I didn’t want to write about this one, because it sucked. But then, you do have those days, and it would be unfair not to write about the sucky races, because they happen!
The first race in the series went reasonably well after Shane gave me the tip about my gears. I had decided to try to do the whole series, if only to try to improve on my own times. Race 2 happened to fall the day after a very entertaining work function, so consequently I left it until the day to enter, just in case!
It was a windy day but thankfully not raining, so I decided to give it a crack.
The first (4km) run was just OK – a bit slower than last time, but as I was managing to overtake quite a few people, it still felt OK.
Transition 1 went as well as can be expected. 22 seconds to change shoes and hat, grab the bike and head off onto the cycle course. 8 x 2km laps. Sounds pretty easy, right?
Well let me tell you it wasn’t. The bits where I was riding with the wind were just OK. The bits where I was riding into it were not. On a few laps I was almost blown sideways off the track! That wasn’t helped by the fact that on the first few laps people were passing me on my left – luckily there were no collisions, there could easily have been!
EVERYONE passed me. Almost everyone. The wind was a factor, sure, but everyone else had to contend with that too!
Not many people passed me on the last few laps. That was because almost everyone else had finished by then!
The one positive I could take out of the bike leg was that the hairpin turn seemed a bit easier this time. I had sort of got the hang of it at the last duathlon. I had learned that if you take it as a sweeping bend it’s a lot easier than trying to do a 180 degree turn! That didn’t stop one person from passing me on the inside as I was making the turn! (I would always check over my right shoulder 3-4 times as I approached the turn, to make sure no-one was approaching, and if I saw someone out of the corner of my eye I’d let them past so I had a bit of space. What I wasn’t doing was checking over my LEFT shoulder. Grrr!)
I knew to use the harder gears on the faster parts of the course but on this occasion the gears were just not working for me – the bike was not sounding normal, and I knew there was something not quite right but I wasn’t about to stop, I just wanted to Get. It. Done.
After what seemed like an eternity I made it back to transition. T2 sucked as well. The spot where I had had my bike, now had someone else’s bike in it, so instead of there being a nice gap for me to put my bike, it took me a while to actually find my ‘spot’! I had to wrangle the bike onto the rack and try not to get tangled up with other bikes, which wasted a bit of time. Then because of how the bikes were racked I had to get on my hands and knees to retrieve my running shoes and hat. In the process of taking my long sleeved top off I dropped my sunnies and one of the lenses fell out. Oh well, luckily it wasn’t sunny, I could manage to run 2km without them!
After what seemed like an eternity (59 seconds according to Strava) I was finally out on the last run leg to finish the race. My second run wasn’t too bad although my legs were completely like jelly to start with, more so than last time! When I look at my time for the second run leg I averaged 4:34 pace which is not too terrible. It certainly felt slower than that. I am sure I would have been able to overtake some people if there’d been anyone left out on course.
So that was it – Race 2 done and dusted. Not my finest moment by any means but a good learning experience!
Everyone else did well. Karen and Daryl placed again, as did Ros, who had done the short course. Cherie had successfully completed her first duathlon.
Karen insisted on a group photo, ‘because if there’s no photo it didn’t happen’. (I would have been quite happy to pretend it DIDN’T happen, but as I was in the photo, I guess that means it happened – plus it’s on Strava too so I guess that confirms it!)
As I was back at the bike rack putting my warm clothes on, chatting to fellow athlete Kristie about how much I hate sucking at things and should really stick to running, my club running coach Kent (also an experienced triathlete and Ironman) pointed out that my back tyre was flat (and had been for a good part of the race, if not all of it!) Which was nice because it means maybe I don’t suck quite as much as I thought I did! I suck at knowing and maintaining my bike but if I can get the bike right who knows, maybe I can become an adequate cyclist one day! (It wasn’t DEAD flat, just much flatter than it should be!)
So there you have it. Shortest race report ever! Thanks to all the organisers, volunteers and other athletes out there, and I guess I’ll be seeing you again at Race 3!
Oh and as a post script I was out today, got caught in the rain so stopped to look at a bookshop while I waited for the rain to clear. Found this. Think the universe is trying to tell me something!
Greenbelt Challenge was an appropriate name, as it turned out, in more ways than one!
This year for the first time, the traditional Hills to Henley (30km run along the length of the Torrens Linear Path from Athelstone to West Beach) was combined with the Greenbelt Half Marathon (formerly starting at the same place at Athelstone and finishing in the city). It made a lot of sense from a logistical point of view, I know there were some people who weren’t happy about the change (as there always is!) because they like to run both events. However, in the current climate, with a very congested running calendar, there are always going to be clashes.
The Greenbelt half had to change. One of the recent innovations at SARRC events is the finish line village, complete with food trucks, music and a stretch station. It’s a great way to keep people hanging around long after they’ve finished running, meaning that the later finishers still have a bit of a crowd to cheer them on!
Because of this, it wouldn’t make any sense to have the Greenbelt finishing where it used to, in the city. The finish line village meant that there needed to be just one finish line, and if need be, multiple start lines. The plan was for Greenbelt to start at Klemzig or thereabouts, and run to West Beach. It would still be a one way half marathon, but just on a different part of the river.
There would also be a 5k and 10k, as well as a 1k kids’ fun run, and if you ask me their medals were even better than those for the rest of us!
Medals are a big thing – I have to admit that I was strongly motivated to enter this event because of the unique ‘Triple Crown’ medals. This year, at the three Triple Crown events (Clare, Greenbelt and McLaren Vale), all finishers of all distances get medals, rather than just the half marathon finishers in the past. (In fact, two years ago, the only time I ran the 30k, back when it was ‘Henley to Henley’, the 30k runners didn’t get medals – I always thought it was a bit strange that you could get a medal for a half marathon and nothing for a 30k!)
I really like the inclusiveness we now have, EVERY finisher gets a medal, regardless of whether you’re a back-of-the-pack 5k’er or an elite half marathoner. What is really great about it is, it’s a fantastic way to progress through the year – start at Clare with a 5k, run the 10 at Greenbelt and build up to a half at McLaren! (I’m going the other way!) Or do a 5k at all 3 – the possibilities are endless!
The really cool thing is that the 3 medals link together to form a combined Triple Crown medal. And now I’ve done the first two, there’s no way I’m missing out on completing the puzzle at McLaren Vale! (And I bet I’m not on my own there!) Again there were complaints when the announcement was made – “What, I only get 3 medals for running 3 half marathons? Where’s the 4th medal for the Triple Crown?” It’s actually not that long that medals for half marathons have become a thing – I remember in 2014 doing my first half at Clare and there were no medals – imagine that? (And the Triple Crown has only been a thing for a few years – anyway, let me get off my soap box now and start talking about the actual event!)
The ‘Challenge’ came in due to the seemingly never ending road works on South Road and along the path. For one, an unprecedented ‘dead zone’ had to be created as 30km runners had to stop along the path due to the road works. The idea was (and I don’t know the full details of this so apologies if I got it wrong) that the time clock would effectively be stopped while the runners were stopped, and then start again once they got going. Kind of like when you use ‘Auto Pause’ on your watch. (There was talk of a temporary bridge but the cost of that would have been astronomical!) By all accounts it seemed to work quite well thanks to Malcolm and his timing gear!
The other issue was that parts of the path were closed, necessitating a late change to the half marathon course. It ended up having to be an out and back, although a lot of people I spoke to got PBs so although theoretically the traditional net downhill course would be faster, it didn’t seem to affect some people!
The beautiful weather probably helped – a bit crisp in the morning but not a hint of rain. It was a bit windy at times – at one stage after I’d finished my 10k two of us were holding down the SARRC tent to stop it blowing away despite it being pegged into the ground, and despite the best efforts of a number of staff and volunteers the finish arch had to be taken down before all the runners had come through – better it be taken down early than actually collapse on a finishing runner! I was lucky enough in the 10k not to be affected by the wind – we were told it would be a headwind on the way out and a tailwind on the way back, although I didn’t really notice the wind much at all!
I had offered to pace the 10k as I had at Adelaide, once again 1 week after an ultramarathon (for the 3rd event in a row!) and had my services not been required I would have run the 5k. No way was I doing a half marathon the week after an ultra although Glen managed to do just that after doing the 24 hour!
I had no costumes left to run in that I hadn’t already used, and being a coolish but dry day, I decided to go with the tiger onesie. I had previously done a few parkruns in it, but never 10k – I figured it should be fine! (In case anyone is wondering, the idea of the costume is to make me easy for other runners to spot out on course, especially if, as often happens, my balloon happened to pop or blow away!)
I had the week off from running after the 12 hour and had my first run back on Saturday at parkrun, a nicely paced just-under-30-minute 5k – perfect preparation for Sunday’s 60 minute pacing gig!
Coach Kent asked me to organise the pacers for the half marathon, as he was running the 30k, so he would be up at Athelstone in the morning. There were 3 pacers, and I just had to organise the helium balloons for them. There wasn’t a heck of a lot of helium in the tank so I thought I’d better do their balloons first, and if there was any helium left I’d get one for myself. Actually I would have been more than happy to run without a balloon and I figured people would be able to see me anyway, but as it turned out there was just enough helium to do me a balloon too – damn it!
Due to potential congestion on the course, both the half marathon and 10k were wave starts. I wasn’t sure what implication that would have for my pacing but it worked out perfectly as I was at the front of the second wave, so I started my watch on the gun (although there wasn’t an actual gun for the second wave – you know what I mean!)
The course was impeccably marked – there was no way I could have got lost! Where there was a fork in the path there was an arrow clearly marking which path to take. The only slight issue I had was looking for the kilometre markers – not that they weren’t there but I didn’t actually see one until the 4km mark – they were spray painted in green on the path. I spoke with Harry from the event team afterwards and he explained that they’d decided to just use the kilometre marker signs for the half and the 30k, because they were put out the previous day and it can get quite windy in that neck of the woods! Which makes perfect sense to me – I’d rather have spray painted markers (as long as I know what I’m looking for) than stand-up signs that have blown into the wrong place!
Running in the onesie was OK – although I did have to make an adjustment early on. My top button kept coming undone which meant my tiger head kept slipping off – I took one of the pins out of my bib and pinned the costume at the neck to hold it together. Rather that than running with one hand holding my head on and the other with my arm extended, continually looking at my watch!
I managed to pace it pretty well once I got into a rhythm – I did get confused at times, starting to follow the 30km signs on the way back, then seeing the green spray paint on the ground a minute or so later, and neither of those coincided with the distance on my Garmin! I had alerts set to go off if I went faster than 5:55 and slower than 6:00 (for the mathematicians among you, a 60 minute 10k equates to 6:00 per km)
It’s a challenge, this pacing caper! I do enjoy it, I’ve now done 6 half marathons and 2 10ks (and a couple of parkruns, informally). It was pretty quiet out there this time, I didn’t have too many people running with me but I did have a few people thank me afterwards. I ran with a young lad called Jack for a little while in the second half who is a regular at West Beach parkrun and ended up finishing a few minutes ahead of me – not a bad effort for his first 10k (although he did tell me he’s done City-Bay, and I told him that when I was his age I couldn’t even run 1k!)
Towards the end there were a couple of kids offering high fives so I high fived both of them, jokingly saying “I need to power up!” and then one of them gave me a second high five! I always try to get at least one high five in!
And then RIGHT near the end, around the time my balloon popped, there was another kid with a sign that said “Tap here to power up” so of course I had to get that last little boost to get me to the finish! I ended up just under 59:30 so I was pretty happy with that.
I ended up staying for a good few hours after I finished my 10k, the atmosphere and weather were great and it was fantastic to catch up with a whole lot of running friends – what else would you rather be doing on a beautiful Sunday?
Thanks to all the volunteers who made this event a fantastic experience, and well done to all the runners/walkers who took part!
And a special thankyou and congratulations to Ben and the event team for overcoming all the obstacles to make this event happen – the goal posts kept moving but they didn’t let that stop them! HOPEFULLY (and I think I say this every year) next year the roadworks will be done and we can go back to a one way half marathon (and, dare I say it, I might even attempt the 30k!)
This was my 4th consecutive year participating in the Ultra Runners SA (formerly Yumigo!) Adelaide 6/12/24. It also marked the 10th anniversary of the first 6 hour event (back then, if you’d told me this event would later become a staple on my calendar, I would have strongly encouraged you to seek psychiatric help!)
My first 6 hour was three years ago in 2015 – it also happened to be my very first ultramarathon. (The 2018 12 hour was my 14th) After having gone into it without a clue or a plan (backing up from a marathon, at least I had the training in my legs), I went back to do it ‘properly’ in 2016. Last year I made a last minute decision to do the 12 hour and I learned a lot, so I decided to go back and do it again, to try to do it better!
Here’s the short version. Ran for 3 hours, turned around and ran the other way for 3 hours, turned again and ran the other way for 3 hours, turned once more and ran the other way for 3 hours, then finished.
There shouldn’t be too much to say about a race like that, should there?
I’d prepared a lot better than last year, given that 12 hours was in the plan since, well, the day after last year’s 12 hour!
Since UTA100 8 weeks ago, my focus had been on this event. It really was my ‘A’ race for the whole year. I had done 4 solid training runs over the past 6 weeks, broken up by a trail half in Mount Gambier and a duathlon. My training runs were 3 hours, 4 hours, 6 hours and 3 hours. I used the strategy of 25 min run/5 min walk throughout all of those runs. My first 2 training runs were way too fast (30km in 3 hours and 40km in 4 hours – not sustainable over 12 hours!) but I nailed it on the 6 hour run, covering 55km, and then ran the last 3 hour run with 6 hour first timer Gary.
My pre-race dinner was from Pure Vegetarian at Adelaide Central Market – pumpkin, chickpeas, spicy eggplant and noodles – lots of carbs! And a glass or two of red wine to wash it down.
Race fuel was similar to last year – a mix of peanut butter and chocolate spread sandwiches (3 of each), Clif bars and nut bars. I also had some mashed sweet potato with salt but didn’t end up using any of that during the race. The plan was that on every 5 minute walk break I would eat either half a bar or a quarter of a sandwich. I had 6 bottles of Gatorade and 2 extra serves of powder. I’m not much of a drinker especially in cooler weather so I was confident that would be more than enough.
I’d also included a caffeination schedule – a shot of cold brew just before the start, at 2 hours, 6 hours and 10 hours, an energy supplement at 4 hours and an energy drink at 8 hours. Caffeine every 2 hours. I’d done a couple of the training runs with cold brew and it seemed to work well. In previous years I had enlisted running buddies James, Leanne, Kate and Beck to bring me coffee at strategic times. This time I wanted to be self reliant, to have coffee ready when I needed it, and to be able to quickly down it rather than have to waste time slowly sipping it and/or burning my mouth! I’d put the coffee in empty vanilla extract bottles, which was an interesting conversation starter when people saw me drink it!
I had music – my waterproof iPod that I use for swimming, with a nice upbeat playlist on it. I was only planning to use that for short periods, mainly between the end of the 6 hour and the presentation. I’d never run in this event before with music, but that was mainly because it had always been raining and I didn’t want my iPod to get wet! This year, I not only had a waterproof iPod, but amazingly it looked like it was going to be a fine day!
I’d gone with toe socks which I’d only just started using, they had worked well on a trail run last weekend and people seem to like them, so I decided to give them a go (instead of taping my toes like I did last year).
It was pretty chilly at the start so I had my beanie, gloves and Boston Marathon jacket as well as my normal race gear. I was set up in a tent with the ‘Vegan Beast Mode Team’ – consisting of fellow 12 hour runner Ian from Melbourne along with another Melbourne runner Cheryl, and the awesome 24 hour trio of Kate, Tracey and Sheena, being ably crewed by Sheena’s daughter Elle. I had all my food and drinks set up within easy access so it would just be a matter of ‘grab and go’. I didn’t want to waste time on fuel stops! Consequently I had a bit of sandwich in the pocket of one Spibelt and a nut bar in the other one. Ready to go on the first walk break, so I wouldn’t need to stop at the tent for an hour or so! I’d managed to get a car park just next to our tent – winning!
To fit with the theme, I wore my brand new Mekong ‘Vegan Beast Mode’ T-shirt. (I had never run in this particular top, but I had run in a lot of other Mekong tops before, so I wasn’t concerned about the whole ‘don’t try something new in a race’ thing! (As it turned out, Sheena, Tracey, Kate and another vegan runner Ryan were all wearing the same thing! (I had spare tops to change into later, as I had never run 100km before wearing the same top throughout!)
The 6 and 12 hour runners kicked off at 6am, after the briefing from Race Director Ben and a special mention for 6 hour runners Kym and Graham, two of the three runners to have completed every one of the 10 6/12/24 events. (the other one was Colin, who would start 4 hours later in the 24 hour). Initially the event started as just the 6 hour, and eventually the 12 and 24 were added to make it the event it is today!
My goal was to beat last year’s 102.7km. I was aiming for 105km, as this would be the furthest I’d ever gone in one hit (my previous best being Heysen 105 in 2015, which actually ended up being around 104km). I’d aim to be on 55km at the 6 hour mark, giving me a bit of a buffer, expecting I would slow down in the second half. Last year I did 57km in the first half and just under 46 in the second – I was aiming to be more consistent this time. Last year I also had to change my walk/run strategy after 8 hours – I wanted to try to keep the 25/5 going as long as possible this time.
I started out running with Gary, who was utilising the same run/walk strategy as me (after we’d successfully used it on the run we did together) and he had alerts set on his watch, so while I was running with him I didn’t really have to look at my watch! Intermittently we were joined by Belinda who was also doing her first 6 hour.
I hadn’t looked at the 12 hour start list. It’s my thing. I prefer not to know who else is going to be there until I’m actually out there! I knew one of them, Kay, who I’d met on my first training run this year. She was aiming for 56km, her first ultra! Other than that, I didn’t know who I’d be up against! I was fully expecting to see Amelia, who had thrashed me (and the rest of the field) last year and it wasn’t until a few laps in when I hadn’t been lapped yet, that it occurred to me that she wasn’t there, and I had no idea who I was competing against! Actually I did know who I was competing against – 2017 me! I had to follow my plan to the letter, and I wasn’t going to let what other people were doing, interfere with that. I wasn’t going to look at the computer screen at all – I would keep track of my laps (47 was the magic number) and that would be all that mattered!
