I know what I’m doing!

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Non-runners just don’t get it. I think that’s the bottom line.

I try not to go on too much about running when I’m with non-runners. But when you rock up to work on Monday walking like one of your elderly clients, and wearing pink fluffy slippers (because you can) people tend to notice.

“So are you going to take a break for a while now?” was a common question on Monday, after the 105. My response “I’ll probably walk or go for an easy jog tomorrow morning” was apparently not acceptable. “You need to rest!” Actually, no. I know what I’m doing!

Yes, I had a 3 week total break from running after my first marathon last year. I was on holidays in Ireland at the time and to be honest didn’t really think about running much at all! (Except one morning in Dublin, Thursday after the marathon, one of my new friends from the hostel was going out for a run and asked a few of us if we wanted to join. I was mildly tempted but declined) When I got back home it took quite a while to get into a rhythm again.

This year, I have been out on Tuesday after every marathon/ultra. It’s been easy pace, sometimes walk/running, but I really think it helps my recovery. If I can run, I will. I won’t smash myself, I won’t try to break any Strava course records, but I will run.

Tuesday’s run was OK – my main issue was a blister on one toe that was padded and strapped to the point where I’m surprised I managed to get my sock and shoe on! But I ran. It wasn’t fast, but I ran.

Thursday was a little faster and I’d taken the taping off my blister. All good. A little hamstring soreness which is probably still a hangover from City-Bay. After what I put my body through on the weekend, I really can’t complain.

After a gentle trail run on Friday morning I got a little bit of speed up at parkrun on Saturday morning, average pace 4:46 mins/km and no niggles. I did not run on Sunday. That felt WEIRD!

Now for the eating side of things. According to Garmin Connect my Heysen run burned 6705 calories. To put that into perspective that’s almost 4 times my recommended calorie intake for a normal day. Now realistically I don’t think it would be possible for me to eat that many calories in a day. Even the constant snacking on top of a decent breakfast is not even going to come close. I think I’m still trying to make up for it now… can’t stop eating!

And yet people still feel the need to tell me I need to eat more! Trying to follow a mostly plant-based diet means I won’t tend to go for the kind of quick and easy food options that are often on offer. Stop it please people – I know what I’m doing!

After doing a mega long run it’s normal to burn more calories than you could possibly eat. After an ultra, I think it is quite normal to finish a few kg lighter (if you’re racing that is, and not enjoying the buffet too much!) I am definitely trying to regain what I lost at Heysen but there’s no need to be silly about it. I’ll eat the same food as normal, just a bit more of it (in the case of this week, a LOT more!). I’m not going to go out and start eating McDonald’s now.

In the sense of wanting to become the best runner I can be, I am a sponge. I am happy to listen to any advice from other runners that might help me improve. I won’t necessarily take it all on board but I WILL listen.

I AM willing to listen to dietary advice from fellow runners. And dietitians. (Unless that advice is to start eating meat or other animal products – in which case I will listen and ignore!) But I won’t take dietary advice from people who are neither of the above.

So it seems that everyone has an opinion of what’s best for me in terms of training and diet. Does anyone else find this?

Oh and don’t get me started on (well-intentioned) people who are trying to find me a man!  Admittedly my recent track record is not good but I think I’ll just concentrate on living my life the way I want to, and let whatever happens, happen! ☺

Race report – Heysen 105

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For those who are unfamiliar with this event, it is a 105km (ish) ultramarathon along South Australia’s Heysen Trail, from Newland Hill to Kuitpo Forest near Meadows. It is the brainchild of Yumigo!’s Ben Hockings and has been going for some years. This year for the first time there was a ‘half’ distance, 57km, which proved popular with over 100 entrants across the two distances.

My day started at 3.30am after having as much of my gear sorted as possible the night before. I stayed at my parents’ place for the Friday and Saturday night as it is slightly closer than my place to the start of the race.

The day before, I had seen an article on the Ultra168 website which mentioned my name as a possible podium contender – I was shocked (and flattered of course!) I think that did mess with my head a bit because before seeing that I was just focusing on going out and doing the best I could. All of a sudden I was now thinking potential placing!

We had to be at the finish line by 5am to get a bus back to the start. It was somewhat chilly down there compared to when we left town! Breakfast for me was a shake of cereal, rice milk, chia and cacao.

The start line was a hive of activity. There hadn’t been many 105km runners on the bus (most of the passengers were 57km runners) but there were a lot more at the start who had managed to get a ride to the start, negating the need for such an early start! Last minute gear checks and bib collection done, it was time for the race briefing. Beck had lent me a buff which I had planned to use as an ear warmer if it got cold later, but it came in very handy at the start!

The forecast maximum temperature was 31 degrees (Celsius) which was going to make the exposed sections of the course very trying!

Before we knew it the clock had ticked over to 7:00 and we were off! It was going to be a long, hard day.

START TO CHECKPOINT 1 – 17km
The first section was relatively easy, more so of course because I was still fresh! I may have erred by having an energy drink at the start – that possibly made me go out too fast. The other effect of having the energy drink was that very early on in the race, despite the bus making a toilet stop on the way to the start line, I needed another! Maybe that made me run faster too – I knew there were toilets at CP1 (real ones, not portaloos!)

I ran the first section in good time and 1 hour 43 was on the clock when I left the  checkpoint post toilet stop and application of sunscreen – average pace 5:59 per km . I seemed to waste a fair bit of time there despite trying to streamline my pit stop procedure after Yurrebilla! As I left the checkpoint I saw Jo Kruk, red hot favourite to win the women’s event, approaching the checkpoint. I was surprised to see her behind me – I would have expected to see her ahead in the distance.

CHECKPOINT 1 TO CHECKPOINT 2 – 18km
From the training runs this was the hardest section I’d seen (bearing in mind that I had missed the CP2 – CP3 training run). Lots of elevation, STEPS, narrow trails, ducking under trees. I also grew to hate the stiles we had to climb over to go through paddocks – there were so many of them! I ran with SA running legend Barry McBride for a little while which was great, and found out that Jo is a slow starter and fast finisher. He wasn’t kidding! As most of the runners slowed to a walk going up one of the early hills in this section, Jo kept running, relentless! I couldn’t see any way that she wasn’t going to win the women’s event!

After a particularly brutal section of the course my pace had dropped when I reached the checkpoint but still respectable at 6:34/km, the time clock showed 3 hours 51 and I’d covered 35km.
Once again I tried to be as efficient as possible at the checkpoint – reapplying my sunscreen, filling up my drink bottles (water and Gatorade) and guzzling some amazingly delicious Coke!

This was also the first point where we could have drop bags – I had put boiled, salted potatoes in each bag so eagerly hoed into those but they didn’t taste very nice (maybe not enough salt… who knows?) so that was the last I had of them! I had planned to supply most of my own nutrition so I was carrying nut bars, almonds, Lifesavers, sandwiches and my new favourite, salted mashed sweet potato in a gel flask. Like baby food. Nom nom nom! I should have put a nut bar in each drop bag but had gone with alternate ones – I REALLY felt like a nut bar at CP2 but didn’t have one. Another lesson for next time!

I got out of the checkpoint quickly but soon realised I’d forgotten to grab a brownie or two – DEVASTATED! Those brownies are legendary! Oh well, too late now – no turning back!

CHECKPOINT 2 TO CHECKPOINT 3 – 22km
This was a hard slog. The temperature was really starting to heat up and there wasn’t a whole lot of shade in this section. Plus it was LONG – 22km between checkpoints – whose idea was that? It was also the only part of the course I hadn’t seen, having missed that particular training run. I had been warned though!

To make matters worse I managed to have a stack at around 38km (still nearly 20km from the next checkpoint) and grazed my knee. It happened in slow motion – as a result I managed to land relatively softly and saved my hands from damage but still when I looked down, there was blood. Oh well, can’t stop now, just gotta keep moving and we’ll deal with that at the next checkpoint! There was a fair bit of running through sand in this section – something I knew I would experience again near the finish! We also encountered a few curious cows – I greeted them and kept moving, trying not to startle them. I didn’t think any of them were bulls but I didn’t want to take any chances!

At the 50km mark I rewarded myself with a couple of energy pills (all legit I might add!) and certainly noticed that they gave me a boost when they kicked in about half an hour later. I approached the checkpoint strongly and reached 57km in 6 hours 58, average pace 7:14, slower again but still within my goal pace (I was aiming for 14-15 hours) and faster than my 56km Yurrebilla time. So all in all, things were going well!

It was a bit weird seeing the 57km runners finish… why did I enter the 105 and not the 57??? I had some fantastic help at this checkpoint from volunteer Annie (who was at every checkpoint from then on) and supporter Shannon who reapplied my sunscreen while I tried to text my buddy runner Kirsten to let her know I was ahead of schedule and suggested that instead of meeting me ar CP4 at 5:00, she could meet me at CP5 at around 5:30/6. There were some technical issues with the phone and there MAY have been some swearing.

I also had the first aid girl take a look at my knee, I said I didn’t want a dressing on it as that would restrict my movement. She put some Vaseline on it to keep the flies out (they were all over it before then – ewww!) I marked the halfway point with a fresh top and I was good to go!

CHECKPOINT 3 TO CHECKPOINT 4 – 17km
This was when it all went a bit pear-shaped. At around 60km (coincidentally also the longest distance I’d ever run up to that point) I got myself a bit lost. Up until that point I had had no trouble following the Heysen Trail markers and the extra markers that the fantastic volunteers had put out, but I came to a field where I was supposed to go ‘diagonally across’. Unfortunately I went the wrong diagonal! No markers, no nothing! CRAP. I walked around the perimeter of the field for what seemed like ages, still nothing! I tried using navigation on my phone but that was useless. I did have brief thoughts of quitting at that point but told myself to HTFU and get on with it. I even contemplated getting out my map and compass (the latter item I had very little idea how to use) and then I saw a figure running diagonally across the field in what turned out to be the correct direction. I chased him down and ran with him for a while, his name was Brenton and he was very familiar with that particular section of the course, having marked it previously. I was back on track!

