Race Report – Clare Half Marathon


Before I go any further, this is a significant milestone for me – my 50th blog post! Who would have guessed when I first published my race report from the Barossa Marathon last year, that I would still be going 50 posts later? What started as a way to disseminate my marathon report to the wider community after having received a number of positive comments from its initial airing via Facebook, has become somewhat of a hobby for me – at times it has been challenging to find a topic to write about, and other times one race has provided 3 weeks worth of material! Thanks to you for reading it and keeping me inspired to keep writing it!

A few weeks ago I found my pace band from last year’s Clare Half, lovingly constructed in an Auburn motel room while inhaling a vego pizza, sipping on an ice cold cider and watching a forgettable football game on the comically small TV. (I say forgettable because I now can’t recall even who was playing.)

For the uninitiated, the pace band was a piece of paper with the numbers 1-21 written down the side, and next to each number, the overall time I would need to be at (or under) to achieve my PB goal. I cut it into a narrow strip, laminated it and made it into a bracelet. Fat lot of good it did me that day.

Clare being an out and back, uphill on the way out and theoretically downhill on the way back, it was the ideal course to try to run a negative split (faster in the second half). Indeed, that strategy had worked perfectly for me in my first Clare.

Unfortunately, in my quest for a PB, I neglected to consider the fact that this course was significantly more difficult than the Greenbelt course on which I had run my best HM to that point. Greenbelt is undulating but essentially downhill and is considered a relatively fast course.

So, I had set myself 5 minute kms for the first 11, with the idea being to increase the pace after that. Unfortunately after running 11km uphill at 5 minute pace, I had nothing left, no chance of increasing the pace and I ended up walk/running the last 10km (this remains the only road race I’ve ever done where I’ve had to walk part of it – marathons included), cursing all the way and actually considering quitting!

Needless to say, the PB eluded me that day. I finished in what most would call a respectable time and made my way back home to a gathering at regular running buddy David’s place, as he and amigos Sally and Fiona were about to head off to Vancouver for the marathon.

It was great catching up with running friends outside of running events (the ‘running’ joke was, “I didn’t recognise you with clothes on!”) and a perfect way to distract myself from what I perceived as a disaster.

That day I met Australian distance running royalty in Jess Trengove, a great friend of David’s. David introduced me to her and told her I had had a ‘shit run’ that morning. I can’t remember exactly what her words of wisdom were but I think the essence of it was, everyone has a shit run at some stage.

Interestingly enough it seemed to do the trick. I went on to 2 marathon PBs in the ensuing 3 months and eventually cracked the HM PB later that year. You could say it was something of a turning point.

Skip forward 12 months and it was Clare time again. This time I had got myself organised a bit earlier than last year but even 2 months out, it seemed all of Clare was already booked out! (I later found out there were 3 weddings in town that weekend – that’ll do it!) With probable chronic hamstring or glute med tendinosis in my left hip, driving the 2+ hours to Clare on race day was out of the question – long periods of sitting are not my friend and do not make for a good race! Hence I needed to find accommodation or I wouldn’t do the race. Fortunately I managed to find an AirBNB within walking distance of the start – perfect!

An engagement party the night before meant a late arrival into Clare but it was still preferable to a race day drive.

Given that I was running better than at the corresponding time last year, I thought, why not give the old pace band another crack? I wasn’t expecting a PB (given that the new mark I set last year was 5 minutes faster than the PB I had hoped, and failed, to break at last year’s Clare) but it would be nice to do another sub 1:40. Or beat my previous PB of 1:42:43. Or at least beat my previous Clare PB of around 1:46.

It was a good, solid pre-race week. I was away for Easter the previous weekend, and had an essentially run-free weekend (excluding parkrun of course). Tuesday morning’s run effectively dispersed the cobwebs accumulated during Monday’s day of driving, and on Thursday I managed to push out a 12k at just under 5 min/km.

Thursday night I (probably not very cleverly, in hindsight) went for a short reccy run up a fairly steep hill, which will make for good Ultra-Trail 100 training. “Possibly not the best preparation a few days before a race” – said my quads on Friday. I skipped Friday’s hill run, opting for a relatively easy walk instead, and decided to change my Saturday plans to include a leisurely parkrun (I had planned to skip parkrun altogether, knowing my history of being unable to ‘take it easy’, however decided that the stiffness in my legs on Friday would be best resolved by a gentle 5k ‘jogette’.)

I tried rolling on Friday night, with my new BFF ‘The Stick’ (like a more convenient but brutal version of a foam roller) but my quads were too tender for me to roll properly! Yep I definitely need more hills training, but, again, maybe not mere days from a big race!

Saturday’s parkrun was a good leg loosener, pacing my mum to yet another PB, with the quads still complaining bitterly especially, interestingly enough, on the downhill section! My Saturday was busy and involved a lot of driving, firstly down to McLaren Vale and back for lunch (an hour each way) and then that night up to Clare which was a touch under 2 hours. And wow, were my legs stiff when I got out of the car on each of those occasions!

I was in a bit of a rush to get everything done before heading out to Clare (via an engagement party) so didn’t spend much time planning my race day outfit. I ended up going with the same as Bay-City – I seem to favour the same style skirt for all my long races, and I went with the SARRC top as I plan to wear that for the Gold Coast Marathon so it made sense to test it in a half. (It is also the top I did my HM PB in last year so I thought that might be a good omen!)