In the 12 hour we also had Randell who was aiming for a sub 10 hour 100km. So the only way I’d be seeing him would be when he was lapping me! Uli was there too – he just never looked like slowing down, I did tell him at one point that he made me feel totally inadequate as a runner, and he was always so damn chirpy (much like Randell!)
We had a few visitors during the morning – the Uni Loop is a very popular place for runners especially on the weekend, and it’s hard to go for a run there without bumping into someone you know! Nat and Beck came past on their long run quite early on, and then again on their way back – it was great to see them!
Another visitor was Voula who came to support Gary and myself with coffee and donuts! Voula and a few other regular Sunday runners were going to have lunch with Gary to celebrate Gary finishing his first 6 hour. Of course, I wouldn’t be having lunch with them – I’d still have another 6 hours to run!
The first 3 hours went pretty smoothly and I was running with Gary for most of it, until he dropped the pace a bit and I went on ahead. I was conscious of not going out too fast, but I still wanted to be on 55km by halfway.
3 hours marked the first turnaround. Sally and another girl, in giraffe onesies (because, why not?) informed me that I had 15 seconds to go before turnaround time. In other words, I could keep running another whole lap before turning around, or I could stop, wait 15 seconds and turn around now. I was all psyched up for the turnaround so I decided to go with the latter (I was walking anyway at this stage).
The turnarounds offer a change of scenery of sorts, as well as the opportunity to see a lot of the other runners that might be just behind or ahead of you, who you otherwise might not see!
From 9am we started to see some of the 24 hour runners arrive and get set up – they would start at 10. There were a lot of familiar faces there. Each time I went past our tent I tried to relay the message to the girls that there were some donuts on the table if they wanted any – I’d made a trip to the nearby Bakery On O’Connell for some of their famous vegan chocolate donuts!
10am came and we were joined on the track by the 24 hour runners. It was a record field for this event – possibly due in part to it being the Australian 24 hour championships. Consequently, along with being a relatively large field, it was also a star-studded one – including 2018 UTA100 champion Brendan Davies. I wondered how long it would be before he started lapping me! Also among the 24 hour field was Felix, an international runner and fellow vegan!
And it would be remiss of me not to mention the most distinctive person in the 24 hour, Thor! Actually his name is Stewart but he ran the 24 in full Thor costume complete with wig and hammer! And even when I saw him in the late stages of the 24, he was still in full Thor costume! Now that’s dedication!
Just after the 24 hour runners started I decided it would be a good time to visit the portaloo. Silly me had to choose the broken one with no water – by the time Michelle told me this, I was already committed!
As 12:00 and the 6 hour finish approached, I encountered Gary again. He was on track for his goal of over 50km and doing well! When I calculated I was on my last lap before the siren signalled the end of the 6 hour, I picked up my iPod so I could drown out the sounds of the presentation, and focus on getting through the next few hours!
The iPod worked really well to distract me, however unfortunately somehow I’d unknowingly started it earlier and I ended up only getting just over an hour and a half worth of tunes before the battery died! Oh well, it was enough to get past the presentation! (I’d got a solid 6 hours out of it during my training run, so I was expecting to get a bit more than I did!) And I had brought a mobile charger so all was not lost – when I went past the tent again I plugged it into the charger for a few hours to bring back out again towards the end!
I’d made it to my goal of 55km at the halfway mark. From memory it was 25 laps, which equates to EXACTLY 55km (one lap being 2.2km). I got pretty good at calculating how far I’d gone based on the number of laps – I couldn’t rely on my Garmin watch, as they are always out by some margin especially on a loop event like this! So to get my 105 I just needed to get 50km in the last 6 hours. Simples!
8 hours was the next big hurdle in my mind, as this was the point last year at which I had had to revise my run/walk strategy. I’d started doing 13/2 and quickly realised that 2 minute walk breaks were useless, so had reverted to 10/5 from 9 hours to the finish. I really didn’t want to have to do that this time, but I had in the back of my mind that whatever I had to do, the walk breaks would need to stay at 5 minutes. No more, no less.
One of the great new innovations this year was the motivational signs – I believe Michelle was responsible for these! I’m not sure exactly how many of them there were, over the course of the first few hours they were gradually put up around the loop. All of them were double sided so it meant we had something to look forward to when we changed direction! Some of them put ideas in my head that weren’t there before (eg “Your feet hurt because you’re kicking arse” or words to that effect – well my feet didn’t hurt before that but once I had the idea in my head…)
I had the idea early on to get my ‘RUN LIKE SOMEONE JUST CALLED YOU A JOGGER’ sign out of my car. That sign had been pretty much living in my car since I’d made it for the 2014 Adelaide Marathon. Coincidentally, it was in almost the exact same spot as the start/finish area for this race, that I stood in my tiger onesie and cheered on the runners 4 years ago! As Michelle was going around putting up the signs, I told her where my car keys were and where my car was, and suggested if she wanted to she could use that one as well. And sure enough, a few laps later, there it was, conveniently displayed right near our tent – it was a good landmark so I wouldn’t miss my tent (although I did nearly run past it once!) – our tent was a bit set back from the path due to the ground being a bit uneven, so it was hard to see until you actually reached it. But with the sign there, you couldn’t miss it!
Early in the 24 hour I noticed that lap after lap, Merle and Stephan were running together, sometimes with Merle’s running buddy Trish. I jokingly said “People will start to talk!” – they were chatting constantly the whole way! And then later I encountered Merle and Trish but no Stephan – apparently he’d ‘ditched’ them and gone on ahead – so later on when I ran into Stephan again I jokingly had a go at him for taking off! It’s this kind of camaraderie and good fun that makes this event what it is – a great fun day out!
10 hours came and I was still on my 25/5 run/walk, and relatively comfortable although the sign that said ‘Blisters are braille for awesome’ was starting to speak to me – I was certain there were at least a few blisters on my toes, and was thinking maybe the toe socks were a bad choice! It was at this time that I decided it was time for another hour of tunes, so I grabbed the iPod but to my horror it hadn’t charged at all – absolutely NO battery! Devastated! However thankfully I did have a backup – I had my prized iPod classic with its 9000-odd songs, and had thankfully also thrown in a normal set of running earbuds (the earbuds that went with the waterproof iPod only had really a really short cord, which was perfect when I had the iPod clipped to the back of my hat, but would not work with the Classic that I would need to carry in a pocket. So next time around the loop I grabbed the Classic and the normal headphones.
This was the only time when I really got shitty during the race, and it was only because of stupid technical issues! Sheena was near me at the time and she commented that she’d never heard me swear, I got all my swearing for the day out in that couple of minutes! The iPod was fine, it was the ear buds I just couldn’t get in! They were those ones that hook over your ears and I was getting really frustrated having tried seemingly every way to get them in! Sheena’s suggestion of stopping to do it properly was a great one and I did acknowledge that but I wasn’t having any of it – no stopping today!
Eventually I did get them in and decided that the appropriate track to kick off this part of the race was ‘Detroit Rock City’ by Kiss. Boy did that give me a huge boost! If anyone had seen me a minute earlier and then once the music kicked in, they would have thought I’d had an injection of something really good! As the first song finished I saw Ben sitting on a bench, I now think that was the 100km mark and he was waiting to record someone’s 100km split – possibly Randell (who got the 100km in only a few minutes over the 10 hours he was hoping for).
I had my playlist on shuffle for a little while until I got to the next walk break when I had a bit of time to mess around with the settings and I put on my favourite running album, Def Leppard’s ‘Adrenalize’ which kicks off with ‘Let’s Get Rocked’. That usually makes me run too fast but luckily I was on a walk break for that one! I knew it was about 45 minutes worth of music which would take me through to 11 hours 20, and from then on I’d reassess whether I still needed music or whether I’d ditch the iPod for the closing stages.
The end of the album also coincided with around the time I reached the magical 100km mark! I remembered roughly where the little sign was last year, and had been looking for it but hadn’t seen it – I later found out that a few of the signs had been stolen, including that one – so it wasn’t just my lack of observational skills! Michelle’s husband Mark was sitting on the bench next to where the sign had been, and one of the other 12 hour runners, John, with whom I’d been going back and forth for the past 11 or so hours, was just ahead of me. I remembered him saying at some point he was going for an age group record. It was possible to get milestones recorded officially if you thought you were in line for some kind of record (age group or overall) but as I wasn’t in that league, I wasn’t doing that. However, John was, so that was when I realised that must be the magical 100km mark (which I confirmed with Mark)! A brief moment of celebration as I continued on! Last year I’d reached 100km with 20 minutes to go, this year it was more like 40. To get a PB I only needed just under 3km in that 40 minutes. To get my 105 I needed 5. And I was still hanging on to the 25/5, although I know my running pace was getting slower. Every now and then I’d switch to a ‘shuffle’ where I’d really shorten my stride and pick up the pace, barely lifting my feet. It worked well – really saves a lot of energy! Not really recommended on a trail ultra where you can easily trip over something, but on a track ultra it’s a great way to conserve!
With around half an hour to go, I was on 46 laps. I was hoping to get 2 more in that last half hour which would be well beyond my expectations! Even 47 laps would be 103.4km and a clear PB. Helping me was the fact that I wasn’t planning to take a 5 minute walk break in this half hour. I’d used up the last of my Gatorade but it wasn’t worth stopping to mix up another bottle now! (I’d been carrying a bottle from the first walk break onwards! I’d taken between 3 and 4 hours to drink the first one but then somehow I’d managed to get through them all!)
When I got to 47 laps I saw my parents waiting at the finish line for me, I wasn’t expecting to see them as I knew they had dinner plans, so it was a nice surprise! Voula also came out again, this time with her puppy Bob who was a bit excited! I went to get my rock (each runner is given a personalised rock which they drop when the siren goes off to signify the end of the race, and then the volunteers measure the distance covered since the last full lap. That way you get a measure of the whole distance, not just the full laps) and Ben jokingly told me he couldn’t find mine! Luckily he WAS joking because I wasn’t about to stop and wait for him to find it! I had about 15 minutes to go and I was pretty sure I could get around again but I didn’t want to get 2km into the loop when time was up and not get credit for that 2km!
Voula and Bob ran with me for some of that loop although they did cut across the grass so they didn’t go the whole way! I knew I was going to get my 48 laps (105.6km) and probably then some!
I crossed the timing mat for the last time, still with a few minutes left, so I tried to pick up the pace a bit – no sense leaving anything in the tank! The siren went off, I dropped my rock and made my way back to the finish line!
My official distance was 105.91km which was very satisfying! The plan worked perfectly and I was able to keep the same run/walk schedule going for the whole 12 hours which was extremely pleasing!
And the top lasted the whole day – not a single issue, no chafing, no nothing! Kudos to Mekong for a great product!
I went to greet Mum and Dad (turned out Dad had been attacked by a possum which thought he was a tree and tried to climb him – luckily the first aid lady was there ready to attend to him – not that she was expecting to deal with a possum attack!) and Voula and Gary who had come back to see me finish.
After Mum and Dad left it was time for me to grab some Coke (I’d managed to hold off drinking any during the 12 hours – MAN that tasted good at the end)! and a slice of vegan pizza, and then go see the first aid lady to look at my blisters. I probably had blisters on most of my toes and I put it down to the socks – I had managed to wear a hole through the bottom of one of them, although I didn’t get a blister where the hole was, strangely! Just everywhere else! (Toe socks are not for me, apparently!) While the lady (I can’t remember her name!) was examining my feet and patching up the bits that needed patching, Michael (who was also the course measurer) was very helpfully telling me that I should pop the blisters (which went contrary to what the first aider was telling me – I was pretty sure I was going to follow her advice and not his!) Michael also told me I was 2nd female which I didn’t realise up until that point – I was 5-6km behind 1st, which was far enough that there was really nothing I could have done to beat her. It was weird because I’d barely seen Kerrie (who was 1st) all day! Actually there weren’t many people in the 12 hour – only 20 in total, a much smaller number than either the 6 or the 24.
After that I went back to the tent to get changed into some warmer clothes and have some wine and donuts! We then went back to the start/finish area for the presentations. This was the first time I could remember having an official photographer at the 12 hour presentations – being at night time, often we only get people’s phone photos, but this time official photographer Gary was there to capture the moment! Cheryl also got over 100km to finish 3rd (another runner I’d hardly seen!) and the men’s podium consisted of Randell, Uli and another guy Ben who I hadn’t met before.
I was also lucky enough to win a $100 voucher for The Running Company in the random prize draw – I guess the odds of winning are pretty good when there’s 5 prizes and only 20 runners in the event, of which a lot of them had already left (and you had to be there to be eligible for a prize!). Looking at my shoes at the end of the run, (and they were past retirement even BEFORE the race) I have a feeling I’ll be putting that voucher to use sooner rather than later!
I hung out in the tent with Elle for the next few hours, refuelling (I had about 2 of my 6 sandwiches left, which were quickly consumed – that meant I’d eaten pretty much an entire loaf of bread that day on top of several Clif bars and nut bars!) and cheering on the 24 hour runners especially Kate, Tracey and Sheena. I wasn’t really doing much in the way of supporting (to be fair, I wasn’t really capable of much at that stage other than cheering) but Elle was doing a stellar job supporting the 3 girls, along with Lachlan who came down and did some laps.
I tried to have a sleep in Tracey’s tent out the back, but that wasn’t happening, so eventually I decided the best thing to do was go home for a few hours sleep in my own bed, which also meant I got to have a shower (THE BEST!). I woke up around 4am and headed back down to the Uni Loop around 5:30 to watch and support for the last few hours. When I arrived, Lachlan informed me that Elle was asleep in the tent, Sheena was about to get taken off in an ambulance, Tracey was finished, and he hadn’t seen Kate for a number of hours. My plan had been to do some laps with the girls, as long as they were only walking, and I’d left my running shoes at the track along with a fresh pair of socks (WITHOUT holes) in preparation. Oh well, it looked like that wasn’t happening, so I went to hang out with Vicky (who was backing up with a volunteer stint after finishing 2nd in the 6 hour – machine!) and Dione at the food tent. Where they also had a heater. Best place to hang! I brought what was left of the donuts from the previous day, and also made a quick trip to the bakery for coffee and a sausage roll for Ben!
Not long after this, Kate surfaced – she’d had about a 7 hour rest break and was ready to go for the last 3 hours! I offered to walk a few laps with her, and my offer was gratefully accepted! Her mission was to get to 110km and she was on 99 – just 5 laps in 3 hours!
We were walking at a reasonably brisk pace, every now and then Kate would break into a shuffle and although I tried I couldn’t go with her, so at times I’d cut across the grass to catch up with her! There was a fair bit of socialising going on as well as a bit of coffee drinking, so consequently we had to pick up the pace in the last few laps otherwise she wasn’t going to get her goal! Not only did she get her 110km she actually kept going after crossing the line for her 50th lap, until the siren went off! (Although she didn’t reach the distance she’d done last year, she also didn’t end up in hospital this time so surely that’s a win!)
I think it was great for me too, partly because I needed to keep moving and stretch my legs after the 12 hour, but also I got to see what the end of a 24 hour looks like, from a runner’s point of view rather than just a spectator! In previous years I have always gone to see the end of the 24 hour, and even when I’ve had thoughts about wanting to do the 24 hour one day, watching the runners stagger around in the final hours has made me never want to even contemplate it! This year was different. Firstly, I think I’ve achieved as much as I can in the 12 hour. I don’t think I can improve on this year’s effort. Maybe if I dedicate myself to this event and train specifically for it for the whole year, but if I want to continue running trails and road races as well, I don’t see how I could possibly do a better 12 hour. Kate is one person who has been egging me on to do the 24. She said it’s not for her, and she never wants to do it again, but she thinks it would be right up my alley. And I think she may just be right…
Also encouraging me to ‘step up’ is Glen, who ran the 24 hour this year as well. I had no idea until afterwards that this was his first time doing the 24! So he was encouraging me based on NO experience! (I asked him afterwards if he still thought I should do it and if he’d do it again – the answer to both questions was a resounding ‘Yes’!)
Last year, when I stayed all night and saw a lot of the 24 hour runners at various stages, I had no desire to do the 24. Here is a direct quote from me from last year: ‘One of the pluses of staying overnight after finishing the 12 hour was getting to see the 24 hour runners through the middle of the night. Watching them made me decide I NEVER want to run the 24 hour. Although, I do want to do a 100 miler one day and I’m sure a trail miler is not in my future, so I guess I will have to do it eventually. Give me a few years!’
Now – I think I might just give it a crack next year!
It was great walking the last 5 laps with Kate because we got to see most of the other 24 hour runners who were still going. Felix was going from strength to strength, never looking like slowing down, and ended up winning, and in doing so, obliterating the course record to finish on just over 260km! Second place was a runner called John who just looked super strong and smooth throughout, and his distance would have been good enough to win most years! In third place was Brendan, who Kate and I passed on our last lap, and I said to Kate “We just passed Brendan Davies – you don’t get to see that too often!” OK, admittedly he HAD done more distance than both of us combined, but still… small win!
In the women’s race, the winner was Heather who had passed me fairly regularly while I was still running, and looked super strong. Second place went to Anna (another vegan on the podium!) for the second year in a row, followed closely by a runner I hadn’t met before called Melissa, who astounded me with her crazy fast walking pace!
Congratulations to everyone who participated, particularly to those who dipped their toes in the 6/12/24 water for the first time, and I hope to see a lot of you back next year! It was a pleasure to share the track with you all! I always have to thank the volunteers and this event is no exception! The volunteers who had the ‘witching hour’ shift deserve special thanks and I’m sure I will be appreciating them even more next year! Thanks also to everyone who cheered us on, whether they were there supporting other runners or just out to give everyone a boost! (Special thanks to the crew with the maracas and clappers – you guys were one of the highlights of every lap and I really missed you when you weren’t there! I’m not sure who you are but I hope you’re there next year!)
