should go with gun time, to account for people who were starting way behind me (there were over 1000 runners in the race). I hadn’t considered that – a lesson for next time! I didn’t quite start my watch on gun time but not long after.

The start was a bit slow due to the congestion, which was to be expected. I wasn’t too concerned – there were plenty of kms to make up the time. It was actually probably for the best because I do have a tendency to start too fast (I had warned my posse that this might happen and not to be alarmed as I would slow down as soon as I realised).

I was on my own pretty early on as a few of the girls I run with regularly who were in my posse (Sally, Victoria, Ali and Libby) had taken off… happily they all made it in under the 2 hour mark even without my help!

It took about 8km to reach my goal pace of 5:35 per km, due to the slow start, gun time vs net time confusion, and also the fact that I didn’t want to increase the pace too quickly.

I really enjoyed the run. I quickly got over having people recoil in horror at seeing me go past them… I kind of felt like the Grim Reaper! I quickly reassured them all that I was running UNDER 2:00 pace so they didn’t need to worry,  they just needed to keep me in sight. Not hard to do, given my outfit!

I didn’t have anyone running with me the whole way but people came and went. It didn’t really matter whether they were with me, just behind me or just in front – what mattered was that they knew I was there, and that they were ‘there or thereabouts’ when it came to pace.

Because I was running a bit slower than usual, I was able to enjoy the scenery and some of the more eye-catching cheerleaders (Tracey, Nikki and Michelle in their bright wigs, Hoa and Rula with their cowbells near the end, and the 2 ‘mad cows’ in their onesies with their motivational signs in the Botanic Gardens, to name just a few!).

Like Barossa, there were a few points where we got to see some of the marathoners – one particularly memorable moment was when a marathoner dressed in full Spiderman suit was high-fiving people along War Memorial Drive… I find it hard to imagine running a full marathon in such an outfit!

I didn’t stop at any of the drink stations and I didn’t have any nutrition with me, but running well within myself I never really felt I needed it. I just wanted to concentrate on holding a steady pace, and I didn’t want to lose momentum.

Towards the end I was running behind a girl (Sarah I think her name was) who was struggling a bit and she had a friend running with her for a while. It was near Jolley’s Boathouse. It was around that point that I saw the sign that said ‘Marathon half way’. I said to her, “It could be worse… you could be running the marathon!”

I thought I was comfortably inside 2 hours (I was looking at somewhere between 1:58 and 1:59) but as I ran past the girls with their cowbells, near the Festival Theatre, well inside the final km, I heard the MC (Pat Carroll) from the other side of the river, saying something about nearly being at the 2 hour mark for the half! CRAP! Had I miscalculated? Surely not! I quickly yelled out to anyone who was in earshot “Right! Gotta go!” or words to that effect, and took off. I also said “This is the best bit! Enjoy it! Remember it!”

As I ran onto the very picturesque Riverbank Footbridge I started yelling, screaming and cheering. I was proper running now. I remembered having run the ‘trial run’ the week before last year’s Marathon, and when I had reached this point, for a split second I wished I was running it for real, so I could experience this amazing finish.

I don’t know if there is any video of the finish line but if there is I’d love to see/hear it… the way I was carrying on you’d think I’d won the thing! It was a mixture of excitement and relief… according to the clock it was about 1:59:30 and according to the official (provisional) results it was 1:58:16 (based on the time I crossed the start line). I had done my job and it was so great to see so many people get under that magical 2 hour mark. I also got a pretty sweet piece of bling to show for it!

I hung around the finish line for a while to see the presentations, watch some friends finish their marathons, and chat to some of the people who had been running with or around me. It was starting to get a bit chilly by then and a bunch of running friends were going to the pub for a celebratory beverage, so after a few last minute photos I headed back to the car, satisfied with my day.

I just want to take this opportunity to thank SARRC and each and every one of the volunteers who made this such a fantastic event. Nearly 500 runners in the marathon and over 1000 in the half, not to mention the shorter events – it really was a huge undertaking and they did a stellar job. Certainly it seemed that SARRC had some contacts upstairs because the weather was just perfect, but weather aside it was a magnificent event, despite the hiccup with the half marathon medals. Everyone will get their medals eventually.

Would I do it again? Absolutely. I’m actually considering offering my services for the McLaren Vale half in October… initially I wasn’t going to run that one as I’m racing the Masters Games half the day before… but I’ll put my hand up if they want me!

Would I recommend pacing to anyone else? HELL YEAH! I had the BEST time. Yes, it’s a big responsibility but the payoff is well worth it!

Very superstitious…

image

Runners, and athletes in general, are known for being supertitious. Whether it’s replicating whatever we did before a particularly successful performance,  or on the flipside, avoiding anything we did before or during a crap one, I’m sure everyone has at least one little ‘thing’!

I have a few myself, but I also asked some of my Facebook friends to share some of theirs!

Dave – “I have a post parkrun traditional breakfast of eggs Benedict, but only if I get a PB.”

Ruth – “Never wear the event tshirt to the event.”

Rachel – “My husband has the same undies for every cricket game…..although they hardly looks like jocks now…more like rags! He also always put his left shoe on first.”

Tina – “Never run in the event top until you’ve completed the event. I always put my left sock on first, then right sock, left shoe then right shoe.”

Rob – “Cut bandaid in half the night before coz I can never find the scissors in the dark? Why half a bandaid…? Coz using two seems a tad excessive for manly nipples.”

Sputnik – “I always wear my undies UNDER my shorts instead of over the top. Except this one time when it was really early and i got dressed in the dark.
Early on, I used to only ever run in TWO pairs of socks. One super thin pair, with a regular pair over the top. That was an actual thing. I have no idea why.
Like many other, I almost never wear an event Tee also. But only because they are almost always universally shit. I am superstitious against silhouettes of runners.”

Karen – “I always wear new socks to any  race over 10km. They have to be brand new, never washed and never worn before. I use Thorlo for trails and 2XU for roads and they have never let me down. Nice undies a must and a visit to essential beauty for a big ultra. Tis all about being dressed for the emergency dept. just in case”

Sonya – “Ditto the underwear (when worn) and I try my best to wear all garments the conventional way out…it’s a getting dressed early in the morning and mostly in the dark thing. Oh, and never wear anything new on race day. That’s bad shit.”

Tania – “Just of late I’ve soaked in a bath before a run and never drink alcohol the night before”

So what about me? It started when I used to play soccer. In my first season, when my team was winless, I used to eat my regular breakfast of Weetbix and milk before a game. Then one day, after a particularly heavy night involving tequila and not remembering a lot other than getting kicked out of a pub, I couldn’t face breakfast before leaving the house for my game. On the way there I thought ‘I have to eat SOMETHING’, and like a beacon in a thick fog, there were the Golden Arches! Bacon and Egg McMuffin it was. And lo and behold not only did I have my best game for the season, WE WON! As it turned out it was our only win for the season, and I credited it all to that Bacon and Egg McMuffin. For the next 3 seasons,  I had to have one before every game. We didn’t win them all of course, and I didn’t play well every week,  but the tradition stuck until I went vego at the end of 2012. In 2013 I made my own pre-game scrambled egg muffin (much cheaper… and healthier) and in 2014 when I started to try the vegan pathway, I went back to cereal and non-dairy milk.

