This was my 3rd straight year running the Tower Trail Run. You can read about my 2017 experience here and 2018 here.
I will try to keep this one brief. I have said that before.
The original plan was to do the 21.1km, as I had done the 2 previous years. In fact, I had entered that distance when the earlybird entried opened.
Then, I looked at the calendar and realised that the Adelaide 24 hour event was just 3 weeks after Tower (as it always is) but as I am doing the 24 hour this year (as opposed to the 12 hour the past 2 years), I thought I’d better up the distance. Call it a long training run. Time on legs, and all that. So I upgraded to the marathon distance.
This is the first year of the Five 50 Ultra Series, the brainchild of Steve, one of the Trail Running SA committee. The Tower ultra distance (56km) was the second leg of the five (Five Peaks being the first, and the remaining 3 being Federation Ultra Trail, Yurrebilla and Heysen). Consequently, the ultra distance numbers were WAY up on last year! Nothing like an extra bit of bling (a bonus medal awaits the finishers of the 5 series) to encourage people to turn up!
I had considered the ultra, but as I am not able to complete the series this year, and I wanted to be able to do a good run at the 24, I thought the 56 was a bit too far. 42 was perfect!
The course for the 10.5k, 21.1k and 42.2k was the same, just with a different number of laps. The 56km, like the 42, was 4 laps, but the laps were longer, including a lap of the iconic Blue Lake.
The now traditional pre-Tower dinner took place at the famous Metro Cafe, and my choice of meal (which may have raised some eyebrows) was a curry – one of several vegan options on the menu, and the dish I am almost certain I had last year. We had the back room pretty much booked out, with a large contingent of Adelaide runners having made the trip down to the South East.
We were led to believe that it could get as low as -4 degrees overnight, so I was prepared with my fleece gloves and fleece jacket I’d bought for UTA. I still went with the skirt and compression shorts, as my legs don’t tend to get cold. I also put on a fleece headband to keep my ears warm. In the end, it was fortunately nowhere as cold as we’d thought it might be, and I didn’t end up using the fleece. And there was only 10% chance of rain, so I threw my rain jacket into my drop bag but was pretty sure it wouldn’t be needed.
I ran with my large race vest, although with drink stations every 5km or so it is entirely possible to run this one without carrying anything. I prefer not to stop if possible, so I had on me 2 bottles of Gatorade, some ‘Snackaballs’ (salted caramel are the BOMB!), a Clif bar and a peanut butter sandwich cut into quarters. In my drop bag (left at the finish line, which I would pass 3 times along the way) I had another sandwich, more balls, more Clif bars and some more portions of Gatorade powder. I figured I’d probably stop halfway and top up whatever I’d used so far.
I knew the field for the marathon was small, but I hadn’t looked at the field before the race. I find it not very useful – firstly, people enter on the day, so you can’t get complacent if you don’t see any ‘big names’ on the list, and you might get ‘psyched out’ to see a name on the list of someone who doesn’t even turn up on the day. So I was surprised to see, at the start line, that I was one of only 3 women in the field of 15. Guaranteed podium finish! Beauty!
4 laps was going to be a challenge, but probably good preparation for the 24 hour, come to think of it!
I decided to go uber-conservative for the first lap. This one would be a warm-up.
During the race briefing, Race Director Phil pointed out (specifically to me!) that the tripping hazard that had been at the start line last year, had now been removed, but there was another one elsewhere in the course to look out for. This could be fun!
As we set off up the road for the first section, I sat back around mid-pack and watched a few of the faster runners, including the eventual winner, Howard, take off. Before too long I caught up with them, including Dannielle and Adrian (both from the South East) and ran with them for a short while. Adrian said he had only taken up running in November last year! It wasn’t too long before we came to a steep, ‘rooty’ downhill section, and they both took off, no way was I going to try to keep up with them at this point! Adrian got so much speed up going down one hill that he overshot a turn-off! (No danger of that happening to me!)
The great thing about this run was that there was no pressure. I knew I was going to get top 3 as long as I finished, there was no goal time (I did estimate, based on my previous runs here, that I’d do between 5:00 and 5:30, probably closer to the latter), and I figured, the slower I went, the more time I’d be on my feet, which would be all the better for the 24 hour! So no matter how well (or badly) I ran, there would be something good to take out of it!
On this theme, I ran with my watch covered up, as I had in my previous marathon. Time was essentially meaningless!
The course is really challenging, scenic and varied. Quite a lot of steps. I wonder if anyone counted them? The first lot of steps was just after we went past the Blue Lake. I remembered from previous years, not to even bother trying to run them. I experimented with walking up the side rather than using the steps, but I found that a bit slippy (the ground was mostly pretty dry) so just plodded my way up the steps.
Early on in the race I encountered some of the ultra runners. While running very briefly with Joel (before he took off) he asked me what my goals were for the race. I first said “Well, to finish in the top 3”. He was probably thinking “Wow, that’s a bit arrogant!” before I quickly pointed out that there were only 3 of us in the race! I then said “To finish, and not break!” and “5 to 5 and a half hours”.
There were 2 places on the first (I like to call it the ‘reccy’) lap where I wasn’t quite sure which way to go. Firstly, after the first Tower climb, we descended and came to a field with a sports oval on it. Landing on the oval, I couldn’t immediately see where to go, and I stopped, initially planning to wait for the next runner to come along, before I saw the arrows along the side of the oval indicating the way. The second place was probably with about 1km to go on the lap, after the climb up the grass, and there was a group of hi-vis volunteers up the top of the hill. I started making a bee-line towards the people, until I realised that there was a path I was meant to follow. From then on, I had no issues with navigation! That’s the beauty of a looped course!
Oh and I thought I found the tripping hazard too – a large tree had fallen across part of the track. The options were to try to limbo under it (I’m not that bendy), to take a running jump over it (I just know that would have ended in disaster) or option 3, to stop for 2 seconds and carefully climb over it. It was kind of fun the first time, but less fun as the race wore on! (Incidentally, ultra runner and housemate Mark later showed me a photo to prove that on his last lap, it was gone – someone had come along during the race and removed it!)
Turned out that wasn’t even the tripping hazard Phil was referring to – he didn’t even know about the tree until well into the event!
First time around, and I remembered this from last year too, at the bottom of the grass hill, there were a few tables with containers of snakes, ‘to help you up that bloody hill’ as the sign said!
Speaking of snakes, I had my snake bandage in my pack – it just lives in there, I certainly did not expect to encounter any of our slithery friends out there. I did notice a few signs along the trail that said ‘Shared environment’ with what I later realised was a picture of a snake! So they are around the area, but unlikely to be out and about in the cooler weather! I later saw a post on Facebook that a snake was spotted on that very trail that very weekend!
Towards the end of lap 2 I caught the first of the half marathoners, I could recognise them from a mile away, housemates Daryl and Kym. They were on their first of 2 laps. A bit later on, heading up to where the (lolly) snakes were, we found that the ultra marathoners (I assume) had eaten them all! The signs were still motivating though!
I thought I might have had a problem getting past the halfway mark, given that I’d originally been doing the half, and having only ever done that distance here. However, as it turned out I had hardly used any of my food, and less than half of my drinks, so there was no need for me to stop. So I ran through the finish line as quickly as I could, and back up to the road, before I could think twice about it. And you know what? It wasn’t that bad. My mind was prepared to be running 4 laps, so the thought of stopping after 2 didn’t even enter my mind!
Let’s talk a bit now about the Tower climb, the hardest part of the course. According to the Strava segment it is 400m long with an elevation gain of 70m, a grade of 15.2%. That is pretty damn steep! I think with the success of the event this year, it’s time to put that escalator in, OK Phil?
The marathon and ultra runners had to do that climb 4 times.
I had in my mind that when I reached the Tower on my 3rd lap, I’d have broken the back of it. Don’t get me wrong, the 4th climb was still a beast, but at least I knew that once I’d done that, I only had 3km to go. Walk in the park!
I was tempted to stop and take a photo at the Tower but ‘race mode’ kicked in and I just kept pushing on.
On my 3rd lap I ran into Sally and a few others doing the half marathon. I hadn’t known it up to this point but Sally told me that the top of the Tower was 3km from the end, and the top of the grassy hill was 1km to the end. It’s amazing how much more enjoyable a run can be when you have no idea how far you have to go until the end!
I reached the end of my 3rd lap just after housemate Karen finished her half marathon – I thought about trying to catch her (I now like to call it ‘doing a Graham’ after an incident at the finish line in 2017) but again with the big picture in mind, I decided a sprint finish with a lap still to run, would be asking for trouble! It got a bit congested at that stage – I think some people had forgotten that some people still had further to go when they crossed the finish line! Again, I quickly ran through the start/finish area and back out for my last lap, before I had too much time to think about it! As it turned out I didn’t need to stop at all, I still had plenty of food and drink left.
It was really handy actually. I had 4 pieces of sandwich, and given there was absolutely no way I was ever going to be running up to the Tower, I ate one piece on each lap, which was also helpful in case I forgot which lap I was on! (I did sneak a look at my watch once, on the final lap, JUST to make sure I was indeed on my last lap. I saw 35km on my watch so I knew I was definitely on the home stretch! And quickly covered my watch up again, all the way to the end!
On the final climb up the grassy hill I thought I may have been hallucinating as I saw what looked very much like a unicorn coming down the hill towards me. I wasn’t hallucinating, it was a unicorn (or at least a girl in a unicorn onesie) – I didn’t get her name but she was out there encouraging people on the last climb! It was great to see her, especially considering I was into the last kilometre or so by that stage! She would have got some serious hill reps in that day!
The finish line kind of snuck up on me the first time. There were a few signs – one I remembered from the previous year “The Tower Trail Run is not fun, it is HILL AREAS” which I found quite amusing, and after seeing the sign I looked over and saw the finish line! That happened again on the second lap! By the 3rd lap I was all over it. And finally on the 4th lap, I decided to drop my race vest by one of the signs so if there was a finish line photo I could get one without my vest on, and made my way to the finish line!
MC Nikki announced my name and asked if I was finishing, I quickly checked my watch again just to be sure – yes this was definitely the end for me! As I was getting myself a long-awaited cup of Coke from the drinks table, I heard Nikki on the mic suggesting that I would do the ultra next year. I very emphatically shook my head. I most definitely would NOT be doing that!
It wasn’t until a minute or so later that it occurred to me to look at my time – I was pleasantly surprised with an official time of 5:02:46 – and only about 5 minutes behind the winner, Dannielle!
My first priority after that was food – loaded fried from Natural Born Grillers – I probably could have had a second serve of those – so good!
Presentations followed not long after 3rd placed Dawn finished, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that my prize was a $75 voucher from The Athlete’s Foot (I treated myself to a nice new pair of Skechers casual shoes – because it seems like the only shoes I ever buy these days are running shoes!)
It was a great day all around, all my housemates had a good day out too – celebrated that night with some delicious curry (another tradition for our group – takeaway Indian in a nice warm house!). And the weather could not have been more perfect!
Thanks once again to Phil and Nikki and all the fabulous volunteers for putting on another great event! And well done to all the runners – it’s not one of your easier runs, and you all did brilliantly!
Definitely recommend this event – from the new 5km event to the 56km for the nutters, there really is something for everyone!
I have run one coastalfunruns event before – back in February 2017. The beauty of these events is that they are low cost, frequent, low pressure and super friendly! It worked out well for me that time as I felt like I needed a half marathon in the lead-up to Boston, and none of my usual ‘go-to’ events worked out timing-wise. I must have been going reasonably well back then because I ran with Coralie for quite a bit of it and also with Carrie. Couldn’t quite imagine being able to do that now!
Most of the events are held at Semaphore along a nice flat coastal path, and occasionally in Port Adelaide or further afield, but I got a bit (disturbingly) excited when the UNI Coastal event was announced. (The ‘Coastal’ part is purely because the organiser is coastalfunruns – it is in NO WAY coastal!)
I may have mentioned this before. The Adelaide 24 hour event is my main focus for this year. I have been doing a lot of training at the home of this event, the infamous ‘Uni Loop’.
As I may have mentioned in last week’s Adelaide Marathon report, I had intended to run the Adelaide Marathon, using my 25 min run/5 min walk strategy, possibly as a 4:30 pacer. Then this event, a week later, was announced, and everything changed. A marathon around the Uni Loop? How could I not? (And what is wrong with me?)
I hadn’t quite worked out how I was going to approach this one – did I treat it just like a normal training run (which, let’s face it, I would have been doing anyway had I not entered this event) or did I treat it like a ‘normal’ marathon?
In the end I decided to do a bit of a combination – I’d eat like I do in an ultra, but I’d keep the walk breaks to a minimum.
I’d done a ‘practice’ marathon at the same location 2 weeks earlier and done it in just under 4:30, and that was with the usual 25/5 strategy, so I was hoping to go faster than that. Sub 4 would be nice but I wasn’t sure how realistic that was, given I hadn’t really been doing any fast stuff.
Given that it was not your typical marathon and it wasn’t my goal race, I didn’t bother with the whole tapering thing, just doing my normal thing during the week. Tuesday morning, instead of my normal road run, I went out to do a ‘slow’ lap of Chambers Gully with Jenny and Dave who had both done the Adelaide Marathon 2 days earlier. They go out regularly on a Tuesday and I have occasionally joined them (especially when I have a big trail race coming up and need to get more hills in) but in
general they are way too fast for me. I figured if there was ever a good time to go out and run with them, it was 2 days after they’d done a marathon! (They’d also both done Hubert 100km in early May, and Dave had only just got back from doing the Boston Marathon prior to that).
Then on Saturday afternoon I got a message from Jenny saying that Dave had convinced her to run the UNI Coastal marathon with him, but not to worry as it would be at an ‘easy’ pace.
(Incidentally, I found out on Sunday that Dave had a slightly different interpretation of who convinced whom!)
Saturday night was a traditional pre-marathon dinner – pizza (from Sonny’s Pizza Bar – THE BEST!) and cider.
I wasn’t quite sure what the setup was going to be with the aid station. I have a preference for lemon-lime Gatorade so I had prepared 8 x 250ml bottles. I thought this was way more than I’d need but in my last couple of 4 hour runs I’d used 3 x 500ml bottles. Unfortunately I couldn’t find the small pop top bottles at Woolies so they were screw top bottles, but they would do! (As it turned out, they had lemon-lime Gatorade at the aid station so I needn’t have bothered!) I’d made myself one peanut butter sandwich (cut into quarters) and I had 2 Clif bars and a bag of salted caramel Snackaballs which I have recently found to be a great ‘on the run’ snack – compact, easy to eat while running AND delicious!