And as always big congrats and thanks to Ben for making this such a fabulous, inclusive, fun, challenging, brutal, delicious and enjoyable event!
So who’s going to come out and run with me next year?
Last year I completed my first duathlon and yesterday I decided to give it another crack! Last time I did the ‘Enticer’ course (now ‘Short’ course) and I did the whole thing in my running shoes (with the proper racing pedals) – this time I decided to step up to the ‘Long’ course and the big girl cycling shoes. (I don’t like riding in normal shoes anymore – it’s funny how when you get used to cleats after numerous times falling off, it’s hard to go back!)
The race consisted of a 4km run/16km ride/2km run. The run lap was 1km and the bike lap was 2km, so that meant a 4 lap run, 8 lap ride and 2 lap run.
This time I actually had the multisport thing working on my watch so it was easy to keep track, I was able to count laps but if I was uncertain I could always look at my watch and easily know if I was on my last lap!
It was a cool day and there had been rain earlier, so I was pleased to see when I arrived at Victoria Park that the track had dried out (I’ve never ridden in rain or on a wet track/road) and the sun was shining. If the strong wind could have dropped off for an hour or so, it would have been perfect racing conditions!
The race was divided into 3 waves – elites, teams and all other long course athletes up to 39 years, followed by the long course athletes 40 and over, and finally the short course athletes. I was of course in wave 2.
As it was chilly I’d opted to race in a long sleeved top (but with a T-shirt underneath, in the event that I was warm enough after the ride).
When I racked my bike, I remembered the rookie mistake from last time – doing up my helmet strap and hanging it off my handlebar. This time the strap was left undone and the helmet left on the ground with my bike shoes, hopefully not to blow away before I got to the bike leg! I have got the hang of how to rack my bike at the start of a race!
Also in the race were Karen and Daryl, SARRC club coach Kent, first time duathlete Kristie, and probably my biggest triathlon influence Shane (who also tried his best to talk me into backing up with another duathlon this morning at Victor Harbor!)
It’s always tempting to try to smash out the run, because it’s the bit I can actually do properly! I was mindful of not spending too much energy on the first run, but pretty much did it anyway. My first lap was my fastest, and I ended up finishing the run leg with an average pace of 4:27 minutes per km. I did pass Kent on about the 3rd lap and I figured that would be the only time I would be ahead of him all day, so I might as well make the most of it!
T1 went smoothly – I was in and out of there in about 51 seconds. I know I could improve on that time if I did the ‘bike shoes on the bike pedals’ thing but I’m pretty sure that would not end well! I wheeled the bike to the ‘Mount’ line, got on and my feet slipped into the pedals right away. So far, so good!
Now came the fun part. 16km is not a long distance on the bike but when it comes in the form of 8 laps, it feels surprisingly long! (It feels even longer when you actually ride 18km, or 9 laps- more on that later!)
At the start there were quite a lot of other riders out there, most of whom were faster than me, so I was careful to keep left and let them past. It definitely feels wrong to be letting people pass me but when it comes to cycling I am still a total noob!
The course was relatively easy except for one hairpin turn which I remembered from last year. I would slow right down, almost to a stop. As I approached the turn I would glance over my shoulder to see if anyone was coming up behind me. I’d let them pass so I was able to take my time making the turn. It was actually easier this time around, with the cleats. At first I was still slowing right down, and making it harder than I needed to by doing a really tight turn, but as the laps passed by it started to get easier. Part of why it got easier was because there were less people coming up behind me as I approached. That was because there were less people out there, because most of them had already finished the ride! I reckon around the 5th lap I finally realised that if I took it wide it was MUCH easier!
The other thing that made things a little easier from lap 5 onwards was when Shane passed me and told me to put my bike into a harder gear. I was wondering why it was so hard – my legs were spinning like anything! As soon as I fixed that, suddenly it got easier! Shane later told me that he’d spotted the issue as he passed me earlier, but of course couldn’t tell me until the next time he passed me! (He may or may not have been that person who rode a whole extra lap – and still beat me quite comfortably!)
Around lap 7 Karen passed me, I was expecting this as she is a much better rider than me. I wasn’t sure if she was on the same lap as me or a lap behind, as I’d been a fair way ahead on the run.
Finally, after what seemed like forever, the bike was done! I can’t see my lap splits (for some reason no-one has made it a Strava segment) but I would be willing to bet my second half was quicker, because of being in the right gear and also not slowing down as much on the hairpin. My overall bike time was 44 minutes. Not particularly impressive but it will be good to compare my time when I do this course again!
T2 was a bit quicker than T1, 50 seconds this time. Karen was already there and left just before me. I quickly changed my shoes, helmet to hat and took off my long sleeved top and went to finish this thing off!
As always the legs felt like lead (it actually felt like my knees wouldn’t bend, for some reason!) and it felt like I wasn’t really moving at all, but my pace was actually not too bad, and I was able to pass quite a few people on the 2 laps, without getting passed by anyone! Pace-wise was pretty similar to my first run, with the 2km taking a touch over 9 minutes.
Unlike a marathon, or half marathon, or 5 or 10k, it’s hard to gauge what is a good time for a multisport event like this. The only thing I can really compare my time to, is my own time when I do it again. I think there are 4 races in the series and if I can I’d like to do all 4, just to see if I can improve on the bike leg (and possibly the transitions, although I can’t see how I could take much time off those without attempting something I am definitely not ready for!)
All in all it was a fab afternoon out, the weather was pretty great! The wind was a factor but I guess we were riding with it as much as we were riding into it, so it kind of balanced out! I learned a lot (as I always tend to in these kind of events)! Although it would be tempting to stick with running which I know I can do reasonably well, I enjoy the challenge of doing something I am not all that good at – and there’s no pressure to perform, I’m just out there trying to do something different and broaden my horizons a bit!
Thanks to all the volunteers who put this event on – great bunch of people! Well done to all who participated – it certainly seemed to have been raced in very good spirit, with the elites sharing the track with the novices quite happily! Congrats to all the winners (including Karen and Daryl who both got age group placings!) Special thanks to Shane for the tip that made the second half of my bike leg SO much better – much appreciated!
Bring on the next one!
But first – 12 hours running round a 2.2km track. Next Saturday. Stay tuned!
Last year I ran the Tower Trail Run in Mount Gambier for the first time. You can read all about it here.
I loved it so much I just had to go back!
This year I’d opted to run the half marathon again (2 laps) although the competitor in my kind of wished I’d gone with the marathon (4 laps) when I saw only 2 women on the provisional start list! Along with the single lap 10.5km event, this year an ultra distance (56km) had been added – it was 4 laps like the marathon, but the loop included a lap around the iconic Blue Lake. Something a bit special just for the ultra runners!
This weekend was also the weekend of the Pichi Richi marathon (starting in Port Augusta) and also the launch of the Port Augusta parkrun. I have always been keen on Pichi, the idea of a one-way marathon (like Boston, only on a much smaller scale!) appeals to me and I was thinking that I might give it a crack next year. The timing has never worked out before!
Joining me on this trip were Karen, Daryl and Wendy who had also made the journey last year, as well as Wendy’s partner Graham. We were all doing the 21.1km.
A road trip from Adelaide to Mount Gambier would not be complete without a stop in Coonawarra for a wine tasting. This year we went to Zema Estate on Friday afternoon on the way there, and Redman on Monday morning on the way back. I thank Karen and Daryl for indulging me as they are both non-drinkers, although at Redman Karen managed to occupy her time with the resident ‘wine dog’ while I was doing my tasting! I love Coonawarra, it’s so compact and the wines are fabulous!
Friday night I had arranged to meet a vegan friend, Mount Gambier local Rose (who I hadn’t actually met in real life, just on social media) and her fellow vegan friend Karl, visiting from Sydney. We had some fantastic vegan burgers and fries at the new burger joint in town (not just vegan, also catering to omnivores!) – Natural Born Grillers. It was great to chat about running and vegan deliciousness with a couple of like-minded people!
A Saturday morning in Mount Gambier, particularly for a runner, would not be complete without Mount Gambier parkrun. I’ve done a lot of different parkruns now (I think 31 globally?) and I have to say this is my favourite. It’s a bit challenging, with a few little hills (up until the launch of Cleland it would have been the most challenging parkrun in SA) but with the most incredible view over the Blue Lake. I always find myself getting distracted by it on the way out (it’s an ‘out and back’ course) – run run run run run – oh, look at the lake! – run run run run run – oh, still the lake, wow! – etc etc! It was particularly distracting the first time I went there, as that was in December when it’s actually a really striking blue. In June it’s more of a blue-grey but no less impressive!
And a parkrun in Mount Gambier must always be followed by coffee at Metro, probably a big part of the reason why it is my favourite of all the parkruns. Even though on this particular occasion they didn’t have any vegan cakes in!
It rained a bit on parkrun but the promise was for a dry morning on Sunday which would be perfect – last year it was pretty wet, but I still loved it! A dry, cool morning would be ideal!
The rest of Saturday was spent wandering around the shops, dodging showers. I remembered Ecologie Organics, the organic store, from last year, and that when I went last time, they were going to start serving hot food about a month later. Sure enough, they had a lot of lovely vegan lunch goodies, I went for a vegetable soup which was perfect on a cold, wet winter’s day!
We stayed at the same place as last year, very conveniently located within easy walking distance of both parkrun and the start of the race. On Saturday night we went back to Metro for dinner and were joined by SA running legend Kym, who had originally signed up to do the marathon but had decided to join the cool kids in the half instead.
On race morning Kym had to get down to the start line early to change from the marathon to the half, and rather than hang around at the start line in the cold, he came down to hang out at our place while we got ready to walk up. Somehow he had managed to put his back ‘out’ while going under some bunting, so Karen helped him out with some Deep Heat before we all wandered to the start line.
At the start line Race Director Phil gave the briefing and a couple of warnings about dangerous sections of the course – one of them being the concrete pretty much RIGHT on the start line – he commented that it would be pretty bad to trip over literally ON the start line! There was also a downhill trail section early on with a lot of tree roots to be careful of, but that was the trickiest bit.
My time from last year was just over 2 hours 20, so I was hoping to improve on that this time around, although I hadn’t been doing a lot of trail/hill running recently (my main focus being the 12 hour event in mid July) so I couldn’t really expect anything too spectacular! Also, I was running with arm warmers as per usual, and my newish Garmin watch has a built-in heart rate monitor which needs to be against the skin to work, so consequently my watch was covered for pretty much the whole race. That suited me fine – it worked for me at UTA100!
Away we went at 8:00!
Very early on in the race (before we hit the trail) fellow Adelaide runner Andy, who I had met and run with last year at Mt Gambier parkrun, commented that he had seen my post. I asked him “Which one?” thinking he was referring to a Facebook post. “The Heysen one” he replied, at which point I realised he was talking about an ACTUAL POST, the post in the field around the 60km mark on the Heysen 105, where Justin had immortalised me with a plaque to commemorate the spot where I had infamously got lost during my first Heysen! I really must get down there and visit said post – I haven’t run the 105 since the plaque was put up, so I haven’t really had any reason to go down there!
I won’t talk too much about the course itself because I covered that pretty well last time. It’s a very ‘up and down’ course, with not a lot of flat in between! I ended up walking a lot of the hills, especially the big one up to the Centenary Tower (the ‘Tower’ after which the Tower Trail Run is named!) as I felt I really couldn’t have run them any faster than I walked them.
We encountered a few of the marathon and ultra runners out there but they were few and far between. Probably because there were vastly more runners in the 21.1k and the 10.5k (the 10.5k didn’t start until after I’d commenced my second loop) than in the marathon and ultra. The marathon was by far the smallest – only 10 starters – probably because a lot of the runners who would previously have done the marathon would have been tempted by the prospect of running the inaugural Tower ultra!
I opted to wear my small race vest with 2 small bottles of Gatorade, as well as a couple of bars just in case, but I wasn’t expecting to need those for that distance. It wasn’t hard to slip them into the pockets of my pack and they didn’t weigh me down too much!
Around halfway through the first lap I met up with Andy again, and we would end up running pretty much the rest of the race together. It was really enjoyable, once again I hadn’t planned to run it with anyone, but it’s always nice to randomly meet up with someone along the way that is of the same pace and have great chats with them!
Have I mentioned the volunteers yet? They were FABULOUS. There were a few aid stations along the way, I didn’t need to use any of their services as I’d come prepared to be self-sufficient (as I prefer to do – I don’t like to stop if I can avoid it!) but it was always nice to see their friendly faces. The marshals were also very friendly with very clear directions so I never felt like I was in danger of getting lost (which, considering my history at Heysen as outlined earlier, is very important!). There were also HEAPS of photographers out there, and the photos were fantastic (the course is very photogenic in itself!). As I approached one photographer, my nose was running a bit (as it tends to do in the cold) and I called out “Can you please Photoshop out the snot?” to which Andy responded “Can you photoshop it IN?”
Another lovely touch was when we were approaching the end of the first loop and there was a table out in a field with lollies on it for the runners – that’s just one of those things that makes this event so special!
Other than the other runners, we kept encountering a guy called Troy, a mate of Andy’s who was out supporting. It would have been nice of him to bring a couple of ropes to tow us up the hill, but the support was appreciated nonetheless!
It was nice at the halfway mark to see the 10.5k runners waiting to start, a few familiar faces among them! They gave us a great cheer as we went past to start what Andy described as the ‘victory lap’ (We just had a ‘warmup lap’ and a ‘victory lap’. No proper racing laps!)
Towards the end of the second lap, probably with a few kms to go (I didn’t look at my watch but I knew the Tower was about 3km from the finish and we’d passed that) I started to get a bit hungry but I knew we were close enough that I would make it to the end. Still, it was good to know I had snacks if I needed them! From that point on I decided to run, even on the uphills (which weren’t too bad after the Tower) because I knew I didn’t need to conserve energy anymore!
The second and final lap finished with a bit of a sprint when Troy reappeared to give Andy a bit of a push to the finish. This was roughly the spot where Graham and I had fought it out in an epic finish line sprint last year! It was nice to know that again I still had a bit left in my legs!
In the end I was a couple of minutes slower than last year, but given that I wasn’t looking at my watch, hadn’t really done a heck of a lot of trail training, and really enjoyed myself out there, I couldn’t really be disappointed!
Thanks to Phil and Nikki and all of the fantastic volunteers for making this event a highlight on my calendar – definitely got it pencilled in for next year (will be inked in once the date is confirmed!) I had planned to go to Pichi Richi but I can’t resist coming back to the Mount! I would highly recommend this event to anyone who likes a bit of trail fun and for those in Adelaide it’s a great excuse for a weekend away in a pretty fabulous location!
A post-script to the event. Last year I was unfairly branded a monster by Karen at our post-run stop at seaside Port Macdonnell, because I told her not to feed the seagulls chips until we’d all had enough. You know, because they’re pests and they won’t leave you alone if you give them one! Well Karen and Wendy decided to have their revenge this time around.
But it all worked out OK in the end because one of them shat on Karen.
I am going to try to keep this one brief. (Famous last words, perhaps?)
Last weekend was the 40th Adelaide Marathon and my 4th year of running in the event.
In 2015 and 2017 I was a pacer for the half marathon (2015 was my first ever pacing gig) and in 2016 I ran the full marathon with friend Beck.
This year, backing up from UTA100 I had originally planned to run the 5k but then I saw the medals for the full, half and 10k, and I decided I needed one! I thought a half would be a bit ambitious but I was pretty confident I’d have a 10k in me. And I emailed club coach Kent to ask if they wanted a 1 hour pacer (I knew there was no way I was going to be getting close to a PB, so I thought I’d rather try to help some other people get their goal times!)
The marathon weekend kicked off with a gala celebration at the Adelaide Town Hall, hosted by the Lord Mayor and featuring special guests, marathon MC Pat Carroll and event ambassador Jess Trengove, fresh from her bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games. Along with those two VIPs were a number of other VIPs – the Adelaide Marathon Warriors and Legends. Warriors are those who have run 10 or more Adelaide Marathons, and Legends have done 25 or more! I can’t even contemplate running the same marathon that many times but I have huge respect for all those who have! It was a great night, I got to catch up with a lot of people and meet some new ones.
On Saturday was the Flamingo Fun Run for the kids – a great initiative, putting it on its own day. A few of my Board colleagues ran in the event and by all accounts it was a lot of fun!
Saturday was also bib collection day – the crew had been at the Oval on the Friday as well, but with many people working during the week, the Saturday bib collection proved popular! There were also a few expo stands there on Saturday, so people had the opportunity to browse before it got hectic on Sunday!
After collecting my bibs (one race number and one ‘PACER’ bib) I hung around and helped out with the fun job of unpacking the medals and bundling them into bunches of 20 to make it easier for the volunteers to hand them out! I had a great production line going with another volunteer, Peter, who was doing the bundling as I struggled to keep up with the unpacking!
I got to catch up with a whole lot of the volunteers for Sunday, as they came in for a pre-event briefing.
On Sunday I arrived early for my event, getting to the Oval around 6:30 so I’d get to see the marathoners and half marathoners start, before the 10k start at 8am. Many of the volunteers had already been working for hours by then!
The marathon started at 7am and as always there were a lot of familiar faces out there! As per usual I was pretty happy not to be among the 450-odd runners heading off to run the 42.2km – but the marathon medal was SO pretty so I was ALMOST tempted! The weather was ideal – only a couple of drops of rain and not too cold!
After the marathoners set off, I went to collect my green pacer balloon – I had asked for a yellow or a green one. My outfit was chosen to fit with the hallowed turf of the Adelaide Oval – a retro green and gold Australian cricket shirt and matching cap, with more conventional running attire on the bottom half. My goal was to be easily visible but also relatively comfortable!