And now to running. Once I was tossing up between 2 skirts for a race, and I discounted one because I had had a particularly shit race last time I’d worn it (not that the skirt was in any way responsible… and the one I chose was identical,  just a different colour!)

I do like new socks for a big race but I always run in them once, and only once, before the big day. I agree with others who say never try something new in a race.

I am attached to shoes. I have 2 pairs that I will probably never run in again but I can’t bring myself to get rid of them because of what they have done. One is my first pair of Brooks which got me through my first marathon. The other is the pair that not only took me to a then-PB at the Barossa Marathon but also my first ‘ultra’ – 60km in the Adelaide 6 hour.

Marathon eve dinner is always pizza and cider. Like the Bacon and Egg McMuffin tradition, it began before my first marathon in Liverpool. I had tried this particular pizza (Pizza Express, from memory) one night the previous week in London, and loved it. (It was actually a vegan pizza but that is not essential… my pre-Gold Coast Marathon pizza was cheesy as, and I got a PB there!) I had a great run, better than expected, in Liverpool, so pizza and cider became my meal of choice!

That is all I can think of for now, but I’m sure over the years there will be more!

Race Report – City2Surf 9 August 2015

image

A brief intro for those unfamiliar with this event (stats thanks to Wikipedia)

City2Surf is a 14km road race/fun run held each year in Sydney. It is the biggest fun run in the world with around 80 000 entrants.

Legendary Australian distance runner Steve Moneghetti holds the course record with 40:03. The women’s record is 45:08 minutes, held by Susie Power. (I wasn’t intending to give either of those records a shake!)

It is a staggered start, essential given the huge field! Firstly come the elite and preferred runners, then the red bibs (sub-70 minutes), then the green bibs (sub-90) followed by charity fundraisers, the open entry group, and finally back-of-the-pack joggers, walkers and pram pushers.

The race starts in Sydney CBD and passes through the eastern suburbs of East Sydney, Kings Cross, Rushcutters Bay, Double Bay, Rose Bay, Vaucluse and Dover Heights before finishing at the iconic Bondi Beach. The most difficult part of the course is the notorious “Heartbreak Hill” at around the 6km mark, a 2 km long hill from Rose Bay to Vaucluse.

I’m not sure when running City2Surf first entered my mind, but it just seemed like the thing to do! My previous ‘biggest’ event had been Adelaide’s City-Bay, with around half the overall number of participants, but in City-Bay they are split between 3km, 6km and 12km (the majority of people do the 12), whereas in City2Surf all 80 000-odd are running the 14km.

I’ve done City-Bay twice. The first one I kind of enjoyed but the crowd made it hard to get into a good rhythm, especially early on. Then I’d get into a zone and suddenly the person in front of me would stop or slow to a walk, forcing me to alter my pace. I wanted to run sub-60 minutes – I was lucky enough to get into the sub-60 starting group which gave me a huge advantage in this regard. I managed sub-60 (without a watch, so I was really only running by feel). The following year I had a watch and managed to take a minute and a half off the previous year’s time, but I really didn’t enjoy it. That MAY have had something to do with the fact that I had to dash off straight away and play a full game of soccer! Also because I don’t enjoy running in a big crowd and having to do a lot of dodging and weaving.

I’ve done 3 marathons – 2 with several thousand participants and 1 with a few hundred. The few hundred was at Barossa and that was by far my favourite marathon experience. Not only because it seemed like I knew half the field and many of the spectators, but because of the smaller numbers.

So why on earth would I enter an event with 80 000 participants?

I spoke to a number of people in the weeks leading up to the event and they all said I would LOVE it. Just the whole party atmosphere, with live bands and DJs throughout the course. Lots of people dressed up in wacky costumes (note to self: don’t get beaten by someone in a gorilla suit!). It’s just an iconic event. Something I had to do at least once on my life!

Initially when I entered I was going by myself. It was sort of a spur of the moment decision, made in late December. I firstly confirmed that I would be able to get a red bib (sub-70) and then entered and booked my flights. However over the few months leading up to the event I discovered that a number of running friends had also entered! Most of these friends were making the trip over from Adelaide but one, Rob, was a Sydney local and a veteran of several C2S events. I hadn’t actually met him in person but we had connected via Facebook – we had a number of mutual friends, who had assured me he was not an axe murderer or a stalker before I accepted his friend request. He was also coming to Adelaide later in the year to run Yurrebilla 56km Ultra, and we would be in the same start group there, so it would be nice to meet before then! Another regular running buddy, Maree, was also running her first C2S and the three of us arranged to meet up early Sunday morning outside the hostel where Maree and I were staying, which was conveniently located within walking distance of the start line.

Having recently travelled for the Gold Coast Marathon, my race gear packing game was strong. I packed ALL my race gear into my carry-on bag, which caused minor issues at Adelaide Airport when it was slightly overweight and I ended up having to transfer my handbag into my checked baggage… no way was I letting any of my race gear out of my sight! I also cut it a bit fine getting to the airport in time – I made it to the bag drop with about 2 minutes to spare before they closed the flight! (Possibly because I had a slightly TOO relaxed coffee catch-up after my morning run… I was so excited by the prospect of not having to dash off to work that I underestimated the amount of time it would take to do my last minute packing and drive to the airport!)

I had my usual throwaway jacket ($3 from Savers – winning!) and I’d also packed a long sleeved top and change of singlet to leave at the finish line. Rob, Maree and I planned to run back to the city (a MUCH more leisurely run mind you!) so I’d also packed my small hydration vest (to carry gear and my finisher medal) and handheld bottle. City2Surf has very strict regulations about what you can leave at the bag drop – everything has to fit into the provided clear plastic bag. I had Maree’s and my gear, with the plan to drop it off at the expo on Friday to save messing around on Sunday.

Here is just some of the advice I was given pre-race:
-There is a LONG way to go after Heartbreak Hill.
-FLY down the downhill.
-When you think you’re nearly at the top of Heartbreak Hill, think again!
-When you see the finish line, there’s still a fair way to go!
-Go to the Beach Road Hotel afterwards… it’s “like Christmas Day for runners” (rehydration is very important,  after all!)
-ENJOY IT!

I wasn’t too phased by Heartbreak Hill as I had regular hills training in my programme. I had been assured that Heartbreak Hill was not anywhere near as bad as many of the hills we run on Fridays (including Heatherbank Tce which we ran the very day that I flew out!)