That little detour made that section probably the least enjoyable for me. There was one other point in this section where I wasn’t sure of directions – at a point where a group of guys were sitting having a few beers. How rude of them not to offer me one, I thought… a hard earned thirst needs a big cold beer, right? I continued straight ahead, up a hill, and couldn’t see any markers, so I thought to be sure I’d go back and ask the guys where the runners had been going. They told me, up the hill. Of course it was up. Barry had told me earlier, when in doubt, it’s always UP hill. I said to them “You’re not messing with me are you?” (I may not have said ‘messing’) and they said of course not, they wouldn’t mess with someone who runs 100+ km for fun! Right. Fun. That was why we were here!

My pace really dropped in this section so I was texting Kirsten back and forth revising my ETA at CP5. First it was 5.30, then 6, then it became apparent I wasn’t going to make it by 6. In the end I should have stuck with the original plan!

Throughout the day I’d been regularly encountering people who were crewing for competitors in the race. Two in particular were Bev, Barry’s wife, who would always offer me something as I ran past her, and Michael, husband of Anna, who I had met on a trail run at the beginning of the year and I seemed to keep running into at events ever since! Michael had offered me an Icy-Pole during this section and I had declined, but on the approach to CP4 there he was again with the Icy-Poles. As I was going to be stopping briefly there anyway, I gratefully accepted – the Icy-Poles were a winner at Yurrebilla and I really needed one now!

I reached CP4 (74km) in just under 10 hours, average pace 7:52 min/km – a significant drop in pace, not really surprising! Again Annie was there with the other fantastic volunteers and helped me get my hydration and nutrition sorted as well as my night running gear which would soon be required. I took my head torch and hi-viz vest out of my drop bag (both mandatory items) and threw in the gloves and hand warmers (just in case – nothing worse than cold numb hands!). I did one last sunscreen reapplication and ditched the sunscreen in my drop bag. Thankfully the temperature was starting to drop and it was looking like being a beautiful evening.

CHECKPOINT 4 TO CHECKPOINT 5 – 12km
It was about 4:50 when I left the checkpoint, trying to text Kirsten with an update but frustrated to find that even with the supposedly superior Telstra network I had no reception. It didn’t matter though because a car drove past me and I quickly realised it was her! Dropped off by her husband, she joined me and my mood elevated immediately!

This was a short and relatively easy section, but I have no doubt that Kirsten’s arrival improved my run from that point. They say ultra running is mostly mental and there’s nothing like having someone fresh to run with, to take your mind off all the crap that goes through your head when you run on your own for long stretches! The 4-and-a-bit hours we ran together seemed to go so quickly, the conversation just kept flowing and I didn’t even have to resort to singing!

We reached the final checkpoint (86.5km by my watch) in 11 hours 35 – average pace 8:03 min/km. We hadn’t lost much pace at all in that section! We definitely ran more than I had in the previous section – I think I had walked more than half of that one. Again it was having a fresh set of legs with me that encouraged me to run/walk when I would otherwise have been inclined to walk/walk!

The fabulous Mal and Merrilyn were at CP5 with their usual spread of food (the pumpkin soup sounded very appealing but I didn’t really want to eat ‘proper’ food at that point – I would have preferred that at the finish! I opted not to have a toilet break here because I thought if I sat down I might not get up again. Besides, I didn’t really need to go. I could make it to the finish – only 18km to go! We had to don our hi-viz vests and we had our head torches ready to go for when darkness fell.

CHECKPOINT 5 TO FINISH – 18km
This section was just magical. The course was beautifully marked with glow-in-the-dark signs that made it impossible to get lost (a good thing given that I am somewhat navigationally-challenged, not to mention the fact that by now I was a wee bit tired!) The weather was ideal – balmy and still.

It was quiet, and we saw very few other runners other than a few behind us at times. Whenever we saw someone getting closer we’d pick up the pace – there was NO WAY I was letting anyone pass me now! We walked/ran (amazingly I still had some ‘run’ left in my legs) and made sure we kept some distance between us amd the people behind. They may not have even been part of the race but we weren’t taking any chances!

I was re-acquainted with one of my least favourite running surfaces – sand! MAN that was tough after 90+ km!

Running through Kuitpo Forest was wonderful. We saw a bunch of roos bounding across the track. The trail was relatively easy, a good thing given that it was dark by this stage and we were navigating by torchlight!

I guess the fact that we were almost at the finish helped make this section my favourite! The last little bit did seem to go forever though… the course was measured to be 102.4km so I had based my time estimate on that, but I knew my little navigation mishap in the field would have added on distance – I just didn’t know how much. When we hit 100km I was still confident we’d get under 14 hours. It wasn’t to be – but it would be close!

Kirsten saw a red light up ahead and said ‘Is that a clock?’ I quickly realised that was the time clock and THAT WAS THE FINISH LINE! I was so excited! We had done it! I picked up the pace and crossed the line to the cheers of the crowd. There is no better feeling! According to the Garmin I had borrowed from Simon for its longer battery life (unfortunately software compatibility issues mean I haven’t yet been able to upload the run to Strava, which technically means it didn’t happen), my time was 14 hours 5 minutes. Just outside my goal of sub 14 hours but I ran 104.87km rather than 102.4km so I’ll call that a sub-14! Average pace was 8:03 min/km – we had maintained our overall average pace from the previous section! I was over the moon!

It was time to celebrate and eat All. Of. The. Food. Spuds with salt. Coke. BROWNIES. I was very excited to open my finish line drop bag and find a pair of ugg boots in there. I was initially scared to take off my shoes and socks but surprisingly my feet were relatively intact and slipping into those ugg boots was HEAVEN!

The only thing that marred my enjoyment of the finish line was the fact that I couldn’t find my car and house keys, which I was SURE I’d put in my finish line drop bag! I checked ALL my drop bags and other people were only too willing to help, Paul very kindly even went back to CP5 and got my last 2 remaining drop bags (they weren’t in there either!) I called the RAA to break into my car (which was parked MILES away from the finish line) so I could get everything out that I needed. While waiting for them, Michael found some tape that would allow Vince to try to get into my car. We made the long trek to the car. Not only had I left it UNLOCKED but I had left my interior light on! A girl called Kate had left a nice note on my steering wheel to tell me she’d turned it off! Luckily I had left it unlocked otherwise I would have had a flat battery as well as no keys! Thanks Kate!

Vince and fellow 105k finisher Arwen very kindly gave us a lift back to my parents’ place, getting there around 2:15am. Mum was there waiting to let me in, as I’d told her about the key situation! After a long awaited shower I finally hit the hay around 3:30, 24 hours after I got up! What a day!

THINGS TO NOTE FOR NEXT TIME
-No energy drink at the start – save that for CP3 or 4. And on a related note DON’T GO OUT TOO FAST!
-More nut bars!
-Buddy runner – ESSENTIAL!
-Learn how to run in a diagonal.

Overall I was really happy with how it went. It was a tough day… many people didn’t make it to the finish. I don’t know if I’ll run this event next year but if not I’ll definitely be involved somehow! It was a great first 100km experience and I would certainly recommend it to anyone who is keen to give this distance a crack!

Heysen 105km pre-race diary

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MONDAY

The enormity of the task ahead is beginning to sink in. What have I gotten myself into? After a chat with the very experienced ultrarunner Karen last night I am going to try to increase my carb intake this week without going silly on the calories and without strictly ‘carb-loading’. Karen suggested to replace protein with carbs. This is going to be tricky because I already know I struggle to get enough protein in. I’m thinking I’m going to be eating a lot of potatoes and bread in the next week.

On Saturday night I taped my feet to prevent blisters. I was a little overzealous when removing the tape and took some skin off the bottom of my foot, near the pinky toe. I can feel it with every step. I need to find some way of padding it so it doesn’t affect me on Saturday. 105km is a LOT OF STEPS! Tomorrow morning will be my last run before the big day – my last opportunity to try out whatever remedy I manage to come up with!

TUESDAY

Went for my last run this morning – 10km in 1 hour. Felt OK – a bit flat, just tired I think! Will be good to have a few days off leading up to Saturday. I put some gauze over the open area under my foot and secured it with strapping tape – seemed to work OK. I noticed it when I thought about it, but it didn’t really bother me too much. It should be better by Saturday anyway. Caught up with Kirsten this morning – her husband was a buddy runner for someone last year so she knows what to expect.

Finally got around to reading the event handbook. Good thing I did too because I found out there is no gear drop at Checkpoint 1 which means I will just have to carry a little bit more food in my pack – glad I found that out now and not on the day!

WEDNESDAY

Shit’s getting real now.

Just saw on Facebook that CP2-3 is very wet and possibly won’t dry out by Saturday. This is also the section I haven’t seen, having done City-Bay instead of that particular training run. Also heard it’s gonna be WARM – I still think I’d prefer warm to freezing cold. Will need to throw an extra pair of socks into my pack!

I’m halfway between ridiculously excited and shitting bricks!

On a positive note I took the tape and padding off my foot this morning, seems to be healed and it’s felt OK all day today. Must be more careful next time I take tape off!

I’ve decided to carry 2 phones on the day – a small basic phone with a Telstra SIM card (better reception and battery life) and my usual smartphone (let’s face it, mainly for photos/videos and Facebook updates!)

THURSDAY

OK so I’m sort of organised now. I’ve started packing food and gear into my drop bags. I can’t leave the drop bags out because my cats will destroy them! I’ve put spare shoes and socks into the bags for CP2 and CP3 (apparently CP1 – CP2 is also wet) and I think I’ll just end up putting spare socks into all the drop bags. I don’t have enough spare shoes!

I went for a walk this morning with my regular Thursday morning group. There were a few of us walking this morning! My fellow 105k competitor Arwen was RUNNING – crazy woman!