The half marathon started 15 minutes before us, and I knew a lot of runners in the half as well! A couple of my fellow Board members, Gary and Veronica, were pacing 2:00 and 2:06 (6 minute kilometres) respectively. There were 6 pacers altogether in the half, to go along with the 7 in the full – I don’t think I’d ever seen that many pacers in one of our events before! Pacing in the half would be tricky – there were around 1000 starters, so with all the congestion they’d probably be walking for a few minutes, and would then need to gradually pick up the pace.
When it came time to start the 10k, I wasn’t sure where to position myself! I was one of two pacers, the other being 50 minutes. On previous occasions, I’d mostly had pacers before and after me, so it was easy to position myself in between. This time I asked around, trying to find some people who were around 1 hour pace, so I could work out where I needed to be.
As for the marathon and the half before us, the 10k kicked off to the sound of AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck’. I’m pretty sure the last time I’d heard that song at the Adelaide Oval was when I’d seen AC/DC live there some years ago!
There were close to 500 people in the 10k so I did find it a bit hard to get going! I would have less time to make up any ‘lost’ time, so I needed to get moving as quickly as possible! My new Garmin watch allowed me to set a 5 second ‘window’ (as opposed to my previous one which had a minimum ‘window’ of 15 seconds) so I had my pace alerts set between 5:55 and 6:00. If I strayed outside this range my watch would let me know!
It only took about 1km to hit my goal pace and I managed to hold onto it the whole way, losing a bit of time on the uphills and trying not to gain too much on the downs! (In my first pacing gig, 3 years earlier, it had taken 7km to hit goal pace, what with the crowds and the undulating terrain!)
I had quite a few people around me but there were a few who were with me more than others. Amelia, a student from the USA who hadn’t been running much since she’d been in Australia for about the past year, was hoping to get sub 60 which was around her previous 10km time. Another girl Anna said she hadn’t run 10km for quite some time, and recently had only done 5km. I told her to think of it as 5km, and then after 5km wipe the slate clean and pretend she was starting 5km again! I wasn’t sure if it would work but it did! (I also spread the parkrun news to Amelia, she hadn’t heard of parkrun before and happily the 10km course took us right past the start of the Torrens parkrun course, which I duly pointed out to her!)
I didn’t stop at any of the drink stations but did remember to say thankyou to all the volunteers! I did see quite a few familiar faces out marshalling, including the ever encouraging Gary and the ever colourful Michelle and Tracey.
It was also great, as always, to see marathoners and half marathoners out on course – it really did seem like I knew everyone!
Towards the end I caught up with Board Chair Voula and fellow board member Gary’s daughter Tahlia, both carrying injuries and both of whom told me beforehand they’d be running with me. They’d been ahead of me all race but eventually I did catch them. Voula got behind a bit but I yelled out to her as she’d asked me beforehand to give her a push if she started to fall behind! It worked!
I was chatting with one of the other girls when I caught Voula and Tahlia, and Tahlia asked me to keep talking as it was a nice distraction! Then we caught up with a girl in front of us who had her iPod in and was loudly singing along – I suggested to Tahlia that if she wanted some entertainment she should stick closely with that girl!
Before too long (less than an hour, in fact!) we approached the entrance to the Adelaide Oval and the finish line. Around here I saw a familiar face, it was Matt, who was running the marathon but had somehow managed to miss the turnoff for the second lap and run into the stadium instead! (I’m sure a lot of marathoners would have been tempted to do the same!)
Into the stadium and onto the oval we went. I realised I was going to be a few minutes ahead of schedule so halfway around the oval I decided to stop and cheer some of the other 10k finishers on for a minute or two, until I got closer to the 1 hour mark. I had started my watch on the gun (something I always do as a pacer) so even those runners who had started ahead of me, were going to get under the 1 hour.
My clock time was 59:36 which was respectable although as I said I did have to stop to let the clock catch up! No way was I crossing the line in 58 minutes!
After finishing I had a quick chat with Anna and Amelia who were both happy with their results, and then headed off to get an all-important coffee before helping out at the merch stand which was doing great business, ably manned by Lee-Ann who had been there since about 4:30am! I quickly learned how to operate the Point Of Sale app so Lee-Ann could deal with other stuff, although I am a bit challenged when it comes to working iPhones so I had to ask the customers for help!
I caught up with marathoner Jenny who had had to pull out due to injury, and we happened to be out the front of the oval as lead runner John ran past, heading towards the finish line. I then quickly made my way down to the oval to see him finish, it was great to see a local runner take the win as this year there was increased prizemoney which attracted elite runners from interstate. It was the first time I’d have the privilege of seeing the winner cross the line – as a half marathon pacer I’d come in after the marathon winner both times, and when I ran the marathon 2 years ago – well needless to say I was also behind the winner!
I headed back down to the oval for a little while just before 10am, as I knew there would be a lot of marathoners coming in around the 3 hour mark. Just after the 3 hours I saw Amelia, who later told me she hadn’t had a great run but she did manage to get 3rd place – not bad for a ‘bad day’!
After that I spent most of the day in the merch area, chatting to fellow runners who all seemed to have really enjoyed the event, including a number from interstate.
I was almost tempted to join in the 5k, a new addition to the AMF programme, a fundraiser for Arthritis SA, which started at 11am and gave even more people the opportunity to be part of the event.
I saw a lot of the volunteers come back from their marshalling or drink station posts, including my vote for best dressed (with all due respect to Michelle and Tracey!)
And I had to get the obligatory selfie with marshal Gary, plus he took this pic which I thought was pretty cool!
The rest of the day went pretty quickly and gradually the crowd began to disperse.
The highlight of the day, which a few people have posted about on Facebook but which I will also mention here, was getting to see not only the first finisher, but also the last. After around 7.5 hours, one of the Adelaide Marathon Legends (having completed over 30 Adelaide Marathons – I forget the exact number), Sue entered the arena and every person who was still at the ground was on the oval at the finish line to welcome her. AC/DC thundered from the PA system and MC Pat Carroll and the crowd gave her a rousing reception. It’s a shame that there weren’t more people there to see it, but hopefully in future years there will be more people there right to the very end (like at the finish of Yurrebilla!) And best of all, she made it back in time to get a coffee before the coffee shop closed (when I had spoken to her at the start, this was her greatest concern about being potentially slow!)
Following close behind Sue was Voula’s husband John who was the course sweeper, on a bicycle. I have a lot of respect for anyone who can sit on a bike for that long – great work John!
I managed to sneak away once Sue had finished, but a lot of the core team were still there and would have been there for a good few hours after that (after having been there well before dawn!)
So that leads nicely into the thanks. Anything I say here is going to be completely inadequate because it was a massive effort from a lot of people to make this thing happen. Being there from the start to the finish of the marathon I got to see a whole lot. I don’t want to leave anyone out, and I know there were a lot of volunteers there who put in a HUGE number of hours, but these are the people (some paid, some unpaid) who were there Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and for pretty long hours too: Race Director Ben, SARRC staff Cassandra, Lee-Ann, Paul and Harry, and super volunteer Sheena. Along with that we had Malcolm on timing, course measurer Don, and course marker Peter who started at something like 3am?
Thanks especially to them but also to every single one of the volunteers who helped make this what I would like to say the biggest and best Adelaide Marathon Festival yet! (I can definitely say it was the best one I’ve been involved with!)
As I begin to write this, I am vowing not to write as many words (9645!!!!) as I wrote last time. If you want to read about my 2016 race, grab yourself a cuppa and settle in for the long haul!
In case you don’t have a few hours to spare, Ultra-Trail Australia according to their Facebook page is the 3rd largest trail running event in the world (I couldn’t find out what the top two were!), this year with over 5000 runners ages 1-80 from 62 nations. So it’s kind of a big deal! There is a 22km race on Friday, along with a time trial on the notorious Furber Steps (all 951 of them!) and on Saturday the 50km and the 100km (the 100km with a 28 hour time limit, so technically that one goes until Sunday!)
I was doing the 100km again. A few people asked me before I went, and also over the course of the race, what made me come back and do it again. My answer was mostly “I don’t know!” An excuse for a weekend away maybe? I thought I could improve on my time from 2 years ago?
After I backflipped from “never again” to “next time I’ll train properly for it” within the space of about 12 hours, I signed up on the day entries opened in September 2017 with all good intentions.
And then it was April and UTA was 5 weeks away. Trained properly? Not so much. I did do one big long run. It was the Five Peaks Ultramarathon. If that hadn’t slotted nicely into the programme, I probably would not have run more than about 24km in training. Not ideal!
UTA100 has about 4400m of elevation. I had done a fair bit of vert in my training but one thing missing was stairs. It seems that most of the vert in UTA comes in the form of stairs. Thousands of them. The extent of my stair training this time around was walking up the one flight of stairs at work every day. Last time I actually did put a bit of time into stair training. This time, KNOWING exactly what was to come, I put zero time into it. Bad plan!
I arrived in Katoomba on Thursday around 6pm, having had my flight changed twice since I’d booked it. A chance meeting with fellow SA runner Mick at Adelaide Airport resulted in him very kindly offering me a lift from Sydney Airport to Katoomba, as he was hiring a car. We had a good chat along the way about what was to come, and I got the opportunity to pick an elite runner’s brain about all manner of things!
I was staying at a house in Katoomba with 11 others – 100km runners Justin, Kazu and Gez, 50km runners Hoa, Kylie and Tracey, and cheer squads/support crews Andrew, Chris, Rula, Bev and Elena.
I did a quick shop on Thursday night and along with a few things I’d planned to buy, I made a couple of impulse buys – a block of dark chocolate and a pair of fluffy house socks (to put in my finish line drop bag!)
Friday morning I went to the race expo (Mick and I had already done our check-in on Thursday night) and stocked up on short dated Clif bars – 2 dozen for $20! The rest of the day was mostly consumed with race prep – I had planned to go for a short run with my pack on once I’d repacked it – but time just got away from me!
I’ll talk about nutrition now. My race nutrition ‘plan’ consisted of: sandwiches (one peanut butter, one chocolate spread, and one combination of both that was kind of like a Snickers) cut into quarters, 4 nut bars, 4 Clif bars, 4 serves of mashed sweet potato with salt, and 5 litres of Gatorade. It was interesting to see the other runners getting their nutrition ready – they all seemed to have a much more scientific approach than me! Most of their fuel was liquid or gel based, although Kazu and Tracey were having some pretty tasty looking rice balls as well! Personally I prefer real food. I’ve never tried gels and the only liquid I have other than water is Gatorade, and Coke at the checkpoints. I don’t count calories, I don’t work out protein v carbs v fat, I just eat what tastes good and works for me. And so far, that strategy HAS worked for me! I tend to have a lot of food left over at the end but I’d rather have too much than not enough. I don’t tend to find much at aid stations that interests me as far as food goes, other than potato crisps and boiled salted potatoes! Bananas and watermelon don’t do it for me!
Anyway I spent a bit of time in the kitchen while I had the place to myself, and cooked up my sweet potato, cooked up some pasta for dinner, made my sandwiches and started packing my drop bags (Checkpoint 3 46km, Checkpoint 4 57km, Checkpoint 5 78km, and the finish line) as I had to take my checkpoint drop bags to the expo between 4:30 and 5:30pm that afternoon.
Also in my drop bags I had spare socks, a few changes of tops, extra baby wipes (super useful things during trail runs, they serve a wide variety of purposes, not least of which is to wash my hands after visiting the grotty portaloos!) and my mandatory fleece jacket which I would pick up at CP4. Also in the CP4 and CP5 drop bags were some previously unseen notes that I had asked some friends to write for me, to keep me motivated late in the race! (I had toyed with the idea of writing myself some little motivational slogans in each of my drop bags, but I thought it would be even better to have something I’d never seen before! Something to look forward to!)
I’d also written myself a list of what I needed to do/pick up at each checkpoint, in case my ‘ultra-brain’ had set in by then!
In my race vest I had all my mandatory gear, with my rain jacket (unlikely to be required given the forecast) on the back of my pack as I couldn’t fit it in! (Tip for people running the event in future – VACUUM PACK YOUR MANDATORY GEAR – it will be so much easier to fit in your pack! The other piece of advice I would give re mandatory gear is HAVE TWO FLEECES – one in your CP4 drop bag and one in CP5. That way, if you’re having a good day and you get to CP4 well ahead of schedule, you can wait until CP5 to pick up your fleece. Conversely, if you’re having a shit day and you’re at CP4 later than expected, you have a fleece ready at CP4. I have a fairly cheap one which is consequently quite bulky, and you probably want to avoid having to carry it any more than you actually have to! (Having said that, I was glad to have picked up my fleece at CP4, even though technically I could have waited until CP5 to pick it up. More on that later!)
(Those pieces of advice are for you, the reader, and not for me for ‘next time’. Because, I said it before the race and I say it again now, there will not be a next time! Not for the 100km anyway!)
My initial race kit was (top to bottom): a buff around my head to keep my ears warm for the chilly start (my start time was 6:27 and I was there from about 5:40am), a hat for once the sun came out, my Vegan Beast Mode singlet, rainbow arm warmers, cycling gloves (for the rock climbing parts, the handrails on the stairs, and to protect my hands in the event of a fall), compression shorts, black skirt, calf sleeves, old favourite white Nike socks (that would most likely be going in the bin at the finish line!) and my trusty Salomon trail shoes!
The night before, I also taped my feet to prevent blisters (as per usual) and I also taped both my knees as I’d had twinges in both of them at work on Wednesday. The left one had given me some trouble just before Five Peaks, but I’d never had issues with the right one before – it could only be psychosomatic as I hadn’t actually done anything to injure them, but I figured there was no harm in taping them just in case!
I tried to be quiet in the morning as I was the first one up at 4:15 am and I didn’t want to disturb the others! I ate my cereal while listening to my favourite ‘pre-race-get-psyched-up song (‘Let’s Go’ by Def Leppard) and then made my way to the shuttle bus in the dark to get to the start at Scenic World.
I caught up with fellow SA runners Robyn, Steve, Beck, Kazu (who had left the house a bit later than me), Atsushi and Mark before the start. All of those but Mark were with me in start group 2.
The race was organised into 7 waves, theoretically group 1 was fastest and group 7 slowest. I wasn’t sure why I was in group 2, looking at the estimated finish times for each group I thought group 4 was more appropriate. However the race organisers had put me in group 2 so who was I to argue? The reason for putting the fast runners first was to avoid congestion – there’s a fair bit of single track early on and you don’t want elite runners having to squeeze past slower runners on these sections! The other benefit I could see was getting an extra half hour of daylight to run in (group 3 started half an hour after us). I was expecting to be at the back of that group (which I was) and possibly running on my own for a lot of the first part of the race (which I actually wasn’t!)
The race started with a short out and back section, resulting in us coming back past Scenic World again before heading off to start the real stuff! As we were heading out, we saw the lead runners coming back – given that group 1 had started only 7 minutes before us! That was another cool thing about getting to start in group 2!
I managed to get a few high fives from some kids as we went back past Scenic World, one kid seemed REALLY taken with my rainbow arm warmers! I got a LOT of comments about them during the race – many people wanted to know where I’d got them, and were surprised when I told them they were actually socks!
The next time we’d see Scenic World would be at the end!
I kept the pace really conservative in that first bit – my first kilometre was over 7 minutes and I even walked a bit of it! I wanted to avoid getting carried away and although it felt weird to be letting everyone pass me, that was my race plan! The other part of the plan was to WALK ALL THE UPHILLS. I ran with Steve briefly after he had to stop to adjust his calf sleeves a couple of times, but I knew that wouldn’t last, he would be way too quick for me!
Early on, in a narrow section, there was a girl behind me, and I offered to let her pass, but she was happy to stay behind. That was, until we started chatting and we talked about what times we’d run in the past. My time was a few hours slower than hers. After our chat, she paused for a moment and then said “Actually, I think I will pass, thanks!”
The first interesting bit of the course was a part of Federal Pass known as the Landslide, because it involves climbing over a whole bunch of rocks! I remembered last time I had fallen over sort of near here, but not actually on the technical bit! I was determined not to let history repeat itself, however I didn’t get out of the Landslide unscathed – I misjudged a jump down off one rock and managed to graze the side of my right thigh just above the knee. Luckily it didn’t break the skin. I wanted a quick stop at CP1 unlike last time when I had to get patched up!
Next up was the Golden Stairs. I had completely forgotten about this bit. Even immediately after the 2016 event when Karen had been complaining about how hard this section was, I couldn’t remember it! I will remember it now! A pretty tough climb of about 200m elevation on some rather uneven steps!
It was here that I met Alison, a runner from NSW who was wearing a ‘Big Red Run’ top. I asked her about it and it turned out she ran it the same year as a whole lot of people I know from SA! It was nice to have some company and distraction on a pretty nasty section! This was the first of many times I shared a chat with a fellow runner – and for me, that was the best part of the whole event, the people I got to share it with!
I ran into CP1, the 11km mark, with Alison. This was a quick stop for me – I think it was only 6 minutes including a toilet stop and putting on sunscreen as well as filling up my bottles. I try to be as quick as I can at the checkpoints but it always seems to take longer than it should! At CP1 I met a runner called Nadine who was changing from Vibram Five Finger shoes into sandals and commented on my arm warmers!
After CP1 I ran with a guy called Neil for a while before catching up with Alison and another runner called Vicki who amazed me with the distances she had been running in training – including 60km every Friday!
I did fall once – just before the 21km mark, my feet went from under me but I landed softly and didn’t do any damage (or get my clothes dirty!) Just after this was Tarros Ladder, where we had to descend an actual ladder (actually 2 ladders end to end) which was installed just for the race! Sometimes there’s a delay here and there is an option of a detour if you don’t want to wait (or if you don’t fancy walking down a steep cliff face on a ladder!) – in this case it was only a 1 minute wait so it was a no-brainer for me! When I reached the bottom I called out “THANKYOU LADDER PEOPLE” to the people who had the unenviable job of installing and uninstalling the ladders!