Friday night was an Adelaide reunion of sorts, catching up with fellow Adelaidians Mel and Steve, and former Adelaidian Sam (now a Sydney local) for dinner, cocktails and dancing! Saturday Sam and I hit the DFO for some retail therapy…  I gave the credit card a good workout at lululemon in particular! Saturday afternoon I met up with Maree at the hostel, and we headed out for a pre-race pizza at the very popular Macchiato. We shared the pizza in the sense that I ate the WHOLE THING! We went for a quick reconnaissance mission to the start line (7 minute walk from the hostel) before heading back to the room to get all our gear ready for the morning.

The hostel was pretty good… relatively quiet despite its proximity to the notorious George St. Rob met us there at 6:30am on race day and we walked in the somewhat chilly conditions to the Red start line (all 3 of us had Red bibs). It took a while for Maree to be let into the Red start area as she had 3 layers on over her bib! We got close to the front of the Red area, so we were just behind the elites and preferred start group. A lot of Rob’s running mates joined us, and I was surprised to see fellow Torrens parkrunner Min-Qi waving to me from the side!

With about 15 minutes to go before the 7:55am start, the throwing of jumpers commenced! Most people had brought jumpers that they were happy to throw away (and/or had purchased specifically for the occasion) and by the time we started the ground was thick with them! They would later be collected and donated to charity. Maree and I were a little horrified that one of Rob’s friends was ditching a lululemon jacket… I guessed that this one might not make it to the charity store!

The national anthem was sung, and it was go time!

The start was a bit of a blur. And definitely the worst possible start for me, getting pushed to the ground (I assume accidentally although I don’t think he apologised) by a guy who was obviously feeling threatened by my blistering pace! (I had no idea what had happened, I went through the entire race convinced that I must have tripped over the timing mat at the start – it wasn’t until I met up with Maree at the finish that she set me straight!) Both knees and one hand bleeding, thankfully Maree was there to help me up and I was off! Take 2!

The first little bit was,  as you would expect, quite congested, as we headed up towards the big Coke sign that marks the infamous Kings Cross, and into a short tunnel. (I had heard that a lot of the males used this tunnel as a urinal, and had been warned to hold my breath, however fortunately this was not an issue!)

I passed several aid stations which had first aid supplies on hand. I looked down at my bloody knees and hand and momentarily contemplated a brief pit stop but thought better of it. The bleeding had stopped and any dressings the first aiders might put on, would undoubtedly impede my movement. Every now and then I’d look down and see the blood but for the most part I put it out of my mind.

It’s hard to put into words how much I enjoyed the race! Every last minute of it! The atmosphere was electric, the cheering from the sidelines was constant and the weather was pretty damn perfect!

I only managed to get to one drink station during the race but that turned out to be enough. I wasn’t prepared for the drink stations when they appeared and I was totally in the wrong spot to get to them without having to stop and walk – something I was not prepared to do! Maybe in future I will consider carrying a handheld bottle like I did in the Gold Coast Marathon.

Then it was onto Heartbreak Hill. I was totally prepared so when I passed the 6km mark I knew it was close.

I didn’t find it that hard… I put that down to my regular hill training! People had told me I’d probably pass people going up the hill and they were right – a LOT of people were walking by then. When I saw my official results it turned out that I averaged 5:04 minutes per km for the 1.6km climb which I thought was pretty good! The view from what I would have thought was the top if I didn’t know better, was simply magnificent and I was SO tempted to stop and take a photo.  I guess that gives you a bit of an indication of my mindset – wouldn’t stop for a drink,  wouldn’t stop for a Band-Aid, but seriously considered stopping for a photo!

I didn’t stop, though. I was on a roll and I didn’t want to lose momentum.

One thing that really annoyed me, and does in every race,  is people with headphones. At one point I needed to pass between 2 people who were both wearing headphones! I was a bit cautious after my earlier fall, I NEEDED to get past them but given that they couldn’t hear me call out, I had to be very careful. Fortunately there were no further mishaps!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. When it comes to road races, LEAVE THE HEADPHONES AT HOME, people! Enjoy the atmosphere… with headphones in you could be running anywhere! Be in the moment!

After Heartbreak Hill there were more undulations until the last few km which were all downhill. Some of those little uphills felt tougher than HBH!

Somewhere in the second half of the race I spotted Rob up ahead. In a race where I knew only a handful of people out of a huge field,  it was exciting to see a familiar face (well, a familiar back at that point!). I gave him a cheer, intending to run with him for a bit but I was on a roll so I just kept going.

I had gone into the race with a niggle in my left patellar tendon,  which had appeared on Tuesday. I had strapped it for my Friday run and it had felt OK other than on the steep descents. I had strapped it again on race day, this time a bit more firmly and with an extra strip of tape.

I’m happy to say I did not feel any discomfort in the tendon during the race or since! And I did fly down the downhills! Maybe the fall fixed it!

Kilometre 13 was an absolute blast… according to Strava I did it in 3:47. All downhill of course… I set a number of Strava PRs on the downhills that will be very tough to beat… I just love running fast and naturally downhills allow you to run a lot faster than normal!

The last kilometre felt LONG. I think that’s pretty normal… the closer you get to the end, the further it seems. I didn’t allow myself to look to my left where I would have seen the finish line… it was eyes straight ahead all the way.

I’m pretty sure I screamed with delight when I saw the finish line. As I like to do, I put on an extra burst of speed and flew past people as I approached the finish line at beautiful Bondi, and glory! I forget exactly what the clock said but my watch said 1:03:53 – a shade under 64 minutes – well beyond my goal of sub-70!

Rob wasn’t far behind me… less than a minute I think! Maree was also delighted to finish not far behind us in just under 70 minutes.

My first port of call was the medical tent to get patched up. Unfortunately my little spill had put paid to our plans to run back to the city from Bondi – once I had the dressings on, there was no way I was going to be able to run!

It took a while for us all to meet up afterwards… Rob and I were in communication via phone but Maree had left hers at the hostel so we couldn’t contact her. She did message a couple of times via other people’s Facebooks, and at one point messaged that she was at the ‘Lost Children’ area… ironically neither Rob nor I were able to find her there!

Note to self and potential future C2S-ers… the gear collection area is probably the best place to arrange to meet people! (Definitely NOT the ‘Lost Children’ area!)

Once we’d met up and collected our gear, we went to the Hotel Bondi, which was teeming with runners, for a celebratory drink before walking back to Bondi Junction to get the train back to town. Maree and I farewelled Rob and headed off for a shower followed by a well-earned recovery lunch (more pizza!)

If anyone is considering giving C2S a go, I couldn’t recommend it highly enough! C2S was initially a ‘bucket list’ item for me, but right now I am pretty sure I’ll be back to do it all again next year! Who’s with me?

Embracing ‘stupid o’clock’

image

I was going to call it ‘arse o’clock’ but thought maybe I shouldn’t put that in the TITLE of the post…

I am a morning runner – almost exclusively. Occasionally I go out for a trot (I am forbidden from using the word ‘jog’) or walk with one of the evening groups but the vast majority of my runs (certainly the regular ones) are in the mornings.