Tonight I’m going to cook some potatoes to put in my drop bags. I found the salted potatoes at Yurrebilla THE BEST!

FRIDAY

A nice sleep in (6:00am alarm) and coffee with my running group was the perfect way to start race eve. Last night I got all my food ready and ticked a few more items off my list. I’ve got a short day at work today (finishing at lunchtime) to allow for any last minute prep so I can get to bed at a reasonable hour! (I haven’t quite worked out what ‘reasonable’ is but it’s gonna be pretty damn early considering I have to be up at 3:30ish tomorrow – eek!)

FUCK! Less than 24 hours and this is actually happening! Whose idea was this?

100km – a whole new ball game!

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This week I entered the Ultra-Trails Australia 100km event in the Blue Mountains in May. You may know it as The North Face 100. It is an iconic event, Australia’s biggest ultra (I think!) and this year there were 1300 places allocated to the 100km event. At just under $400 to enter (let alone all the costs for gear, travel and accommodation) it’s not cheap but still it sold out in under 2 days, so I got in early. I’m in!

I decided to enter the event after crewing there this year. Much like my Yurrebilla volunteering experience in 2014, attending the event as a non-participant made me determined to enter as a competitor the following year!

Yurrebilla was my first ultra. Although that was a challenging course, UTA100 is a different kettle of fish. For a start, it’s pretty much double the distance. And instead of being in the Adelaide Hills, this is in the Blue Mountains. Extremes of temperature are common, and there is 4200m of elevation. On top of this is the added challenge of running through the night which most (other than the super elites who are finished before sunset) have to contend with.

As part of my long-term preparation for this event I entered the Heysen 105k ultra which takes place this coming Saturday. I thought it would be good to have a 100km event under my belt before tackling UTA100, and being close to home (less than an hour from town) the travel and accommodation costs would be minimised. I would also have the opportunity to train on the course, and it is a much gentler course than the UTA100.

One of the biggest challenges of the 100km event as opposed to the shorter ultras, is running through the night, mostly on trails. I have done a bit of night trail running before but never in a race. The night trail runs I have done have been around Cleland and Belair in the Adelaide Hills, always in a group, and always social, so we tend to stick together (or at least regroup at regular intervals). A race is totally different, especially an event with around 100 participants, where the night section of the race will come quite late and therefore the field will be more spread out – it is highly unlikely that I will be in a group by that stage.

Last weekend I did 2 night trail runs. The first one was around Cleland, which is relatively familiar territory for me (although with my somewhat limited navigational skills, I could probably easily get lost if I ended up on my own). It was an abbreviated, 12km run, thankfully cutting out the climb up Mount Lofty, and we saw a couple of koalas, lots of kangaroos, a few deer, and even a frog!

The second night run for the weekend was along the last section of the Heysen 105 course – around 18km. We started just before 7:30pm in fading light, and it wasn’t long before the mandatory head torches came into action. This run was different to any of the night runs I’d done before. Whereas the Belair and Cleland ones are more technical, this one was mostly wide tracks, quite a bit of dirt road, and some sand (which I’m sure will be a whole lot tougher next week when I will have already run 90km!)! I ran pretty much the whole run with a guy called Adam who had run this section in daylight the week before, so was familiar with the course – very handy! Running through Kuitpo Forest was interesting, I couldn’t imagine running that section on my own – well I could imagine it but it was a scary proposition!

Luckily in the Heysen 105, runners are allowed/encouraged to have buddy runners to run the last part of the course. Buddy runners are allowed from Checkpoint 3 which is also the finish of the new 57km event. The idea of the buddy runner is to run through the night. The cut-off time is 7am Sunday, and runners have the option of starting at either 6am or 7am. As someone who values her sleep, and has no intention of being out there for even close to 24 hours, I opted for the 7am start.

Beck, with whom I ran most of Yurrebilla, was originally going to be my buddy runner and then, after making sure I had an alternative, she decided to enter the 57km event. That worked out well, because now I potentially have someone to run with for the first 57km! Theoretically I can then have my buddy runner (Kirsten) with me from that point, but I thought I’d be nice to her considering she has just run the Melbourne Marathon!

I needed to work out what time I would estimate getting to the checkpoints so I could then work out when I would be likely running at night. The plan is to have Kirsten with me just for the night section and based on my training runs there was no way it was going to be dark by the time I got to 57km! I had done all but one of the training runs and cumulatively covered around 80km in 7.5 hours, averaging just over 10km/hour. It is a less physically challenging course than Yurrebilla which I did at around 8-ish km/hour, but realistically I knew I wasn’t going to be able to run 105km at 10km/hour – I’d LOVE it if I could, but fatigue will be a factor.

Double Yurrebilla time seems to be a pretty good rule of thumb for those who have done both events. For me that would be around 14 hours – add an hour to be safe. So I’m hoping to be finished between 9 and 10pm. Therefore realistically I might only be running from Checkpoint 5 to the finish in the dark. To be safe though I decided to ask Kirsten to run with me from Checkpoint 4 which would mean she would be doing the last 28km with me. Just a nice walk in the park for her after Melbourne Marathon! It wasn’t going to be fast running either, let’s face it (and probably a lot of walking). I did the last 18km section in 1 hour 40 on the weekend but I’d be dreaming if I thought I could do that in the race! Based on the average pace of 7-7.5km/hour I estimate I will reach Checkpoint 4 between 5:15 and 6pm.

One major difference between the 56km Yurrebilla ultra and this event is that the checkpoints are fewer and further between. This means that I need to carry a lot more gear and food. For a start there is a mandatory gear list including head torch, hi-viz vest, beanie and gloves – all of these for the simple fact that night running is part of the event. I’ll also need to carry more water – at Yurrebilla I only carried a maximum of 250mL water and 250mL sports drink whereas at Heysen I will need to carry not only bottles but also some water in a bladder, given that there will be around 20km between checkpoints. I needed to buy a bigger pack – the pack I have been using all year for my long runs and also for Yurrebilla just won’t cut it for the longer distance. I went with an Ultimate Direction PB Adventure Vest which I ordered online and fortunately arrived on the Friday before the second last Heysen training run. So I have had 2 opportunities to practise with it before the event – so far so good! The only minor hiccup was, the first time I used it, I couldn’t figure out how to operate the drink bottles – I got to the point where I would unscrew the top and drink like I was drinking out of a glass – I knew that there had to be some easier way to get the drink out!

At Yurrebilla I relied mostly on the food provided at the checkpoints, but at Heysen I am going to have to supply a lot of my own nutrition. To avoid weighing myself down, I plan to use drop bags – one for each of the 5 checkpoints and one for the finish line. For this I bought 6 supermarket cooler bags and labelled each with my name and the checkpoint I want it left at. Without having a support person to follow me around, this is the best way to ensure I have what I need, when I need it. In the bags will be mainly nutrition but also other gear that isn’t going to be needed throughout the entire race (eg cold weather gear and hi-viz vest).

Nutrition-wise I’m keeping it simple and keeping with the tried and tested. My sports drink of choice is lemon-lime Gatorade, having not had too much success accessing the Nippys True Grit which was supplied at Yurrebilla – that stuff was GOOOOD! I use the powder, so will put 500mL worth of powder in each of my drop bags, so I can mix up some more at each checkpoint. I’ll also have a few pre-mixed protein shakes if I need them along the way.

For food I am going to carry a cut-up nut bar (with a couple more spread between a few of the drop bags for later), a portion of Lifesavers and almonds (again, some more of these will be in drop bags), and half a white bread sandwich (each drop bag will have half a sandwich in it – alternating between 2 different nut spreads, for a bit of variety!). I plan to have some salted, boiled baby potatoes in each drop bag as these were a godsend at Yurrebilla – I’m not normally one who craves salty food but it’s amazing how much you need (and appreciate) it after running for a long time!

My new ‘thing’, and something I tried for the first time at that last night run (not wanting to try something new on race day – NEVER EVER do that!) is mashed sweet potato with salt, in a gel tube. The tube I used was actually designed for toiletries, easy squeeze with a leakproof valve, but is certified food-safe. I used that during the night run and MAN did it taste good! I plan to carry one of these and put more in later drop bags. Very easy to eat, no chewing required, tasty, salty and a good hit of carbs – ticks all the boxes!

I booked a room at the St Francis Winery Resort, about 17km from the finish. I did not fancy driving back to Adelaide, potentially very late at night, after running 105km. Camping at the finish line was an option but I thought a bed sounded a lot more appealing.

Normally I run 5 times a week. My plan for race week is to have an easy run (call it a ‘jogette’) on Tuesday, and a walk with my Thursday morning group. I will skip Friday altogether (although knowing me I will probably go and meet the group for coffee afterwards!). I need to be fresh for Saturday and I certainly don’t want to risk injury by doing anything silly!

My next blog post will be a report of the Heysen 105 – wish me luck!

Two halves make a whole… right?

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A while back I ran the Adelaide half marathon as the 2 hour pacer. I enjoyed it so much and found it so rewarding that within days I had signed up to pace again at the McLaren Vale half. I initially said I’d pace 2:15 but quickly switched to 2:00 after I was told by someone involved in the running club (who shall remain nameless) that 2:15 was a ‘BS’ time to be pacing. No disrespect intended but 2:00 was likely to be a more popular target time and therefore one more in need of a pacer.

Why pace again? I had this elusive PB, now almost 18 months old, that I couldn’t seem to break. I had come within 10 seconds in May (which over 21.1km is VERY close) and in the ensuing months had set new PBs in every other distance. Pacing would remove all possibility of breaking my PB of 1:42:43.