Soon after this I met up with another SA runner, Gary, who was also in my start group and who I’d only met the previous weekend at the Mt Misery trail race. It was Gary’s first UTA although he had run a few Heysen 105s and in good time too! Gary and I ran together up until CP2 (31km). Here I refilled my bottles, reapplied my sunscreen and grabbed a handful of chips. Here I also met up with another SA runner, Ryley, for the first time, he had been allocated to group 2 but had not made it in time due to the bus from where he was staying at Leura taking 40 minutes to get to Scenic World – instead he started in group 3. It was a repeat of last time where he’d started several groups behind me and still managed to catch me pretty early!
Ryley left CP2 before me but I soon caught up with him as we went up Ironpot Mountain – another climb I’d forgotten (or maybe blocked out!) It was pretty steep and at one point Ryley stabbed himself in the hand on a sticky outy bit of one of the trees he was using to help him climb! (Another good reason to be wearing gloves!)
Once we’d climbed the mountain there was another out and back section, I remembered this bit well, this was where we got to go past the didgeridoo player twice, and also see some of the other runners who were ahead of us and behind us. That was pretty cool! Ryley had gone off ahead by this stage. On my way back I encountered two guys both using one hiking pole. I asked them if they were sharing, and it turned out they were – one of them had brought them, but as they were both ‘broken’ by this stage he’d decided to share with his mate. Another example of great trail camaraderie! They still had a long way to go – it was going to be a looooong day for them!
I caught up with Ryley a bit after this and we ran/walked together for a while, he was having a shit day and was thinking about pulling out, he’d never DNF’d before but just wasn’t feeling it today! We went past a marshal and Ryley stopped to stretch and refuel as he was having issues with cramps – the marshal said that a LOT of people had stopped with cramps at this point! I ran on, telling Ryley I’d see him at the next checkpoint.
There was more road in this section than I’d remembered. Dirt road, and a few cars to stir up the dirt! I was glad to still have my buff on, now around my neck so I could pull it up over my nose and mouth to avoid breathing in the dust/dirt!
I had been quite conservative in how much food I was eating in the first part of the race, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to get any more of ‘my’ food until 46km. Heading towards CP3 I ate everything I had and drank all of my Gatorade, knowing that there was more to come, and then only 11km until the next top-up.
As I approached CP3 (46km), the first checkpoint at which support crews and drop bags were allowed, I thought back to 2016, as this was the point where I had first met up with Anna, and we would run most of the rest of the race together. I wondered what the rest of the race would bring – would I find a buddy? Would I be going it alone? Or would I have a selection of buddies over the course of the night? I’d never actually run through the night alone in an ultra before (in 2016 I’d been with Anna, and in Heysen 105 in 2015 and 2016 I’d had buddy runners, Kirsten and Gary respectively! The thought of running on my own through the night didn’t bother me, there would be a lot of other people out there (unlike in Heysen which is a much smaller event) and the trail was so well marked it would be near impossible to get lost especially in the dark with the reflective markers being so effective!
After a mandatory gear check on the way into the checkpoint where we had to show our phones and thermal tops, I spent 14 minutes in total at CP3, including a toilet stop, a change of top and arm warmers, topping up my bottles, having my first Coke for the day, and getting out my first motivational note and my mobile charger/cable to charge my watch. My new Garmin Fenix 5S has a battery life in GPS mode of 14 hours, and Ultratrac mode of 35 hours. I had been told by a few people that Ultratrac gave some pretty inaccurate data so I had decided to use GPS mode and charge on the go (bearing in mind that there was no chance of me going under 14 hours!). As the charging point is on the back of the watch, I would have to take it off while it was charging, so therefore it would be best done when I knew I’d be walking for a while. The climb up Nellies Glen was the ideal time to do this!
Not long after I’d arrived at CP3 I saw Ryley, he wasn’t far behind me. I didn’t see him again, as it turned out he stopped at CP4 as he had hinted he might. It’s a very tempting place to stop if you’re thinking about it, as it’s back in Katoomba again and very close to the start!
For the first time, I was running without looking at my watch. I started out taking photos of it at checkpoints so I could remember my splits, but then realised that this was being electronically timed so I didn’t even bother doing that after a while. Plus, my watch has wrist-based heart rate monitoring and it would need to be against my skin to record heart rate, therefore with my arm warmers on, I wouldn’t be able to see it all the time. That was actually a great thing. I didn’t know what pace I was running, exactly how far I’d run, or what time it was. I just ran by feel. I knew where we were on the course only by the kilometre markers and by the checkpoints. I was SO glad I’d done it this way!
Soon after CP3 was the halfway point in the race – as I wasn’t looking at my watch it seemed to take AAAAGES before I saw the magical 50km sign (there were kilometre markers every 5km). I decided to stop for a photo here, just as I had last time. Last time I had also posted on Facebook that everything was going ‘swimmingly’ but this time I was not getting into all of that – the phone was just to take the occasional photo along the way, and it was in flight mode so I wouldn’t get distracted! I had a ‘dumb phone’ with me as well (as opposed to a smart phone!) which was to be used in case of emergency.
As I stopped to take a photo of the 50km sign another runner had the same idea and she suggested we could take photos of each other.
We introduced ourselves, her name was Col, Sydney-based but originally from Wales. We ran and chatted together for a while, before she went on ahead.
Then we reached the point I was least looking forward to, the Nellies Glen climb. According to the course description it’s a 480m climb all up, including an obscene amount of stairs. It was time for some motivation, and then to take off my watch and charge it until I reached the next checkpoint. I opened my first motivational note, from work friend Susan, and it certainly did the trick! (Although I have to say there was VERY LITTLE RUNNING happening in that section!)
I could hear Vicki up ahead as I climbed the stairs – I hoped to catch up with her again, she was a lot of fun! The climb was actually not as bad as I’d thought – maybe because I’d built it up in my head, I found myself getting to the top and saying “Is that it? We’re at the top already?”
I did end up catching up with her and we ran together for a short while until she got ahead of me again and that was the last I saw of her! She hadn’t seen Alison in quite a while – she wondered if Alison’s self confessed lack of training was going to cost her in the end! (I stalked her afterwards and was pleased to see she DID finish, although undoubtedly a lot later than she’d expected!)
Somewhere around here I saw the guy in the traffic cone costume, who had been at the point really early in the race where the 100km and 50km courses split. If the signs and the marshal at that point weren’t clear enough, his presence certainly ensured that no-one could easily get lost! When I saw him again at this point I decided I needed a photo with him!
I got to CP4 (57km) where I checked my watch and it was up to 88% battery with 9 hours down. Even if it took me another 9 hours (or even much more than that) I should have enough battery to get me through. Because as we all know, if it’s not on Strava it didn’t happen, right? Even so, I wasn’t quite game to ditch my charger at CP4 – I put it back in my pack ‘just in case’. Here also I picked up my fleece, and unable to fit it inside my pack, put it on the outside of the pack, putting my rain jacket inside. I DEFINITELY would not be needing that, but with the night promising to get cold, the fleece may well be required!
I collected all my food and some more motivational notes, filled my bottles and got another Coke. I also decided to put some more water in the bladder. The bladder was new (Karen had kindly given it to me) – I’d never used it before. I didn’t want to put too much water in there, both for space and weight reasons. It was about 21km to the next major checkpoint so I didn’t want to run out either. I needed some help from the volunteer to close it up again – I was trying to put the clip on while it was inside out and was wondering why it wouldn’t work!
After the race, while I was Googling to find out how many stairs there were, I found this gem of an article that said, among other things, that the race starts at 60km. I believe it! (If you want some GOOD advice, you’re probably best to read this article rather than my race report. If you want what I hope is an entertaining read, read on…)
After CP4 I soon reached Echo Point, a very popular spot with tourists. They were all very good, getting out of our way and giving us encouragement along the way! At this point we could hear the finish line. I remembered that from last time too! Still 40km to go, and some 100km runners had already finished!
It was around here that dusk was starting to fall, it wasn’t dark enough to put the headlamp on yet (I was trying to put that off until the last minute, as I knew I had 7 hours worth of light with my rechargeable battery, and although I had spare batteries, I did NOT want to have to change them in the dark in the latter part of the race!) but I was enjoying the colours in the sky. Although I hadn’t been taking very many photos at all, I decided now was as good a time as any. I stepped off the course to go to a lookout, got one photo of the sky and then asked a random to take a photo for me which turned out pretty well!
After that, all the fun started! I had forgotten about the Giant Stairway, or as I now like to call it, the Stairway To Hell. A lazy 200m descent on a narrow, steep staircase. My calves started screaming at me at this point!
As if that wasn’t hard enough, it was followed almost immediately by a long climb up to Leura Cascades. Here I got some more motivation thanks to notes from Karen and Beck, and a few jokes from James (one of which I didn’t get – I must remember to ask him about that next time I see him!) – all very welcome distractions!
I decided to put my headlamp on around this point – just under 11 hours in, that gave me until just under 18 hours to finish, without needing to change batteries. I was pretty sure I would make it! And almost instantly, it suddenly got pitch black!
Soon after this I caught up with Clayton from Sydney (I introduced myself as Jane from Adelaide) who was having some knee or ITB issues (I forget which – I ran/walked with a lot of people with either knee or ITB issues that day!) and was looking forward to seeing his family at the Fairmont Resort (69km) – not an official checkpoint but a basic water stop. This was where he happened to be staying so he said it would be hard not to stop for good there! I put on my hi-viz vest as we got off the trail and onto a road, and it seemed to take AGES before we reached the resort! He was mostly walking but tried to break into a run a few times. Eventually we reached the Fairmont and I topped up my drink bottles and decided, because I was having trouble getting my hi-viz vest on and done up over my backpack with the fleece on the outside, to just put my fleece on.
A wise man (Doug) told me, before I did my first UTA 2 years ago, to put my warm gear on BEFORE I got cold. I hadn’t forgotten that, although it was not an issue in 2016, being such an unusually hot day! Doug had had to pull out of the event some years earlier due to hypothermia, but later went back and did it again, this time finishing.
It was really only so I wouldn’t have to carry it, that I decided to put on the fleece, but actually not long after that I did start to get a bit cold! So, as I said earlier, although I had wished I had had 2 fleeces and I could have picked one up at CP5 instead of CP4, if that had been the case I wouldn’t have been able to put it on when I did, and who knows what might have happened?
It was only about 9km until the last official checkpoint, CP5, the party checkpoint! It would be really easy to stay here for a long time and soak up the atmosphere!
I don’t really remember much detail of this section as it was all dark, and once again I missed out on seeing Wentworth Falls in daylight! I ran a fair bit of it on my own, and it was really cool – I was on my own, but not alone! Occasionally I’d see a hi-viz vest up ahead, but at times it was as if there was nobody else out there! Serenity plus!
Approaching CP5 I caught up with a guy called Paul who was in start group 3 (so technically about half an hour ahead of me!). He was also having knee/ITB issues and was looking forward to seeing his family at CP5! He had had a bit of treatment at the last checkpoint and was planning to get some more at CP5, so chances were I wouldn’t see him again after that. As we ran into the checkpoint, me towards the drop bag tent and him towards his crew, we wished each other well and went to do what we had to do! (I had to do a bit of detective work because all I had to go on was Paul from Sydney, but I finally managed to find his results and found out that he finished not long after me which was good to see!)
At CP5 I took my shoes off as there were a few rocks in there which were really annoying – I discovered the rocks were in my socks (no, not in my head as it turns out!) so took them off as well – my socks were really dirty and I contemplated changing into some nice fresh ones, but figured then I’d have 2 pairs of socks to probably throw away so I put the dirty ones back on! (Pleasingly there were no signs of blisters or black toenails – well there were some black toenails due to dirt, not due to them being about to fall off!)
I collected the last of my food, replenished my drinks, had one last Coke and got my last lot of motivational notes. I saw Tina from Adelaide who was on her way out, I wouldn’t see her again until Scenic World.
After CP5 is about 9km of descent along Kedumba Valley Road. It’s a nice relief from all the climbing but not so good if your knees are shot – as was the case with a lot of the runners that I encountered on this road! Another SA runner passed me just after the checkpoint – Damian, who I had run a lot of Five Peaks with.
I caught up with a guy who had some tunes playing – I started chatting with him and he said “Is that Jane from Adelaide?” – it was Clayton from Sydney! (It’s kind of weird because these runners I saw in the night, I don’t actually know what they look like! So if I had seen them at Scenic World at the end, I wouldn’t have recognised them!) We walked together briefly and then I started to run and said I’d see him at the finish!
Not long after CP5 I caught up with Blake from Newcastle. He was in a bit of trouble – he had been reduced to walking since the 40km mark due to cramps, and on top of that, his head torch battery had gone flat so he was having to rely on his backup handheld light, and was not sure how long the battery would last! So he was relying on other people’s headlamps for additional light!
I walked with Blake for I think about 10km – from around 80km to 90km. I think we ran a few little bits but it was mostly walking. It was the longest I spent with one person throughout the race!
I had a look at one of my notes – this one from Gary, it was short and to the point (something like “You entered this, now bloody finish it!”) – I later found out that it was inspired by another runner Amanda, who had planned to write a note for me but didn’t end up doing it, only her wording was a bit less subtle!
Eventually, when we approached a couple of other walkers, I told him I needed to take off and start running a bit, knowing that he would catch up to the walkers and be able to share their light – I wished him well and went on my way!
I only had about 10km to go at this point – so close yet so far!
Next landmark was the emergency water point at 91km – the guy I was running with at the time, Steve, was going to stop here for a top-up but I very happily said to the volunteers who asked me if I needed anything, “No offence intended, but I’m not going to stop at your aid station!” Although, the fire was very tempting – I remembered that from last time while I was waiting for Anna to get checked out by the medical staff! And I ran straight through to the other side – less than 9km to go!
I didn’t really encounter anyone else until the very late stages – I passed a few volunteers along the way and a timing point at the sewage treatment works at 94km. I remembered that one from last time – my shoes getting very muddy (I like to think it was mud) and me having to wash them before flying home – no way was I putting them in my bag like they were! I very carefully went through the ‘muddy’ section, trying to avoid getting too much on my shoes so I wouldn’t have to wash them until I got home!
I read the last of my notes around the 95km mark. They were from Voula, and had some great motivational quotes as well as some Def Leppard lyrics – really got me pumped for a good finish! I was starting to get a bit warm so decided to take off my fleece (that I had been wearing since 69km) – I was pretty confident I wouldn’t get cold between here and the finish, although it would be over an hour away!
I was back in Leura Forest again, running carefully so as to avoid falling at the last hurdle, and just enjoying the ambience!
With probably 3-4km to go I caught up with Mary (from Sydney but originally from Ireland) and Martyn (from Brisbane) and we ran (actually mostly walked) for a little while. Mary and I disagreed on what was the worst part of the course – she was convinced the Furber Steps (which were yet to come) were the worst, but I didn’t think they were, being so close to the end, all you would be thinking about by then would be the finish line!
I decided I really wanted to run as much as I could before I hit the steps, and I had found out from Martyn that it was 11:25pm and we had just over 2km to go, so my goal of finishing before midnight was looking a bit unrealistic but I wanted to give it a crack nonetheless! (I was expecting the last kilometre to take around 30 minutes). So I took off to get this thing done!
There’s not really much to say about the Furber Steps! One foot in front of the other, and don’t even THINK about counting them. You hear the crowd at Scenic World getting louder and louder as you get closer. You use your arms to drag yourself up by the rails as much as you can. And then you hear the magic words from the volunteers “Only 73 more steps and you’re there!”
As I ascended the last step I turned off my light (another good piece of advice – to make the finish line photo better!) and took the fleece from around my waist so it wouldn’t obscure my bib number at the finish. I did consider tossing my fleece away before the finish line but I knew there was another mandatory gear check right after the finish line and what if they asked to see my fleece?
As I approached the finish line I started to sprint – I still didn’t know if it was midnight yet but I didn’t want to die wondering. I heard the announcer calling Damian’s name – I ended up finishing JUST before him! It was 12:04 – missed it by that much! But I still got my bronze belt buckle for finishing under 20 hours (I’d actually completely forgotten about that – when the volunteer handed it to me along with my souvenir finisher towel, I said “Oh that’s right, the belt buckle!!” How could I forget the belt buckle?)
My time was 17:37:04 – about 45 minutes quicker than last time, not as fast as I’d hoped but given my less than perfect preparation I couldn’t be unhappy with that!
Mandatory gear check time – we had to show our compression bandage and rain jacket. Damian came up to me and said “Why didn’t you tell me at Five Peaks that UTA was this hard?” I quite honestly said “I’d forgotten!”
After the gear check I headed to the recovery zone to get changed. I asked a volunteer for a plastic bag in which to discard my socks – I didn’t want anyone to have to touch them! She came back with a Chux wipe and I happily bundled them up and handed them back to her. Bye bye socks, you’ve been great! I may be sentimental about running shoes but not so with socks!
On my way to the Runners Lounge to get myself a wine and some chocolate, I saw a familiar face – it was Col, who I had run with at around the 50km mark – that seemed ages ago! She was very happy with how she went and was celebrating with some friends!
I caught up with Bev and Rula, who had had a nice day of supporting and cheering, and Hoa, who had had a good day out in the 50km, and Bev bought me a glass of wine!
The plan was to go home for a shower, don my full length compression tights (to aid recovery) and then come back to see housemate Justin finish, but after having done a 100 miler in the Flinders Ranges 2 weeks ago Justin was having a hard day out and consequently by the time he was approaching the finish, I could hardly move so I went to bed around 4am while the rest of the girls went back to see Justin finish.
Next morning we went back to Scenic World for the presentation (including one of our own, Howard, winning his age group once again!) and tried to get our heads around what it must be like to be one of the runners that finishes just before the 28 hour cutoff time – they were out there all night! I’d only had a few hours’ sleep but they’d had none! They did get a pretty awesome reception though, especially 75 year old Alf who is there every year and is always one of the last to finish. Everyone loves Alf!