On arrival at the Uni Loop on Sunday morning I met Ryan and Randell and I remarked, “oh wow, there’s going to be some fast people out there today!” Ryan asked “who?” and I said, “obviously, you guys!” I knew Ryan was doing the marathon – like me, as a training run for the Adelaide 24 hour. Randell is doing the 12 hour event but as it turned out he was just out doing a training run.
I got my rain jacket (which I really didn’t want to run in – it gets too hot!) and my small race vest, as well as my esky with all my drinks and food, and made my way out to the start/finish area. There I ran into Dave and Jenny, Dave had brought a table and kindly let me share it! Ryan also put his gear on the table and I just had to take a photo…
(I don’t like bananas but there were a few times during the run when I was SOOO tempted to steal one… history shows they were FAST bananas too!)
There is a toilet in the clubrooms a little way along the loop, which would be open for most if not all of the race, however before we started, we were directed to the 24 hour toilet block. It’s a bit sketchy so Marlize, Dave, Jenny and I all walked over there together. (It was good to know where it is as I have an overnight training run planned and the one thing I thought might be an issue was a lack of available toilets. I will be advocating going there in ‘teams’ though!) It was a bit gross and completely dark, but thankfully Dave had his phone on him and very kindly shone his phone torch through the window which worked wonders (actually, on second thoughts, I may have preferred NOT to be able to see!).
Note to self – head torch required at night!
I was umming and ahhing about wearing the race vest – I could put 2 bottles in it, and probably the whole sandwich, and then I wouldn’t need to carry anything in my hands. I’d never done a marathon in a race vest before, and I’d never done a run at the Uni Loop with one, and ultimately I decided against using it.
Along with the marathon there was also a half marathon and a 10k (just the 4 laps – that sounded pretty appealing!)
I was happy to see that Marlize, who had beaten me in my first 6 hour race here 4 years ago, was ‘only’ doing the half marathon! Also doing the half were Dani (doing the 6 hour), Neil (also doing the 6 hour and who also ran in a ‘hot lap’ race just prior to the main event – not a bad warmup!), Erika (who, I seem to recall while I was running with her, is THINKING about doing the 6 hour), Gail and Trish (who is doing the 24 hour), Julia (who is doing the 6 hour and who I didn’t see at the start – turns out she couldn’t find the start location and started 10 minutes late!) and Kay (doing the 12 hour).
Not entirely surprisingly given the nature of the race, there was a small field of just 8 starting the marathon. David, who does a marathon practically every week and is also doing the 24 hour for the umpteenth time, the aforementioned Ryan, Jenny and Dave, myself, the organiser Chris (also doing the 24 hour), and two guys I didn’t know, Chris (who ended up not finishing) and Stephen.
The 10k had a few familiar faces in it too – Dani’s daughter Sammi (also doing the 6 hour with her mum!), Cheryl and Amelie. I didn’t see too much of them as they ‘only’ did 4 and a bit laps!
I decided to try and stick with Jenny and Dave, and if that didn’t work out, I’d grab my iPod from out of my esky (a good thing I’d put it in there too, as it rained for about the first half of the race!) That lasted maybe about half a
lap! I didn’t see them after that but towards the end I fully expected to be lapped! I was lapped (3 times) by Ryan, and once or twice by David, a couple of times by Neil in the half and I think once by Marlize in the half.
Given that I had decided to treat it as more of a ‘race’ than a ‘training run’, I changed my nutrition strategy. Instead of eating every 30 minutes while taking a 5 minute ‘walk break’, I decided to eat every 3 laps, and just walk for long enough to get my sandwich/Clif bar in. However, on my first ‘food break’ I started eating my sandwich while still running, and realised, it is actually possible to eat and run at the same time! So I ended up not walking at all during the race, and still managed to eat 3 of my 4 pieces of sandwich and 1 Clif bar! I realise that most people would use gels for this reason – to be able to get nutrition in while still running – but I have avoided gels all my running life and don’t intend to change that anytime soon!
At the same time that I got my first bit of food, I grabbed one of my Gatorade bottles. As it was a cool morning, I ended up actually only drinking two of them, but straight after the race I had one, and I had a couple more over the course of the afternoon. Ordinarily I’d probably drink a bit more than that (and probably should have drunk more on this occasion!)
I always listen to music in my Uni Loop training runs, but use it sparingly in races. If I’m running with someone else I prefer to chat, and the great thing about these loopy events is you do get to see people along the way (whether you’re lapping them or vice versa!) On this occasion, being a smaller race and with less and less people there as time went on, the music was called into play quite early (pun intended!) – although if I was running with people I’d always turn the music off and chat for a bit. The person I would have chatted with most was race organiser Chris – I think I ran with him about 3 times during the race – he was doing his 200-and-somethingth marathon, he had run Adelaide last weekend and he was just out for an enjoyable morning, socialising and chatting with all the runners. I think at some point I may have said to him “If you put another event on here, I’m in!”
I had a bit of unexpected company along the way, from people not in the race. I got to see a lot of the SARRC Sunday runners – there are 2 main groups, one starting at 7 and one at 7:30, starting from the clubrooms which are on the loop. The 7:00 group had gone by the time we started but I did see a lot of them on their way back, and I got to see the 7:30 runners before and at the start of their run. (Actually I shouldn’t call it unexpected company – as a runner you CANNOT go out on the Uni
Loop on a Sunday morning and not run into someone you know! It is an impossible task!) One of the 7:00 group, Maree (aka Supergirl) was running towards me, then past, then did a U turn and ran with me for a bit – she had run from home and was on her way back. We had a bit of a chat about our training plans for the Chicago Marathon which we’re both running.
Also out for a short ‘jog’ was one of the Garys who did the marathon last week and is also doing the 12 hour. He had come out just for coffee with the 7:30 runners but I think they’d done a short run post-marathon and had all finished coffee by the time he got there – so he came and ran half a lap with me instead!
I had recently acquired a new computer and put my iTunes library onto it. I had copied the library from an external hard drive but the playlists had to be manually recreated. As I had recreated them from scratch, I had got rid of a lot
of songs I never want to listen to, and had added in new ones I hadn’t listened to in years – it was fun to go through my entire music library of 9000+ songs! I had 2 playlists – one ‘general’ one of about 900 songs, and one specifically for swimming, which
was all upbeat songs and which was much smaller as it had to fit on my waterproof iPod shuffle. I’d opted for the iPod Classic and the longer playlist on this occasion.
I ‘discovered’ a few songs in this race that were great for running! Quite an eclectic mix too, as always – for example ‘Feel the Love’ by Rudimental and ‘F***ing Hostile’ by Pantera (I had to resist the urge to break into song during the
One familiar face who I had met at this very location during a training run last year (from memory we were running in opposite directions and she was wearing an Adelaide 24 top, so it was pretty obvious what she was training for!) was Kay. She was doing the half marathon but when I caught up with her she was thinking about pulling out as she had some leg issues (I can’t remember specifically) and her physio had instructed her that if she started limping, she had to stop. She didn’t have too far left to go and was pretty keen to finish! She was training for the 12 hour again after having done it for the first time last year. From then on when I saw her (I think only 2 more times), I’d say “No limping!” and then the next time I saw her she was heading to the finish!
One really cool thing about this race, and something that I’ve never experienced before as I’ve only done time-based rather than distance-based events here, was the fact that, given the length of the loop and the 3 distances, runners had to complete their last full lap, then head back out along the loop for various distances before turning around and heading back to the finish. Therefore, whenever I saw a runner with a bib on running towards me, I knew they were heading to the finish line so I could give them a bit of a cheer!
I had my watch covered up during the entire race and that was actually really liberating. I mentally counted my laps, which is not that hard on a 2.2km loop. At one point towards the end I snuck a look at my watch when it beeped to indicate I’d finished another kilometre, just to make sure that my count was correct (which it was) and then quickly covered it up again. (One of the tricks I find with counting laps is, always count up, never down, at least until you’re on your last couple of laps!) I ALMOST checked my half marathon time but decided against it. I had no idea what the time was or what pace I was running. Unlike when I ran ‘blind’ at the Great Southern half, I DID know how far I’d gone!
I had a rough idea of the placings in the marathon, based on how frequently people lapped me. Ryan was leading by a good couple of laps and not surprisingly was first to finish in 3:19:20. David, who we worked out was a lap ahead of me
(even though I was sure he lapped me twice!) finished second in 3:38 which is a phenomenal time especially when you consider how many marathons he runs! I actually passed both of them at different times when they were walking. Now that’s not fair – they both walked a bit during the race and still finished miles ahead of me! My marathon PB is a touch under 3:36 and I can assure you there was NO walking during that one!
Speaking of ‘not fair’, let’s come back to Jenny and Dave. Refresher – Dave had run Boston in April, both had run Hubert 100km in early May (Jenny’s first 100km ultra) and both had run the Adelaide Marathon just a week ago.
I’m grateful that I didn’t get lapped by them. It’s probably the closest I will ever get to either of them in a marathon! And I really like both of them, they are both great runners, and very modest about their achievements, but I just don’t think it’s fair that they can do all that in such a short period of time and STILL beat me by a good 10 minutes! (Chris jokingly said he was going to disqualify them if they lapped him!)
For a while there I totally forgot they were there! Being about 10 minutes ahead of me, they didn’t quite catch me to lap me, but when I occasionally looked across the sports fields to the other side of the loop, I never saw them (and Dave would have been hard to miss in his hi-viz yellow!). Unlike the timed Uni Loop events that I’m used to, there were no turnarounds where you got to see all the people who were less than a lap ahead of or behind you!
I managed to start my final full lap before they finished theirs – I was pretty confident they wouldn’t lap me! Small win!
I never did start counting down laps, always up. The end of lap 18 (so just over one lap to go) would have been a food break but being so close to the end I thought it wasn’t worth bothering – it wasn’t as if I was going to get any benefits from eating something now!
As I passed the start-finish line at the end of 19 laps (41.8km, to be precise) I saw Jenny and Dave for the first time since very early on in the race. I left my drink bottle and iPod on the table and said “I’ll be back” – I heard someone say “Sprint finish!” and I did start sort of sprinting – I forgot how far 200m is – that marker seemed to take FOREVER to reach! But that wasn’t the hardest bit – the hardest bit was doing a 180 degree turn, at pace, after running 42km in one direction, and running that last 200m back to the finish line!
As I crossed the line I heard Steve, one of the two main volunteers along with Antonietta who were there for us in the cold and rain all morning, call out my time, and it started with a 3! So after being just a little bit grumpy about Dave and Jenny beating me quite comfortably while taking it relatively easy, I was actually really stoked to get a sub 4 – I genuinely had no idea if I was or wasn’t going to get it, until I heard him call it out!
It wouldn’t be a race report without thanking the volunteers and on this occasion I can thank each and every one of them by name. Both of them, in fact! Both of them being regular parkrunners, I suspect both of them would have loved to be involved in another event happening that day, the ‘Longest parkrun’, 7 ‘unofficial’ parkruns in one day. I was a bit disappointed to find out it clashed with this event, because I was also really keen to give it a go.
Looking at the timetable for the day, and given that I was expecting to finish the marathon by 11:45 (4.5 hours) and the 5th of the 7 runs started at 1:30, it was entirely logistically possible for me to join in the last 3 parkruns (Lochiel, Pakapakanthi and Torrens). Logistically yes but physically? Who knew? I thought I’d give it a go. A 24 hour race is a test of endurance and running on tired legs. What better way to train for that than by running 3 x 5km runs, with about an hour’s break in between each one, and two hours’ break in between the marathon and the first 5k?
Thankfully for all concerned, there was time for me to go home and have a shower before the first of the 3 parkruns, and I made a stop at the Bakery on O’Connell for a pastie and a Coke first! I had just got a new pair of 2XU compression pants in the recent sale, and I usually wear compression pants for recovery after a big run, so I figured it would be a good thing to wear for the parkruns! (They were great, once I got them on. Getting them on was quite the manoeuvre! As was getting them off later!)
And I did manage to get through the 3 parkruns, and I am almost certain it was a good thing to do, both from a training point of view and also recovery (I find it helps to keep moving as much as possible, within reason!)
The ‘Longest parkrun’ finished with a dinner at the nearby Wellington Hotel. As I already had curry in the fridge at home (as well as half a pizza from Saturday night!) I just went and joined them for a wine before going home to eat ALL OF THE THINGS!
I gotta say, and I’m sure I’ve said it before, that a loop marathon or ultra is not for everyone, but it is most definitely for me!
Thanks Chris, Steve and Antonietta and all those involved, and well done to all the hardcore runners – I am sure I will see a lot of you on July 13!
2 weeks after deciding that half marathons were not really my thing, I was back again to do my 21st half (and 7th as a pacer), this time at Adelaide Marathon.
I have a long(ish) history with this event, having been involved in some capacity every year since 2014 (bearing in mind I have only been running since late 2012).
In 2014 I was that weirdo in the tiger onesie hanging out outside the zoo with a sign cheering on the runners.
In 2015 I ran for the first time, as a pacer (also for the first time!) in the half marathon.
In 2016 I ran the marathon for the first and possibly only time!
In 2017 I was back pacing the half again, and in 2018 I opted to pace the 10k for something different!
And here I was again, pacing 2:15 in the half.
I had previously paced 2:00, but the guidelines are that you should be able to comfortably run 10 minutes faster than the time you’re pacing. Given that I ran just under 1:51 at Great Southern, 2:00 would have been a stretch! We also had a 2:06 pacer, which seems like a really odd sort of time until you realise that it is exactly 6 minutes per kilometre. I probably could have done that but I figured 2:15 was a good option (and I had paced that time before).
Actually, I had originally offered to pace 4:30 for the marathon, as part of my 24 hour training, running 25 mins/walking 5 mins. I ended up changing to pace the half instead, and so glad I did! As it turns out, I ran 42.2km a week or so ago and it was only JUST under 4:30. I possibly could have paced 4:45 but 4:30 would have been a disaster!
I hadn’t thought too much about what I was going to wear – I always dress up when I am pacing, not just because it’s kind of fun, but mostly because it makes it easier for the other runners to see me. Then, a few days before, in a conversation on a running group Facebook page, one of my friends Maree commented that she’d be out in her Supergirl costume cheering on the runners somewhere in the latter part of the race. That reminded me that I had a Supergirl costume myself, that I had worn when MCing Yurrebilla last year, and I had not yet run in it! Perfect!
On Saturday night I went to a pre-race dinner which included a number of interstate and overseas visitors and was really enjoyable, and being a running-related event it was a nice early finish! (With WAY too much food!)
I had planned to get to the Adelaide Oval before the marathon started at 7. The half didn’t start until 8, and coach Kent wanted all the pacers there by 7:30. So I set my alarm for 5:45, and then quickly realised that I was going to have to get a move on to get there in time! With road closures, I needed to allow a bit of extra time to get there. As it turned out, by some miracle, I was at the Adelaide Oval by 6:40 – where else can you get up, get ready, drive to the race, park for free and be at the start line of a marathon less than an hour after getting up?