Well, there was the small matter of the Masters Games half marathon the previous day. Here I WOULD be targeting a PB. By all accounts it was a tricky course, being the same course used the last time the Games were held in Adelaide. It was a 4-lapper, so roughly 4-and-a-bit parkruns. My PB was set at the 2014 Greenbelt half which was an undulating but net downhill course. I didn’t really know how to pace it. I knew I should be able to get the silver medal but there was a chance that my 5000m conqueror, Lisa, might not be running. Other than tying her shoelaces together (which one running buddy did jokingly suggest) there was little chance of my beating her considering she had won the Adelaide half in a time well beyond anything I’d ever done! Only the fact that she was wanting to have a good run at the Melbourne half the following week would give me any chance.

I had initially targeted the Masters half as my chosen event for a virtual run organised by fellow runner Chris. A virtual run is a popular way to raise money for a given cause, by encouraging people to sign up to run a particular distance (anything from 5km to 150km, either in a single run or cumulative), pay a registration fee, and get a sweet medal! You know me, anything for more bling! Chris was running some ridiculous number of marathons over 24 months to raise money for cancer research. I don’t know how he does it – 2 marathons in 6 weeks nearly did me in!

The rationale behind choosing this event was because usually for a half marathon you get a finisher medal but in the Masters Games it’s only the top 3 in each age group that get a medal. At the time of entering I expected a lot of competition so would not have even considered a medal as a possibility. As it turns out, under-40 females don’t tend to enter Masters Games athletics events. (The low numbers may have also had something to do with the Oceania Masters Games being scheduled at the same time. In the Cook Islands. I have no idea why anyone would want to go there…) So a medal was a distinct likelihood.

Given that I would be getting a finisher medal for pacing at McLaren Vale, I decided to mark this unique weekend by making my ‘Virtual Run’ a marathon, run literally in two halves, across the weekend.

I always like to talk about preparation. Be it superstition or actual science (let’s face it, most likely the former) I find it helpful to review my pre-race prep to determine where I may have gone wrong or right.

My lead-up week was (appropriately) similar to a marathon week. I ran Tuesday reasonably easy (it was a hilly run so it wasn’t exactly easy but it wasn’t fast) as a recovery from the 5000m on Monday. Thursday I had a good solid hit-out. Then I walked on Friday morning because I’d entered the City Mile on Friday night. I won’t talk too much about that (because it would take longer to write about than it took to run!) but it was a bit of fun… 1600m of going hard and fast! The course was lovely, running past the Adelaide Oval to the roar of the crowd (OK so the crowd were there watching an A-League blockbuster, not us, but still…) and finishing with a run across the Riverbank Footbridge. It also included a nice little downhill (which I would grow to love) and a nasty little uphill coming out of Elder Park (which I would grow to hate. Very much.) It was a warm and muggy night and my new hi-viz yellow singlet seemed to be the favourite of every bug in the place! I did a respectable 6:19 and finished second in my age group (again, after Lisa who was also first female overall).

It took ages to get home by bus (I’d gone with public transport because I thought the football crowd would make parking difficult) and I was getting hungry so on impulse I stopped at Grill’d on The Parade for a mushroom burger on my way home.

Race morning I had my usual breakfast and wore my new pink SARRC top which had already been ‘broken in’ in the 5000m. I went with my black lululemon skirt rather than the black and white… I knew I was tempting fate here because it was the black skirt I had worn for the ill-fated Clare half, and I’d done 2 good marathons in the black and white. I had taped both feet as usual to prevent blisters.

I got to the start in plenty of time and it was great to see so many familiar faces. And no Lisa, who had told me the night before that she wasn’t going to be running the half. So now I was going for gold as well as a PB…

The start was delayed a bit to ensure we didn’t run into the Torrens parkrun which was due to start at the same time, and covered part of our course. The day threatened to be hot but it was mild and overcast as we prepared to start.

I don’t like to start too close to the front as I have a tendency to go out too fast. But hardly anyone seemed to want to start at the front (and it was a modest field anyway) so somehow I found myself right on the start line.

I didn’t have a pacing strategy as such. I just wanted to keep a consistent pace throughout. I had set my watch to alert me if I ran outside the range of 4:35-4:50 minutes per km.

Looking back at my Strava data, without getting into too much analysis, it looks like the first 2 laps were faster than the second 2. This is the opposite of what I have previously aimed for in half marathons but it makes sense. By lap 3 it had started to warm up. I also found the halfway point the hardest part of the race… getting to the end of lap 2 and knowing I still had to go around twice more!

I ran behind fellow parkrunner Donna for the first couple of laps. I knew she was carrying an injury and might slow down, I was in no hurry to pass her, quite happy to sit behind her and let her set the pace! I didn’t want to pass her until the final lap but I think it was just before the end of the 2nd lap that I realised she (and therefore I) was slowing and I needed to get past. Maybe that’s another reason why I found it hard around the halfway point – I’d lost my pacer!

I did find the 4 laps the most difficult aspect of the course. Early on there was the aforementioned downhill which I used to my advantage… I knew when it was coming up and ensured I was positioned so I could fly down and gain some valuable seconds. On one of the laps I had to negotiate cyclists going both ways, another runner and some walkers. I tucked my arms in close, called out ‘coming through on your right’ and managed to get through without hitting anyone.

The uphill out of Elder Park also happened to be where one of the official photographers was positioned so of course I had to pretend to be enjoying myself! After going past the photo-op I would plod up the (thankfully quite short) hill, cross the river via the bridge, thank the lovely volunteer marshalling on the corner and head back along the very familiar northern side of the river, part of the parkrun course.

There were a few points on the course where the spectators gave me a great lift – some of them were familiar faces, others random strangers, but all very welcome! There was the fabulous bunch of ladies in crazy hats who were there cheering on some friends in the race but gave all the competitors a great cheer as we passed. They were also running McLaren Vale the next day so I told them to look out for me! There were the volunteers under the Montefiore Rd bridge – they were volunteering for the dragon boat competition but still cheered us on. Speaking of the dragon boats, on the northern side of the river their village was set up and the crews who were not competing at that time would also give us fantastic encouragement (although they also threatened to get in our way at times – at one point I was thinking that tripping over an oar would be a very unfortunate way to go out of a running race!). Finally there were the parkrun people who always gave a great roar as I passed. (It was particularly great to see fellow parkrunners Graham and Neil come to the start to wish us well before the start, and again to see Neil there at the finish!)

I knew my previous PB pace was 4:49 minutes per km and when I got to the final lap I knew that PB was going down! The next question was, could I break the 1:40 barrier? I thought under 100 minutes was a nice mark to aim for.

On the final lap, especially after passing the dragon boat crews and parkrun friends for the last time, I got my second wind. I managed to pass one more woman, who had looked really strong. I had seen her in the distance and didn’t have any plans to pass her – not that she was in my age group so it didn’t really matter – but suddenly there she was and I found myself needing to pass her otherwise I was going to have to slow down. I thought she’d probably run me down before the finish line but she didn’t.

With 1km to go I did a quick calculation. Barring disaster, sub 1:40 was a done deal! I did contemplate pulling back at the finish to give myself a chance of beating this new PB, but didn’t. I went for the customary sprint finish – I think I passed one more woman just before the finish chute. I was glad I had a strong finish as both of my parents were there to see it!

Garmin says 1:37:54. Official time 1:37:52. That’s nearly 5 minutes off my previous PB – I finally did it! And I got a gold medal to show for it! (My gold medal has been engraved with my Garmin time as I wanted to take advantage of the cheap engraving at the Games village and I didn’t want to wait for final results.)

Saturday night I met Mum at the Village for the Closing Ceremony. After the formalities were over, an excellent INXS cover band took to the stage. I kept running into people I knew and after Mum headed home I hit the dance floor with some former soccer teammates. I’m not going to mention any names but a few friends were buying me drinks/getting me free ones despite my efforts to have a relatively quiet night! It was a fantastic night but the 5:30am Sunday alarm was not exactly welcome! I was cursing myself for letting things get out of hand but quickly got to business… breakfast, kitting up, rehydrating! I also needed to add some extra tape to my feet as I had acquired a couple of new blisters from walking through town the previous night, and then dancing the night away, while wearing thongs! (For those readers unfamiliar with Australianisms – thongs are a type of FOOTWEAR)

Sunday’s kit was, as per tradition, a costume rather than a running outfit as such. I’d gone with German beer wench (possibly ironic given the event was being held in one of SA’s best known wine regions) in honour of Oktoberfest – given the race was being held in October! I had never run in it. Not even at all.

Rule #1 of running – don’t try anything new on race day.

I made it to the start in plenty of time (I had actually thought the half started at 8 – turned out to be 8:15. Oh well – better early than late!) I was feeling the effects of the night before, continuing to rehydrate right up to the start. This of course had the undesired effect of me spending the entire 2 hours of the race counting down the minutes until I could get to a toilet!

I attached my blue balloons and positioned myself in the middle of the field. My pace alerts were set for 5:30-5:45. 5:35 to 5:38 was where I was aiming to stay.

This was a much easier course to pace than Adelaide. For one it is much flatter, meaning it was easier to maintain consistent pace than on the undulating Adelaide course. Also the smaller numbers meant my rhythm wasn’t broken up so much by needing to pass people. Finally I’d started my watch on the starter’s gun, meaning that I was aiming for sub 2 hours gun time, so anyone who finished in front of or close to me, regardless of starting position, would break 2 hours.

I had people run with me for a while and then go off alone, much like Adelaide. Some I knew, some I didn’t. I spoke to a number of people after the finish who had either been just behind me or in front and had broken 2 hours. The out and back nature of the course meant that those who were in front of me got to see where they were in relation to me. It was a great feeling to have had a small part in helping them reach their goals!

I managed to keep consistent pace except when I was chatting to regular running buddy Christine for a while before realising I’d slowed to 5:40 pace… I had to farewell Christine and go off on my own (she ended up finishing in just over 2 hours – not bad considering she only decided to enter on Friday!)