I also caught up with 100km newbie Mark who I hadn’t seen at all over the weekend – he had had a pretty good run but thought it would probably be a while before he was back running again!
A bunch of us went for a lovely Vietnamese lunch before Mark and I got a lift with Justin back to Sydney – Mark was flying home that night and I was spending the night in Sydney, catching up with my friend Tracie before flying home Monday afternoon.
I don’t think I have ever been this sore after a race! It’s Tuesday evening as I write this, my calves are still very tight and I still have to go down stairs sideways (a handy tip if you hadn’t figured that out already!) but at least I can walk properly now! (Note to self – the night after an ultra, don’t book into a hostel where you have to go up 2 flights of stairs to get to your room!)
Time for the thanks! Thanks to the organisers and all the wonderful volunteers – nothing was too much trouble for them! The course marking could not be faulted. Whoever designed the course was obviously a sadist but whoever marked it did a sterling job. Thanks to Team SA for being there and especially to my housemates – you all did an amazing job whether you ran, crewed and/or cheered! (And special thanks to Hoa for being my chauffeur back to the house on Sunday morning!) Thanks to my friends who wrote me motivational notes – they all helped hugely and it’s something I would definitely do again/recommend to others! Last but not least, thanks to Mick for the lift from Sydney to Katoomba and to Justin for the lift back!
I would highly recommend this event to anyone who is up for a pretty huge challenge! I can’t speak for the 50km as I’ve never done it (although I would certainly consider it!) but if you’re only ever going to do one 100km race in your life, you could do worse than this one! Don’t expect it to be a walk in the park though, and don’t plan to be doing too much for the few days afterwards! (I do recommend trying to keep moving though – a bit of gentle walking works a treat! Sitting on a plane for an hour and a half – not so good!)
So, what would I do differently next time? Train smarter – possibly even follow some kind of training programme but definitely include more long long runs and more stairs. Any stairs. Any stairs would be more stairs than I did this time! Possibly be a bit more scientific about my nutrition although what I am doing SEEMS to be working – who knows?
But really, what would I do differently next time is nothing. I would do nothing. There won’t be a next time. I really mean it this time. Ultra-Trail Australia 100km was a wonderful event both in 2016 and 2018. I learned a lot about myself as a runner and I met some fantastic people along the way. I don’t regret doing it one bit.
Sure, with some disciplined training I could do better. I know I could. I said to housemate Kazu, who got the coveted silver buckle (sub 14 hours) that I would never get one of those. She told me I could, and maybe with some pretty serious work it would be possible, but you know what? I don’t want that. The thing about the race that meant most to me was the people. The volunteers along the way and the fellow runners that I met along the way. I don’t think I’d want to do it again and ‘just race it’. I don’t think I’d enjoy that very much. And for me running is very much about enjoyment and the social side. I do like to run fast, don’t get me wrong. Winning and getting trophies is nice. Getting PBs is nice. But what’s nicer is being able to share the experience with other like-minded people. I could definitely have finished before midnight if I hadn’t spent time walking with people like Blake, Paul and Clayton, but it would not have been anywhere near as enjoyable. So I’m OK with the fact I’m never going to be the proud owner of a silver belt buckle. For me, what I got out of UTA was so much more than any piece of bling! (And that’s saying something because you probably know I love my bling!)
UTA100 was an amazing experience but not one I care to repeat. Time for some new challenges! (Aaaand… ‘only’ 7737 words later…)
Clare was where it all began, sort of! In 2014 it was the site of my very first half marathon. Back in the days where you DIDN’T get a medal for a half marathon! I recall enjoying myself a lot and I even took a few selfies DURING the run!
A year later I somewhat ambitiously tried to break my all-time half marathon PB at Clare. I went out WAY too fast and as a result ended up walking much of the second half. It was the one time I recall seriously considering DNFing!
In 2016 I got my redemption, beating my 2014 time (that all-time PB is now well and truly out of reach!) and liking Clare again!
And then last year, Clare being just 2 weeks before the Boston Marathon, I opted to run the 5k – that was a bit of fun but I admit I did have some bling envy – the half marathon medals were SWEET!
This year, as I had decided not to run any marathons this year (or perhaps ever again!) I thought it was time I ran Clare as a pacer. It would be my 6th time as a half marathon pacer – twice at Adelaide, twice at McLaren Vale and once at Barossa. I’m not sure if I realised that the Five Peaks Ultra was the week before, but it’s entirely possible that at the time I volunteered to pace, I was not intending on running Five Peaks!
It was a good decision in the end – I probably would have run Clare anyway, and I would undoubtedly have been disappointed with my time. It’s hard to be disappointed with your time as a pacer (unless of course you’re way off the pace!)
After Five Peaks I had my first run on Tuesday, planning to try to run it at 2 hour HM pace (my watch was set to beep at me if I ventured outside the 5:30-5:45 minute per km range) and fellow SARRC Board member Gary ran with me. The idea was that if I couldn’t sustain that pace for around 10-11km, I would contact the club and ask them to find someone else to pace 2 hours on Sunday. As it turned out I did have difficulty sustaining that pace but I was going too fast, not too slow as I had feared!
I ran a bit slower on Thursday – still marginally too fast but as a pacer it’s natural to find it challenging to run slower than your body wants to! It’s far better than having to push yourself to your limits to run the goal time!
On Saturday I ventured down to try out the brand new Moana parkrun which is about a 50 minute drive south from my place. It was a beautiful morning for a run and the obligatory post-parkrun coffee!
After running a few errands on my way home I packed up all my gear (I’d already made a list – I love lists! They make me feel like I’m organised when I’m really not!) and started the longish drive up to Blyth, a small town about 13km out of Clare, where I would be staying on Saturday night.
I’d booked this accommodation AGES ago – Christmas Day, to be precise! Every year it seems to get harder and harder to find accommodation on the half marathon weekend! In 2014 I managed to score a bed in a cabin in the caravan park, in 2015 I stayed 20 minutes down the road in Auburn, and in 2016 I got really lucky with an AirBNB an easy walk from the Clare Oval! In 2017 I decided to drive up on the day (given that I was only running 5km that day!)
When I booked, all the cheap accommodation in Clare was ALREADY booked! From memory I think the only available accommodation was the country club, which for a place to crash, was going to cost way more than I was prepared to pay. I managed to find a room in the pub at Blyth for a fraction of the cost, and when I realised it would only take me a bit over 10 minutes to drive to Clare from there, it was a no-brainer!
I dropped off all my stuff at the pub and drove to Clare to collect my bib for the race, before heading back to Blyth (via Tim Adams winery – when in Rome!) to meet Tracie, who was one of the official photographers, who was also stayting at the hotel. While at Tim Adams doing a tasting I met a couple, Nikki who was doing the half and was hoping to go under 2 hours (so I told her to look out for me at the start) and her partner who was doing the 10k.
Tracie and I then drove back to Clare so she could scope out a few locations before dinner (and we timed it perfectly as Race Director Ben was doing some final measurements on the Clare Oval as we arrived to check it out – he was able to answer the questions she had!)
Then it was time for dinner – it seemed like Indii was where all the cool kids were! The food was delicious and they had a good range of vegan options! The waiter was pretty entertaining too, when he asked if I wanted “mild, medium or hot” I said “Mild” to which he replied “Extra hot?” and pretended to write it down! Then when Tracie ordered a wine (after I’d already ordered mine) he asked “A bottle?”. I definitely would eat there again! And most of the event team were there too – Ben, SARRC staff Cassandra, Lee-Ann, Harry and Paul, as well as super volunteers Sheena and Tracey. Definitely the place to be!
Then we headed back to Blyth so I could get my race gear all sorted and Tracie could sort out her camera equipment! Back at the pub I looked up at the sky and I’ve never seen so many stars! Wonder if it’s just because we were practically in the middle of nowhere!
In the morning I woke up before my alarm so I was all dressed and breakfasted in plenty of time. Across the hall from me were a couple of familiar faces, Naomi and Matt, both also doing the half marathon. I saw Matt in the hall and asked him to check the men’s toilet to see if they had a spare roll of toilet paper as there was literally 4 squares left in the women’s! The situation in the men’s was pretty much the same! I get the feeling the pub is not often booked to capacity as it was that night!
Anyway, Matt asked me to see if my key would open his door. That’s not a great thing to have to ask especially on the morning of what was his first half marathon, and when all your running gear is inside the room! Yep – they’d locked themselves out of their room, which in a large international hotel would not have been such a big deal but in a country pub without 24 hour reception…
Of course as well as all their running gear they’d also locked their phones in the room so we used my phone to try to phone hotel reception (not surprisingly at 6:45ish on Sunday morning the phone was unattended!) and then the after hours mobile number which also was not answering. I had to leave to go and get ready for the start, so I gave them my printed receipt which had the phone number on it, so they could try to ring it again.
I packed up the car and made the short journey to Clare, arriving at the oval around 7:10 (for an 8am start) and noticed the carpark already looked pretty full and people were parking on the street, so I parked just outside the gates of the oval. (We had a record number of registrations, smashing the previous record, with 1028 people registered across the 21.1k, 10k, 5k and kids’ fun run)
I collected my pacer bib and attached that and my race bib to my Spibelt, and collected my green pacer balloon from Lee-Ann. Then after putting sunscreen on (it was forecast to be an unusually warm day for this time of year and for Clare) I went to join the long queue at the toilet block. The leisure centre, which has ample toilets, and has always been open for us in previous years, was not open as the person with the key was running late! As a result there was a fair bit of angst as you can imagine! As I joined the lengthy queue, Beck (who had entered at the last minute with some encouragement from Gary and me – although we had been suggesting she run the 10k and she’d decided to do the 21.1 instead!) came past and told me about another toilet near the playground with 2 toilets and 3 people! Of course by the time I got there there were a few more than 3 people there! (As a few of us started heading that way we saw a group of people running – and wondered, is that the 5k or the 10k starting already – as it turned out they were just super keen to get to the toilets!)
The queue didn’t seem to be moving and time was ticking – the scheduled race start time of 8am was fast approaching! Some people decided they couldn’t be bothered waiting and made their way back to the oval. One of our ambassadors, Ryley, came past and told us about some OTHER toilets with no queue, but I’d been through that already – I was going nowhere!
Some of the others in the queue noticed my green balloon (I hadn’t gotten into my costume yet) and kindly offered to let me jump the queue, as it was going to be really tricky for me to do the 2 hour pacing if I missed the start! As it turned out it wasn’t necessary as someone came past around that time and told us that the start had been pushed back 10 minutes, to which we breathed a collective sigh of relief, and as if by magic the queue started moving!
Even so, I only made it to the start with a few minutes to spare – I quickly changed into my Luigi costume (as in, Mario and Luigi) and dropped my bag at the bag drop area, and joined the huge crowd at the start line, positioning myself just behind the 1:40 and 1:45 pacers.
For the first time ever, while Ben was giving the race briefing, I had not one but two guys wanting to take selfies with me!
And before we knew it, we were away!
As per usual I decided to start my watch on the gun, even though my official time wouldn’t start until I crossed the timing mat (as it turned out, about 12 seconds later). That way I would come in just under 2 hours on the clock, so anyone who came in with, ahead of or even just behind me, would get the sub-2.
Over the course of the race I had different people with me and at times I was running on my own, but the role of the pacer is to stick with the goal pace, and the people will come and go! It’s hard when you have to tell the people on your ‘bus’ that you have to up the pace to get back on goal pace, knowing that they may not be able to stick with you, but that is the job of a pacer!
With me near the beginning was Steve, who had run half marathons before but this was his comeback run after a year’s break, and another girl called Jen who promised to buy me a glass of wine if she got under 2 hours! (Unfortunately I think she fell off my bus pretty early on!) There was also Vienna, who was also hoping to go under 2 hours and is doing her first marathon at Adelaide next month.
My impression had always been that the first half of the Clare half (essentially an out and back course) is mostly uphill. This was the first time I’d run as a pacer, so the first time I’d actually been able to take it all in. I realised for the first time that it’s not actually all uphill on the way out! There’s a point, I think around the 9.5km mark, where there is a sign that says “You have reached the highest point” (or words to that effect). Every time I’d run Clare before, I could have sworn it feels like it’s uphill both ways, even though that’s clearly impossible! So, when it feels like it is uphill when you turn around and start heading back, it is actually uphill, you just don’t notice that as you come into the turnaround, you’re actually running DOWNHILL!
The first half is generally slower, but I was aiming to stick to an even pace – 5:35 to 5:38 per kilometre. That would mean that the back half should feel relatively easier. To try to plan pacing for a negative split was too hard and would require calculations instead of letting my watch do all the work. Forget that!
Anyway, as it turned out, that was easier said than done and I decided instead to try to get to the turnaround at 5:40 pace and speed up in the second half.
The half marathon leader, Bryn, in the red and white of the Adelaide Harriers, was a VERY LONG WAY in front when he passed us, running back while we still had a good few kilometres to go before the turnaround! I later watched the start line video and he was ahead right from the gun, and in the end he was OVER 8 MINUTES ahead of second place, and I believe also set a new Clare course record in the process!
Passing me on the way out was Steve, a friend who I hadn’t seen in YEARS, who had recently taken up running. I was amazed he recognised me in my Luigi costume with my blonde hair! He told me his brother Rob was a bit further back so I made sure to look out for him! I did eventually run into Rob who I later found out was doing his VERY FIRST RACE – as if you pick a half marathon as your first race! How about a nice 5k or 10k to ease into it! Turned out he did pretty well too, finishing not far behind me in just over 2 hours!
In the back half I gradually tried to make up time, which wasn’t too hard to do, I estimated that getting to 5:35 pace would have me sitting just under 2 hours, and then I’d just have to hold that pace until the finish. My watch was reading about 100m long (ie when I got to the 5k marker, my watch was sitting on 5.1km) so I had to factor that in when working out my pace.
I also started having wardrobe issues – I’d never run in the Luigi outfit before, and yes it was quite hot to run in (although I was glad that the outfit included a hat!) but the biggest issue was the damn right strap of the dress coming off my shoulder at least a couple of times every minute! I wished I’d had the time and the sense to pin it in place! Next time… (and let’s face it, there probably won’t be a next time for Luigi in a half marathon…)
Along the way I passed Gary who had done Five Peaks last weekend too, he had hoped to stay ahead of me but wasn’t quite able to hold on!
With about 4km to go I was able to do some maths in my head. I was sitting on around 1 hour 35 which meant I had 25 minutes left to run. 4km in 25 minutes is over 6 minutes per kilometre. I was sitting comfortably on 5:35. At that pace I would be finished several minutes too early and that just wouldn’t do! So I slowed my pace down and managed to sit on just under 6 minutes per kilometre for the next few kays.
I then caught up with Gary (different Gary!) who had been looking pretty strong when I’d seen him pass me earlier, but who had since had Achilles issues and had had to walk a fair bit. At that point a runner had collapsed (bringing back memories of the Scottish leader at the Commonwealth Games marathon last week!) and a few people were tending to him, and Gary advised me that the medical people had been called and were on their way, so there was nothing for me to do but keep running!
Gary and I ran together for the last few kilometres and he ended up finishing just ahead of me. We ran past the swimming pool, under a bridge and around a corner, a very familiar route. On the last little bit of path before we headed back to the oval and the finish line, I saw a few familiar faces including SARRC Chair Voula who assured me I was spot on pace!
I crossed the finish line in a gun time of 1:59:33 which was pretty perfect – it meant that people who were JUST behind me would also get in under the 2 hours. My net (official) time was 1:59:19 (ie starting from when I actually crossed the start line) which I was also pretty happy with although it was the gun time that I was more interested in.
As I was a late entrant, as per the new SARRC policy, I was not guaranteed a medal on the day, which didn’t really bother me as long as I got one eventually! The three events of the ‘Triple Crown’ this year (Clare, Greenbelt and McLaren Vale) would all have medals that could be joined together to make an extra special ‘Triple Crown’ medal. So as long as I got my Clare medal by the time I finished McLaren Vale (in October!) I would be happy! The great thing this year is that the 5k and 10k also get medals, so if you do all 3 events but don’t run the half marathon at all 3 events, you still get 3 medals that link together! Very cool!
I understand why late entrants can’t be guaranteed a medal on the day. Firstly, it’s a GREAT incentive to enter events early – we do tend to get a rush of entries at the last minute, which makes it hard to get the number of medals right! We don’t want to run out of medals but nor do we want to be left with a surplus of medals that can’t really be used for anything. Also, and possibly more importantly, in previous events where we have run out of medals on the day, it’s the later finishers that end up missing out. They may have entered months ago, and other faster runners may have only entered a few days earlier and got a medal where the slower runners missed out. This way, if you enter before a certain date, you get a personalised bib and a medal on the day, and the later entrants get a generic bib which means you don’t get a medal until later. I know some people weren’t very happy about this but as I said earlier, it’s a great incentive to get in early! I for one like to have a bib with my name on it if possible!
In the later stages of the run I passed someone who kind of looked like Naomi, although she hadn’t been in her race gear when I’d last seen her back at the hotel, so I couldn’t be sure. Shortly after I finished, I saw her again, it WAS Naomi! And she’d made it just under the 2 hours too! She had managed to make contact with the after hours manager who had come and let them into their room and they’d made it to the start in time! Not an ideal way to start a race but they made it! Matt also finished his first half well under 2 hours! (And Naomi won wine in the lucky prize draw afterwards too so it turned out to be a pretty good day after a less than ideal start!)
After rehydrating and caffeinating it was time for the presentations. Voula asked me to help out with handing out the trophies for the kids’ event which was a lot of fun (as I was still dressed as Luigi, although I’d left my moustache in the car!)
After the serious presentations for the 5k, 10k and 21.1k were done (I handed over to Gary for those!) and in between a bit of packing up I went over to the pizza van where Tracie was having some lunch before we went and hit up one more winery! At the pizza van I ran into Scott and Sharlene, Scott had been going back and forth with me a few times throughout the day (and complaining every time I passed him – but in a good-natured way of course!) but thankfully ended up finishing ahead of me! Sharlene had been one of the lucky winners of a SARRC competition earlier in the week to win accommodation at the Clare Valley Motel – a definite upgrade from their previously booked site at the caravan park!