Rain was forecast, but fingers crossed it would not be until later in the day. I wasn’t sure if the dye in my Supergirl costume would run, and I didn’t really fancy dragging a soggy cape around 21.1km!
On arrival at the Oval I wished the marathoners well, especially Ben and Gary who were doing their first marathons. Ben had done a lot of halves and was significantly faster than me, but somehow hadn’t gotten around to running a marathon until now! Gary (aka the Paparazzi) had gone straight to ultras and then decided he might as well tick off the 42.2km ‘officially’ too!
Not so good for the runners, but great news for the pacers, was that there was no helium for the pacer balloons, therefore we wouldn’t have to drag balloons around! It did make it tricky for the other runners to find us, but luckily for the 2:15 half marathoners I was pretty hard to miss! We had pacer bibs as well as our normal bibs, the pacer bibs were to go on our backs. I decided there was no point putting my pacer bib on my back as it would be completely covered by my epic cape! So with some difficulty trying to get it straight, I pinned the pacer bib onto the cape.
There was a bit of confusion around the pacer bibs. I THINK that if we’d had balloons, they would have had our goal time on them. And that would have been the thing that people would have looked for. The pacer bibs had our goal PACE, mine being 6:24 (minutes per km). It probably would have worked quite well with the goal TIME on the balloons. Perhaps in future both the time and the pace could be printed on the bibs?
This was the first time I’d run this half marathon course. 2 years ago when I last ran the half, I think we were still doing that zigzag up to Wellington Square, which was sooo much fun the year I did the marathon and had to do it twice!
I really liked the course. This was my favourite of all the Adelaide Marathon courses I’ve run. I especially liked the bit where we ran into the Botanic Gardens, through a weird gate and along a path which I’d never actually run before, which is remarkable when you consider that I’ve been running for over 6 years and most of my runs have been in and around the city!
There seemed to be plenty of drink stations, although I only stopped at one during the race (and the Adelaide Harriers one RIGHT near the end, when I needed to slow down a little bit!). Normally in a half marathon I would carry a bottle of Gatorade but in cooler weather and at ‘pacer pace’ I figured I could probably do without it – as it turns out I didn’t really need anything during the run. Most of the drink stations were ‘manned’ by different running clubs/groups, with the most raucous being the RIOT Runners (complete with motivational signs) closely followed by the RMA station (complete with Louise in rainbow unicorn outfit – one of the kids had a little folding chair set up and I jokingly threatened to sit in it (except I didn’t, because I would have broken it, been unable to get out of it, or more likely, both!)
The only issue I had with the course, which was probably more of an issue for me being a pacer than it would have been had I just been running for me, was that some of the kilometre markers were not in the right place, and I completely missed seeing some of them (that could have been my lack of observational skills, or maybe they weren’t there). I’d run Great Southern with no kilometre markers, and although it was a bit weird, it was OK because I was just running by feel anyway. However, as a pacer, you do rely on the markers to get the pace right.
I had set my watch to alert me if I went faster than 6:20 and slower than 6:25. I also started my watch on the gun rather than when I crossed the start line about 15 seconds later – that meant that if anyone finished ahead of or with me, would get under 2:15. It did take me a couple of kilometres to hit my goal pace. And then the 2km marker appeared to be out by quite a way (my watch read 2.2km at this point – GPS watches are always a little bit out, but to be 200m out after 2km would be highly unusual!) so I wasn’t actually sure if I was on pace or not. Rather than relying on doing maths in my head every kilometre, I worked out that 32 mins for every 5km would have me spot on 2:15 pace. So every 5km I’d be able to gauge where I was at based on the marker. I think I was pretty spot on at 5km but unfortunately I couldn’t see the 10km marker!
Almost invariably my watch shows that I’ve gone further than I actually have. Therefore, if I ran at 6:24 pace by my watch, I would almost certainly be too slow. So I was aiming to run at about 6:20 by my watch – just in case anyone thought I was running too fast! (I was probably going marginally too fast in the beginning while I was trying to get my pace right. It’s an improvement on 2015 when it took me 7km to hit my goal pace!
The 14km marker really threw me – my watch said I’d gone about 13.6km. Most of the other markers indicated a lower number than my watch did. This was on War Memorial Drive, coincidentally almost exactly in the same spot I’d been in the tiger onesie 5 years earlier, and we soon figured out what the problem was – the marker was meant to be on the other side of the road, and when we went past it again after a little out and back section, we confirmed that it was pretty much in the right spot, just on the wrong side of the road!
There was another one, I think around 17km, where my watch said 17.5km. I don’t expect them to be perfect, they’re just a guide after all, but I know as a pacer I really do rely on them, and as other runners are relying on me to set the right pace, they are pretty important! (I wonder if there’s any way the kilometre markings could be spray painted or even chalked on the ground, as a backup?)
So now to the best bit about pacing, and the reason I come back and do it again and again.
Even though my finish line photo will show that I didn’t have any other runners on my ‘bus’ at the finish line, I know for a fact that I managed to get at least a few runners across the line in under 2:15, and others who were behind me and couldn’t quite catch me, were still happy with their times as a result of having followed my flowing red cape!
Early on I ran with Annette and Sarah, I can’t remember the details of what they’d done before but from memory I think Sarah was hoping for a sub 2:30. She was going to try to stick with me for 15km and then see how she went from there. I told her that if she stayed with me for 15km she would be able to do a lot of walking in the last 6km and still make it comfortably under 2:30. Annette had some knee issues so she was walk/running, and wasn’t loving the hills (a bit like me!) – she had been talked into doing the half by someone who had then bailed – from memory I think she moved interstate so I guess that’s a valid excuse! I saw Annette off and on during the race, she caught up with me in the last little bit where we had to run up Morphett St and back.
Then there was Kim, who had run the Sydney half marathon last weekend and was hoping to go a bit quicker here in Adelaide. She was in training for the most gruelling of events, the Marathon de Medoc, and she commented to me that she was dressing as Supergirl. (If you haven’t heard of Medoc, look it up, the gist of it is that they have wine and cheese at the drink stations and EVERYONE dresses up – this year the theme is superheroes! Could I? NO!!!!)
Running with me from about the 14km mark until I sent them on their way, were Katie and Phil, who had only recently started running, and who had never run 10km before doing the double parkrun on New Year’s Day. Since then they have done 5 half marathons, are doing their first marathon in July! And I think it all started with parkrun! (Recently I have been telling people that the 6 hour race, as part of the 24 hour event, is a ‘gateway drug’ – well I could very easily say the same thing about
parkrun!) I jokingly said to them that they’d be doing their first 100 miler next year…
When I went past the Oval to the final drink station (where I grabbed a drink) I realised I was a bit ahead of time and tried to slow my pace down quite a bit as I turned the corner into Pennington Tce. I realised that I was still going to be well under my goal time so I walked for a bit up the road, until I reached the driveway into the Oval at which point I started running again. As I was walking I cheered on all the half marathoners (and marathoners of course, although they didn’t really need my encouragement, being sub 3:15!) as they went past me to complete their race.
Onto the Oval I went, and once again I realised my pacing was a bit out, and I ended up having to really pick up the pace to finish on time! Supergirl #1 Maree (she’s the original Supergirl) saw me come in and ran with me to the finish which was quite cool – and on my watch I finished in 2:14:59. Which is not too bad for a 2:15 pacer, although you probably wouldn’t say it was great pacing if you saw my last few kilometre splits!
After finishing, and getting another piece of bling for the collection from Annie or Tina (I can’t remember which one of them actually gave me my medal) I caught up with a few of my 2:15 ‘bus passengers’ who had all managed the sub 2:15. Most excited was Katie who gave me the promised massive hug and got a selfie to commemorate the occasion!
I later spoke to a few people around the place (because I couldn’t bring myself to change out of my Supergirl costume) who said they were just behind me and although they tried to catch me but didn’t, they still achieved what they wanted to. Kim was one of those – she beat her time from Sydney last weekend and was happy with that!
During the week I had got myself some new shoes from Joggers World thanks to a prize I’d won from SARRC after the Clare event. I’d never run in Mizunos but I am extremely happy with these shoes so far!
I then went and got myself a well earned coffee, and caught up with Voula who had not long got back from doing the London Marathon, and who had done the 10k. Then we went out to the Plaza to see the runners in the last kilometre or so (it’s actually a pretty cool spot to watch from if you’re waiting on a particular runner – you can cheer them on as they go past, then have plenty of time to get back into the Oval and down to the finish line before they finish!) I saw 3:45 pacer Coralie go by with debutant Ben, and a few minutes back from them was regular running buddy Gary doing his 3rd marathon (his first being Adelaide 2016 which was the year I also ran).
After that I went back into the Oval to hang out at the finish line and watch other runners finish. I was down on the ground when marathon newbie Gary finished, and he barely had his medal around his neck before he had the phone out again taking happy snaps to mark the occasion!
Tina and Annie had to go at 12, and I don’t think there was anyone scheduled to take over from them on medal duty, and Sheena (who I believe had been there since 2am) said she’d do it, at which point I said I’d do it for a bit. It was actually
quite fun, I’ve never done that job before, probably because it’s a volunteer position that is never hard to fill! One guy wanted to be the one to present the medal to his wife, which was a pretty special moment! And a woman from Hong Kong, was really excited to see her husband finish, so I offered for her to present the medal which she did!
The weather turned pretty ugly later – I was very glad I’d decided to ‘just’ do the half – I got a little bit wet in the last kilometre but it was just a passing shower. Towards the end, I was sitting up in the grandstand, waiting for the
runners to get about halfway around the Oval before running down to present their medals, then straight back up the stairs again! One of the guys who was working the PA system lent me his jacket, and someone else handed me a Mickey Mouse umbrella while I was standing in the rain (before I realised I could just as easily do my job from undercover) – thanks to both of those guys!
Last year I was there to see the last finisher – with a generous 8 hour cutoff, everything was still in place. This year, with a 7 hour cutoff, once 2pm had passed, the staff had to start packing up so that the Oval could be vacated in time. (In fact, the finish arch had been taken down some time earlier due to strong winds threatening to bring it down on a finishing runner!)
In the final hour or so, we were constantly being updated re how many runners were out on course. (This illustrates the importance of notifying one of the organisers if you pull out of a race – if you don’t cross the finish line, and if you don’t tell anyone you’ve pulled out, we think you’re still out there!) At one stage MC Pat Carroll said there were 16 runners still out there in the rain and wind – by some amazing coincidence I happened to have exactly 16 medals in my hand! As it turned out some of those people had actually pulled out, and by the time 2pm rolled around I only had 2 medals left in my hand. With the remaining 2 runners (of which only one actually finished according to the official results) still a long way from finishing, I took advantage of a short break in the rain and made the bolt back to my car and off to celebrate with my running buddies!
Well done to all the runners that participated, especially those doing their first marathon or half marathon, and especially especially the ones who were out in the gnarly weather and still finished! In all my years involved with Adelaide I can’t recall it ever raining before! And from a selfish point of view, SPECIAL congrats to the people on the 2:15 bus!
The volunteers always get special thanks but never has it been more deserved. SARRC staff, Race Director Ben and Office Manager Sheena were there from arse o’clock till who knows when, and put on another stellar event. There were a lot
of volunteers involved – I can’t mention all the roles because I would forget someone. From those that helped with setup in the early hours of the morning when I was still in bed, to those who were packing up the gear while I was enjoying a glass of wine at the pub, and all those who were out on course and in the stadium braving the weather and giving amazing encouragement to the runners – THANK YOU ALL! And I’d like to take this opportunity to remind people who run these events, that there is always room for more volunteers, and there is always the opportunity to volunteer AND run as well. I particularly enjoyed handing out the medals for a few hours!
So there you have it, my 21st half marathon. And (possibly under the influence of a glass of red and the encouragement of my running buddies) on Sunday afternoon I signed up for half marathon #22…
You know what I really hate? When people say “Oh, I didn’t train, I’m just doing it for fun”.
I heard that a few times in a short period at the finish line of the Great Southern Half Marathon yesterday!
Now I’m going to talk about the fact that I didn’t train for said event either. That’s not to say I’ve been doing nothing – I’ve been doing plenty, just nowhere near enough training that is helpful for running a good half!
I entered really early – and I paid the extra $10 for the medal. I really like that concept. Plenty of people would rather the option of paying less and not getting a medal that will only end up in a shoebox or a drawer anyway. Me – I have plenty of shoeboxes! Bring on the bling!
Leading up to the event, initially I thought I hadn’t run a half marathon since September’s inaugural City-Bay half – which was actually a really good run for me, my second fastest half ever, and so it should be, being more downhill than uphill! Then I remembered November’s Point to Pinnacle. I’m not sure if I can really compare that to any other half marathon I’ve done, being 1200m of climbing. Even if I did count that one, it had been well over 5 months since I’d run a half marathon (and indeed, since I’d run 21.1km without walking!)
All of my long run training since then has been on trails (with plenty of walking) or on a flat track with scheduled walk breaks every half hour. So I had kind of forgotten how to run long without walk breaks!
My goals for Great Southern were modest. My A goal was to finish without having to walk, and my B goal was to finish. By this time I’d seen the medal and there was NO WAY this was going to be my first DNF! If I did have to walk I would
practise my fast walk I’d been doing in my last 2 parkruns and for the last 4 hours of the Canberra 12 hour (I’d got my time down to just under 36:30 for 5k).
I had no plan, no pacing strategy, nothing. I had no idea of the course other than the fact that it had a fair bit of sand running in it.
For me, this race was 100% all about the bling. It was ridiculous, huge, heavy, tacky, bright, outrageous, possibly even ugly. AND I WANTED IT!
The weather was good – it’s always a bit iffy with these coastal events – if you get a nasty headwind like they did down here a few years ago, it can be a very bad day!
It was a nice late start – 9:30, which suited me very well. I aimed to get there at 8:45 which as it turned out was not early enough – by the time we walked the 800 or so metres from the carpark to the event area, I barely had time to queue up for the portaloos, put sunscreen on, clean my shoes and drop my bag off before we were being called to the beach for the briefing and start! After nearly an hour in the car a little leg loosener would have been good so in hindsight getting there at 8:30 would have been much better and less rushed. (They did have the fancy portaloos though, with soap and all, so that’s a big tick!)
I was running with arm warmers, even though with the 9:30 start, it wasn’t actually that cold! The benefit of that was that I could start my watch and cover it up, and not look at it again until I had crossed the finish line.
It was very weird! With no kilometre markings, and no watch, I had no idea either how far I’d gone or how much time had passed. My watch beeped at me at the end of every kilometre but I quickly lost count of those!