Towards the end I slowed a bit because I didn’t want to finish TOO much under 2 hours, but enough to get people who were following me, across the line in sub-2. One runner, Karen, had said to me with a few km to go, “You passed me at Adelaide… you’re not going to pass me here!” She then got away from me for a while but towards the end I closed in on her again. I think I crossed the line less than half a second behind her! In the end I finished in 1:59:00 gun time which I was pleased with. Once I got my medal it was Mission:Toilet (and not portaloo) but along the way I kept getting caught up in conversations with people! (You will be happy to know I did eventually make it!)

Happily the outfit didn’t give me any chafing or other problems. Again it was the balloons that were more annoying than anything else I was wearing! Passing barbed wire fences and going through tunnels was particularly problematic but both balloons survived the 21.1km journey intact!

So there you have it. Cumulative marathon complete. 2 medals and another to come for the Virtual Run. Ideal prep for a 105km ultra in 2 weeks I guess? Time will tell!

I can’t recommend the Masters Games highly enough. I barely scratched the surface with my involvement but I’m definitely keen to go again – especially if it involves travel! I wish I had gone to more of the social events in the evenings but it’s hard when you’re working during the day. So if you’re 30 or over – pick a sport (or 3!) and get involved!

Satisfied… and exhausted!

And now for something completely different…

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Last week was a 56km ultramarathon. This week attention turned to the 15th Australian Masters Games – ‘Australia’s greatest multi-sport festival for 30+ year olds’ (according to the cover of the Games guide!)

I had entered the Games just before the earlybird cut-off. At the time I had entered just two events, the track 5000m and the half marathon. I was later convinced to enter the City Mile by multiple Masters gold medallist Ros.

My mum, a recent convert to parkrun, had entered one event, the 5000m walk, which was the first event on the track on Saturday. She had won gold, 2 laps ahead of the second placegetter! The pressure was on…

Monday morning rolled around and it was going to be a hot one, with a forecast top of 36 degrees. Fortunately the 5000m had been rescheduled from the middle of the day to 9am, the first track event of the day. I had never run on a track before so didn’t really know what to expect.

I was up early and had my breakfast shake before heading to the stadium. I was there well ahead of my event so that gave me time to chat to some other competitors, many of whom had travelled from interstate. I realised then that I had probably missed an opportunity because most of the people I spoke to had entered multiple events. There was the steeplechase (supposedly a lot of fun), cross country, and of course the shorter track events like the 800m and 1500m. I would have had no idea how to race those last 2 distances, but at only $15 per event, you get best value for money by entering lots of events. Also, being in one of the younger age groups, there seems to be less competition. The 40s and 50s look to be the most popular age groups.

I looked over and saw Lisa, who is in my age group and seems to win everything. I wasn’t holding out much hope… she said she was sore after the steeplechase but I told her she’d have to be REALLY sore for me to have a chance of beating her!

It was about 28 degrees as we lined up to start the race. I had set the lap distance on my Garmin to 400m and we would be running 12.5 laps of the track.

I was close to the inside lane, where we would all eventually be running, to avoid running further than we needed to.

The starting gun went and we were off! I started well, with my first 3 laps being 1:32, 1:36 and 1:34. I passed 2km (5 laps) in 7:57. If I could have sustained that pace I would have run 5000m under 20 minutes for the first time EVER!

No matter what distance I’m running, I don’t like getting ‘stuck’ behind anyone. So I did overtake a few people early on so I could settle into a rhythm and not run slower than a comfortable pace. I soon found myself in 4th position overall (I’m not sure exactly how many runners were in the race), behind Lisa and 2 runners from the 45-49 age group, Frina and Sarah. They were all a long way in front of me.

The field included one runner from the youngest age group, 30-34, and two runners in the 80-84 age group. Over the course of the 12.5 laps I passed both of the 80+ ladies several times, offering encouragement all the way. In my job I do get a very skewed view of ageing and it’s quite inspirational to see 80+ athletes out there competing -I sincerely hope I can still compete at that age! (I even saw a man in the 90-94 age group – I don’t know what event he was in but I had to look twice at his bib to be sure of his age – he looked at least 20 years younger than he was!)

Unfortunately (and not really surprisingly) I wasn’t able to sustain that pace. Possibly I should have started a bit slower, and the heat may have been a factor, but my pace gradually slowed over the remaining laps.

I knew I was still in 4th overall… not that that mattered. In Masters Games it’s all about age groups. Everyone runs together but you only compete against those in your age group. Therefore, the 80+ year old who finished the race in just under an hour (to HUGE applause from all the crowd and the rest of the 5000m runners who had long since finished) still walked away with a silver medal.

I had no hope of catching Lisa, or even 3rd placed Sarah. I couldn’t actually see any of them anymore.

I had a rough idea how far I had to go, although I was trying not to check my watch too often. It wasn’t until almost halfway that I noticed the lap counter at the finish line – 7 laps. At the time I didn’t know if it was 7 gone or 7 to go. The next time around it showed 6. That answered my question!

I got to the finish line as the bell rang and the counter showed one lap to go. I was ecstatic… Lisa would be finishing momentarily and hadn’t lapped me! But I miscalculated – the ‘one lap to go’ was for her, not me. I still had two laps. And not 100m after I started my penultimate lap, she lapped me!

After cursing myself briefly I regrouped and set out to finish strongly, hold my position and avoid getting lapped by Frina or Sarah!

I heard the track announcer call Lisa across the line. Predictably, I was running for ‘so-so silver’!

I passed the start line for the last time. 200m to go. I couldn’t see the runners behind me and dared not turn around. I put my head down and focused on a strong finish.

My last 100m or so was at 2:55 min/km pace. I wasn’t letting anyone get past me! I hadn’t realised that the finish was off to the side of the main track but the marshal guided me in the right direction.

My Garmin time was 21:07. That was well outside my 5km PB but I was happy enough. It was hot, it was my first time on a track and I was just over a week post ultra. And I would have a SWEET silver medal to show for it!

It was a long wait till the medal ceremony as we had to wait for the rest of the runners to finish. Eventually the time came and I stood up on the dais next to Lisa. In the other age groups all the medallists got up on the 1st place position together for a photo op. Lisa started to tell me to get up and then thought better of it… even down in the 2nd place position I was still taller!

I really enjoyed today, it’s a great event to be involved in and I highly recommend it to anyone who is eligible (ie anyone who is 30 or over!) It’s fun and friendly, and there’s heaps of social activities too.

I’ve got 2 events left, the City Mile on Friday night and the half marathon on Saturday… stay tuned to my blog for my report next week!

Race Report – Yurrebilla 56km Ultramarathon

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I’ve talked about Yurrebilla 56km ultramarathon before but for the uninitiated I’ll bring you up to speed. It is a 56km course through Adelaide’s hills, from Belair to Athelstone, where you’re never more than 12km from the Adelaide CBD. (There are places on the course where you can be running through beautiful bushland, feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere,  then look to the side and see the buildings of the CBD… a stark contrast!) Each year more and more people take up the challenge, with over 400 people lining up this year. It is a wave start, with waves starting at 6am, 7am, 8am and 8:30am (the last group is the ‘racing’ group – only people who enter this group can be considered for a placing). All groups have a 5:30pm cut-off, the idea being that the people who expect to take longer to complete the course will start earlier, to give them the most time.

I decided to enter this year’s event after volunteering last year and having just the BEST time! Despite having a fairly busy programme of events this year, Yurrebilla was always at the forefront, being the one event that I knew 12 months ago that I would be running this year.

I did all 3 of the training runs which covered the entire course. I did a number of other trail runs too including a new event at Belair National Park (where I was lucky enough to win a random prize draw for a pair of trail shoes!), several night runs, several 24k Cleland loops, plus 2 of the training runs for the Heysen 105k later in the year. So despite most of my training runs being on roads, I felt like I had enough time out on the trails to be ready for Yurrebilla Ultra Marathon (YUM for short – legendary for the fantastic food provided at the aid stations – its motto could well be ‘come for the food, stay for the run!’

I had paid for my entry 6 months earlier, having won a silent auction as part of a fundraiser for fellow runner Emma. I didn’t actually enter until much later but once I had forked out the cash I was pretty much committed! I decided to enter the 7am wave – 6am was way too early for me, given I would need to get up 2 hours earlier than that to eat breakfast and get myself to Athelstone to be on a 6am bus – plus there was the small matter of a very poorly scheduled but unmissable Sebastian Bach gig on the Saturday night… ’twas going to be a late night followed by an early morning! 8am was doable (and tempting) but I thought I might get caught up running with the faster runners and burn myself out early. Plus if everything was to fall apart, I would regret not giving myself the extra hour to finish. (Later in the week I was offered a lift to the start at Belair by regular trail and road running buddy Beck which I had no hesitation in accepting – I would still need to get up to eat at 5 but at least I would have time to be sure I had everything ready, rather than having to rush around too much!)

Having run City-Bay the previous weekend (a greater contrast you could not imagine), I planned a relatively easy training week in the lead-up to YUM. Tuesday was my fast run for the week – it was a bit of a struggle after pushing myself to the limit at City-Bay! I also felt a bit of left hamstring soreness during the run but nothing that I thought would impair me at YUM. Thursday was an easier paced run and Friday I opted for a brisk walk rather than a run. Saturday morning parkrun was a light ‘jogette’ with Beck and her daughter with more focus on socialising. By Saturday the hamstring soreness was gone and I was feeling fresh and ready and raring to go!

The most important decision was what to wear! The forecast was for a maximum of 24 degrees. Normally in an event, I’m done by the time the maximum temperature hits. On this occasion I would be out there until mid afternoon so most likely would be running in 24 degrees. That’s not hot,  but it’s warmer than I’ve been used to.

I had most of my outfit worked out weeks ago. On the bottom half it would be the black lululemon skirt (black as opposed to my otherwise identical white one, because dirt!) with one zip pocket plus 2 side pockets for snacks. Under that, Skins compression shorts, which I wear for all long runs and would also be good for my hamstring. On the legs,  blue Compressport calf sleeves to match my blue Salomon Speedcross 3 trail shoes – shoes nicely broken in with over 100km of trail running. The socks were black Nike – black again because DIRT! I also planned to tape my arches for blister prevention –  I did feel the beginnings of a blister there during City-Bay.