The whirlwind trip to Clare ended with a very entertaining stop at Mad Bastard Wines – I chose it purely because of the name, and the ‘Mad Bitch’ glass that Tracie’s wine was served in on Saturday night! We were greeted by the winemaker Mark saying “F*** off” but that was all part of the charm of the place! The wines were great, and the atmosphere was really cool. I’d definitely recommend it if you like good wine but don’t like to take it too seriously!
The weather was perfect – OK maybe a little bit warm to be running in an outfit that CLEARLY was not designed for running, but such a beautiful day to be out and about! (It was around 25 degrees when I finished – pretty warm for mid-April! The last time I ran the half in Clare my lips were blue at the start!)
The crowd was sensational, yes there were a few issues with the facilities at the start but these things happen (shit happens, if you will!) and the staff and volunteers dealt with it admirably.
Congratulations to all the runners and walkers who made this the biggest and best Clare Half Marathon festival yet! Special congrats to those for whom this was their first half marathon, or first race – you definitely picked a good one! And from a selfish point of view, extra special congrats to all those who managed to get sub 2 hours (or close to it) and I hope I helped in some way!
And I know I say it every time but it needs to be said. MASSIVE HUGE EPIC THANKS to all the event team and the volunteers. Special mention to RD Ben, timing guy Malcolm, SARRC staff Cassandra, Lee-Ann, Paul and Harry, and Sheena who was supposed to run the half but sacrificed her run to help out at the finish line. Without you and all the other amazing volunteers there would be no race for the rest of us. I’ve been running SARRC events for just over 5 years now and I have seen them get better and better, moving with the times and today’s numbers just speak for themselves! And thanks to the community of Clare for being so supportive of this event over the years!
If you’re thinking about running Clare next year, I have a few pieces of advice for you.
(1) DO IT!
(2) Book your accommodation early!
(3) Get someone else to drive so you can take full advantage of some of the dozens of excellent wineries in the region!
For those who are running the Adelaide Marathon (not me!) congratulations – by my calculations it must be just almost taper time! Enjoy it and best of luck for Adelaide!
Five Peaks Ultramarathon & SA Trail Running Festival is a brand new event on the SA running calendar, organised by Trail Running SA who have been putting on awesome and incredibly popular trail running events in Adelaide and surrounds for the past few years. Five Peaks wasn’t initially on my radar, but when I realised it was 5 weeks out from UTA100, I thought it would be an ideal ‘training run’ – a training run with support throughout AND a medal at the end! The best kind of training run! And let’s face it, there are two chances of me going out and running 50+ kilometres by myself – Buckley’s and none!
I’m not sure exactly how this event came about but a couple of years ago, a few keen trail runners suggested that TRSA’s previous ‘big’ event, the Cleland SA Trail Championships, could be made into an ultramarathon by making it a 2 lap course (the long course trail champs is 24km) – no further course marking or drink stations required – a no-brainer! At the time I can clearly recall the response from TRSA being “TRSA is not in the business of ultramarathons” (or words to that effect).
At this time, the Adelaide metro region only had one trail ultramarathon, the Yurrebilla 56k. People had to venture further afield to the Flinders Ranges for the Hubert 100 or down south for the Heysen 105.
Then, last year, Yumigo! (the organiser of Heysen and Hubert) put on a ‘local’ trail ultra, the Cleland 50. By all accounts it was a pretty tough 50k! (I was going to run it, in fact I had entered, but withdrew when I realised just how tough it was going to be!) It does take in some of my favourite trails, so I’m sure I will run it one day!
And now Adelaide is really spoiled for choice, as TRSA has now decided they ARE in the business of ultramarathons, so we have 3 x 50km trail ultras in the metro region!
So I decided that I was going to run the Five Peaks. It starts at Athelstone (where the new Yurrebilla finish line is) and finishes at Belair (not quite at the Yurrebilla start line, but close!) and for a lot of the way, follows the Yurrebilla Trail. So it is kind of like a reverse Yurrebilla, with a few extra nasty little hills thrown in!
Like Yurrebilla, there were 3 organised training runs, covering the entire 58km (ish) course. The two times I had run Yurrebilla, I had never managed to fit in all the 3 training runs (probably due to those pesky marathons and associated long training runs which now are thankfully a thing of the past!) but this year, happily they all fit into my schedule quite nicely.
Now the tendency with ‘crazy ultra runners’ is to do these training runs as ‘back and outs’ or ‘out and backs’ rather than ‘point to points’. The ‘official’ training runs are point to point, with carpooling arranged so most of the cars are at the end and only a few at the start. The ‘out and back’ removes the need for carpooling and also (somewhat obviously) makes the run approximately twice as long. For my very first Yurrebilla training run in 2015, I opted to do the ‘back and out’ but other than that, one way is generally enough for me!
The advantage of ‘back and out’ versus ‘out and back’ is that you finish your run with everyone else. And at the end, there is always copious amounts of food, coffee and Coke, supplied by our wonderful supporters Mal and Merrilyn. I never liked the idea of getting to the ‘buffet’ in the knowledge that I would then need to run all the way back again! Much better to start at arse o’clock, in the dark, and be able to eat ALL OF THE FOOD!
A better option even, than ‘back and out’, is just running the one way! Which is exactly what I did for all 3 of the training runs.
Training run 1, which was approximately the first 18km of the course (Athelstone to Norton Summit), could only be described as brutal. By far the best part of that run was the refreshments afterwards! I think I may have drunk an entire 2L bottle of Coke! That run made me question everything, it made me seriously consider giving up trail running (and at times even giving up running altogether!). I ran (‘ran’ is generous – I’d say it was more than 50% walking!) with Beck and Kate. Neither of them were planning to do the event. And after that run, neither was I! But it’s funny how quickly you forget. I think by the end of that day I was as good as signed up! To be fair, that 18km section, which took us almost 3 hours, was run on a particularly hot day in February and contained 3 of the 5 peaks and over 1000m elevation gain. Plus, I’d just run a 50km ultra the week before on not much training. The heat was definitely a factor, and when the event was run in April, it would be much cooler. (Having said that, it was an unseasonal 36 degrees on the Wednesday 3 days before the event!)
I don’t really remember much about training run 2 (Norton Summit to Cleland), other than the fact it was a lot nicer than training run 1! Beck and Kate had been put off completely by training run 1, so I seem to recall I did a fair bit of it on my own. Which was good because neither of those two would be there on race day so I needed to get used to running on my own! It was around 16km with 680m of elevation gain – MUCH more civilised for a non-mountain-goat such as myself!
Then there was training run 3, on Easter Monday, 21km on the back of a solo 23km the previous day. I figured the best way to get more distance in, and get used to ‘running on tired legs’ would be to do back to back long hilly runs, rather than try to ‘cram’ all the mileage into one run, which would probably result in a longer recovery time. It worked really well – I was pretty stiff on Tuesday but back to normal programming by Thursday! That run was the nicest of the lot, only 500m of climb (just the one ‘peak’) and some spectacular views over the city.
Not that you can read too much into training runs, but if you combined my times for the 3 training runs (bearing in mind that on the first training run we probably cut out about 1-2km of extra little loops) it all added up to 7 hours 10 minutes. Now I had been told that Five Peaks would be harder than Yurrebilla, so I should expect to be about 20 minutes slower than my Yurrebilla time. My best YUM time (and indeed the only time I’d run the ‘proper’ course) was 7:07, so somewhere around 7½ hours would be the best case scenario. Conservatively I thought somewhere between 7 and 8 hours should be around the mark.
I had opted for the 7am start (the other options were 6am and 8am). 7am was the best option for me – 6am would necessitate a 4:45am bus from Belair (so probably around 4:15am leaving home!) plus I may well get to the drink stations before they open. 8am was the ‘racing’ group – you had to start in that group if you wanted to be a podium contender. As I knew I wasn’t going to be a podium contender, starting at 8am would only mean I would be one of the slowest in that group and would end up running most of the day on my own. The extra hour’s sleep was not enough to make that a good option for me!
After the final training run, I went out for one last trail hitout on the Sunday before the race. I went with my usual haunt (Chambers) and just did the one loop, but pushed it reasonably hard. Tuesday was a regular road running day and I cut it a bit short but again tried to pick up the pace. I decided not to run after that until race day – I walked on Thursday instead of my usual run, and had the luxury of a Friday sleep-in!
After my walk on Thursday I had a twinge in my left knee, patellofemoral joint to be precise, which was not something I had experienced in a long time. I expected it was just the dreaded ‘taperitis’ and that all would be good come race day. However come Friday it was still there and more noticeable going down the stairs at work, and sitting down and standing up. I wasn’t expecting to have to do much sitting down or standing up during the race, but going downhill WAS something I knew I would be doing, and in fact it was the one thing I knew I could do well (being a bit slow on the uphills!) So I decided to try taping my patella, which seemed to do the trick – instant relief!
I packed all my gear the night before, as my alarm was set for 4:30 as it was. There was the option of having a drop bag at Drink Station 3 (approximately the halfway mark) and I decided to leave a spare pair of shoes and socks in there as well as a spare T-shirt and arm warmers, and a bit of food. The forecast was for a fair bit of rain. I had never changed shoes and/or socks during a race before, but I figured it was better to have them there and not need them, than vice versa!
The only difference to my ‘usual’ race kit was a pair of gaiters from Groovy Gaitors – purchased specifically to match my T-shirt! At the last training run I had had a few rocks in my shoes so I thought my run would be a bit more comfortable without that! Plus, the gaiters look cool (most importantly!)
I arrived at Belair Country Club in the dark and rain at 5:30am. Although we were starting at 7 (when it would be light), a headlamp would have been useful if only for the walk from the car to the bus! I ended up walking to the bus with a guy who arrived around the same time, he thought it was bus stop 27B where the bus was picking us up. I was a bit suspicious when we got to said bus stop and there was no-one there, let alone any buses! He checked and it was actually bus stop 27A! We made our way there and onto the bus where I sat next to Hoa, who was also going for a 7-8 hour finish. She was doing Five Peaks, followed in a few weeks by the Hubert 100 miler, then UTA in 5 weeks (but ‘only’ the 50k!).
The bus trip seemed interminable, for some reason we went through the city, and consequently we arrived at the start line at Athelstone a bit late, meaning there was really just enough time to collect our bibs and have a last toilet stop before we were summoned to the start line to listen to the briefing by Race Director Claire and timing guy Malcolm.
After it had stopped raining during the bus ride from Belair to Athelstone, it started again JUST as we were about to start, so I quickly got out my light rain jacket and put it on.
I was fully expecting the first section to be nasty – as it had taken me 3 hours to get to Norton Summit in the training run, my goal was to get to Norton within 2.5 hours. Some of the hills were definitely not runnable, but I would power hike those, and run all the downhills and flats.
In the first training run, which contained 3 of the 5 peaks, Kate, Beck and I had decided not to run any of the ‘out and back’ diversions as we felt the run was long and hard enough as it was! Consequently these were a bit of a surprise in the event itself. It was a nice touch – at each of the Five Peaks, there would be a sign we had to run around saying the name and number of the peak. Peak 1 (Black Hill) was at 5km. I jokingly said to whoever was around me at the time, “So if we’ve done 1 peak out of 5, does that mean we’re 1/5 of the way there?”
There was a drink station around the 5km mark – just as we were about to start the climb up Chapman’s Track (one of the unrunnable bits!). I didn’t need anything at that stage, but Hoa, who I’d been going back and forth with in the first little bit, needed to top up her water. She would smash me going up the hills but then I’d usually catch up with her on the downs. She didn’t take long to catch up with me after refilling and it wasn’t too long before she powered past me and I didn’t see her again until the finish line!
Walking up Chapman’s, it had stopped raining so I took the opportunity to take off my jacket and try to put it back in my pack. Turns out it’s pretty hard to stuff a damp rain jacket into a not-very-big pack while walking uphill and trying not to trip over on a pretty rocky track! A lot of people passed me while I was trying to do this, and eventually I gave up and stopped for a minute to put it away.
While we had a break in the weather and I was walking anyway, I decided why not take a few photos rather than rely on other people to illustrate my blog!
For a little while on Chapmans I was walking with Jai and Tim, who seemed to be having WAY too much fun! Jai was suggesting that windscreen wipers for his sunglasses would be useful – I suggested that maybe sunglasses were not needed on a day like this! (Indeed I was not wearing sunnies in a race for the first time in a long time – I had them in my pack but did not end up using them at all!) Like other people throughout the day, I’d be with them for a while, then they’d get away, I’d catch up again, and they’d get away again. It was a nice distraction but by the time I stopped briefly at Drink Station 2 at Norton Summit, they were long gone!
Just before we reached Norton Summit, we had to run on the road for a bit. As I approached the road I could hear a familiar voice calling my name – it was Ziad, who is often the course sweeper/trail demarker but today was a road marshal. He directed me onto the road and told me as always to “Keep smiling” and “Have fun!”
I was pretty happy when the markers directed us off the road and back onto the trail – I don’t much like running on non-closed roads, especially in trail shoes! I caught up with Jim, one of the 6am starters with whom I’d had a long chat about this event at a SA Road Runners Club social event during the week, and he seemed to be travelling OK. I had just passed him when I reached a fence with a closed gate, I pushed the gate only to find it was padlocked! I couldn’t see a way around, so the only option seemed to be to jump the fence! I wondered how the fast 8am runners would feel about having to jump a fence – I bet that wasn’t in anyone’s race plan! We both climbed over the fence – thankfully the only bit of fence climbing we’d have to do for the day!
As I mentioned earlier, there was over 1000m elevation in the first 18km of the run. (Norton Summit was ‘Peak 3’) That was almost half of the overall elevation gain, in less than 1/3 of the distance! Mentally, I knew that once I got to Norton Summit, half the battle was over! And I made it in just under 2.5 hours, as I had hoped. I didn’t linger long – just long enough to fill up one of my bottles with water. I was carrying 2 bottles of Gatorade and no water, and I’d drunk one of my bottles of Gatorade. I had Gatorade powder in my pack, but I couldn’t be bothered taking off my pack to get it out at this stage. Besides, it was only 9km to the next drink station where I would definitely be stopping. One bottle of Gatorade SHOULD be enough, and I had a bottle of water as a backup. I do prefer to drink Gatorade rather than water, most of the time during runs.
For a while I was running with Jon and Jess, Jon using hiking poles, and Jess doing his first ultra. They both seemed to be going pretty well, and I must admit I could have done with some poles on some of the earlier climbs!
It took me a good hour to do the 7km from Norton Summit to Coach Road, which was almost the halfway mark. During this time I was overtaken by a girl who I assumed was one of the fast 8am starters, as she passed me apparently quite effortlessly! I was chatting to her, and Jon and Jess, about the merits of changing shoes and socks at Coach Road. I was agonising over it for probably the last 5km of that section – given that there would likely be more rain, and existing unavoidable puddles, was it worth taking the time to change into dry shoes that would soon be wet? Jon didn’t think it was worth it, and none of the people I talked to had spare shoes anyway, but I kept thinking about it and by the time I reached the drink station I had decided that I was going to change. There was water sloshing around inside my shoes, my socks were saturated, and I figured I’d be on the fast track to Blisterville if I kept those socks on for the rest of the day! Even if my dry shoes and socks got wet, at least they would be dry for a short period! And with less rain forecast in the afternoon than in the morning, there was a chance I might remain relatively dry!
I collected my drop bag and took everything out – spare Gatorade powder, an extra sandwich, and all my dry clothing. I changed T-shirts and arm warmers, and quickly put my light rain jacket back on because of course it was raining again! No sense putting on a dry top only for it to get wet while I was in the process of changing my shoes! The cycling gloves which I like to wear in trail races to protect my hands in case I fall over, were completely drenched. After having taken them off and wrung them out, I didn’t fancy putting them back on again. Into the drop bag they went. The T-shirt I had been wearing at the start was so wet that I think I could have bypassed the drink station and filled my drink bottle by wringing it out!
As I was changing my shoes, a lot of runners went past me. I didn’t time how long I spent at the drink station, but I was convinced that any time ‘wasted’ on changing shoes would be time well spent, if it meant making the second half of the race more comfortable! I managed to change shoes and socks while still standing up (I don’t like sitting down during a race – it’s too hard to get back up and going again!) While I was changing shoes one of the 6am starters, Belinda, was umming and ahhing about whether or not to change her shoes. I told her in no uncertain terms “Do it!”. She did, and I hoped that my advice turned out to be good!
After my wardrobe change I went to top up my drink bottles and have my first Coke for the day. TRSA have a ‘no cups’ policy which meant that runners needed to bring their own receptacles (bottles, cups etc) for drinks. It’s a great initiative and everyone seemed to be well prepared. With the strong winds, plastic cups would have blown away anyway! As well as Coke I had a couple of Maurice’s delicious vegan brownies to fuel the next section of my run!
There was still a fair bit of climbing to come. With storms the previous day, and strong winds throughout the race, there were plenty of fallen tree branches creating potential trip hazards. Or, in my case, potential makeshift ‘hiking poles’! I think on 3 occasions I picked up a sturdy branch to help me up some of the hills, and then ditched them once I could see level or downhill trail ahead!
OK now I will admit that maybe I didn’t read the briefing document as diligently as I should have. The second training run ended at Cleland, which was also the start line for the 22km run. Although I had printed out a list of drink stations with estimated timings based on different race times, I had incorrectly assumed that the next drink station would be at Cleland.
The next ‘Peak’ was Mount Lofty, Adelaide’s highest point. The Waterfall Gully to Mount Lofty hike is an extremely popular walking trail especially on the weekends. It is sometimes (perhaps unkindly) referred to as the ‘Lorna Jane Highway’, in reference to the plethora of activewear-clad ladies who go there to take Insta-worthy selfies and generally be seen. On a day like this though, it was only the hardcore crazies who were out there. By that, I mean participants in the Five Peaks, and a few intrepid others! It made a nice change!