The course, as I stated earlier, started with an out and back section along the beach, with the 10km runners starting 10 minutes after us. There was a bit of traily stuff through the scrub (nothing too technical – the general consensus from those who had run it before, was that road shoes were best) and quite a bit of road. It was relatively flat, and thankfully not windy. The conditions were pretty ideal.
We started to catch up with some of the 10k runners, and when we reached the point where the 10k runners turned left down the Esplanade to the finish line and we went right for who knows how long, I asked one of the marshals, “Is it too
late to change to the 10k?” I bet I wasn’t the first or the last to ask that question!
That Esplanade bit seemed to go on FOREVER! It wasn’t long before we encountered the lead runners coming back the other way, but it would be a LONG time before I would reach that turnaround point at Port Willunga! As I later found out, the point where we split from the 10k was approximately the halfway mark, and it was just over 4km to the turnaround. From the turnaround it was about 6km to the end.
I had totally forgotten how hard half marathons are! This was my 20th road half marathon, I later worked out! This was the one I had been most unprepared for, and it definitely showed!
By the time we got back to the beach again, I figured we were nearly there, and as I ran past 10k tailwalker Tim, I said “Please tell me we’re nearly there!” to which he replied, “Only about 2km to go!” I had thought it could only be less than 1km so I wasn’t too happy to hear that, but at that point I definitely was going to be able to achieve my A goal which was something!
The visibility was good, so I could see the runners ahead of me and where they were going. Much to my dismay, I saw them turn off the beach and go UPHILL to the finish line! How rude! I heard that in previous years they’d finished on the beach and that was kind of what I was hoping – again if I’d studied the course I’d have known where the finish line was but sometimes I prefer not to know! I was CERTAINLY glad not to have known about the 2km of sand at the end!
The first I knew of the time was when I ran up the ramp and I heard “1 hour 50” – far from my best, but still well under 2 hours, which, even though I didn’t set a time goal, was about as good as I could have expected! I ended up going just under 1:51 and promptly announced my retirement from half marathons. 20 is a good number!
Then I pretended to collapse under the weight of the RIDICULOUS medal that I was handed after I crossed the line! I reckon they need to have a competition where people have to come up with creative uses for the medal! I think it would be
really handy for self defence! I also believe that next year the fast runners should be forced to run with that thing around their neck – that’ll sort ‘em out!
All in all it was an excellent event – an interesting course, perfect weather, great atmosphere, wine at the finish line, and the epicest of medals! Congrats to Matt and team for a very successful 4th Great Southern event (over 1000 registrations this year compared with 18 for the first event!) As I have now decided that I should avoid races of distances between 5km and 50km, maybe if they put on a 5km event next year I will come back!
And yeah… I’m sure there will be more half marathons in my future!
The Clare Half has become something of a fixture in my running calendar. In 2014 it was my very first half marathon. In 2015 I had one of the few races where I’ve considered DNFing before getting ‘redemption’ in 2016.
In 2017 I changed it up a bit, doing the 5k as I was only a few weeks out from running the Boston Marathon and it was a bit late in the piece to be running a hard half. It was also the first time I’d driven up on race day, usually preferring to spend the night up there before the race (Clare being close to a 2 hour drive from home).
2018 was different again, opting to be a pacer for the half and probably having the most enjoyable of all my halves here!
Clare 2019 wasn’t even really on my radar. After having been there 5 years straight, I figured I had done everything I needed to there, and instead I’d do a long run to train for the upcoming 24 hour race.
But then, a couple of weeks ago I went to a presentation for the Ultra Runners SA Summer Trail Series at which I received my trophy from January’s 100k Track Championships. Ben, the head honcho of URSA and also the Race Director for SARRC, said he’d have my trophy for last year’s Track Champs within a few days, and he’d bring it to Clare. Thing was, I wasn’t going to Clare. Now I know that I would have got my trophy another time if I hadn’t gone to Clare, but over the next few days I thought about it and thought ‘bugger it, I’m going to Clare!’
I entered the 5k (the other options being the 10 and the Half). I’d run the Half 4 times, I hadn’t been doing any Half training, so there wasn’t much incentive for me to do the Half! Especially now that we get medals for all distances! No, 5k was my best option! (Plus, next weekend I’m running the Great Southern Half for the first time, and I didn’t fancy the thought of 2 halves a week apart!
I went up to Clare on Sunday with 2 running buddies who were both doing the Half. Consequently I was there WAY early (the 5k started 45 minutes after the half) which was good – it gave me plenty of time to get psyched and slowly peel off the layers (it was slightly chilly when we arrived – it always seems to be a few degrees cooler in Clare!)
Even though I wasn’t going to be out there very long, I put sunscreen on – one of the 10k runners, Kerry, commented that I was being a bit optimistic (to be fair, I was still wearing a beanie and a hoodie at the time) but later in the morning my decision would pay off!
The numbers were impressive! 382 finishers in the 21.1k, 168 in the 10k and 119 in the 5k.
The half marathon and 10k headed south along the Riesling Trail (the Half turning around at Penwortham) and the 5k went north. Consequently, we would not encounter any of the HM or 10k runners until we approached the finish. I was hoping to be done before the first half marathoner but you never know how fast they are going to be!
We all started on the oval like last year, which meant a slight uphill run from the oval to get to the Riesling Trail!
Lining up at the start line for the 5k I positioned myself just behind the front row, which was mostly kids. I was aiming to get under 23 minutes, something I hadn’t done in 4 months, and where better to do it than in an actual race?
Away we went, and I was in 4th place out of the females as we approached the carpark. By the time we hit the Riesling Trail I had managed to get myself in front.
The race itself was pretty uneventful – I do think I probably went out a bit too hard in the first kilometre (which I ALWAYS do!) and consequently my second kilometre was my slowest!
Early on I was passed by a couple of boys who I think were brothers, and they were sitting just in front of me for most of the rest of the race. I was also passed by Alex who always seems to be just in front of me in races, and who I later found out is in the 70-74 age group! I had thoughts of trying to catch him or at least keep him in sight, but catching him proved an impossibility!
On the way back, the two brothers must have tripped each other up and both fell, but quickly bounced back up and kept going! I asked them if they did parkrun – they said they did, so I concluded that these were the types of kids who knew how to run a 5k (unlike a lot of kids I see at parkrun who go like the clappers for about 500m and then fall in a heap!)
I did pass them with 1km or so to go but they would get me in the end!
The last kilometre was hard! Again, probably because I went out too hard. It was downhill so it should theoretically have been easier – but when is the last km ever easy?
Coming off the Riesling Trail, I was passed by an Adelaide Harrier coming from the other direction. I wondered if it was a half marathoner but it turned out the half marathoners were a few minutes away, he was in the 10k. (I later realised that if it was a half marathoner, his time would have been 1hr 8 minutes which would have been somewhat implausible!)
Coming round the back of the oval, for the 6th time in as many years, I knew the finish line was close. I was pretty sure none of the other females were going to catch me but I did keep looking over my shoulder. The brothers were there – I could hear them picking up the pace and I knew that they were going to catch me, and also that I wouldn’t be able to chase them down! They passed me just before we ran into the finish chute. I did take the foot off the gas slightly when I realised there was no-one close behind me.
When I stopped my watch my time was just over 23 minutes (23:04) but looking at the official time later, I JUST scraped in!
Chatting to the first aid staff who were checking in on everyone as they crossed the line. I remarked that a 5k is every bit as hard as a 21.1k! (It’s just a little bit shorter!)
I then had the privilege of seeing the half marathoners and many of the 5k and 10k finishers come in. Both David and Gary did better than expected which was good because I had to ride home with both of them!
After the presentation we headed to the Little Red Grape bakery in Sevenhill on the recommendation of Gary. It seemed to be a popular choice among runners! We then hit up a couple of cellar doors, Skillogalee and Kilikanoon and did not walk away empty handed!
THANK YOU TIME!
Thanks firstly for David for driving and allowing Gary and me to give the Clare wine region the appropriate attention! And then, of course thanks to all the volunteers. This event takes a lot of work to put on, the fact it is so far from Adelaide poses a challenge but many of the volunteers (and indeed the runners) come up from Adelaide for the weekend, and the local community has always been very supportive too!
And I reckon I will be back again next year for the 7th year running (pun intended) – might try something different next year!
Trail Running SA’s Five Peaks 58km 2019 was my 17th ultramarathon, and my 8th (and possibly last!) trail ultra.
This was the second running of Five Peaks, and you can read all about my experience last year here.
I entered this year’s event when the pesky super early bird pricing came out back in November. I note that I paid for the insurance in case I wanted to pull out!
Last year I used Five Peaks as a training run for UTA100. I had been doing quite a bit of hills/trails, and I had done all the official training runs.
This year, it didn’t really fit into my plans at all. I had been doing a lot of long flat stuff in preparation for Canberra 12hr, and very little in the way of long trail runs. All I’d been doing was 2 short trails during the week to try to make my legs remember how to run hills. And 3 weeks after Canberra, here I was doing a very challenging trail ultra.
The week before Five Peaks I had got a new tattoo on my wrist. It wasn’t until after I’d had it done, when my artist was going through the aftercare, that I found out I wasn’t supposed to do any excessive exercise (in particular, sweating) for 2 weeks.
I thought fleetingly about pulling out, but then decided I’d just rinse it with water at each drink station, to rinse the sweat off.
On the Thursday before the race I had a really good trail run, the best one I’d had since October last year. It might have had something to do with the fact that I caught up with super speedy Randell while running down Winter Track, making me run faster than I normally would! Randell was also doing Five Peaks, starting at 7 like me because he was underprepared (ordinarily he would be in the fast 8am wave!) – I said I’d see him at the start, and possibly at the finish line if he was still there by the time I finished!
The weather forecast was good for Sunday – a top of around 23 with no rain forecast. Although we need rain, I was happy to wait until AFTER Five Peaks. Then, it can rain as much as it wants! No rain during the week meant that it wasn’t going to be muddy/slippery underfoot and most importantly, there would be no water flowing through Echo Tunnel and I’d be able to walk on the low side and not hit my head on the roof! It also meant there was no need to carry a rain jacket, or pack a change of clothes/shoes for Drink Station 3 like I did last year!
It had been 12 months since I’d run a trail ultra, so I’d kind of forgotten what to do in preparation! I was thankful for last year’s race report, to remind me what I needed to do!
I packed 3 sandwiches cut into quarters (2 peanut butter and 1 mixed nut/seed butter) and 2 Clif bars. I expected to be out there between 7 and 8 hours, and I’d worked the food out based on eating something every 30 minutes like during a track ultra. It doesn’t work so well during a trail ultra, as I have to be walking to eat, and I don’t like to walk unless it is uphill, but I was satisfied that there would be enough food, and enough variety. There would also be plenty of food at the drink stations in case I felt like something else!
Drinks-wise I had 2 bottles of Gatorade to start, with 4 portions of powder to refill. That seemed like a lot but I didn’t want to run out! I also took 2 vanilla essence bottles, because at DS3 there was going to be cold brew coffee! I’d probably have a cup there, but I thought it would be nice to take some ‘for the road’! In addition I had a soft flask for extra water and a collapsible cup for Coke.
In my pack I also had a change of top even though I probably wouldn’t be needing it given the weather conditions.
My race kit was very similar to how I started last year – pink Mekong T-shirt and matching Groovy Gaitors, and rainbow arm warmers. Everything else was black! I really like the Mekong tops for races, especially the ones where I’m going to be wearing a race vest. The fabric is super cooling, it does get very wet but is extremely comfortable to run in. I had also purchased a new pair of white Goodr sunglasses the day before – I’d actually gone into BKT-Trail to buy a soft flask and then I remembered that they stock Goodr and I thought, I need a new pair because the ones I have don’t match my outfit!
I got up at 4:30 (which was effectively 5:30, thanks to Daylight Saving finishing!) and left home around 5:15. (I’m not sure why I’m bothering with these details, it’s not as if I am going to be running this race again!). I made it to Belair just in time for the 5:45 bus (factoring in the walk from the carpark to the bus) and on the walk to the bus I ran into regular running buddy Mark.
I took a seat at the front of the bus, it wasn’t until I sat down that I realised that sitting next to me was Trevor, a very good runner from Victor Harbor doing his first ultramarathon. I had spoken with him briefly last weekend after the Granite Island Run, and gave him a few helpful tips during the bus ride! (Not that he would be needing them, as a sub 3 hour marathoner!)
Unlike last year, the bus arrived in plenty of time for me to do all the usual pre-race stuff and have a chat with a few people while waiting for the 7am start. 7am was the ‘main’ wave – with the 6am group being for people who felt they needed the extra hour to finish, and the 8am group being for ‘outright racers’. I was definitely where I belonged!
I couldn’t hear the race briefing, so hoped that there was nothing crucial in there that I needed to know!
There were a few little bottlenecks early – I had forgotten about that from last year! After starting to run across Foxfield Oval we all had to slow down to a walk to get through a gate in single file!
I knew the first section would be the worst. There is approximately 2200m of elevation in the whole course, and half of it is in the first 18km. If I could make it to Norton Summit (Drink Station 2) I could make it to the end!(‘Five Peaks’ is a lie, there are more than five peaks, but three of the ‘official’ peaks – Black Hill, Rocky Hill and Norton Summit – are in that first section.)
I tried to take it relatively easy in that first section – there was nothing to be gained by going hard or trying to run up some of the hills, I needed to conserve energy for the end! Consequently there was a LOT of walking.
I reckon I tripped at least 5 times in that first section, kicked a rock into my ankle and almost went over on my ankle stepping off the edge of the road. But, I didn’t fall! (I had my cycling gloves on for protection – my hands did get quite sweaty but I thought I’d be tempting fate taking them off, so I left them on for the duration! AND I DIDN’T FALL! Winning!) I saw one guy fall and one girl fall twice, all in that first bit! And at the finish line so many of the people I spoke to had fallen – I almost felt a bit left out!
I made it up Peak 1 (Black Hill) without too much trouble, and then we reached Drink Station 1 at the base of f***ing Chapman’s Track (which leads to Peak 2). I didn’t need any refills but I asked Debbie to squirt some water on my tattoo. (I have to keep it covered up for 4 weeks. Having it covered up means more sweating!)
And then I started climbing up that f***ing hill that seems to go on forever. (I think it could be accurately renamed ‘Heartbreak Hill’ – I don’t think we have one of those in SA but much like HBH in the Sydney City to Surf run, you get to what you think is the top and are lulled into a false sense of security only to find that there is MORE UPHILL. Blah!)