Non-runners (mostly colleagues) often ask me how I can possibly get up and do a 10-12km run before work – especially at this time of year when a large part of the run is under cover of darkness.

There is no easy answer to that. Well, actually, yes there is. I’ll plagiarise the Nike slogan again. I “Just Do It”!

I was never really a morning person. I rarely woke up before my alarm (unless one of my cats decided to start sniffing my face). The only thing that would get me up before sunrise was a sporting event on TV or a red-eye flight.

When I first started running, my schedule consisted of parkrun on a Saturday (8am – reasonably civilised although not so much after a big Friday night!) plus a run with the Nike Run Club in the city on a Tuesday or Thursday evening. The Nike group was really good – with options of 5, 7 or 10km depending on how energetic I felt and what I had to do afterwards!

However, getting into the city, finding a park and getting to the Nike store for a 6pm start was a challenge. Admittedly I think the group is aimed at city workers and students, who are already in town. For them, it would be ideal. For me, not so much.

Probably the main thing that turned me into a morning runner, is the fact that there is ALWAYS something you would rather be doing (or NEED to be doing) on a weekday evening. There might be dinners, movies, shows (ESPECIALLY during summer and Mad March) or sometimes just leaving work a bit later than planned. None of these are generally the case in the mornings. As far as I can see, there is only one reason for not getting up for a run in the morning, and that is the desire to stay in bed (I won’t go into any further details on that – use your imagination)!

I managed to make the Nike runs a regular thing for a period of time (just long enough to get my free T-shirt!) until one week I couldn’t make it to either run and I decided to give one of the SARRC (South Australian Road Runners Club) morning runs a crack.

My first SARRC run was a Friday morning run at Burnside. I remember it clearly because it was the Friday after the 2013 Barossa Marathon. It was the Sunnyside Road run – which will mean nothing to many people but regular Burnside group runners will know it well. (All of my running groups have a selection of runs – traditionally we don’t get told which run we’re doing until we are about to start.)

I tried to stick with the fast group at the start, running uphill along Glynburn Road (later finding out that was the ‘warm-up’ hill – the ‘proper’ hill was yet to come!). I ended up walking a lot after that (I had never run hills before!) but fortunately one of the runners, Phillipa, was taking it easy as part of her recovery from the marathon, so she ran/walked with me. Otherwise I would have got totally lost!

Phillipa told me that I should try running with the group on a Tuesday morning, where most of the runs were flat. I turned up the following week only to find that the chosen run that day was one of the two Tuesday hilly runs! However I got through it, actually managing to run the whole way and running 12km for the first time – my goal that year was to run the City-Bay so it was nice to have made it to the 12km distance!

Tuesday and Friday mornings quickly became part of my routine, and the 5:15/5:20 (yes there is a 5:20 in the morning now!) alarm gradually became less and less dreaded. I met more people each week and started going to the traditional post-run coffee which quickly became a highlight. Over time I added a Thursday morning run to my weekly schedule, and combined with Monday and Wednesday morning gym sessions, I was getting up early almost every day.

Sunday morning long runs became part of the schedule when I started training seriously for my first marathon. That was probably the most challenging of all for me because I was used to going out on Saturday nights. It was definitely worth curtailing my Saturday night activities though, because I couldn’t imagine wanting to go for a long run later on Sunday, on my own.

Right there is another reason why mornings are so much better for me – all the runs I do are very social. I’ve referred to that in a previous post and it is very important to me.

Another reason I can think of for embracing ‘arse o’clock’ is particularly relevant in the summer – it is so much cooler in the early morning, before and soon after sunrise, than it would be later in the day! (That, of course, is a curse in the winter!)

Friday mornings in particular, when we run trails in the summer, have the added bonus of AMAZING views, spectacular sunrises and often wildlife sightings (I’ve seen kangaroos, koalas and even the occasional deer!). Many of the trails we run are inaccessible by any means other than foot. That means, to see the view, you have to damn well EARN it!

Not long ago, and possibly mentioned in a previous blog post, I did my first training run for the Yurrebilla 56km ultramarathon. It was about a 17-18km run, and that week I was supposed to do around 30km as part of my Gold Coast Marathon training plan. So I decided to do an out and back run, making it around 35km (the ‘official’ run was one way, requiring carpooling). I had 2 choices – start at 8am with the main group, stop at the ‘finish’ for refreshments,  then run all the way back, or, start at 5:45am from the ‘finish’ in the dark, meet the group at the ‘start’, and finish with the main group. I decided on the latter and boy was I glad when I got to the finish – I was all done by 10:30 and had the rest of the day! And the early part of the run, in the dark, by the light of my headlamp, was So. Much. Fun!

Here’s another example. This weekend was Victor Harbor parkrun’s first anniversary.  Anniversaries are always marked by amazing cake and a great atmosphere! So I got up at 5:30 and drove one and a half hours to run a 5k. Then after cake and coffee, drove one and a half hours back. TOTALLY worth it though because this week was one of the rare times it rained on my usual parkrun at Torrens. At Victor we had no rain, OK a little headwind, and did I mention CAKE?

If I don’t have you convinced already that it IS worth getting out of bed to go for a run in the morning, think of this: imagine how energetic and virtuous you will feel for the rest of the day? One of my most favourite things is running on a cold winter’s morning in shorts and singlet, past people sitting at the bus stop all rugged up in jackets and beanies, looking incredulously as if thinking ‘How is she out in this weather dressed like that?’ I’m not cold. Well maybe at first, but it doesn’t take long to warm up. And somehow I think it helps me stay warm for the rest of the day.

You should at least try it once… give it a few weeks and you’ll be hooked!

Running Up That Hill

image

Hills. As a runner, you either love them or you hate them. Or you have a love-hate relationship like I do.

My first introduction to hills came before I started running. I think I’ve mentioned it before in a previous post, but there is a little thing that we in Adelaide like to call Mt Lofty (or “Lofty” for short). It’s kind of an ironic name because it’s not actually that high (727 metres above sea level to be exact – thanks Wikipedia) but it is the highest point in Adelaide. The hike/run/crawl from Waterfall Gully to the summit is extremely popular (475m elevation from bottom to top, approx. 3.5km walking/running distance). So much so, that on weekends the track can be likened to Rundle Mall (for non-Adelaide people, Rundle Mall is the major shopping precinct in Adelaide’s CBD) and parking at the bottom can be an absolute nightmare.

So anyway, many years before I took up running, I used to do the Waterfall Gully to Mt Lofty climb semi-regularly – usually with a group of friends. I never found it particularly easy and I rarely ran any of it – I think from memory my best time for the climb was just under 40 minutes. I got to the point where I could go the whole way without stopping or using the very temptingly positioned trees for support. There was always a sense of achievement in reaching the top, and on the occasions where we stopped at the café before commencing the leisurely descent, the iced chocolate tasted particularly good! I always marvelled at the people who tackled the climb dressed in street clothes (clearly they must have been tourists who had NO idea what they were in for!) and also the crazies who did it with weighted backpacks. And of course those who did the climb/descent multiple times in one go! At the top, I always felt like I’d earned the spectacular panoramic views over Adelaide and felt seriously ripped off when dense fog robbed me of said views!