Just before Mount Lofty I saw a familiar face with a camera at the top of Pillbox Track – it was Bek, who I’d been chatting with a few days before, she’d told me where she was marshalling, and I told her I hoped I’d be smiling when I saw her!
At Lofty, as per the previous peaks, we had to do a lap around the ‘Peak 4’ sign, which meant running around the big arse white monument and checking out the view. On a clear day, Mount Lofty is a pretty good place to get a great view over the city (once you’ve elbowed all the other view-seekers out of the way), although on this particular occasion it was pretty misty (I had predicted a complete white out, so I was pleasantly surprised to be able to see anything!). As I got to the monument I noticed a gazebo there, and after having run past it, I realised it was a drink station! Not until much later did I realise this WAS, in fact, Drink Station 4! This was the 31km mark. The last drink station had been at 25km and as it turned out my next opportunity to refill would not be until the final drink station at 44km. That’s a long time between drinks (pun intended!) but fortunately due to the cool conditions I managed to get by quite comfortably!
Not long after Lofty we got to Cleland where TRSA committee member Murray was getting the start line set up for the 22km, I reckon this was just before midday. For some reason I had in my head that I ran the last training run in under 2 hours so if I could reach Cleland within 5 hours I was a chance of a sub 7 hour finish which would be phenomenal! I later realised that it was actually the SECOND training run that I had done in under 2 hours. 22km of trails in under 2 hours would have taken some doing!
Possibly around this point, or maybe a bit earlier, was when I started running with Damian, who I hadn’t run with before but who had finished just behind me in my last Heysen 105 (coincidentally my last trail ultra, 18 months ago) and was also doing UTA100 (for the first time) this year. It was great to have someone to run with consistently, we didn’t run the whole of the rest of the race together but we were never far apart, and we ran quite long sections of it together. We had plenty to chat about! Also with us at this stage was Jon – Jess had gone on ahead and ended up doing a smashing time for his first ultra! Jon was trying to convince us to do the Wonderland run in the Grampians – he prefers smaller events rather than big ones like UTA! (When I asked him if he’d ever done UTA he quickly said “No, too big!”) I must admit he did make it sound pretty appealing…
While running with Jon he mentioned Kent, a Mount Barker parkrunner, regular parkrun tourist, SA Statesman (a fair effort considering SA now has 23 parkruns, more than double the number we had when I was a Statesman, and with 2 more to come before the end of this month!) and generally Very. Fast. Runner. (This is the guy who did the parkrun double on New Year’s Day last year – 5k at 7:30am, then RAN the 23k to the second parkrun and was there in time for the 9:30am start!) Jon said he had been trying to convince him to do a trail ultra and over time he went from “No” to “Maybe” to “Where do I sign up?” He was in the 8:00 (speedy) group, doing his first ultra.
Not long after this we hit the old Mount Barker Road, where we were directed to run in the bike lane. This is a very popular route for cyclists, being quite a challenging climb, on a relatively quiet road, with the bike lane being physically separated from the traffic. We were running down, not up, so we would be running towards the bikes, and therefore it would be relatively easy for us to jump out of the way. Except, on a rainy and windy day, the road was devoid of cyclists so we had the bike lane all to ourselves! Luxury!
About 1km down the road we crossed over and back onto the trails again. Here I saw Kent’s parents, and asked them how far away he was, to which they replied, “He’s right behind you!” And not far down the trail he and his bright orange shorts went cruising past me, looking fresh as a daisy! Not bad for a first ultra!
Around the same time I caught up with Luke, another one of the 8am starters, who I’d gone back and forth with a few times since he first passed me. When I approached him I saw something sticking out of his mouth and for a split second I thought he was having a smoke! Of course he wasn’t, it was just a Chupa Chup (a kind of lollipop in case you’re not familiar!) I thought if I could hang on to him for a while I would be doing OK. Sure, he was an hour ahead of me but he DID finish 3rd at the Adelaide Marathon last year so to be ‘only’ an hour behind him was pretty good in my book!
Then came possibly the best moment of the race for me, we were running through a cow paddock and the cows were just hanging out, they didn’t seem bothered by all us runners! Fortunately there was a photographer right here so she managed to capture some pretty cool shots of us with the cows!
Not long after this was that spot where I took that stunning panoramic shot 2 weeks ago. Safe to say it didn’t look quite like that on this particular occasion, and I wasn’t going to stop to take a photo of it this time around! Fortunately it had stopped raining by this stage but the wind was as strong as ever, I was being blown sideways!
Soon we reached the steep cement driveway that led down to McElligott’s Quarry and the final drink station. Lining the driveway were a whole lot of cheering people in onesies, who seemed to be having a LOT of fun – it was great to see at this late stage in the race! Also on the driveway I saw Kent’s parents, and his mum Karen offered to take my rain jacket, which by now I was holding in my hand. I had planned to put it in my pack when I reached the drink station, but I gratefully accepted Karen’s offer, handed over the jacket and kept running! I quickly topped up my Gatorade with the help of Laura and the other volunteers, grabbed a brownie and a handful of chips, and away I went!
In the latter stages I caught up with Damian again, and also went back and forth with Emily, and also with Kay, who I’d seen at the start and then at DS3. We seemed to go back and forth quite a few times! Turned out Emily was actually a 7am starter, not 8am as I’d thought! Damian and I were running together most of the time, and we’d pass Kay, and then we’d walk for a bit, and she’d come powering past, then we’d pass her again, and so on!
The last big climb was up the Pony Ridge switchbacks (which, when run in reverse, are my favourite part of Yurrebilla) but not before another seemingly endless section of road, along Brownhill Creek Road. Kay was ahead of us at this stage, we were walking but trying to keep up a good pace. 7.5 hours was still a possibility but we couldn’t afford to waste any time if that was going to happen!
Probably around the 50km mark my Garmin watch started to show ‘Low Battery’ – I suspect my watch is on the way out, as I have previously got through Yurrebilla with plenty of juice left in the battery. I quickly got my phone out and started to record the run directly onto Strava, in case my watch died completely!
On Pony Ridge Road, just as we were about to enter Belair National Park, we saw TRSA committee member David, who advised us we only had 3km to go! Looking at our watches we couldn’t see how that was possible – it had to be at least 5km!
The next milestone was the Echo Tunnel, which had reportedly been lit up like a Christmas tree! Before we hit Echo Tunnel there was a sign saying “2km to go!” Well I’ll tell you, if that was true, it was the longest 2km I’ve ever done!
The tunnel had been unofficially renamed “Steve’s Tunnel” after TRSA committee member Steve who had done the lighting work!
After coming through the tunnel, I was passed by Erin, one of the 8am starters, and decided, given that there were less than 2km to go, to try to stick with her all the way to the finish. Her bright pink shorts made it easy to follow her! I left the rest of them (Damian, Kay and Emily) behind and just went for it! It’s a nice feeling to be able to finish a race strong and have a nice little kick at the end, even after 50+km!
It seemed to take forever but finally I got there! In the end I was only 17 seconds behind Erin (well, 1 hour and 17 seconds actually!). I almost forgot to get my medal! Imagine that!
My time was around 7 hours 31, so based on my pre-race predictions, about as good as I could have hoped! Damian ended up a few minutes behind me, with Emily and Kay not far behind.
With about 3 hours before cutoff time, I grabbed my chair and blanket, a cider and a Coke and settled in to watch the rest of the finishers! Thanks to Wendy who went and got my drop bags for me so I didn’t have to get up!
It was great to see all the people cross the line, including some very fast 22km and 12km runners! The finish line atmosphere was fantastic, with food trucks and even a bar! (Even though the Indian place didn’t have any vegan curry, which I had been looking forward to for at least the second half of the race!)
Towards cutoff time I got to see Kim and Kym, two very well known trail running identities, cross the line together.
I ended up leaving just after the 5:30 cutoff time, as it started raining again and I had curry on the brain!
It was a very long day but it would had to have been an even longer day for the volunteers. They would have been there hours before me, and probably hours after I left. Some of them were standing in the rain and wind all day. Also some of them were out on Friday in even worse conditions, marking the course! (And impeccably I might add. I had downloaded the GPX file of the course and an offline maps app ‘just in case’ but at no stage did I even consider using it!)
So, huge congratulations to Race Director Claire and all of the TRSA committee for getting this event off the ground. After not really wanting to do it, and really only entering because it would be a great lead-in to UTA100, I absolutely loved it and would definitely do it again! It’s a tough ultra, tougher than Yurrebilla for sure, so if you’re planning to do it, definitely don’t expect it to be an easy one, but SUCH a fantastic course! And the 22km is a great option for people who don’t fancy the ultra distance and/or like a bit of a sleep-in! There’s also the 12km which still has almost 300m of elevation gain so it’s not exactly City to Bay!
And of course the volunteers were wonderful – aid stations, marshals, course markers, setting up and packing up – the list is endless! THANK YOU to every single one of you!
Last but not least, well done to everyone who ran, special congratulations for all those who did their first ultra – hopefully you’re now hooked and I’ll see you out on the trails again soon! And special thanks to all the people I ran with along the way, you certainly helped to make it a truly memorable day!
Well, I was lured back down there again this Easter weekend by a very intriguing invitation from Victor triathlete (and ultramarathoner!) Shane. A Triple Mix triathlon.
What is a Triple Mix triathlon, you say? I wondered the same, and I had to Google!
It is essentially 3 triathlons, with 10 minutes break in between.
Stage 1 – Swim (300m), Bike (6km), Run (2km)
Stage 2 – Run (2km), Bike (6km), Swim (300m)
Stage 3 – Bike (6km), Swim (300m), Run (2km)
In the Super League format, the 10 minute timer starts when the first athlete finishes the stage. However, in this (informal, trial) event, it would be as the LAST athlete crosses the line, meaning the faster athletes get a longer break, and even the slowest athlete gets 10 minutes. (I’m glad that change was made to the format otherwise I probably wouldn’t have made it to the second stage!)
I thought, sounds like fun, let’s do it!
This would be my third triathlon. (And possibly fourth and fifth as well, depending on how you look at it!) My first was at West Lakes in November and my second was the aforementioned one at Victor 3 weeks ago.
Given the length of the swim, and also the logistics of having the swim as NOT the first leg in the second two stages, it was pretty obvious even to me, the total noob, that wetsuits would not work in this format! That was one less thing I had to remember to bring!
I decided to make a day of it and go to parkrun in the morning. Victor is a nice flat out and back course, and FAST (unless you’re unlucky enough to encounter a fierce headwind one way, which often happens!) I was there in plenty of time, I was not going for a PB (I’m a long way off PB pace!) but I always like to race Victor hard. As it happens I missed the start as Simon had asked me to hold his 2 dogs’ leads for him while he got himself organised, and the start took a lot of us by surprise! I ended up starting about 12 seconds after the main group, meaning I had to work hard to get closer to the front where I could stretch the legs out a bit (always good after an 80 minute drive!) Shane had jokingly said before the start that I would do 22 minutes, which I thought was way ambitious, but my watch at the end showed 22:07 (my official time being a bit slower than that) which I put down to the ideal running conditions AND the fact that I had to play catch-up for at least the first half! So ironically, starting late PROBABLY resulted in my getting a better time than I otherwise would have!
parkrun was followed by coffee and delicious hot chips at the Yilki Store which was super busy – no doubt because of the long weekend and the fact that Victor is a popular holiday destination for Adelaide people! (Victor Harbor parkrun had a record attendance of 170 – it seemed like ALL of them were there at coffee!)
Then I spent the day wandering around town, town was buzzing as it was Easter weekend and there happened to be a big Easter hunt happening, involving a large number of families! I hit up a few op shops, a few other shops and had a lovely vegan burger at a place called Primal Bliss. And almost everywhere I went, I ran into Simon and Shane’s parents! I wasn’t stalking, I promise!
I then made my way to the reserve where I had last been 3 weeks ago, for the triathlon. I won’t bore you with details of all the 9 legs and 6 transitions, I’ll just cover the highlights this time!
There were 4 of us at the start of the triathlon – I was the only female. The other 3 were Shane, his younger brother Ben (Mr Mekong, visiting from Melbourne) and another guy Chad who I hadn’t met before. Shane’s son Finn would join us for the second stage.
I was the first to rack my bike, so I had to ask the awesome timekeeper and helper Jono which way around the bike goes! (Normally I’m not the first person to rack my bike so I just copy what other people have done!) He noticed both my tyres were a bit low on air so very kindly pumped them up for me! I didn’t really need any more disadvantage than I already had!
Stage 1 was the traditional swim/bike/run, with the swim starting in the water, as it had 3 weeks ago. Very quickly the 3 other guys put a bit of distance between themselves and me! They were going to get a nice long rest after Stage 1…
The bike course was nice and simple – I had asked Shane to show me on a map so I could visualise it for myself, not being a local and not being all that familiar with the town (despite having spent quite a bit of time there in the past month!) It was a T shaped course – along Bartel Blvd, left at the roundabout to where parkrun starts (one part of town I am VERY familiar with!) and then a U-turn, along the seafront Franklin Parade, and then another U-turn at Nevin St, back along Franklin and left up Bartel and back to the start. I need to work on my U-turns! I had to slow down a fair bit, not that it would have made any difference!
The run was even simpler, just under 2km, out and back along Matthew Flinders Drive, with a U-turn at the roundabout at Tabernacle Rd (which, for the record, does NOT have any street signs indicating the name of the road!) The guys were well ahead of me and were on their way back as I was on my way out. Shane was leading and he told me to turn at the “Keep Left” sign, rather than going all the way around the roundabout. I guessed by how far I’d run, that the roundabout where I turned WAS actually the right one, and as it turned out, it was!
Stage 1 complete, a nice 10 minute rest, time to re-set my Garmin for the next stage (reverse of Stage 1: run, bike, swim). Miraculously, after several failed attempts, I had FINALLY managed to correctly record a multisport event on my Garmin! Given that we finished Stage 1 with the run and Stage 2 started with the run, there wasn’t even any gear changing to do!
The guys were nice enough to let me lead out the run, and I was first into transition. The lead didn’t last long – Shane came into transition seconds after me, and the other two guys overtook me on the bike within a few hundred metres of my leaving transition!
And that was the last time I was in front for the day!
After another uneventful bike ride (the best kind!) it was time for my first ever bike to swim transition! (I’d done all the other transitions before, in triathlon/aquathlon/duathlon, but never this one!) Rack the bike (thanks to Jono for the tips on that!), shoes off, helmet off (would have looked a bit silly going into the water with the helmet on!) grabbed goggles, and started running to the water. Sunnies still on, thanks Jono for reminding me to take them off! Back into the water, to swim another 300m. This swim was a bit slower, probably because I wasn’t following closely behind fast swimmers, I was just doing my own thing. Actually this swim felt easier than the first one, probably because mentally I was prepared that once I’d finished, it was time for another break!
Amazingly enough, my overall time for Stage 2 was 1 second faster than the first one! So if nothing else, I am consistent!
I got a few more tips from Jono during the break. Firstly, to put my head under water in the swim, as lifting my head would cause my legs to drop. I was already aware of this, and I thought I was putting my head in, but then I realised I was looking up way too much, to try to see where I was going. The second tip was to put my goggles in the pocket in the back of my trisuit, so they’d be ready to go once I got off the bike. (Ben had done this in Stage 2).
Stage 3 (the last one) was Bike/Swim/Run. The bike started with a rolling start, we started riding up Bartel Blvd until a particular tree, or car, or side street, indicated that it was time to start racing. Aaaaaand I never saw the other guys again! Actually that’s not true, I saw them coming back along Franklin Pde as I was heading out. Also on Franklin Pde I saw a familiar face, David, a running friend from Adelaide. Actually I recognised his car and then called out to him as I rode past. Small world!
I came back into transition, racked my bike and ran down to the water. Jono told me to head to the left of the buoy, as Marcus was out there moving it back in closer for me. The other guys had already finished their swim, and I believe the buoy had been moved further away for them, maybe to even the playing field a bit? Or maybe just to mess with them? Either way, I was grateful it was moved back for me – I’m not sure I was up for a longer swim!
I made a conscious effort to put my head in the water more, I decided to lift my head every 4th breath (instead of every breath as I had previously been doing). I breathe on both sides, so I breathe every 3rd stroke. So that meant I was looking up every 12th stroke. I figured, at the glacial speed at which I move in the water, I wasn’t going to veer too far off course in 12 strokes! It seemed to work well – I don’t think I was any faster, but there may have been an element of fatigue there! It’s definitely something I will be practising!
As I passed the second buoy and headed in towards the beach, my goggles were full of water. I gave up, took them off and swam a little bit with my head out. I then decided that I had WAY too far to go, to be able to do that! So I stopped, emptied my goggles and went back to swimming properly.
And then my hand touched the bottom and I was back in comfortable territory – feet on the ground, running the last metre or so out of the water, across the beach and back to the bike rack where I quickly donned my shoes, hat and sunnies, and headed out for the last leg of the last stage – the best one, the run!
My last run was faster than my second run (the second run, remember, being the first leg of Stage 2, so I WAS holding back a bit) but slower than my first. My overall time was slower than the first two stages (not surprising!) but there was only 24 seconds difference between the 3 stages, so I’m pretty happy with that consistency!
And then it was time to relax and have a chat with the other guys about the event. I was interested to find out how it would work in a ‘proper’ event, ie how would you decide the winner? Would it be on overall combined times, or just the winner of the last race? Apparently one of the formats eliminates the slowest competitors in each stage, so I would have not got past Stage 1!
I would definitely be keen to do something like this again, it was a great challenge, I learned a LOT (including the fact that I obviously need a Mekong trisuit if I want to get faster!), and it was interesting to see what a difference mixing up the disciplines makes!
Thanks heaps to Shane for organising this event and inviting me to be part of it, to Shane, Ben and Chad (and Finn, who joined us for part of the event) for being great competitors, and to Jono and Marcus for all their help in making this event happen!