I did actually think about quitting during the Chapman’s climb. But there was no real reason to, other than I just didn’t want to do it. Physically I was OK, and time was never going to be an issue (I had 8 hours 45 minutes to make cutoff at the last drink station at 49km). Plus, I was never going to stop before DS2 and once I got there, I would have broken the back of it. Further incentive for NOT quitting was the fact that I have never DNF’ed a race and I didn’t want to start now, especially with no good reason!
I did make it to Norton’s in just under 2 hours 35, about 7 minutes slower than last year. And unlike last year, I did stop for a while here – I needed to reapply my sunscreen (something that was not an issue last year) and top up my drink bottles.
Kudos to the marshals here at Norton Summit. For anyone who is not familiar, it is a very tricky intersection at the top of a hill where 5 roads meet. Cyclists and motorcyclists like riding here (I’ve done it once or twice myself!) To get across the intersection we had to do about 4 crossings, and as the road is not closed, we had to wait for a safe moment to cross. The last road crossing before the drink station, I swear I was there for about 2 minutes (it was probably more like 30 seconds) as we waited for a convoy of cars (marshal Janelle said that they’d had no traffic all day up to that point!)
After putting on my sunscreen, because it was getting quite warm by this point, I decided to ditch the arm warmers and tie them to the back of my pack in case I needed them again (also because no-one would recognise me without them!)
But the climbing was not over – far from it!
The next section was a bit shorter, ‘only’ 9km but this was the section where we had to go through Giles Conservation Park and Horsnell Gully. Somewhere along here I decided I needed help on the hills so I found myself a sturdy stick (more
like a branch) which had a nice little ‘ergonomic handle’. His name was Sticky McGee. I had originally planned to just use Sticky until the next drink station. I’d used sticks before but only for short periods and as soon as we would hit a flat or downhill section where I was able to run, I’d ditch them, because I didn’t want to carry them while trying to run. Given that I wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire when I was running, I didn’t mind running with Sticky for a bit!
We exited the conservation park onto Coach Road and then I knew that the next drink station couldn’t be far away – and the drink station was ALMOST the halfway mark! I was trotting along towards DS3 when I saw the sign that said there was
cold brew coffee and that certainly put a spring in my step!
At DS3 I had a cup of cold brew and also filled my 2 small bottles for later. Here I met up with Simon who was just ahead of me at that stage, and he said he wished he’d thought of bringing ‘takeaway bottles’ but he did have a couple of cups of coffee at the aid station. I also had some Coke – there was only a little bit left in the bottle, and it wasn’t until I’d emptied the bottle and filled my cup that I realised that was the last of the Coke that they had! Coke and cold brew, what more could you ask for? (That drink station also had cold boiled potatoes and potato chips – I had a handful of chips but didn’t fancy the potatoes on this occasion)
I’m sure it wasn’t just a coincidence that my race picked up a bit after that. I’d had some coffee, some Coke, some salty chips and I still had my friend Sticky with me.
Somewhere in the next short section (the next peak and the next drink station was 6km away at Mount Lofty Summit) I caught up with Mark, who I had run with a bit in the early stages. We are often around the same pace so we stuck together for a while. By the time we got to Mount Lofty in about 5 hours, I was pretty confident we’d make it to the end in under 8 hours (the last training run, which I’d done 2 weeks ago, only a week after Canberra, I’d done in just under 3 hours).
At Mount Lofty I caught up with Simon again for a quick selfie – that was the last I saw of him until the finish line! (I found out later that he was posting regularly on Facebook at the drink stations and the Peaks, and he probably told the story of the race better with a few photos and captions than I am telling it in many many more words!) Mount Lofty was also where I got myself some brownies – yum, thanks Maurice!
(Mount Lofty was also the drink station that I had totally missed last year. I still don’t know how I managed to miss it! Must have been in the zone!)
I decided that I’d keep Sticky with me until I got out of Cleland – I knew that once we hit Mount Barker Road there was a few kilometres downhill where I might actually be able to run properly, and I thought Sticky might hold me back!
The Cleland bit went FOR BLOODY EVER! It didn’t help that an extra 2km had been added on to the Cleland section this year – I initially thought that the TRSA Committee were just sadists (and I may have said that to a few of the committee members at the finish line) but I later found out that it was to ease the congestion at the start of the 23km event. So 23km runners, I hope you appreciated the reduced congestion – we really took one for the team there! (By the way the extra 2km was all uphill and felt like about 10km). Below is the whole course with Cleland circled, and a close up of the Cleland bit.
It was funny how many people I encountered in this section were REALLY looking forward to running on the road for a bit! (Which is weird for trail runners!)
I have an alternative theory about the extra 2km. The TRSA committee, last year and this year, have all volunteered at this event, being a new event. I’m sure some of them want to run it. So they decided to make it even more brutal than
last year, so many of the runners (like myself) would decide that they never wanted to run it again, they would instead volunteer, and then the committee would be free to run it. Then they would take out the extra bit and go back to what it was last year.
Somewhere in Cleland I lost Mark – I was sure he would catch up with me (and looked over my shoulder several times expecting to see him) but that was the last I saw of him before the end!
After what seemed like forever (and I’d be interested to know exactly how long the Cleland bit was) I thanked Sticky (Marie Kondo style!) and sent him back to his natural habitat before hitting the bitumen for a short while!
Along Mount Barker Road I saw a couple of familiar faces standing on the side of the road – Mum and Dad, who live nearby and had come out to cheer me on! I had originally told Mum that I would be finished between 7 and 8 hours (my theory
being that I should be able to do it quicker this year than last year, given the more favourable weather conditions – at that stage I hadn’t factored in the extra 2km) but when I saw them I said I couldn’t imagine finishing much under 8 hours. At that stage I still thought I was on track for sub 8 hours. It would be close, but it was doable!
Not long after catching up with Mum and Dad was the next drink station, at the end of the road section.
At this point I decided not to bother reapplying my sunscreen – it had got quite sunny and warm earlier, but it had now cooled down a bit and become quite overcast. I had sunscreen packed in my race vest, so I could stop and reapply at any time if I decided I needed to. Plus, the next (and last) drink station was ‘only’ 4km away. After passing DS5 I was kicking myself that I didn’t check
the official distance – all the drink stations had a distance marked on them, and I could then compare it with my watch to see how ‘out’ my Garmin was. (Note to newbies – GPS watches are ALWAYS out, in my experience they usually tell you you’ve gone further than you have, so you should never trust them. They are really a guide only!)
The next section was through cow paddocks and included Peak 5, Brown Hill, before descending to McElligott’s Quarry. Last year we’d had ‘close encounters’ with the cows but they seemed to be keeping a low profile this time around!
DS6 was manned by the Southern Athletic Club. The official distance was 49km and my watch said 49.3 – that’s pretty accurate! Dani helped me fill my drinks and ‘water’ my tattoo before wishing me all the best for the last section!
DS6 was followed by some downhill switchbacks before we hit the dreaded Brownhill Creek Road. It’s actually not that bad, it just seems to go on forever, and it’s a gentle but relentless climb. Luckily we spent a bit of time off the road, on trails on both sides of the road. One bit of trail was quite new – I’d run it for the first time 2 weeks ago in the final training run, and it was a nice relief from what we’d done earlier – some nice shady bits, lots of greenery and nice and gentle underfoot with pine needles.
Along here I caught up with Garry, who I hadn’t met before but I recognised his T-shirt as a 2016 UTA T-shirt, which was also my first UTA, so we chatted about that for a bit. I also noticed he (like me) still had a UTA timing tag attached to his backpack!
The end was in sight when we reached the end of the road and the Pony Ridge climb, which I mistakenly thought was the last climb. I tried power hiking up the switchbacks, because I knew that to get sub-8 I couldn’t afford to take it easy
Even though I’d run this exact section only 2 weeks earlier, I had forgotten how much climbing there was in this last section! There may have been some swearing every time I saw another bloody hill, and with every hill my sub 8 hour dream
got a little bit further away…
I think it was still on the switchbacks that I saw Gordon, who was out supporting and taking photos. He told me there was ‘only 4.5km to go’. That threw me a bit because I thought we were closer to 4km to go – I was still assuming my watch was 300m over. If I had 4.5km to go, 8 hours was looking iffy, especially if there was any more climbing to come!
Which, of course, you know there was!
I ran whenever I could, and walked when I had to. Even though normally I walk up the hills in an ultra, when I’m that close to the end I run some of the uphills as well as the downhills and the flats.
Into Belair National Park, the finish line got closer but still seemed so far away. It wasn’t until I reached Echo Tunnel (which took FOREVER) that I thought I was really near the end. Even then there was still seemingly a long way to go!
The committee had outdone themselves this year. Last year the tunnel had been lit up with fairy lights, this year as well as the fairy lights we also had disco lights! Like 2 weeks ago, I walked on the low side. A few people were walking
on the high side – rookie mistake!
Time was of the essence so I tried to power home. There were a lot of walkers out by this stage so it was challenging at times to get around people. There was one girl in front of me near the end, she was walking and I really needed to get past her, so I politely called out “Just passing on your right” (earlier in the day I’d noticed quite a few people trying to pass slower runners/walkers on single track which is a bit dangerous – this section was plenty wide enough for me to get around her safely). She didn’t seem to hear me and was totally oblivious to the fact that I was there. I’m not even sure whether or not she was in the race. So I called out again, a bit louder this time, and as I passed I noticed earbuds in her ears. I really don’t like earbuds or any kind of earphones especially during trail races, for this very reason. Even if not in a race, I prefer not to have music on the trails – I like to hear nature, after all, isn’t that kind of the point? But having music on during a race can be quite dangerous!
58.3km (or what I had assumed would be the finish line) came and went, and not long after that, the clock ticked over 8 hours.
I wasn’t far away from the finish line now – I could hear MC Karen on the mic and the cheering at the Main Oval. Time to get it done!
I crossed the line in just over 8 hours and 4 minutes. Not the sub-8 hours I’d been hoping for, but not too far off!
Other than doing more training, I can’t think of too many places I could have made up time on this race – I only stopped at the drink stations long enough to do what I needed to do, and when I looked at my time it was around 19 minutes
of stoppage time, between 6 drink stations. I ran all the bits I could run, and I didn’t stop at all other than at the drink stations. It wouldn’t have taken much to make up 4 and a bit minutes but still – there was nothing I’d obviously done ‘wrong’.
I think I only ate half of my 3 sandwiches, and one Clif bar, along with a couple of brownies and a couple of handfuls of chips. For 8 hours and 58km, that’s probably not quite enough. I think I hydrated quite well – I only ended up having
3 bottles of Gatorade, and from DS2 onwards I had one bottle of water and one bottle of Gatorade in my pack (as opposed to the 2 bottles of Gatorade I started with). I definitely had plenty of caffeine and sugar with the coffee and Coke!
I stayed at the finish line for a good few hours after that – enjoying watching the other 58km runners finish, along with the 23km runners who really looked like they were enjoying themselves, and in between, ‘debriefing’ with other 58km
runners! Luckily the weather was a bit more favourable than last year – I wouldn’t have fancied staying long under last year’s conditions!
I had one suggestion to make to the committee – an idea I had during the first section. An 18km distance, starting at Athelstone at 8am with the fast 58km runners, and finishing at Norton Summit. Maurice, one of the committee members to whom I put this suggestion, quickly saw the flaw in what I thought was a perfect plan – finishing at Norton Summit with all the traffic – not a great way to finish a race! Still, I think some people would be quite keen to give this a crack…
Thanks to all the fantastic volunteers and the TRSA committee for putting on this event. And well done to each and every person who participated in the different distance races.
I mean no disrespect to the organisers when I say I have no desire to run the ultra distance again, however I would be really keen to give the 23km a good crack next year – the 23km runners I saw cross the finish line certainly looked like they were enjoying themselves a lot more than the 58km runners!
And yeah – I don’t think trail ultras are for me. I suck at hills! Give me the track any day!
March being a slightly ridiculous month, I thought what better way to end it than with a nice little 5k at Victor Harbor?
My previous ‘Mad March’ events were the Victor Harbor triathlon and then, a week later, the Canberra 12 hour.
2 weeks later, and 1 week out from my first trail ultra in 12 months, it seemed like the thing to do!
I ran The Granite Island Run for the first time last year and you can read all about it here.
The course was the same this year so I’ll keep this one brief!
Essentially we start on the mainland, run across the causeway to the island, run a lap around the island, and back to the mainland. If you’re really keen you can do it twice. I figured, after I’ve seen it once, why go back and do it again?It seemed like there were a lot more people there this year, and that’s because the numbers were significantly higher!
In 2018 I was one of 50 in the short course (with 34 being female) and this year there were 54 females out of a total of 80. In the long course, last year there were 95 with 49 females, and this year there were 130 with an exact 50:50 split.
The word must be getting out!
I like small events because there aren’t issues with congestion like in the bigger events. With this event in particular, given the nature of the course, you definitely wouldn’t want a huge crowd, for safety reasons!
(Of course, having said that, I do also occasionally like a big event – I’m particularly looking forward to the atmosphere of the New York marathon this year!)
On arrival at about 7:30am it was quite chilly but luckily as a frequent visitor to these parts I was prepared with my Mekong hoodie! I collected my race number so I was pretty much all ready to run except I wasn’t quite ready to part with my hoodie! As per usual I had some striped arm warmers to take the chill off while awaiting the start.
The short course was scheduled to start at 8:10am, 10 minutes after the long course, however both the short and long course starts were delayed due to there being a vehicle on the island! So we had to wait for the vehicle to get off the island before we could start. This is one of the unique challenges of this particular event!
It wouldn’t be a race report without a selfie with Gary, so here it is.
This was taken just before the start of the long course, which of course Gary was running (and as per usual he had a little lighthearted ‘dig’ at me for ‘only’ doing the short course!)
At the start I positioned myself near the front but probably in around the second row. I knew that a lot of the runners would be faster than me, so there wasn’t any point me leading, plus I always prefer to have someone in front of me, at least at the start! At that point I could see 2 female runners in front of me, both dressed in brightly coloured tops which were easy to spot!
We started running away from the island along the grass, then did a U turn, onto the sealed path and onto the causeway. By the time we hit the sealed path I had moved into 2nd place and as we entered the causeway I passed the first place female runner. Leading at this early stage was a very unfamiliar place for me to be, I usually prefer to have someone in front of me until closer to the end, and then try to finish with a burst (ideally not passing them RIGHT on the finish line, preferably a bit before there!) It rarely works, by the way!
The causeway is made of wood, with a tramway on one side (for the horse drawn tram which fortunately is currently not operating – I have issues with such things!). The tramway side has a rubber mat on it which, due to recent rain, had the potential to be a bit slippy. So I tried to run on the ‘walking’ side as much as possible!