Other than Lofty, I hadn’t had much experience with hills. Certainly not RUNNING up them.

That all changed when I joined the SARRC (South Australian Road Runners Club) Friday morning group. I have mentioned this previously but this was my first experience of running up hills. I went out like a bull at a gate, trying to run at ‘flat run’ pace, and I was spent by the time I reached the top of the ‘warm-up’ hill! I then went out the following Tuesday to the group run which was normally a flat course, but naturally I picked a week where we did one of the few hilly runs! That day, though, I managed to run the whole way, almost 12km, including the uphills.

Over the weeks, months and years I grew to despise the hills less and less. Even now, I don’t feel like I have ‘conquered’ hills, but they don’t fill me with quite the same sense of dread as they did in the beginning! When we hit the daylight saving months, the Friday hill runs move onto the beautiful trails, and the views are truly magnificent. Rarely does a Friday morning trail run go by without a group selfie being posted on Facebook – we feel the need to share the joy with the world!

I feel like I’m getting stronger. Hill running builds up leg muscles including calves, quads, hamstrings and glutes, coincidentally also the muscles used for sprinting. As I’m finding the uphills easier, at the same time I’m also finding my short, flat runs are getting faster.

Still, there are things I like and things I don’t like so much about hills.

I love the sense of accomplishment that comes from having reached the top of a particularly nasty ascent, and the knowledge that ‘it’s all downhill from here’ (for runners, that’s actually a GOOD thing!). As mentioned earlier, the views often make the climb worth it. The muscle soreness that often follows in the following few days, is a reminder that I have worked hard! The downhill that usually follows the hard uphill slog, is a joy and a chance to run FAST and feel the wind in my hair!

Then there are the things I don’t like so much, such as running downhill on trails. I am still a relative newbie when it comes to trail running, and running downhill on a steep trail (especially a gravel one) is a completely different kettle of fish to running down a bitumen road. I have learned to run in a zigzag rather than trying to run straight downhill. Previously I would walk, very cautiously, but I find the zigzag running is easier and safer. I am always amazed to watch experienced trail runners flying down the hills – hopefully I will be as adept as them one day! There are also days when running up hills just seems too damn hard – I like to run fast (relatively speaking – I am no Usain Bolt, that’s for sure) and running up hills makes that very difficult!

One particularly important lesson about hills, especially over long distances, is sometimes you just have to walk. Other than the real elite runners, everyone walks sometimes! It’s better to walk the really tough uphills than try to keep running, because otherwise you will struggle to get to the end. The added benefit of walking up hills is it gives you the perfect opportunity to get some food in. When I say ‘food’ I’m not talking about gels (something I have yet to try and hope I never have to!), I’m talking about actual, real food. Stuff you actually have to chew and tastes good! I personally like nut bars and nut butter sandwiches on white bread – never have those things tasted so good as when I’m walking up a steep hill!

It is definitely getting easier, which is a really good thing because I have my first trail ultra coming up, Yurrebilla 56km, in September. That involves a few little hills! 1865m of ascent and 2060m of descent, to be precise! I have completed the first two of the three training runs that take in the entire course, and have managed to get through them at reasonable pace, so I’m hoping to complete the 56km in under 8 hours. The final section includes a particularly nasty little ‘surprise’ at around 50km – a little speed bump known as ‘Black Hill’. I’ve run up Black Hill a few times (not running all the way – there has definitely been some walking!) but never after having already run 50km, so I’m fully expecting that it will be particularly brutal come race day!

My next big ‘hill’ challenge after that is The North Face 100km in the Blue Mountains, hopefully in May 2016. This will be not so much a hill run as a mountain run – and I am fully aware that this is a completely different beast! 4200m of elevation, eek!

I’ve written before about running solo vs running in a group. Last Sunday decided to go for an impromptu solo afternoon run, because I’d volunteered at an event in the morning and it seemed like a beautiful day. I planned to do about a 2 hour run.

I thought I might head towards the aforementioned Mt Lofty, and turn around at around 70 minutes (given that the first half would be uphill and the second half downhill). The beauty of that was that I could tackle the climb without having to battle for a parking space!

I ran all the way up to Waterfall Gully. Waterfall Gully Road is somewhat hazardous, a narrow road with no footpaths in places, and cars and cyclists go down there pretty fast! So, while I ran the whole way up, I did stop and move to the side every time I saw a car coming. Then I got to see the falls at Waterfall Gully – the first time I’d seen them in a long time (our Friday morning group runs up to the falls semi-regularly but as it’s normally dark when we get there, we only hear them, we don’t see them!) and commenced the climb towards the summit.

I ran/walked it and I think it took me about 40 minutes from bottom to top. When I reached the 70 minute mark I was about 1km from the summit so I thought it would be silly to turn around now and I had nowhere I needed to be, so I pressed on. The view of the city was a little bit hazy but still I felt that sense of achievement, pausing for the obligatory selfie before running pretty much the whole way down. On the descent down Waterfall Gully Road it started raining but I didn’t care. (In hindsight some gloves or long sleeves might have been a good idea – unlocking the front door and untying my shoelaces were challenging given how cold my hands were by then! I really need to invest in a good waterproof running jacket!)

I guess this is a bit of an indication of how my attitude to hills has changed. 2 years ago, if I’d even contemplated going for a solo run, I probably would have driven to the beach to get as flat a run as possible! Instead I headed for the hills… I probably would have hit the trails but I am still quite wary of going out on trails on my own without anyone knowing where I’m going. You can be pretty sure, on the Waterfall Gully to Mt Lofty trail, you’ll never be alone!

Actually, come to think of it, I really quite like hills!

Today’s blog post is dedicated to my good friend Kieron who is off to India this weekend to run an ultra. There are a few hills in this ultra. You may have heard of them – some little hills known as the Himalayas. Now I may like hills now but that’s just insane! If you want to know more check out http://kieronultrarunner.com/

I think I’ll end this post as every good blog post should end, with a Miley Cyrus lyric – no-one says it better than Miley!

There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
There’s always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose
Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side

It’s the climb

There’s more to running than just running…

image

All of my posts so far have been about running. This one is a little different – it is about NOT running, but volunteering instead.

Most (probably ALL) of the running events in which I have participated, rely heavily on volunteers to be able to run (pun intended). From the free parkruns to the large-scale events like Gold Coast Marathon, without volunteers they would not exist.

Often people who are injured, or who have just completed a big event, or are tapering, will volunteer at events where they can’t,  or don’t want to, run. Volunteering is fun though, and you should definitely consider doing it, even if you are capable of running the event!