On the top I was tossing up between 2 tops (both lulu, naturally!). One was blue and one was cream – both coordinated nicely with the rest of the outfit and both had been tested on longish trail runs with the trusty Ultimate Direction Jenny backpack. In the end I decided to go with both – wear one and carry the other in case I needed a wardrobe change midway. To top it all off I had my rainbow striped arm socks and light running gloves ready in anticipation of a chilly start. I also had my white 2XU white hat… white not the most practical colour for a trail run but that particular hat had seen me run a marathon PB and good runs at City2Surf and City-Bay, so of course superstitious me had to go with it!

In the bag I had a compression bandage in case of snake bite, a few band-aids, baby wipes and ziploc bags I was really hoping not to need, and a small handheld torch for Echo Tunnel… that tunnel scares the crap out of me!

Given the buffet on offer at the aid stations I didn’t plan to carry much food. I had 2 nut bars cut in thirds, some Lifesavers and almonds, and a packet of plain potato chips. In addition I had a small bottle of Gatorade and one of water, which I planned to top up at the drink stops.

Most importantly of all I had left a nice bottle of Jansz sparkling wine and an icy cold can of Coke with MC extraordinaire Karen, to have there for me at the finish. I was sure that as I ran the tricky last few kilometres, that sweet nectar would be at the forefront of my mind…

I painted my toenails. I’m not sure why I did that. I never paint my toenails. I have runner’s toenails.  I guess I was anticipating that there wouldn’t be much left to paint after YUM, so I thought I’d do it while I still could!

Despite saying all along that I just wanted to finish and enjoy the day, I did have a goal of finishing in under 7.5 hours (people had said ‘double marathon time’ was a good guide – which for me was 7.25 – 7.5 hours. I wrote down the estimated times I expected to be at each drink stop. My parents wanted to come see me at the 3rd drink stop near their place so I needed to give them a rough estimate of when I’d be there. Missing the cut-off time was not a concern.

Race day came and along with it the 5am alarm. My ears were still ringing andy voice a little hoarse from the EXTREMELY loud and EXTREMELY awesome concert the previous night. I mixed up and downed my breakfast shake (Weet-bix, muesli, rice milk and a little cacao powder) and got dressed. It felt weird putting sunscreen on at 5:30am but at least that would get me through the first few hours of the race. I got to the start at Belair Railway Station in plenty of time to enjoy the atmosphere and have a quick toilet stop. (The bus, as it turned out, was a bit late and got there not long before the 7am start!) There was a guy playing some kind of unidentified string instrument… nice and laid back for a Sunday morning!

It was a tad on the cool side so I had my arm socks on but not cold enough to need gloves. I had my XS Energy drink – normally I have that before a race when I want to run fast, on this occasion it was purely to counteract the sleep deprivation!

After a briefing from Event Director Barry McBride, at 7am we were off! I had planned to run with Beck, Kate and Alison but at the start Kate and Alison were a bit behind us (having arrived on the bus) so Beck and I did our own thing,  expecting that the other two would catch up.

Knowing that there was 56km to go, we tried not to set out too quickly but it was hard! The first few kms were just over 6 minutes… that was hardly sustainable over 56km but the terrain was downhill and maybe just a little uphill. The plan was that we would run the downhills, flats and gentle uphills, and walk the steep uphills.

The first hurdle was Echo Tunnel… I had my torch in hand and managed to get through unscathed… the organisers had even lit it with little candles (I think battery operated) which was a nice touch! Still, it was a relief to be out of there… weirdly that is my least favourite part of the whole course!

Before we knew it we were at the first drink stop at Sheoak Rd. I had safely tucked my predicted times into my backpack and didn’t look at them again, but looking back at it now, at 7 hour pace we were predicted to be there at 7:37 – we were 3 minutes ahead of this. It was a quick stop as we really didn’t need anything by this stage. The volunteers were all in onesies… I imagine by the time the last runners came through that stop they would have been getting a bit warm! (I had already removed my sleeves by this stage.)

Next came my FAVOURITE part of the course – the switchbacks at the top of Brownhill Creek Road! It’s so much fun flying down there, with aeroplane arms, and it’s early in the course so people are still relatively fresh! I later heard that there are often snakes there, and it was perfect snake weather yesterday.  VERY glad I didn’t know that at the time.

Running down Brownhill Creek Road it got a bit chilly – it always seems a good few degrees cooler here. It’s a great place to go for a run on a hot day! I almost contemplated putting the sleeves back on but I knew it would warm up soon enough…

Drink station 2 was at McElligott’s Quarry, around the 10km mark, around 7 minutes ahead of 7 hour pace. I was aware of the risk of dehydration especially since I knew I hadn’t drunk nearly enough the day before. I wasn’t thirsty but had a cup of the event sports drink – Nippy’s True Grit (lemon-lime flavour). I’d only tried it once before and quite liked it.

Stop 3 was Kavel’s Lookout where I was expecting to see my parents. I’d told them to expect me between 8:56 and 9:12. We got there at 8:52 – luckily they were a bit early! Here I had my first food since breakfast – a delicious vegan brownie! I also reapplied my sunscreen with some help from Mum to get the tricky bits on the back of the shoulders. (One advantage of wearing a backpack is that it covers that part of your back that’s really difficult to reach to apply sunscreen!)  Beck left me at that point while I chatted to Mum and Dad a bit more, I told her I’d catch up.

I left Kavel’s and sprinted (well, relatively speaking) up Mt Barker Road to catch Beck. It’s a relatively easy (by easy I mean runnable!) climb but quite tedious and long. I could see Beck’s pink top from a mile away and slowly but surely caught up with her. We shared the path with Sunday cyclists who were all very courteous. Some of them looked like they were doing it pretty tough… I was definitely glad to be on foot and not on 2 wheels!

Pretty early on after the start I thought I needed another toilet stop… I thought it was just psychological and tried to put it out of my mind. I did NOT want to have to resort to a bush wee! (We did see one girl emerging from the bushes early on). I knew there were actual proper toilets at Cleland and we were nearly there, and I also knew there was coffee there, and PIZZA! So we carried on up the road and into Cleland, and before too long we reached the aid station. First stop though was the toilet – there was no queue and we did not want to be wasting time standing in a queue at this point! That taken care of, it was time to hit the buffet!

Now in hindsight I could say we lingered way too long here. At the time I was all about enjoying the experience, and I don’t regret anything, but if time was an issue, this stop was the killer! After being ahead of 7 hour pace for the first 3 stops, we left Cleland at 9:48, 15 minutes behind 7 hour pace, and 4 minutes behind 7.5 hour pace. But having said that, if we’d rushed through that stop, who knows if I would have had the energy to do what I did from there on?

So at Cleland there was a coffee van. Beck and I both went for a short black – I didn’t want to linger over a long black, plus it was getting warm so I didn’t really feel like a hot drink. It was pretty good too! There was also freshly made pizza – I couldn’t bring myself to have any of that but it looked and smelled amazing. What I did have though was some boiled potatoes dipped in salt… OMG so good, who knew? I also had some vegan fruit cake which was also delicious! I can’t remember what else was there but there were plenty of options, definitely something for everyone!  It was a bit overwhelming actually… like a Vegas buffet! Like at all the stations there were familiar faces volunteering here including Sally and Victoria. Sally had run her first marathon earlier this year and people had been trying to talk her into running Yurrebilla (exactly like what happened to me last year!) I encouraged her to volunteer if she didn’t want to be talked into running, and I was glad to see her out there. I have a feeling she’ll be running it next year…

Eventually we left Cleland, and for the first time since the start we saw Kate and Alison. They were behind us and we were walking up a hill… I think they were suggesting we were a bit soft for walking! All in good fun though… we ran together for a short time. They seemed to be enjoying themselves, both of them like me were ultra virgins. Also around this point we ran with local running identity Chris (aka Chicken – of The Running Company – best running store EVER) and his wife Megan.

Somewhere between the Pillbox and Coach Road stops we were passed by a guy with a white bib, an 8:30 starter. I looked at my watch, it was 10:26 so we were nearly 3.5 hours in and he had started 2 hours ago. That turned out to be race ambassador and eventual winner David Byrne (in a new race record time – 4 hours 20-something minutes for 56km – bloody amazing!)

As we got close to 28km I wished I’d brought my old iPhone with me… given 28km was the halfway mark I thought it would have been appropriate to play Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ at that point. (I almost always mentally sing the chorus at the halfway point of a race). What to do… the only thing I could do was sing it! 28km also happily was the location of a drink station, at Coach Road. Here we met up with a large contingent from the 6am start group, including fellow virgins Ali and Libby (and many more). So I burst into song… “Oh – we’re halfway there…” and a few people joined in. I did struggle to hit the high notes!

After we left that stop Beck and I did a few more songs to the amusement of those around us (OK it was mostly me) – ‘Eye Of The Tiger’ and ‘Total Eclipse Of The Heart’ were belted out with great gusto!

The next challenging section was the climb out of Horsnell Gully. I decided (to the probable horror of those around me) to ‘treat’ everyone to a rendition of Miley Cyrus’ ‘The Climb’. Running up a hill, while singing, is a bit tricky, I discovered! Once again the high notes were a bit beyond me. The distraction was good though because the next time I looked at my watch we’d passed the 30km barrier!

At some point before the next stop at Woods Hill, Beck spotted a koala in a nearby tree… well she HEARD it, and eventually saw it! It was really close to the road and quite low down, I’d already passed it but turned around and ran back to see it. It really seemed to be cheering us on!

The next (and as far as I know only other) proper toilet stop on the course was at Norton Summit, however as we approached, both Beck and I decided we didn’t need to go and could make it to the finish.  That was possibly an indicator that we weren’t hydrated enough – I didn’t end up going again until the post-race dinner!