Once on the island we had to run to the end of the jetty, which, like last year, was helpfully marked at the end with an ‘X’ to signify “Don’t go this way”! This was the first ‘out and back’ section of the course, where I got a bit of an idea of where I was in the field. I noticed another female runner, who I hadn’t seen at the start, possibly because she was wearing all black, who was closing in on the 3rd place runner. It felt like I had a bit of a lead but it was still a bit too close for comfort! It was really hard to gauge because I didn’t know any of the runners so I had no idea whether they were fast finishers, good hill climbers etc!
Then the fun began – a nice little stair climb. I should have counted the steps. This year, remembering what it was like last year, I opted to walk the stairs rather than try to run them. I don’t think I was any slower!
There was one drink station, at the top of another climb, which we went past twice. The lovely Kate was manning this aid station as well as providing very enthusiastic encouragement which was much appreciated! As the event has now gone ‘cupless’ (a change I applaud!) and I had opted not to carry any receptacles (I probably would have, had I been doing the long course), I didn’t stop for a drink. (Although, Kate told me later that some runners had drunk straight from the cask, as has happened in the past when I have been volunteering on a cupless drink station!)
The terrain was varied – some wide non-technical track which was mostly either uphill or downhill, and some nice little rocky sections that required you to be paying close attention!
I believe the scenery was pretty nice but I was too busy making sure I didn’t fall over!
Towards the end of the island bit I was happily following a guy with (I think it was) ‘HOUSE CAPTAIN’ on the back of his top. As I mentioned before, I prefer not to lead, especially on a course I don’t know well! However just as I had settled into a nice rhythm, he started walking – I think it was cramp or something (he ended up finishing not far behind me so it couldn’t have been anything too serious!) so I then had to find my own way! Fortunately the course was very well marked, even the navigationally
challenged such as myself would have had difficulty getting lost. There were marshals at strategic points where there was any chance of runners going the wrong way.
Eventually I made it around the island and back to the causeway. This was the first point at which I allowed myself to have a look behind me (partly because I was so close to the end, and partly because I was now on less hazardous terrain!) – I could see some men not too far behind me but no women (other than the ones I’d just passed, who were doing the long course and were about to start their second lap!)
The whole way along the causeway I kept looking back. If someone looked like catching me, I would have to put on a sprint. After leading for almost the entire race, I did not want to get pipped at the post!
As I approached the finish line I could hear MC Shane on the mic announcing my name, and telling me that someone was about to catch me so I’d better sprint! I knew it couldn’t be another woman, but had one last sneak peek just to be sure. I then put on a bit of a burst and JUST managed to get across the line first! (Later I found out that according to the official electronic timing, I had beaten Cameron by 0.07 of a second!)
My official time was 27:10.603, less than 7 seconds slower than last year. I was really happy with that especially coming off the Canberra 12 hour 2 weeks ago. After doing a lot of long slow stuff recently it’s quite refreshing and encouraging to be able to go out and run somewhat faster!
After getting my breath back after a somewhat unnecessary finish line sprint, a coffee and vegan carrot cake slice from the Causeway Café (YUM!!!!) it was time to watch the other runners come through, and do a bit of shopping at the Mekong pop up store. I could have bought a lot of stuff and there were some great bargains to be had, but I was very restrained and just bought myself a beanie!
Presentations followed immediately after the last runners came through, followed by the main event – the random prize draw!
Last year I’d won a Mekong T-shirt but this year I wasn’t so lucky! There seemed to be a LOT of prizes and a lot of names called out (you had to be there to win it, and many people had clearly already left) but sadly my name was never called. I was standing next to another one of the fabulous volunteers, Sam, who is a Victor local, and as RD Simon was calling out the prizes and the names, I said to Sam that if I won any of the ones that were for businesses in Victor, she could have it! (By the way, I think the volunteers need to be included in the random prize draw too!)
Once again I really enjoyed this event, it was very well organised, friendly and unique! Highly recommend it to anyone who wants to try something different, challenging and fun!
Thanks to Simon and all the wonderful volunteers for making this event happen, see you back again next year!
This event had made my 2019 schedule for a couple of reasons. One, my sister had recently moved to Canberra and it was a great opportunity for a visit! Two, it was another chance to test myself out on loops over a shorter time period before the Adelaide 24 hour in July.
Training was not quite what I had planned – since the SA Track Championships in late January (7 weeks) I had managed 1 x 3 hour and 2 x 4 hour runs. One of the 4 hour runs was MEANT to be a 6 hour run but it was so damn hot that week that I cut it short and it was too late in the piece to reschedule it. Still – I am pretty comfortable with the concept. Not my first rodeo!
I only did one run that week – a trail run around Chambers Gully. Because 3 weeks after CBR I have a trail ultra. Someone needs to teach me about planning events better…
CBR is BIG. Well not in terms of numbers – from memory about 125 entries across the marathon, 6hr, 12hr, 24hr and 48hr – but in terms of the quality of the field. (Clearly they’ll let anyone in, but I would be surrounded with some seriously good athletes!)
The events were staggered over the weekend. The 48 hour, being the flagship event, started first, at midday on Friday, and was also the last to finish. The marathon was run on Friday night (with no cutoff time but they were all well and truly finished by the time I arrived at 11am on Saturday. The 24 hour was 3 hour in when the 6 and 12 hours started at midday on Saturday. That meant that for the first 6 hours of the 12 hour, almost all the participants were at the track which made for a great atmosphere.
The 48 hour being the Main Event and the 6 and 12 starting 24 hours later, there wasn’t a lot of available space trackside. Luckily for me, I wasn’t planning to spend much time trackside, and consequently didn’t have much stuff. But the 48 hour runners had some pretty impressive setups! At the front by the track were the shelters for crews with tables and chairs and all of the food and drink, and behind that were the tents in which the runners would sleep. I expect to be able to get by with maybe a few hours kip during the 24 hour, but in the 48 hour event sleep is more necessary!
I was advised that I could set up anywhere I could find space, so I ended up in a spot in between 2 marquees. I had 4 bags – 2 cooler bags (one for food and one for drinks), one bag of other stuff I might need during the race (iPod, spare socks, arm warmers etc) and finally a bag of stuff for AFTER the race (hoodie, trackpants, sandals, towel). That was it. I like to keep it simple!
The timing of the race was different to what I’ve experienced in the past. Previous events of similar distance/time (100km or 12 hour) had been run either from 6am to 6pm, or overnight (7pm to 7am). Midday to midnight was different – at least we’d warm up quickly! Also it meant a nice sleep in on race morning!
It would also be good practice for running through the night, in preparation for the 24 hour.
The goal, as always, was to get over 100km.
On the original start list there were 3 women, but when I checked again on race eve there were 4. Damn, there went my guaranteed podium finish! Oh well – I’d have to go out and work for it, I guess!
And then, as we lined up at the start, there were definitely only 3 women in the 12 hour – so I’d be taking a trophy home after all!
I saw a few familiar faces in the 6 hour, Kerrie who had beaten me in the Adelaide 12 hour last year (I was VERY happy to see her not in my event!) and Brendan Davies who most of my running friends would be familiar with. He was going to be fun to watch in the 6 hour!
Also there was Cathie, who I’d done a few races with in Adelaide, who was crewing for 2 people but told me to let her know if I needed anything and she’d help me out if she could!
The plan was the same as usual. I saw no reason to change it. Run 25 minutes and walk 5 and eat while walking. Caffeine every 2 hours. Keep the run/walk going as long as possible and then re-evaluate.
My nutrition consisted of 5 PB sandwiches. As it was a 400m track and I was trying to be nice to the planet, instead of individually wrapping each quarter sandwich so I could pocket it until it was needed, I managed to fit them all into an airtight container. I wasn’t convinced they’d stay fresh but I figured by the end I wouldn’t be too bothered if they were a bit stale! My sister Emma lent me a container and when I started stacking them vertically she decided that they were ‘Kondoed’. The added benefit of Kondoing my sandwiches was that I could see the fillings at a glance. Never mind that they were all the same!
I also had some protein balls, caramelised peanuts from the Adelaide Fringe, and a packet of Oreos. Basically all the snack food I had on me, went in the bag. Always good to have a bit of variety!
In the drinks bag I had 6 bottles of Gatorade (one bought and the rest mixed from powder), an energy drink, 2 bottles of water and 3 mini bottles of cold brew coffee. Handy hint for next time – store bought Gatorade is WAY too concentrated for my taste! I had to water it down several times before it was palatable!
The way the lanes were organised, the 12 hour runners would share lanes 1 and 2 with the 48 hour folk, and the 6 hours would be in lane 3 and 4 with the 24 hour runners. I noticed a couple of people in lane 5 and wondered why on earth they would be in lane 5 – the lower numbered lanes were the shortest distance around so why would you want to go further than you’re getting credit for? I later found out that they had entered as walkers, so had their own dedicated lane.
We started at midday. A direction change was due, but rather than cause utter confusion but changing direction as we started, the first turnaround was after about 15 minutes. I like the turnarounds! In this event they’re every 4 hours (my experience has only been 3 hourly turnarounds) and everyone high fives each other. The camaraderie, particularly among the 48 hour runners was evident very early on. After all, they’d already been out there for 24 hours before we even started!
It was probably about half an hour in that I worked out which of the podium places I was more than likely to occupy. You got it, 3rd. So pretty much, regardless of whether I ran 100+km, or stopped now, I would finish 3rd.
(Don’t get me wrong, there is always the possibility of one of the other two pulling out. It happened in January – I was convinced that Kerrie was going to beat me, and she was WELL ahead, until she wasn’t there anymore!)
However, if things went the way I expected them to, I would be finishing 3rd. And I’m NOT complaining by the way, I am more than happy to take home a trophy, but I kind of feel like I need to earn it.
It was pretty warm out there for the first 3 hours or so.
A few of the familiar 48 hour runners were Cheryl and Annabel who are both regular visitors to Adelaide and who I’d competed with just 7 weeks ago in the 100km SA Track Championships. They were always ready with a bit of encouragement as I passed!
I did listen to my iPod for a bit early on as I got into my rhythm. It was easy enough to hear the noise around too, and to pause the iPod if wanting to chat with someone.
I found that the 12 hour runners in general were a bit less chatty than the 48. To be fair, they were mostly running, whereas the 48 hour runners were also walking a fair bit. There were a couple of guys in the 12 hour who seemed to be having a lot of fun – they had the tunes going pretty early on!
I didn’t keep a tally of my distances each hour, but I recall after an hour I was on about 9k. Unlike in previous races, I was keeping an eye on the computer monitor at the timing mat. After all, there would be no surprises re position, and we all know Garmin is a massive liar when it comes to track distances! (I was already about 2km out on my watch by the halfway mark!)
I recall a few other milestones. I distinctly remember crossing the line just behind Brendan Davies at the 4 hour mark. He was already a half marathon ahead of me at that point. But to be fair, I WAS going for twice as long so I had to conserve! (He ended up doing just over 81km!)
And I remember ticking off a marathon at around 4:40.
I’m not sure exactly when it happened but I was just behind Cheryl when she reached 200km! I’d never been running with anyone when they’d reached a milestone like that before and it was a privilege to see it!
I wasn’t really going for a particular pace or any milestones but I DID need to be well past 50km by halfway to be any chance of cracking the hundy. Past experience indicates that I do NOT negative split a12 hour race!
At 6 hours I was somewhere between 52 and 53km. 100 was still possible but it would be a near thing. And I decided that IF I got to 100 I’d keep going for the 12 hours but I’d just walk the rest. It was definitely not going to be a PB day!
Between 6 and 7 hours I noticed I was slowing down even when running (I don’t know what my lap times were but they were definitely closer to 3 than 2 minutes). I kept pushing on with the 25/5 run/walk but it was getting harder! At 7 hours I decided to give it another hour but I’d pretty much made up my mind – from 8 hours on I’d just walk.
At 8 hours I was just under 70km. 30km in 4 hours on paper sounds doable but I decided it wasn’t for me that night. I put my trackpants and hoodie on, got my iPod out, and started walking! (And there was some singing – a couple I can remember belting out were ‘Monkey Wrench’ and ‘Rock And Roll All Nite’ and later, ‘Break My Stride’ which was lyrically VERY apt!)
The people in the tents either side of me were great, even though we didn’t formally meet and I’m not even sure who they were supporting, They said to let them know if I needed anything – that’s just the kind of thing you see at these events!
Walking was good! I could keep up a good pace, drink and eat plenty, sing, chat, and generally enjoy myself a lot more than I had in the preceding hour or so! (I also took the opportunity to loosen my ankle timing chip which, as it turned out, was a bit tight…)
A lovely touch was when a couple of pipers came and entertained us for a little while!
9.5 hours had gone by, just 2.5 hours to go. My revised goal was to get over 90km. I figured that was worthy of a trophy! Regardless, I would keep going until the very end – prefect training for the 24 hour!
I did some calculations. At 9.5 hours I was on 78km, so 12km to go, which equated to 30 laps. 30 laps in 150 minutes – even I could work that out! I needed to be lapping every 5 minutes. For some reason I thought I’d better pick up the pace.
My next lap was about 3:30. It was brisk but comfortable. Yeah, I could definitely do this!
And the last 4 hours were thoroughly enjoyable. No pressure, just enjoying the atmosphere and the experience! I definitely noticed the camaraderie more once I drew a line in the sand and decided I was done running!
At 80km, with my 90km goal comfortably in sight I treated myself to a sock change. My feet were a mess (my shoes, it turns out, needed to be half a size bigger) but the new socks were a joy!
With about an hour to go my sister Emma and her partner Dan (with whom I was staying) came to cheer me on for the last hour and bring me Coke! (On the drink table we had Tailwind, iced water which I drank a LOT of, and Pepsi, so I was really hanging for a Real Coke!)
Around this time Mick, eventual winner of the 48 hour, ticked over 300km – still with 11 hours to go!
With a lap or two to go, I was handed my wooden block which I would put on the ground where I was when 12 hours was up. I managed to get to 94km and then one more full lap, my final distance being 94.497km.
So if you’d told me before the start that I’d finish on 94.497 I would have been pretty disappointed but in reality I was anything but. Firstly, I’ve never had to walk big chunks of an event like that before but guess what? I’m pretty sure I will be doing that in the 24 hour! And as a training run for something bigger, it was actually pretty perfect! Secondly, it was actually so much more enjoyable than it otherwise would have been! Thirdly, I was so pleased with how I managed to keep myself going and motivated when I didn’t really have anyone to push me!
Although my numbers were nothing compared to the other podium finishers it was great to be listed among some pretty big names and to get to chat to them after all the seriousness was over! Interestingly, while I was pretty sure I was sitting in 9th place overall (out of 19) at 8 hours, I ended up 8th! So even though I was ‘last’ female, I think I did truly earn my trophy!