When talking about my experience with volunteering, I have to start with parkrun, as this is where I first experienced volunteering at ‘events’. parkrun is run entirely by volunteers,  and volunteering is an integral part of parkrun ‘culture’. All regular parkrunners are requested to volunteer 3 times a year (some do many more times than this!)

There are a number of different volunteer roles at parkrun – some larger events have more volunteer roles but at my home parkrun (Torrens – #bestparkrunintheworld) we try to keep it ‘lean’. We have a run director (which rotates each week – I am fortunate enough to be part of this awesome team), timekeeper (I did this role once… EPIC FAIL… NEVER AGAIN!), finish tokens (making sure all the finishers take their tokens in the correct finishing order), photographer (my favourite role even though I am no professional – everyone who does this role puts their own spin on it and it’s great to see the variety of photos that come from the different photographers), tail runner (or walker – this person stays at the back so we know when everyone has finished and we can pack up) and finally barcode scanner (which I did a few times before the wonderful Merrilyn took over the role and made it her own!)

I’m not going to say the free coffee that all our vollies get is an incentive, but it’s certainly appreciated!

I’ve also volunteered at a few SARRC events over the years. This year (yesterday in fact) and last year I volunteered at Hills to Henley,  a 30km (with several shorter options) run along the Torrens Linear Park from the hills to the beach. Last year I was a marshal at the 5km turnaround point – an easy job, and one that was finished early so I got to go to the finish line and see a lot of the 30km runners finish, before dashing off to play soccer that afternoon. So far that is my only experience of marshaling,  and I certainly have an increased appreciation of their role since then. I always try to thank marshals as I pass them when I’m running in events. I found it a little frustrating at times, because a lot of people didn’t hear me tell them to turn around – surprise surprise, because they had their headphones in.

(Soapbox alert – I think headphones should be banned from all running events – well certainly those that involve running on roads – it’s just dangerous! I can see a place for them in ultras when people are out there, on their own, for a LOOONG time. But in a 5k – leave them at home, people!)

For yesterday’s event, I was assigned to ‘man’ a drink station about halfway along the 30k route. The morning threatened to be cold (and started out that way) so I rugged up with thermals, tiger onesie and hand warmers in the pockets. I was ably supported by Reg and Ray from one of the local Lions Clubs, as we offered drinks to all the 30k runners as they passed. I lost count of the number of times I said ‘Endura here… water there’ (Endura being the sports drink on offer). It was great to see all the runners go past, from the eventual podium finishers to the back-of-the-pack-ers. I was a teeny bit jealous of them getting to run on what seemed to be a glorious day (as it turned out there was a nasty headwind near the end, and it was significantly colder at the beach than at my station!), so after I finished my duties I laced up my runners and went out for a long run of my own!

I have also volunteered at Yurrebilla Ultra Marathon last year, which served two purposes for me personally – one so I couldn’t get talked into running it, and two to get a feel for the event to see if it was something I might like to do in future. I loved it – I was on the finish line drink station and despite the challenges of the windy, hot conditions, I decided then and there that I would run it in 2015. (Just this week, I have finally registered!)

I also volunteered at a Yumigo! trail event earlier this year – again I was on the finish line drink station. I didn’t run that day because I had a problem toenail which I was threatening to remove with pliers (fortunately I managed to resolve the problem in a far less extreme way). I also got to meet a whole lot of new people that day… some trail runners don’t tend to do a lot of road events so it was a whole new community of people to meet!

It wasn’t so much ‘volunteering’ at the Adelaide Running Festival last year, but I still think it’s worth mentioning here. I’d had a big night planned the night before, and I had to play soccer that day, so I hadn’t entered any events and I didn’t want to volunteer (in case I decided I needed to sleep in!). I did, however, want to cheer on a bunch of friends, including Jim and Brandy who were both doing their first marathons. So I decided to stand at the 36km mark in the marathon (where support is always needed), dressed in my tiger onesie (because my location just happened to be near the Zoo!) holding up a sign that said ‘RUN LIKE SOMEONE JUST CALLED YOU A JOGGER!’ and cheered for everyone who ran past (the half marathoners once and the marathoners twice), saving the biggest cheers for my friends! A lot of them didn’t even realise it was me, as I hadn’t told anyone what I was going to be wearing! I had a fantastic time and it was awesome to have random strangers come up to me later at the finish line and tell me that my support had given them a boost – mission accomplished!

My next volunteering gig is at the Adelaide Running Festival. I volunteered ages ago, knowing I wasn’t going to run it this year. Then the call went out for pacers, and I thought, what better volunteer gig could there be? So I quickly put my hand up to be the 2 hour pacer for the half marathon. I can’t wait,  I’m hoping to have a big crew running with me, and to get as many of them as possible to their sub-2 hour goal. On a personal note, I’m really looking forward to finishing with a run over the Riverbank Footbridge to the Adelaide Oval plaza, but I really hope I take a lot of people there with me!

‘There’s no such thing as a bad run’ – yeah, right!

image

Lately ‘everything’s coming up Milhouse’ with my running. I’ve done PBs for marathons and 5k, my first ultra (with a surprise podium finish!) and generally just having the time of my life!

With no more big events on the horizon for a few more weeks, it’s time to focus on when it all goes wrong…

This year I can think of two clear examples of getting it very, very, wrong.

The first was a training run to which I may have alluded in a previous post. It was the day after Valentine’s Day, quite early in the Barossa Marathon 16 week programme. It was a hot, hot day – from memory it reached 36 degrees during the run, which was finished by 10:30am, so you can only imagine what the maximum temperature must have been.

I had been out the night before, celebrating Valentine’s Day in the only way I know how – having a few too many ciders with 2 of my favourite (non-runner) girlfriends! It wasn’t a super-late night but the thought of getting up at 5:30am the next day for a pre-run breakfast was horrifying to me, so I set my alarm for the latest possible time to allow me to get to the meeting point in time. (A later, solo run was not an option,  not only due to the anticipated heat, but also because later that day I was going to the much-hyped India v Pakistan World Cup cricket match.)

I hadn’t rehydrated enough. I’d taken a bottle of water to bed but, true to form, I’d fallen asleep straight away and not drunk a drop.

I made it to the start, 1.5 litres of water in my backpack (I usually carried 1L but due to the heat I thought I needed more). If I’d eaten anything it was just a nut bar – my usual pre-run fuel during the week but grossly inadequate for a run of about 23km.

So it’s hardly surprising that I had a crap run.

I wasn’t the only one. A few of my running buddies turned back early due to the heat. Our coach Chris told us it wasn’t worth smashing ourselves so early in the programme – there were plenty of weeks to go, and one abbreviated long run wouldn’t do any harm. However, I was determined to finish.

My average pace was 7:12 per km. There was a LOT of walking.

So what went wrong? Where do I start? Too many drinks the night before with inadequate rehydration. No breakfast. Not enough sleep. Carrying extra weight in my backpack (although the extra water WAS needed so I’m not sure if I could have done anything about that). The heat (the only factor I couldn’t control!)