At the aid station at Morialta Cottage, around 37km, we were greeted by James and his family driving by with supplies for us! James is a regular running buddy and had earlier messaged Beck to see if she (and I) needed anything. I had requested a lemonade ice block. I have not had one of those in YEARS but wow, it was sooo good! (James was also the one who had brought me hot coffee during the 6 hour event a few months back – once again he had brought me EXACTLY what I needed!)

Beck and I walked for a bit and ate our ice blocks. Not long after this (I think it was 38km – 18km from the finish) Beck said she needed to walk for a bit as her heart was racing a bit. After making sure she was definitely OK and had a phone in case she got into trouble, and promising to wait for her at the finish before cracking open the bubbly, I left her and went off on my own.

It was a bit weird running on my own after running with Beck for so long, but I quickly settled into my rhythm. 40km came and went without an issue – I NEVER felt that fresh at 40km in a marathon! Of course I was running a lot slower here,  and stopping regularly,  and eating. I was glad to have my snacks on board as there were times in between stations where I needed a little sustenance. I don’t do gels. Never have and don’t ever plan to. In road races I stick with sports drinks and in trail runs it’s actual real food.

The only really tough section for me was between the 42.2km and 45km marks.  There was a small station at Deepview (42.2km) with our lovely cocktail waitresses in fishnets and sexy cocktail frocks, serving drinks on silver platters. We had Sally, Sonja, Deb and Harry. Yes, Harry is a man and yes he was wearing a rather fetching strapless number. (And enjoying it way too much I might add!) In hindsight I should really have had a Coke here. I don’t often drink Coke and I didn’t want to start drinking it too early – so I resisted. But that sugar hit may have made the next section a little easier.

I don’t know why but the next 3 or so km seemed like an eternity. I was on my own for most of it, and I didn’t see any trail markers for what seemed like ages, so I was worried that I may have missed a turn somewhere! I knew there was a drink stop soon so I finished my bottle of sports drink, planning to top up at the next stop, at Moores Track. My spirits lifted when I saw the CFS truck and the fireys at the drink station! I clearly hadn’t studied the competitor’s manual enough though because the 45km stop only had water and Coke! Again in hindsight I definitely should have had a Coke here because the next stop was not for another 5km, at Quarry Track, at the bottom of Black Hill.

Luckily my Lifesavers saved me and got me through to the last drink stop. There I was ably assisted by Diane and got my bottles topped up, and had a quick bite to eat. I also saw husband and wife Brian and Shannon who had been planning to do Yurrebilla together before Shannon rolled her ankle a few weeks ago. Brian ran it on his own instead with Shannon supporting him, but sadly he too rolled his ankle around Cleland and had to pull out. This couple clearly does everything together! I said it was the universe telling them that they were MEANT to do Yurrebilla together – next year guys!

I was happy with my time at that point. With 6km to go I was at 6 hours 19 minutes. Still 70 minutes inside my goal time of 7 hours 30. If I couldn’t do the last 6km (even including the brutal climb up Black Hill) in 70 minutes something was seriously wrong! I thought 7:15 looked like a better goal.

Black Hill is nasty but didn’t scare me. I started to feel the niggle in my left hip that normally comes much earlier in long runs. I had Voltaren on board but that would have required me to take off my backpack to get it, and I didn’t want to do that. Besides, anti-inflammatories + dehydration + heat is a bad combination!  So I pressed on and it soon went away.

Looking at my Strava times for the 3km of the Black Hill ascent I averaged about 10 minutes per km which was not too bad… I even managed one more little bit of singing, this time a version of ‘Running Up That Hill’ – I’d changed the lyrics to ‘Walking Up Black Hill’! I did walk pretty much all of it – it’s hardly runnable at the best of times, let alone after 50km!

Once I had completed that climb there was about 3.5km to go and it was just after 1:45 (6 hours 45 after I started). 7:15 was a no-brainer – I could almost get close to 7 hours! (Without the extended Cleland stop it could definitely have been sub-7!)

I LOVED that last section. All downhill,  a few tricky sections especially right near the end but just so enjoyable. I managed to pass a few people along this section too! 55km showed on my watch when I passed the awesome bell-ringers – they told me 1.5km to go, so obviously my watch was a little out, but still… 1.5km was nothing!

I remembered what race ambassador Tymeka Warburton had said at a ‘newbies’ dinner earlier in the year. Enjoy the finish. Don’t run, walk. Soak it all in. I was flying for the last km until a guy told me ‘200m to go’. Once I heard the crowd and saw the finish line I slowed down. I didn’t walk but I jogged. I heard MC Karen call me over the line, stopped my watch, got ‘badgered’, got my sweet sweet bling and hugged a few people (sorry I can’t remember who – it was a bit overwhelming!) I was pleasantly surprised to see Mum there – I hadn’t expected her to be at the finish! Luckily she was early because I was well ahead of where I had thought I’d be – my time was 7:06:48. I was STOKED.

It was just after 2:00. The next few hours were so enjoyable, watching people finish and catching up with friends everywhere I turned – runners, volunteers and spectators. It was such a perfect day to be out in the sunshine with friends. Beck finished under 8 hours as she’d hoped, and as soon as I saw her I cracked open the bubbles and poured us both a glass. Then I had a celebratory drink with Mum before wandering around with the bottle and a couple of glasses,  offering it to anyone that would take it! (I wasn’t driving, but even though it was Jansz I didn’t particularly want to drink the rest of the bottle myself!)

Later after Mum left I had a few more drinks with Mandy, Sue, Leanne, Lorraine et al who had several more bottles in their esky!

I had an AMAZING vegan pie floater from ‘Give Peas A Chance’. I had never had a pie floater before in my life! Soooo good.

I stayed till after the 5:30pm cutoff – tradition states that Yurrebilla is not over until the last person finishes. The last person across the line, with 2 minutes to spare, was MC Karen’s husband Daryl. I think there were 440 registered, and exactly 400 finishers. All 6 of the Yurrebilla Legends (those who have done all 9 events) finished.

Then it was on to the dinner – me still in my race gear (sans shoes and socks – I had changed into sandals earlier and was happy to see I still had all my toenails!) and wearing my medal. I put on my race singlet – superstition states that it is bad luck to wear an event singlet before finishing said event. I could legitimately wear it now.

I wolfed down 2 serves of vegetarian pasta and a couple of rolls. The tiredness was really sinking in by then. Once the presentations to the placegetters and the speeches were over, I eventually got home and showered, and spent the rest of the night catching up with Facebook posts from friends. It was nearly midnight before I got to bed – still wearing my medal!

A few people told me I had potential to do even better.  Graham told me I should consider getting some 1:1 coaching and I might really scare myself how fast I could go! Justin told me at dinner “OK you’ve had your fun now… time to stop just running and start RACING!” By that he meant no lingering at drink stops,  no singing, definitely no selfies! We’ll see… let’s see what hext year brings!

It was just the BEST day. And a perfect weekend – my Hawks winning their way into another AFL Grand Final, and finally seeing Sebastian Bach live (AND getting a retweet from him on Twitter – gobsmacked!)

Thankyou SO VERY much to everyone that made it possible!

Now I just have to wait 52 weeks for my chance to do it all again!

If you’re thinking about it – stop thinking and put it in your calendar for 2016 RIGHT NOW!

Race report – 2015 City-Bay Fun Run

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City-Bay. It is an iconic SA event that literally stops a city… closing Anzac Highway is kind of a big deal! Many of the runners I run with regularly (and I’m talking about people who regularly compete in road races) don’t like City-Bay because it’s just too big – it’s too hard to get through the crowd. It is an event that many new runners (myself included, when I first got started) aspire to. It’s got something for everyone – 3km, 6km and the Main Event  (and by far the most popular), the 12km. There are walkers, joggers, runners, pram pushers, superheroes, and of course the crazy fast elite runners.

I wrote in an earlier blog post about my journey to my first City-Bay, starting in high school in 1991 or 1992, and culminating in my debut in 2013. This year was my third consecutive City-Bay. My previous efforts were 57:32 in 2013 (I wanted to get under 60 minutes, mainly so I could get to my soccer game in time!) and 55:57 in 2014 (also followed by a soccer game, although that year I did at least get to chill at the finish line at Glenelg for a short while before making my way to the game).

I didn’t really enjoy my run in 2014. Maybe I put too much pressure on myself to get a PB. The first one was great because I just soaked up the atmosphere, it was a novelty, having never been in such a big event before.

As a result, I hadn’t intended to run City-Bay this year. I did run the inaugural Bay-City in April and really enjoyed that – the much lower crowd numbers made it a lot easier to move! It wasn’t until after I started to find my speed after the Barossa Marathon in May that I started seriously considering running City-Bay again.

Next Sunday I’m running Yurrebilla 56km Ultra. I’m not sure if City-Bay was the ideal taper run… but what can you do? (I also missed a training run for the Heysen 105km Ultra to run City-Bay, but with so many running events in Adelaide/SA these days, clashes are unavoidable. Besides, there’s no medal for a training run!)

In the week leading up to race day I changed my training slightly – I still did my regular Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning runs, but instead of Thursday being my ‘fast’ run, I did my ‘fast’ run on Tuesday and took it relatively easy for the rest of the week. Regular ‘dresser-up’ Karen had announced she was going to wear a crazy costume to parkrun on Saturday so I quickly decided to join in – crazy costume does not equal fast run (for me anyway). Perfect way to ‘taper’! (For the record I went with a Catwoman outfit that, as it turned out, was not so easy to run in!)

It wasn’t until Saturday that I had my race outfit sorted – the top I really wanted to wear was the one I had worn for City2Surf but I couldn’t find it anywhere! I went for really bright colours and pretty much ALL of them!

My race eve preparation consisted on wine tasting in the Adelaide Hills. Highly recommended! This was followed by a pre-race dinner of roasted vegies and rice, courtesy of friend Kieron, and the cider that seems to be a common feature of the pre-race meal!