Thanks to the other runners for the encouragement out there on the track! Thanks to Emma and Dan, Cathie and my ‘tent mates’ for your support too! Also thanks to all the volunteers and Race Director Billy (I later found out this was his last CBR.48 as Race Director, with changes afoot next year)
Highly recommend this event! Would consider doing it again but I really think maybe I might go back to 6 hours next year (where it all began for me about 4 years ago!)
So – this is going to be a fairly short one. Mostly because it’s now 5 days since the race and I have another event in 2 days. And there is very little in the way of photographic evidence!
If you want a detailed, hopefully entertaining read complete with pictures, read last year’s report here.
If you want a brief account of how I really don’t like Olympic distance and should stick to sprint, read on…
Here’s the thing. I’ve done quite a few half marathons and quite enjoy that distance. Marathons, not so much. Double the distance = double the fun? Um, not quite.
I’m still relatively new when it comes to the sport of triathlon. This was my 4th – started out with a Tinman in 2017, did the Sprint distance at Victor last year, and most recently tackled the half Murray Man in November. And I really loved Murray Man!
My long term goal was to do the full Murray Man in 2020 (given that I have the best excuse ever not to do it this year – a little event you may have heard of called the New York Marathon.)
So I figured it was time to step up to the Olympic distance. Double the distance. A nice 1500m swim to kick it off, a slightly hilly 40k on the bike, and a double parkrun to finish.
I’d done a fair bit of open water swimming over summer. All of it in the very lake we’d be swimming in. Mostly MUCH more than 1500m (I got over 3000m once or twice). In contrast I’d only swim in the local pool once. Twice, tops. I hate swimming laps!
Obvs, being a runner, the running side was pretty much taken care of.
After Murray Man, I didn’t get on the bike again for 3 months. That gave me one whole month to remember how to ride. AND, more importantly, get on and off.
I did 5 rides close to home. My previous favourite cycling training ground, Victoria Park, had been appropriated for a car race. Still, VP is pancake flat, and the Victor bike course has some hills (unlike Murray Man!) so actually I was better off riding where I had to use a few gears.
I started out with a nice easy 15k and built up to 35k the week before the race. Definitely a few more rides would have helped, and next time I’d want to actually ride the bike course prior to the day, but this would have to do!
Oh and I forgot to mention it was my birthday on the day of the race. Birthday on a Sunday and there’s an event on? Why, it would be rude not to!
The day arrived and I was all packed and ready. Last weekend it had been very hot and the lake was at a temperature that would have seen wetsuits banned. This particular day it was borderline. I would wear the wetsuit if it was legal. Just in case, I HAD swim the swim course last weekend without the wetty.
On arrival it was confirmed. wetsuits legal except for Open competitors. That was not me. In fact, the term ‘competitor’ hardly applied!
Next to my bike I had 2 Clif bars. I put 2 bottles of Gatorade on the bike even though I knew I was unlikely to be game enough to try to drink on the ride! (Getting the bottle out was ok, it was getting it back in that I wasn’t so sure about!) Why I put a bottle in the back cage, which I have NEVER attempted to use, I’ll never know!)
I almost managed to ‘suit up’ all by myself – while standing on the beach trying to pull some contortionism moves, a guy saw my struggle and ended up helping me. I CAN do it myself, I swear!
I also remembered to put ‘Squirrels Nut Butter’ on the back of my neck to prevent chafing. Happy to report it worked!
My modest goal was to finish not last in my age group. as it turned out I was one of 22 in my category.
This was MUCH harder and longer than I had anticipated!
As always I started near the back of my wave. Unlike at Murray Man I remembered how to put my head in the water right from the start.
I went through phases of forgetting I was in a race and just cruising. Then a later wave of guys would start passing me and I’d remember where I was!
After what seemed like an eternity (33.47, slower than I would have expected but I was consciously conserving energy) I finally reached the shore in 19th place in my age group. Nearly last, but not last!
Just under 4 minutes sounds like a long transition but when you consider that included a 2 minute barefoot run from the beach to the bike…
And it only took me 20 seconds to get the wetty off so that totally vindicates my decision to wear it.
It was a bit rushed though – I didn’t dry myself or clean the dirt off my feet, and I SHOULD have had something eat or at least take a Clif bar with me…
Strangely, like Murray Man, this was my best leg. Looking at my Sprint times and doubling them, this was the only leg on which my time was less than double my Sprint time.
No doubt the fact I’d finally had my bike fit done in the past year made a big difference there!
As usual, I was a bit wobbly getting on the bike but did it!
I had forgotten to put on my race bib – we were supposed to be wearing it for the bike and for the run but I didn’t remember until I was riding behind people who were wearing theirs… no way was I going back though!
I was relatively comfortable on the bike, I did actually manage to overtake a few people along the way (having to decide whether to sit more than 10m behind them or overtake them – I didn’t really want to overtake too early on but if I kept getting closer than 10m I would have to)
In my age group I was 21/22 on the bike so theoretically my worst leg but actually felt like the best!
It was a double out and back course – elevation profile like devil horns. The ‘back’ felt harder than the ‘out’ – more long climbs but then there was a nice downhill bit that I could just coast. I probably could have gone faster but I was thinking of the run – need to save some legs!
Towards the end of the first lap something didn’t feel or sound quite right. Then I looked down and saw the problem – my back bottle cage had come loose and was flapping in the breeze! So every time my left leg went around it would collect the bottle! I couldn’t really do anything about it – I didn’t bring any tools and didn’t want to stop anyway. At one point I managed to shove the bottle with my leg so it was at least sitting upright and it looked like it might stay there but it was a bit precarious!
Eventually, early on the second lap it flipped around again and eventually fell off, bottle and all! Well that solved the problem! As I said earlier, I have no idea why I put a bottle in there anyway!
I didn’t end up drinking anything during the bike leg anyway – I did think about it a few times but I wasn’t quite game to reach down. And if I dropped the one bottle I had left, I’d be left with nothing…
Happy to report, another successful dismount! Not earth shattering but I’m calling it a win.
This was another long transition – this time 2:28, the main issue here was that I swapped my bike shoes for running shoes and there was something in my shoe so I had to take it off and startagain. No way was I running 10km with something in my shoe! The elastic laces definitely helped! Luckily this time I remembered the race bib otherwise I WOULD have had to go back for it!
I grabbed a Clif bar and put it in my pocket but would only use this if I was reduced to walking – most likely I’d be enjoying this AFTER the finish! And I grabbed my one bottle of Gatorade!
I forgot to take my gloves off but that didn’t really matter as it was useful to have something to wipe the snot away other than my lovely Mekong trisuit!
10K. Long and slow. Humid! I ran the whole thing but felt like I was running through wet sand. I stopped at the drink stations. I eventually managed to sneak in under 55 minutes (5:30 pace) which on its own would be quite slow for me but surprisingly I was ranked 11/22 in the run – top 50%, woohoo! (I did pass quite a lot of people on the run – no great surprises there!)
Like last year, I found the run disorientating – lots of turns, no idea what direction I was going!
At the finish line (and boy was I happy to see that!) the MC announced it was my birthday! That was a nice touch! ‘Great way to celebrate’ he said. Hmm, I wasn’t so sure, but now it was over, sure, it was a great way to celebrate!THOUGHTS
I didn’t find this one as enjoyable as Murray Man – maybe it was the long swim that took more out of me than I’d expected – the bike and run were similar distances but this one for some reason felt a lot harder! Also maybe driving down on the day didn’t help!
I’m glad to have completed an Olympic distance but I’m now having second thoughts about my long term goal of completing a 70.3 – on the plus side, the swim is only slightly longer than Olympic but the 90km bike and the 21.1km run – that’s gonna take some doing! Do I really want to put myself through that? I’m not so sure…
I definitely enjoyed the Sprint distance better and plan to do that one next year! I really love the event and the course is challenging but doable, this was just a bit too long for me.
Half the distance = double the fun! Sounds good to me!
I have a bit of history with this event and I don’t really fancy describing 250 laps of a 400m track in all its gory detail, so if you want to read about the last 3 episodes of this loopy series in 2016, 2017 and 2018, knock yourself out!
I was one of 3 runners (I think!) to have participated in every Track 100 so far – the others being Kym (who was back again to do the 50km this year) and John (who like me had had a go at both the 50 and the 100).
This year I had come back for more 100km fun, after ‘downgrading’ to the 50km last year due to lack of preparation and it being ridiculously hot. This year I was committed to the 100 regardless of weather, because it was to be the start of my journey towards the Adelaide 24 Hour event in July. (Did I really just say ‘journey’? I feel like I’m on some kind of reality show!)
I sort of trained. It’s a hard event to train for. I don’t have a coach. Mostly because I don’t think any coach would approve of this:
“I’m going to focus 100% on (insert event here). Oh, look, there’s a race that is so not anything like the one I’m training for. Oops, my finger slipped, looks like I’m doing it!”
So with my limited experience and lack of desire to do long runs, my training for this event consisted of 2 x 3 hour runs around the Uni Loop.
For some reason these kind of events seem to suit me. Certainly the lack of elevation helps. I suck at hills.
I was sort of forced to have a quiet week in the lead-up. On the way home from my 3 hour run last Saturday, my radiator cracked (fortunately I was in my driveway when the steam started coming out from under the bonnet) and consequently I was carless for 6 days. This stopped me from going out with my running group – so instead i did 2 very cruisy 10km runs near home. Also, the Thursday before the event was the HOTTEST DAY EVER RECORDED IN ADELAIDE, and indeed the hottest day ever recorded in any Australian capital city (46.6 degrees Celsius, or just a touch under 116 degrees Fahrenheit), so I had zero desire to run!
On the three previous occasions I have taken part in this event, I have had pretty much the same pre-race nutrition. Why change a successful formula? Breakfast was smashed chickpea and avocado on toast, lunch my go-to carb fest sweet potato mac and cheese and dinner was a smoothie. The theory being, what I normally eat before a race is breakfast. This race started at 7pm, so instead of having breakfast for breakfast, I had it for dinner. Confusing huh? Makes sense though!
Karen and Daryl picked me up – the last time Karen and I both did the 100km, I had also got a lift – driving home after running 100km through the night is probably not a good idea!
I had what I thought was probably way too much stuff but it’s always good to over-cater than under-cater! I had 6 bottles of Gatorade and one bottle of water (which I would refill as needed), a bottle of cold brew coffee just in case (it had worked well for me in the Adelaide 12 hour event in July) and an energy drink for around the halfway mark. For after, I had a can of Coke and a cider. Food-wise I had 4 sandwiches (2 peanut butter and 2 chocolate spread – always good to have a bit of variety in case the dreaded flavour fatigue hits!), a packet of sweet potato crisps, and a few different Clif bars.
Aside from food and drink, I had brought 2 iPods (music being an absolute necessity during this event) – a Shuffle which I had bought for swimming and which was loaded with upbeat music and had unknown battery life, and my trusty Classic which would fill the gap if the Shuffle ran out of juice. I also had a few spare tops, arm warmers and a long sleeved top in case it got cold, and spare shoes and socks. The shoes I wore in the race were actually a retired pair – my old favourite Brooks Ravenna 6s (my 10th and very last pair – they’re no longer available) which were the same model I’d run every other Track Championships in. While I love my new Salomon road shoes, I had no idea how they would handle the joys of 100km on a somewhat unforgiving track surface! I’d put the Salomons in my bag as backup.
One of my… quirks? superstitions? is never to look at the start list for an event i’m in. In particular, one I think I should be able to do well in. Seeing elite runners on the start list is a sure way to get intimidated and psych myself out. All I can do is run my own race, what difference does it make who else is in there? It’s not as if I can somehow run faster if I come up against an elite! Having said that, I do thrive on a little competition – my previous Track 100s had had a fairly limited field, and with all due respect to the other runners, it was apparent pretty early on that I wasn’t going to be caught by any of the other women (hopefully that doesn’t come across as arrogant, it isn’t intended to be that way!) In both 2016 and 2017 I found myself ‘racing’ against some of the blokes, to give me something to chase!
Consequently when I arrived at the track I saw some familiar faces/names that I was glad I didn’t know about before. Elite track ultra runners such as Kerrie (who had beaten me at the 12 hour last year), Cheryl, Annabel and Sarah – if I was looking for competition, I had found it!
As I said before, all I could do was run my own race. Follow the plan, and the rest will take care of itself.
So what was the plan, exactly?
Last time I’d done the 100km I had started with a 30 minute run/5 minute walk strategy which eventually became 25 minute run/5 minute walk for various reasons, not least of which was that it would be easier for my sleep-deprived brain to keep track of! Both times I’d run the Adelaide 12 hour, I’d gone in with a 25/5 plan and last year I’d managed to keep that strategy going right to the end.
This time I had decided to go with what I knew worked for me, so instead of starting with 30/5 I went for 25/5. And let’s just see how long we can keep that going! In the 5 minute walk breaks I’d have something to eat (a bit of sandwich, half a Clif bar, a handful of chips – whatever I felt like!) and a drink (although I’d always have drinks on hand so would also be drinking during the running sections!)
As had happened last year, the 50km and 100km runners were separated by a couple of lanes. It made it a bit hard to chat with the 50km runners, but pretty early on I could see who was going to win the men’s race (a young guy called Tim who ended up finishing well under 4 hours!) and I predicted that the women’s race would be between Sam and Vicky, who were running together most of the time I saw them, and seemed to be having a great time! (Turns out both my predictions were correct!)
The 100km early on was a closely fought battle between 2 previous winners, David from 2017 and Darren from 2018. I managed to get through 6 laps (2.4km) before they lapped me for the first of many times! And every time I saw them, for what seemed like a very long time, David was about a metre ahead of Darren! I wondered if they were going to be that close for the whole 100km! It would make for a great race! I’m not sure I’d want to be in that position – no chance of slacking off, having a quick toilet stop or a walk break for fear of losing momentum and position! And then I saw Darren without David, and then they were back together again, and I had no idea who was in front of whom! That’s the funny thing about these loop ultras, unless you’re watching the live tracking screen at the start/finish line (which I wasn’t), it’s sometimes hard to tell where you sit in the field! (Except, I knew both David and Darren were WELL ahead of me!)
And I knew for sure that Sonja was ahead of me and I probably wasn’t going to catch her unless she crashed and burned. I hadn’t even seen her at the start! Kerrie, too, I was pretty sure was ahead of me and looking strong.
As well as not looking at the start list prior to the race, I make a point of not looking at the screen. Again – I can only run my own race, so to know where I am placed wouldn’t really change anything. I also don’t count laps (at least not until right near the end!) – and I know better than to rely on the distance my Garmin shows me. It ALWAYS says I’ve gone further than I actually have. The GPS doesn’t like loops!