On the plus side, there was a sense of accomplishment from having completed the run. And I took comfort from the knowledge that I was unlikely to have a worse run than this!

The other crap run that immediately springs to mind is the 2015 Clare Half Marathon, my first half of the year.

My preparation was good. I’d driven up the day before and stayed in nearby Auburn. I’d ventured into Clare to get a pizza that night (my favoured pre-race meal) and enjoyed it back at my motel with a cider or 2. I had all my gear prepared, and was up in plenty of time to eat breakfast, pack up all my gear, check out of the motel and get to the start line in plenty of time.

It was a beautiful morning. Clare can be chilly but I decided, on the way to the start line, to leave my arm warmers in the car – it was sunny and kind of warmish! I’d had my pre-race energy drink and toilet stop. I was ready and raring to go.

So what went wrong here, you ask? Well there were two things, but the biggest factor was pacing.

In most of my previous halves I have employed a ‘negative split’ pacing strategy. This means running the first half slower than the second, conserving energy for the back half. It has always served me well.

This time, for the first time, I had made a pace band. This was a strip of paper, laminated and made into a wristband, that listed the time I needed to run each km. I had opted for the negative split again. The only problem was that I had decided to try to run a half marathon PB.

My PB had been set at last year’s Greenbelt Half. Greenbelt is considered a fast course, being a net downhill point-to-point course, with a few undulations but nothing too nasty. Clare, on the other hand, is an out-and-back course, uphill on the ‘out’ and supposedly downhill on the ‘back’. I had successfully ‘negative-split’ this event last year so thought, why not try it again?

The problem was, my first 11km needed to be run at 5:00 min/km pace. Uphill. I made it to 11km in just under 55 minutes alright, but then I was spent. Not only did I not have the energy left to up my pace, I barely had the energy left to finish the race! (I had also neglected to bring any nutrition – that was my second mistake – I won’t go into that now, I think that’s a blog post in itself!)

The last 10km was not fun. There was a LOT of walking. (Somehow, an out-and-back course that was uphill on the way out, appeared to be uphill on the way back too!)

So far, other than the 6 hour event last weekend, that is the ONLY road race in which I’ve walked at all. I did have thoughts of quitting but I thought of the medal… I wasn’t coming all this way to walk away without any bling!

I did finish, eventually. Surprisingly it wasn’t my slowest ever competitive half, but it was close. And all because I got a bit ambitious!

I went for the PB again at Greenbelt just a few weeks later.  I used the same pace band. It didn’t quite come off for me that time either, but I only missed the PB by 10 seconds and overall had a fantastic run.

I WILL get that PB sooner or later, but probably not at Clare! And I WILL go back and run Clare again next year – unfinished business and all that!

Running round in circles

image

Last week I told the story of my experience at the Gold Coast Marathon. This weekend could not have been more of a contrast. On Saturday I ran in the Yumigo! Adelaide 6/12/24 hour event.

For the uninitiated, this is an endurance event held at Adelaide’s Uni Loop, a 2.2km gravel running track around the North Adelaide parklands. There are 3 events – 6, 12 and 24 hours. The idea is to cover as much distance as possible in the allocated time, running lap after lap. After lap.

I had had previous experience with a 6 hour event back in March – a social, non-competitive fundraising event to raise money for running friend Emma to fund her trip to Italy for the World 24 Hour Championships. I took it relatively easy, initially planning to run 30km (just slightly more than my long run was scheduled to be that day), then 42.2, then 45, then eventually getting to 46.9 thanks to Denis pushing me for one final lap before time was up! I had plenty of rests and I knew I had plenty of room to improve. From that day on, I had the Yumigo! event firmly in my sights.

Fast-forward to July. Having just come off a marathon, I had opted for the 6 hour event as the ‘sensible’ option. I had entered on the Monday, having wanted to see how I recovered from Gold Coast before committing. I hadn’t seen the weather forecast which was a good thing. I later found out that the forecast was for a cold weekend with rain, hail and thunderstorms (and possible snow on Mt Lofty). I probably would have given it a miss had I known, but having entered, I had to go through with it!

The week was a combination of recovery and tapering. I did 2 runs during the week, and 2 walks with my running groups.

A few days beforehand, I studied the event manual, and on race eve I collected my race bibs and timing chip from the start line. It was also an opportunity to see where I had to go, to make sure I allowed enough time to get there in the morning. I also got a few last minute helpful pieces of advice from ultra veterans and fellow 6 hour entrants Kym and Graham. (As an aside, Graham was the first person to tell me about this event, a few years ago. I told him I thought it sounded incredibly boring. And yet here I was, about to run it!)

My pre-event dinner was a carb-laden risotto with a group of running friends. It was a shame I had to leave at 9:30 while they were all still going but I had to be up in 7 hours and I still wasn’t packed.

With rainy weather forecast, I needed plenty of clothes. I packed at least 2 of everything… shorts, socks, shoes, calf compression sleeves, 3 long sleeved tops and towels, as well as a hat (to keep the rain and hail out of my eyes), rain jacket and a tracksuit and sandals to put on afterwards.

Given the likely requirement for clothing changes, I had opted to pin my bibs (front and back) to a Spibelt instead of to my clothing – this would mean I didn’t have to re-pin my bib even if I had to change my top and/or shorts.

The morning of the run I got up at 4:30, ate my usual breakfast and finished getting ready. Food-wise I didn’t need much… the event supplied plenty of food and drinks… but I took a few bits and pieces that have served me well in the past. I had a chocolate spread sandwich, Gatorade, almonds and Lifesavers.

I arrived at the start at around 5:40. Already the street parking was filling up, and I had to park further away than I’d hoped… something I would regret later in the day when I had to walk back to the car! Still, I made it to the start line in plenty of time, dropping my bag off in one of the tents and deciding at the last minute to go without the gloves and rain jacket… something I would soon come to regret…

We started at 6am sharp. My first goal was 42.2km… that would mean 2 marathons inside a week… I wasn’t sure if and when I’d ever get the chance to do that again! That was very doable… so I set myself a second goal of 50km… which would be my first time reaching that distance. Then, I could call myself an ultramarathoner!

It was cold, and the rain soon started, and hail not long after that. Fortunately the hail was only short-lived… this was my first ever time running in hail, and I was very thankful for the hat!

I had opted not to do the portaloo stop before the start… my experience in marathons has been that I always go before I start, but still always feel like I need to go again just before the start of the event. In my 3 marathons and however many halves, so far I have never needed to stop. That suggests to me that it’s all mental, and/or that I don’t drink enough! However, on this occasion I still needed to go about half an hour in, having already received one soaking from above. Given that it was a 6 hour event, I knew I’d have to stop at least once so I thought now was the time.