On race morning I was up early, at 5:15, and left home at 5:45. All my gear was ready (I was tossing up between blue and purple Compressport calf sleeves, but couldn’t find the purple ones so that made for an easy decision!) I had, a few days earlier, had the genius idea (I probably wasn’t the first person to have this idea) to put my cereal and milk into my Nutribullet the night before and make it into a smoothie that I could drink in the car on the way there. I made a slight error in judgement the first time I tried this,  putting chia seeds into the mix which of course thickened overnight and consequently the next day I needed a spoon to eat it! This time I threw the chia seeds in just as I was about to drink it. It looked incredibly unappetising but actually tasted pretty good!

It was really weird driving down Anzac Highway towards Glenelg, seeing all the kilometre markers coming towards me at a rate of knots. I was sure that they wouldn’t seem so close together next time I saw them…

I managed to get a park quite close to the tram stop (and away from the road closures so I could make a reasonably quick getaway) and onto the first tram of the day. I wanted to get into the city in plenty of time for a toilet stop (or 2), and a decent warm-up before getting into the sub-60 starters ‘cage’ well before the 8am start.

It was a tad chilly down at Glenelg and I had failed to bring any warm clothing for the start – I didn’t have a throw away top and Maree had collected my drop bag the night before to put on the truck to go to the finish line (thanks Maree!)

By the time I got into town at around 6:50 it was a little less chilly and after my warmup of about 2.5km along the Torrens, I had well and truly defrosted and the sun was out. Warmup and toilet stops completed, I was in the cage well before 7:30. The time went quickly because I very soon spotted regular running buddy Beck, and after that, everywhere I turned there was someone I knew!

Before we knew it the countdown was on, 8am struck and we were off!

In the beginning I was running with a lot of familiar faces – John, Matt, Matt, Tom, and Graham. Most of those are regular parkrunners so people I run with very regularly! The day before at parkrun, Graham had told me he was aiming for 54 minutes. I was aiming for 54 myself – that would have been a PB by around 2 minutes, and a nice round number of 4:30 minutes per km. So I decided to try to stay with Graham for as long as I could.

In the weeks leading up to the event, a number of people had told me that my expressed goal of 54 minutes was too conservative. Various people had told me to aim for closer to 50. One regular running buddy, Dean, had even mentioned 48 minutes! That is 4 minute kms! I haven’t even hit that mark over 5km yet so I thought that was a tad ambitious! (He later denied having said that!)

I had set the pace alert on my watch for 4:00-4:30. That meant that if I ran faster than 4 minutes per km (yeah, right!) or slower than 4:30, my watch would vibrate to let me know. 4:30 was the average pace I needed for my 54 minute goal so as long as I stayed under that pace for the most part, I would get my goal time.

As those who have run City-Bay would know, the start can be a little congested. So it is important, if you are running for a time, to get a clear run. Hence the advantage of the sub-60 cage – chances are you wouldn’t see too many people walking in this group (elite walkers aside, who were of no concern as they’d be WELL ahead of me!) and so it would be easier to get a good solid start.

I didn’t really have a strategy in mind (other than staying under 4:30 pace). The first little bit of City-Bay is uphill (not steep but just slightly uphill) and then it’s all a very slight downhill gradient from there. I was happy to get through the first kilometre in 4:21 – well inside my goal pace.

Very early on (just on the edge of the city) I almost lost an earring! Miraculously I managed to catch it and re-install it without having to stop! After that, things went pretty smoothly until around 7km. 7-8km is the point where I have previously hit the ‘wall’ in City-Bay (if such a thing exists in a 12k!).

My mouth was getting a bit dry (possible dehydration from all the wine the previous day, plus it was pretty warm out there) so I decided for the first and only time in the race to get a drink. I managed to grab a cup on the run, have a sip and ditch the cup without breaking stride (my attempt to slam dunk the cup into the bin, however, was an epic fail). I don’t think it was the drink stop that did it but I definitely felt my pace slow, if only by a little bit.

I did what I had to do to keep my mind occupied. There was the now traditional ‘only a parkrun to go’ self-talk with 5k left. I managed to get a few high fives in with the kids on the side of Anzac Highway while I was still relatively fresh. I tried to thank as many of the marshals and drink station volunteers as I could while still being able to breathe. I mentally sang Bon Jovi’s ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ at the 6km mark. (Music is a massive motivator for me. There were bands along the way playing all sorts of stuff – not all of it was my cup of tea but it was all a welcome distraction. At one point the radio was blasting out ‘When It’s Love’ by Van Halen and that definitely lifted me –  nothing like a bit of Van Halen to get you going, even if it is from the Sammy Hagar era!)

I was averaging 4:15 pace up until about 7km. I didn’t have the brain power to do the calculations but even so I could tell that a PB was almost a certainty, and I should be able to do sub-54 very comfortably, barring disaster in the last 5km.

Despite slowing a little in kms 7-11 (I averaged about 4:20 for those 4km – still well inside my goal pace) my overall average pace only dropped to 4:16. I knew my time was going to be well beyond my expectations. In the process I had managed to break my 10km PB by nearly 2 minutes (set at City2Surf last month, no doubt much of that was running downhill!) Even if I ran 5 minute kms for the last 2 km, I was still going to run well under 54 minutes.

As a result the last 2km was really enjoyable. I got really excited once we hit Jetty Road, yelling out to everyone within earshot (which was most of the population of Glenelg given the volume of my voice) that they were awesome – volunteers, spectators and runners alike! When I turned the corner and saw the finish line I let out a scream (as is now traditional,  it would seem!) and I heard a few people calling out my name as I crossed the finish line. The time on my watch was 51:26, average pace 4:16. I was ecstatic! (I won’t find out my official time until I get the paper today but I would be surprised if it is very different to that, as I started my watch right on the start line and I’m pretty sure I stopped it right on the finish.)

It was nice to be able to chill at Glenelg for a few hours post race, and I was pleasantly surprised when I found out the SARRC BBQ had vegetarian sausages – thanks Leanne! It was great to catch up with so many running buddies from my various groups, most had had good runs, but unfortunately a few had not – I know what that’s like! It was a perfect day to relax in the sunshine – it was a bit warm out on the course for a lot of people but I must admit I didn’t notice the heat – much like at Gold Coast.

So that’s City-Bay done and dusted for another year, and another piece of bling for my ever growing collection! Thanks to race director Joe Stevens and his team of fantastic volunteers for putting on another great event – I plan to be back again next year and I might even push for a sub-50 – who knew?

Running is mostly mental… or maybe that’s just me!

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Just a short and sweet post this week as I have 2 big weeks coming up and 2 race reports to write!

Running is 90% mental. Or 83%. I forget the actual percentage but I read it on the Interwebs so it must be true.

I think when you’re talking about shorter distances (and by ‘shorter’ I mean 5k, 10k, 12k – no disrespect to those distances!) the mental side is less prominent. 5k for example I would say is 99% physical. When I’ve struggled in a 5k it’s usually because I didn’t get enough sleep, went out too fast in the beginning,  or failed to warm up. Or a combination of all three.

Once you start to hit the longer distances, it’s not your legs or lungs that tend to give up… it’s your brain. The same part of your brain, I assume, that when the trainer says ‘just one more rep’ 10 damn times, always manages to keep going.

I’ve blogged before about my 2015 Clare Half Marathon experience. Sure, I paced it all wrong BUT my body was well and truly capable of finishing the race, albeit not in as good a time as I would have liked. It was my brain that wanted to quit.

In my marathon training, I never ran more than 36k. I think that’s pretty common in training programmes but I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the dreaded ‘wall’ normally strikes at that point in the race. You start doubting yourself, asking yourself “What the hell was I thinking?” and (in the case of a first marathon) “Can I actually run 42.2km? I’ve never done it before!” And yet somehow you do it. The body may not know how to run 42.2k but the mind sure as hell does.

I have a few ultras in my near future… I may have mentioned that before. 56k in 2 weeks and 105k in 6 weeks. I have run all of the 56k course (albeit in 3 stages) and by the time the 105 hits, I will have covered MOST of that course too (missing only the 3rd of 5 training runs, next weekend when I run my 3rd City-Bay Fun Run – about as far removed from an ultra training run as you can get!).

I have run over 56k before – admittedly that was lap after lap of a fairly flat city track. But still… the distance holds no fear for me. I’m actually REALLY looking forward to it.

105k is another story altogether! Yesterday was training run 2 of 5. Training run 1, 4 weeks ago, was a less demanding section of the course, and I averaged 5:45 minutes per km. Yesterday was just over 7. The scenery was truly breathtaking. There was a lot more walking than last time, some tricky sections and a lot of ducking under overgrown branches. And we ran alongside a barbed wire fence for a lot of it, so that wasn’t going to do us much good if we needed some way to steady ourselves!

As we ran up the road to Checkpoint 2 (or what will be Checkpoint 2 in 5 weeks time), I definitely had some doubts. 105k is a Very. Long. Way! I was buggered after 18k, how was I going to do 105???

Plenty of people have done it before me. I absolutely have the physical ability to do it. It’s the mental side of the game, if anything, that will let me down!

I find distraction is a really good way to shut up that annoying little voice in my head that tries to tell me “You can’t!” Running with other people – particularly those that are a little fitter and faster, and have the ability to talk without you needing to contribute much to the conversation – is a good way to distract yourself from the various body parts telling you it’s time to give the game away. Running on beautiful trails can definitely be a good distraction but within reason – it’s not a great idea to let yourself get distracted on technical single track, particularly on the edge of a cliff! (STOP and admire the view, by all means. THEN keep running!) Then you have music/audiobooks etc which can be a great distraction if you’re running on your own – just make sure you can hear what’s going on around you!

How do YOU overcome mental barriers? I’m interested to hear!

Food for thought…

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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!