I got into Clare at about 9.45pm, having eaten my traditional pre-race pizza on the way there (homemade this time!) and tried a bit more rolling before I hit the hay (the quads were still sore, not as bad as the day before but still difficult to roll!) I was very thankful for the extra hour’s sleep I was to get due to the end of Daylight Savings (thanks SARRC for that genius bit of scheduling!). I was staying with a lady called Helen who has accommodated people involved with the half marathon in previous years – not surprising given her perfect location in relation to the race start! She herself had also been involved in the organising of the event in the past.

Race day morning dawned cool and crisp. I was a tad unprepared, having packed purely for the race itself, not having considered the possibility of needing layers for the chilly Clare morning! Note to self for next time – bring a tracksuit!

Helen and I walked over to the race start, getting there super early at around 6.45 for the 8am start – I wanted to allow time to collect my race bib, but that took mere seconds! The only semi ‘warm’ gear I had was my arm socks which I recalled not needing at previous Clare events but which were definitely required this time!

Getting there so early gave me the opportunity to catch up with a whole lot of people and suss out who would be good to run with. In the end Beck, who had bravely driven up on race day (and as a result was MUCH better equipped for the cold start than I was), said she was hoping for a sub 1:45, and I thought that sounded pretty good, so we started together. Jim, the 1:45 pacer started well behind us and we hoped it would stay that way!

The gun went off and we were away. In the end, I didn’t go in with a specific pacing strategy, but Beck’s plan to sit on just over 5 min kms for the first half sounded pretty good. I’d done 5 min kms for the first half of the race last year, and came undone in the second half.

The first km was a little fast (as always – no matter how much you tell yourself you won’t, it’s really hard not to get carried away at the start!) – let’s just call it a warmup! From km no. 2 onwards we started to sit on 5:05 pace and were able to sustain that pretty well. Jim passed us pretty early on and quickly moved away from us. It was a little off-putting but we knew what we were doing and were confident we could get him before the end!

At around 9km I decided to make a move and my next 2 km were back down in the high 4’s. Just before the turnaround point I saw Jim and his 3:45 posse coming back the other way. I made note of the time and when I passed the same point it was around 70 seconds later. 70 seconds? Pfft! Piece of cake!

For the first 11km my average pace was 5:02 per km. Last year I did the corresponding section at 4:59 pace.

I was on my own for a little while and took the opportunity to settle into a rhythm. My DOMS-afflicted quads didn’t give me any trouble – turns out I don’t really need them for a flattish run! I distributed the requisite high-fives to a number of the kids lining the sides of the route, and eventually caught up to Peter, a regular at running events (and always just that little bit ahead of me) and also a keen parkrunner. We had a good conversation about the Pichi Richi Marathon (an event I am keen to do one day) and also the New York Half Marathon, where he related the story of the two top women who ran together for the whole race before one of them stuck her arm out to hold the other back right at the finish line! The distraction was welcome during the difficult 3rd quarter of the race!

I finally passed Pacer Jim at 15km. It was a little demoralising to have taken that long to get past, but he was running even splits and I was aiming for a negative split. So theoretically, once I passed him, he should not get past me again!

There was a little glitch with the signage too which caused me some initial confusion. I was sure we were at 17km but the sign said 18km. That could have been an issue if we’d really thought we were at 18, but Peter and I compared Garmin distances and decided that yes, we were definitely at 17km. Still, less than a parkrun to go!

From the start, the kilometre markers were showing how far we had to go, not how far we had come. That’s awesome in the final kilometres but seeing a sign that says ’20km to go’ in a 21.1km race – not so much! Things were back on track at 18ish km – the sign said 3km to go.

My pace for the last 10km was 4:38 per km. Last year was 5:09 – not disgraceful by any means but definitely a fail as a negative split! I was super happy with my pacing this time especially considering I didn’t go in with a real pacing strategy or even a goal time.

In the last km I tried to pick up the pace – I managed a 4:28. My goal was to finish strong but with nothing left in the tank. Towards the finish line I was behind Peter and I didn’t especially want to pass him but I wanted to let him know I was there, so he could either pick up the pace (which he did) or, if he didn’t, I was going to pass him (and no guy likes to be ‘chicked’!) In the end he finished probably about a second ahead of me (no need for him to stick an arm out to hold me off!), and I managed to sprint past quite a few others in the last few hundred metres.

My time was 1:42:27. That was my second best ever HM time, a good 4 minutes faster than my best Clare time, and interestingly faster than the PB I had been aiming for this time last year! A slightly slower first half resulted in my taking almost 5 minutes off last year’s time. That is a huge advertisement for the importance of good pacing!

I ran through the finish line, around the corner to collapse behind the timing tent for a moment. Peter came over for a chat and he had his medal. I’d forgotten to get a medal! Me, Ms AllAboutTheBling, forgot to get a medal! Peter kindly gave me his and went and got himself another one!

I quickly went to catch up with Beck, who had finished not long after me, and importantly also ahead of Jim, and was happy with her result too. I beat a hasty retreat back to Helen’s place for a shower and change of clothes, making it back in time for the presentation. It was well worth it too because I won a bottle of wine in the lucky prize draw!

I’d say redemption is well and truly mine after last year’s ‘disastrous’ outing. It was a fantastic day, a great first half for the year, and in perfect conditions! Thanks as always to the wonderful people of SARRC, the fantastic volunteers and the community of Clare for once again putting on a wonderful event. I will definitely be back!

2015 in review


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Race report – Kuitpo Forest 21k


TERRIBLE preparation. FANTASTIC day!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two halves make a whole… right?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Satisfied… and exhausted!

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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