I don’t want to venture into ‘too much information’ territory but suffice to say cold numb hands and soaking wet Skins shorts does not make for a quick pit stop! I think it took me a minute just to lock the door and probably about 5 minutes altogether! I definitely should have put the gloves on before the start, but it was too late now. I pushed on…

The 6 and 12 hour runners started together, so we spent our full 6 hours running with the 12 hour runners. We had bibs front and back, mostly with names on them, which was a great touch as it meant we could give encouragement as we ran with/past others on the course. It was great to chat with fellow runners, discussing previous experiences in similar events, what our goals were for the day, etc etc! It was especially great to get encouragement from race ambassador Wayne Calvert who was running the 12 hour. He ended up finishing second in that event, so he was obviously going at quite a pace, but he still found time to encourage those around him which was awesome!

Regular running buddy Sarah came and ran with me briefly. She asked me if I had a ‘run/walk’ strategy. I replied “Yes… I’m going to keep running until I can’t run anymore. Then I’ll walk”.

I did walk at times. Mostly when I was eating. My nutrition consisted of sandwiches (my own chocolate spread one, and peanut butter ones supplied at the food tent – never before has peanut butter on white bread tasted so good!) and delicious brownies made by the legendary Maurice. Oh and a packet of chips early on, that I couldn’t open myself because my hands were so cold! Hydration-wise I didn’t drink a lot of water but I did finish my 1.5L bottle of Gatorade before leaving the course.

The turning point for me undoubtedly came when James arrived with a piping hot long black for me. He had offered the previous day to come down with a coffee for me, but given the weather conditions I would not have blamed him for not coming. But he did, probably around the halfway mark, and boy was I glad to see him! (OK maybe it was the coffee I was glad to see more so than James. Sorry James!)

He and fellow running buddy Dean walked with me around the track as I sipped that beautiful, beautiful hot beverage. Not only did the caffeine give me a huge boost but the hot cup helped warm up my cold hands. By the time I’d finished it, my energy level had skyrocketed and I quickly slipped back into my running rhythm again. From then on I felt amazing! I swore he must have spiked it with something!

Despite my bag full of clothing, I really could have used more. I changed tops just before the halfway point, with just one long-sleeved top left (to put on at the end). Not 10 minutes later, the heavens opened again, so I was stuck in wet clothing for the duration.

A lot of people I spoke to including Kathleen and Clodia had the goal of running a marathon in the 6 hours. It is a really great way for someone to run a first marathon… very safe, well supported, facilities every 2.2km, and a guaranteed medal even if you don’t complete the full distance. It was great to see both of them achieve their goals!

I’m not sure exactly when I reached the marathon distance but according to Strava it was a touch over 4 hours. From then I knew the 50km was definitely on. Given the weather, I planned to stop and walk after that, or possibly even stop altogether if it was really raining heavily. In fact I could have walked from that point and still made 50km. But I was running strongly… still hanging around the 5:55 minutes per km mark, so kept going.

In my previous marathons I have had left hip soreness around the halfway point. I did feel that again during the 6 hour (probably about 2 hours in) but had forgotten to pack the Voltaren, and I didn’t want to try any different drugs, and it wasn’t impeding me too much, so I pressed on, and eventually it went away!

That was the only real ‘injury’ concern I had, although one of my toenails had become a bit inflamed during Gold Coast, and I really started to notice it in the last few hours. I was dreading taking my shoes and socks off, because I was fully expecting to see either blood or detached toenails, but was pleased to see neither!

50km came just before 5 hours. My pace hadn’t dropped, so at that point the goalposts shifted and I was going for 60km!

I really enjoyed the last few hours. The 24 hour super crazies started when we had 2 hours to go, so I got to see regular running friends Karen, Tory, Jonathan, Emma, Barry, Michael and Marc start their event, and also met a lot of new people including Sean who was over from Tasmania, and Tracey who had recently done 20 laps of the Snakepit! (The Snakepit is a torture chamber of sorts near the beach in Adelaide’s west – a 500m sand track including some nasty little hills. I’d managed 11 laps that day… 20 was unthinkable!)

I managed to hold my pace in the final hour and crack the 60km mark. My Garmin showed 62km but my official distance was just over 60. Still, I wasn’t complaining… it was WELL beyond what I expected! I went like a maniac in the last 15 minutes… my Garmin showed a couple of sub-5 minute kms right near the end!

Looking at the photos, I’m smiling in ALL of them. And they are not fake smiles like the ones in some of my marathon photos. I was genuinely enjoying myself! And that is another point of contrast (along with the weather) between this event and Gold Coast. Despite it being a fantastic event in perfect weather conditions, and despite getting a PB, my run at Gold Coast was the least enjoyable of my 3 marathons. At the 6 hour, despite the weather and the potential monotony of running the same 2.2km loop 27 TIMES, I had a ball from start to finish!

Regular running buddy Gary, who had covered about 1km more than me despite being troubled by leg cramps late in the event, told me I might be in contention for a podium finish! I was shocked… I never would have expected that! After a tense wait while the final distances were added up, I ended up finishing 2nd female out of 30, and 12th overall out of 55 starters. I was particularly happy to find that along with a sweet trophy to go with my finisher medal, I got a magnum of shiraz thanks to the sponsor Fox Creek Wines! The first place finisher, Marlize, was a few km ahead of me, and I couldn’t see where I could have found any extra kms to knock her out of first place, so I was over the moon with my runner-up finish.

After the presentation I was lucky enough to be treated to a guest pass at a city health club, from Shannon, who had also completed her first 6 hour. Shannon had told me, when I had told her I was aiming for 50km, that I would get closer to 56km! Little did I know that she was right! Along with a few other fellow 6 hour finishers we enjoyed a lovely hot spa and not-so-lovely cold plunge pool… such a relief after the 6 hour slog in the cold and rain!

After dinner in town with Gary and other running friends (curry… my new go-to post-event meal after recovering so well from Gold Coast), we headed back to the Uni Loop to watch the 24 hour runners for a while. We didn’t last long… it was cold, wet and windy. Mega respect to those runners. And the volunteers/pit crews. I’m convinced that their jobs are WAY harder than running!

After a decent night’s sleep (despite the disappointment of Australia’s capitulation in the first Ashes Test) I headed back to the Uni Loop to see the 24 hour runners finish. It was still cold and wet… I was again VERY happy to have ‘only’ run the 6 hour! At the presentation, some of the runners were struggling to walk the 10 or so metres to receive their medals, and some had the medals delivered to them. Again… what a huge effort from those people in such difficult conditions!

I think maybe I might like to do the 24 hour one day. Just once, to say I’ve done it. I won’t be looking to set any records like the remarkable Lee Piantadosi who covered over 200km to take out first female (and first place overall). I’d like to do it in a team, I can’t imagine doing it on my own! And I think I’d need to sleep, at least for a few hours, unlike many of the higher placed finishers.

Thanks to Ben Hockings for putting on this fabulous event… I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to set themselves a challenge! I will definitely be back next year… the only question is, which distance?