Probably the two highlights of my time out on the track (other than the 3-hourly direction changes which were way more exciting than they should be!) were the sunset and the fireworks! At the time I was running reasonably well so I wasn’t all that tempted to grab my phone and take a photo. Plus, I knew Dani was there volunteering and she never lets a good sunset photo op pass her by!
Around 9/9:30pm the fireworks started and they lasted for several laps – luckily the track is dead flat with no tripping hazards (other than the edging around the inside of the track if you run too close) as I wasn’t really paying attention to where my feet were for a little while! I made a mental note to thank Race Director Ben for organising the fireworks – it was a lovely touch! (OK, so it was also Australia Day and the fireworks MAY have had something to do with that, rather than being specifically for our benefit. Still, it was pretty special and unique to be running a race with fireworks in the background!)
Now in the past, in this event I’d used music sparingly, but for some reason on this particular occasion I needed it more! Consequently I put my iPod on at the 2 hour mark, and it lasted pretty much until the end of my race, other than pausing it a few times while I was running or walking with someone else. The earbuds I was using were the sport style ones, and even with the iPod up full blast I could still hear the ‘outside world’ which was good. I did sometimes have to block out the sound of other runners finishing, because it did my head in, knowing I still had such a long way to go!
So perhaps I was a bit more antisocial than usual in this race, but I did still make an effort to encourage people as I passed them or they passed me, and I was able to hear and appreciate the encouragement I got in return (not just from the other runners, but also from the spectators and volunteers).
The playlist I had on was really great, as I mentioned earlier it was all upbeat music designed to take the monotony out of lap swimming, but which worked equally well to take the monotony out of lap running! I think from memory we kicked off with “Headlong” by Queen – great start! Just a few of the other songs over the course of the night that I found particularly appropriate and/or motivating were: “All Night Long” by Lionel Richie (for obvious reasons!), “Break My Stride” by Unique II, “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” by Bon Jovi, “It Never Ends” by Bring Me The Horizon, and “When The Going Gets Tough” by Billy Ocean.
Other songs I just like and always give me a lift include “Number Of The Beast” by Iron Maiden, “Talk Dirty To Me” by Poison, “Detroit Rock City” by Kiss and for some reason “Shipping Steel” by Cold Chisel.
And pretty much ANYTHING by Spiderbait, Blink-182 and Def Leppard.
A couple of weird ones too that both happened to be country, a genre I don’t listen to much – “Boys From The Bush” by Lee Kernaghan and “Queen of Hearts” by Juice Newton – they happened to be just the right tempo to get me into a good rhythm!
OK I guess I should get back to talking about the running now.
It started OK – I was sitting just under 40km at the 4 hour mark (Garmin told me I was just over, so I guessed I was probably on 39ish) and sticking to my 25/5 with a bite to eat every walk break.
Then from 4-6 hours (11pm to 1am) somehow I fell in a bit of a hole (and was very grateful for the music at this time!). I’m not sure why, but it’s not uncommon for these things to happen during an ultra, and there’s not always an explanation. Around the 40km mark I did have thoughts of not wanting to do this anymore – I still had SUCH a long way to go, and the 50km runners were already starting to finish! But luckily I knew that this would be a passing thing so I never seriously considered pulling out. I’ve never DNFed and I knew I’d kick myself if I DNFed here! Even if I walked the rest of it I would still make cutoff time. I certainly did not want to walk the rest of it – I wanted to get it done as quickly as possible!
Around the 4 hour mark I probably went an hour or so without eating anything – I wasn’t really in the mood for any of the food I had – this is probably a good advertisement for having support crew. Someone who can make decisions for you when you don’t know what you want! I’d never really had support crew before (other than when I’d been part of a ‘team’ at the Adelaide 12 hour, but even then I was pretty much self-sufficient) and at my next race in Canberra I will certainly need to fend for myself, but I am absolutely certain that I will be needing crew for the 24 hour in July!
I was still drinking Gatorade so I was at least getting the electrolytes and some fuel in! And presumably the carbs I’d had for lunch had made it into my bloodstream!
Kate, who has kindly offered to crew for me in the 24 hour, was there spectating for a while and had previously offered to get me stuff if I needed it. I decided maybe a Coke would do the trick, so I called out to her and asked her to fill my unicorn bottle with Coke which I could then grab from her on the next lap. Thanks Kate! Unfortunately on this occasion the Coke didn’t do it for me, but it was worth a shot!
At one stage I made the decision that in 2020 I wasn’t going to run anything longer than a half marathon. And that I definitely was NOT going to do this event again.
Somewhere around the 6 hour turnaround, I had my energy drink – I’d decided early on that I would have it at around that time, which would be well past halfway (well, so I hoped!) And somehow around this time, the clouds lifted and I started enjoying myself again (well, as much as you can under the circumstances!) – I can’t give the caffeine the credit, as I’d literally only just finished my drink, so no way could it have kicked in!
Around this time I passed Uli, who was doing this event for the first time, having done the Adelaide 12 hour with me last year and also entered to do his first 24 hour in July. He always looks so chirpy! Well let me let you in on a little secret folks – around the same time I was in a hole, he was also questioning his life choices! He found the track surface particularly unforgiving, and at one point thought he might have to walk the rest of the way! Luckily for him, a little later I saw him running again!
Things were going pretty OK until Darren finished, in under 8 hours. I found it quite demoralising to hear him being cheered over the finish line when I’d only done about 70km! I waited for the inevitable sound of David also finishing – I was surprised that he was about half an hour behind – they both looked so good all night and I could have sworn they were only a few laps apart (at most!)
Not to worry – I still had the music to keep me motivated!
I didn’t know where I was sitting in the placings, other than the fact that I DEFINITELY wasn’t first. I hadn’t seen Kerrie in a while – I could only assume she’d pulled out, otherwise I would have seen her lapping me, having a rest on the sidelines, or passing me on the turnaround (you pretty much get to see EVERYONE then!). Cheryl and Jac both looked strong and focused every time I saw them. David B, who’d finished just behind me in 2017 and who was supposed to be running a marathon on Sunday after finishing his 100km (as you do!) was relentless and I was pretty sure he was ahead of me too.
Not wanting to single anyone out, but I just want to mention a few of the other 100km runners. Firstly, Angus, who had decided to make this his first EVER ultra. Yep. 100km around a track. Sounds like fun! Probably not the race I would have picked for my first ultra but good on him! The other one was Dawn who was the sole entrant in the newly added marathon distance, who had decided to upgrade as the rules state that there has to be a minimum number of competitors in a marathon to make it ‘official’. The logical decision (I would have thought) would have been to upgrade from the marathon to the 50km. But no, she decided to do the 100 instead – not her first ultra but her first run of over 50k!
After Sonja finished, closely followed by Stuart, as I ran past the aid station, Kim (you may remember her brandishing the water pistol at last year’s track champs!) informed me that I was next to finish. Bear in mind that I was still 10+km away from finishing, so it wasn’t exactly imminent! I was a bit surprised by this – at the very least, I was SURE David B was ahead of me! I asked her to double check that, and next time around she told me I was 15 laps ahead of David! My curiosity getting the better of me despite me not really wanting to start thinking about potential podium finishes this early, I asked her how far ahead of the next female I was. Next lap I was informed “17 laps”. I did some basic maths in my head (because that was the only kind of maths I was capable of!). At this point I was about 90km in, which meant I had about 25 laps to go. Now when you’re leading someone by 17 laps and have 25 laps to go, it’s pretty hard for them to catch you.
And this is one of the reasons why I prefer not to know where I am, although on this occasion it worked out OK. Clearly I wasn’t going to be first (given that Sonja had already finished) and the chance of Cheryl (in 3rd place) catching me was slim to none. I wasn’t going to get anywhere close to a PB (my PB being 10 hrs 38 on my first attempt at this event, and I had taken 10 hours to get to 90km) and indeed there was no chance of my getting under 11 hours. So theoretically what did I have to gain by continuing to run? I could probably walk most of it, and jog the occasional lap if Cheryl started lapping me.
But no, I was thinking of getting my shoes off, sitting down, drinking Coke and eating pizza. As. Soon. As. Possible.
So I kept running. Up until 10 hours I stuck with 25/5 but it was getting increasingly difficult. I kept looking at my watch counting down to the walk breaks and 25 minutes seemed to last FOREVER! At the 10 hour mark I made the decision (given that I had probably less than 90 minutes to go) to change to 12/3. And after 2 rounds of that, I went to 10/5. At no point did I walk for more than 5 minutes. I think that is a key point, because the longer you walk, the harder it is to get running again. Even though by this point my run was barely faster than my walk!
My iPod Shuffle actually lasted over 8 hours before the low battery warning started! I found it to be a godsend – firstly every track that comes on is a surprise (and I can skip tracks if I want to), and secondly it’s so light you forget you’re actually carrying it, unlike my old friend the Classic! Having said that, I did use the Classic after the Shuffle – I just put on Def Leppard’s ‘Adrenalize’ which is around 45 minutes long and by the time that finished I would be so close to the end I wouldn’t need music!
For a change, there wasn’t a whole lot of singing going on! I did try once (from memory I think it was ‘The Pretender’ by Foo Fighters) but singing and breathing at the same time wasn’t happening! So I just stuck with lip-synching – must have looked pretty funny to people who saw me!
I think I started counting down the laps from about 20 laps to go. At one point I was sure that my lap count was going BACKWARDS but I was probably looking at the wrong person’s name!
I got a lot of encouragement from everyone as I approached the end – I tried to keep a lid on it a bit on the track as I know what it feels like to see others finish when you’re still a long way off the end!
When I reached 11 hours I knew I wasn’t going to walk anymore – the finish line was well and truly in sight! (To be fair, it was LITERALLY in sight right from the word go!) Gary, who had come down the previous night to see us start, had come back before his Sunday long run. It’s kind of surreal when you think of people having a life outside of this race! You know, going out to dinner, home to bed, back to the track in the morning and we’re STILL running! (It was equally weird last year to be in bed trying to sleep and thinking about the 100km runners still going!)
I remembered last year being told I had a certain number of laps to go, and then being told something different, so I took nothing for granted, until I was told I was on my last lap. Even then, I kept a little bit in the tank on the off chance that they had miscalculated and I still had another lap to go! (I was never quite sure if the number of laps on the screen was the number of laps I’d completed, or the number lap I was just starting!)
With 2 laps to go I grabbed my pink hat out of my bag and put it on. I’d finished with it on last year so I had decided to make it a tradition! For a hat that I picked up on the side of the road during a morning run a few years ago, it has certainly been around!
Before celebrating my finish, I had to double check one more time that I was definitely finished! Then it was party time!
Even as I write this, I’m pretty sure “I think I’m done” is not true. For some reason, despite hours of hating it, I really like this event!
First things first – shoes off, sit down, drink Coke! A few blisters, mostly on the big toes (I knew my shoes were rubbing there and I was sure I’d end up with blisters but no way was I going to stop until it was done!) but nothing that needed the First Aid attention of the wonderful Susan!
Eventually I got around to having a couple of slices of pizza, after first double checking with Ben that it was definitely vegan. Thanks to Ben for looking after us pesky vegans, even though there were not as many of us out there as there have been in previous years!
I really enjoyed the next hour or so, cheering on the other runners and enjoying not being on my feet for a while! I cheered on David, Cheryl, Angus (with his huge entourage!), Jac, Uli and Julia as they crossed the finish line one by one. At the time Uli was pretty sure he wouldn’t be back to do this event again but we all know never to believe what ultra runners say at the finish line!
After that I went to get changed and then went to try and have a 1 hour power nap on the high jump mat!
During this time I heard Colin’s name announced as he was on his last lap. I gave him a cheer as he passed me! (I missed out on cheering Stephan and Dawn, who finished pretty close together!)
Until I was rudely interrupted by Gary jumping onto the mat – he had come to see us again, midway through his Sunday run, with Billy and Mitch. Later on Lu and Victoria popped in as well. I tried to convince Lu (a fast marathoner) to give the 50k a crack next year – he didn’t exactly say no!
Still out on the track when I got back up again were Annabel (who had earlier said she was having “a shocker” but was still pushing on), Karen, Ian and Sarah. Looking at the time left it looked like Annabel and Karen would make it comfortably under the 15 hour cutoff, Ian was looking a bit unlikely, and Sarah was just going for the 15 hours, with no chance of getting the 100km. (In fairness, this was like a sprint distance for her – her forte is definitely the multi-day kind of track ultra!)
Annabel ended up finishing slightly ahead of Karen. It was particularly good to see Karen finish, she had missed out on her two previous attempts at the Track 100 – the 12 hour cutoff back then was a bit tight (and indeed a lot of this year’s finishers would have missed out under those conditions) but with a more generous 15 hours this year, she made it comfortably! (Well she probably wouldn’t describe it as comfortable – come to think of it I don’t think any one of us would have!)
It was a similar story to Stephan last year. After missing cutoff in 2017 (and I think he made it to 96km so he was oh so close) he went one better in 2018 (although I was home in bed by then but super happy to wake up to the news that both he and Colin had JUST made it!) This year both of them made it with over an hour to spare!
And then there were two. It was pretty apparent that Ian wasn’t going to make cutoff. In the end he got to just under 98km when the air horn blew to signify the end of the race.
And this was the BEST moment of the whole event.
Ian, a well known marathon runner and all round good bloke, had never done a 100km before. With just over 2km to go, even though he was officially going to be listed as a ‘DNF’, he was going to finish his 100km.
Nobody left. Although the timing gear was being packed away, everyone stuck around to cheer Ian on. It was pretty special to see! David B was recording the time manually as he completed each lap.
And then the stadium erupted as Ian finished his 100km! (Sure, there were just a handful of people there, but everyone cheered and showed their appreciation for this wonderful moment.
And with that, the Track 100 was over for another year!
To Ben for putting on this event for the 4th year. Despite the fact that my feet aren’t talking to me at the moment, for some reason I keep coming back! What can I say, you sure know how to put on an event/party! Special thanks too for giving us PERFECT running weather (a welcome relief from the vile previous few nights) AND to top it all off giving us a public holiday on the Monday to recover! (And man, did I need it!)
To all the volunteers. Particularly to those who were on portaloo duty. But also to Every. Single. Person. who made this event happen.
To Karen and Daryl for getting me there and back, sharing your table and treating me to the now traditional spa and plunge pool at Next Gen after the race!
To everyone that came down to support, even if they were there to support someone in particular they’d always give me a cheer as I went past! Special shout out to Angus’s crew, particularly as I approached the end!
Last but not least, to all the other competitors for the camaraderie and encouragement along the way. You are why I love doing this!
Such a fun way to spend a Saturday night! Truly!
Will I be back in 2020? Time will tell! (You can probably interpret that as “Almost definitely”!)