The Best of 2017!

What an epic year 2017 has been!

Seems an appropriate time to reflect on what has gone down during this year, and have a sneaky peek ahead to 2018!

Because I’m in lazy mode, this post is probably going to be full of links to other posts! Why reinvent the wheel?

Let’s go right back to the start. My first big event of the year was the 100km track championships. It was my second year in a row competing in this event. I probably said ‘never again’ afterwards. Well, I haven’t entered yet, but needless to say I WILL be going back to do it all again next month!

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Running-wise, probably the big highlight of 2017 would have to be the Boston Marathon. You might want to make yourself a cup of tea before reading that one – it’s a bit of an epic!

Qualifying for Boston was the main focus of the first half of 2016. It (and the accompanying coast to coast USA trip) would be my 40th birthday present to myself! So I guess it’s appropriate that the story of the race itself was a big one!

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Boston was not, of course, the only highlight of the trip!

From New York to San Francisco, I had a ball! Sport, music, culture, you name it, I did it! And the food, oh the food!

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I did manage to sneak in the occasional run too! From the Brooklyn Bridge at the start of the trip…
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… to the Golden Gate at the end!

But if I had to pick just ONE highlight from the trip, it wouldn’t be running-related at all. (Well, there was some running involved. I practically had to run to make my bus back to NYC the next morning!) Finally getting to see Def Leppard live was one of the highlights of the whole year, I had been wanting to see them for 25 years and after not being allowed to go at the age of 15, the timing had never worked out before. When I found out that they were touring North America at the same time as me, even though our itineraries did not quite match up, I did manage to make a little side trip to Connecticut! Hopefully the next time I see them will be in Australia, otherwise I can see more overseas travel coming up!

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Two words. FUCK. YEAH!

So getting back to Australia and more active pursuits, I had a couple more gigs as a half marathon pacer – firstly at the Barossa Marathon and then at Adelaide where I also had my 15 milliseconds of fame!

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Trying to blend in at Barossa…
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…and seeing my mug on the big screen as I ran onto the Adelaide Oval!

I ‘upgraded’ at the semi-last minute from the 6 hour to the 12 hour, at the Adelaide 24 hour festival. Very happy with that decision, I finished 2nd behind the remarkable Amelia who smashed out almost 130km in 12 hours!

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Thanks to Amelia for the picture. That’s me on the left, Amelia in the middle and Michelle on the right.

After 12 months or so of avoiding hills, I got my hill legs back in the second half of the year. It started with the Tower Trail Run in Mount Gambier, a fantastic weekend away and a surprisingly good run (meaning that I was surprised with how well I ran – I never doubted that it would be a great event!)

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Pic from the Tower Trail Run courtesy of Sputnik!

My other big hilly run for the year was the Heysen 35. Many ‘accused’ me of being ‘soft’ but I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to top my 105km from last year, and I preferred to do something different where it would be a guaranteed PB! Plus, it gave me the opportunity to be part of the awesome finish line party! (Incidentally, the 35 contains about half of the elevation gain of the 105. So it’s far from an ‘easy’ option!)

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With Adam not long after our little ‘detour’!
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Decision to run the 35k vindicated by a 3rd place finish, Marlize was just ahead in 2nd.

 

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The finish line setup – pretty sweet!

I finally got a bike! I’m still very much a newbie at it, but since getting the bike in July I’ve managed to master cleats, starting to get the hang of gears, and I’ve ridden in my first community ride and also conquered the famous Norton Summit! I’m not signing up for the Tour Down Under just yet though! Early days…

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With Beck and Karen after my longest ever ride at about 55km!

 

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With Karen after successfully conquering Norton Summit!

Once I had the bike, I had pretty much run out of excuses not to get involved in multisport events, namely duathlon and triathlon!

I did my first duathlon after only a couple of rides on the bike, and because it was only a very short ride, I decided to do the ride in my running shoes, to make transitions quicker! I was nowhere near ready to race in cleats, and I figured it was better to jump in not quite ready, than to wait until I was ready, by which time the duathlon season would be over!

The next step was my first triathlon, which I completed in November and absolutely loved! I had hoped to do more triathlons this season but each one clashed with a running event! And I am, after all, a runner first, triathlete second! I do have one more tri planned before the end of the season, and am eyeing off Murray Man in 2018.

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With Karen after we’d both completed our first triathlon!

Back to non-running things, I had a few changes in my appearance during the year! In February I had my head shaved as part of the Leukaemia Foundation’s ‘World’s Greatest Shave’ which I had done twice before. I actually quite like the ‘buzz cut’ look – and talk about low maintenance (not to mention aerodynamic!).

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Don’t let the picture fool you – I actually did really like it!

Then, when it grew back long enough for me to get my first haircut, I decided on a dramatic change and went blonde for the first time in my life! (It was inspired by a mullet wig I wore to the Guns N’Roses concert – a few people commented that the colour suited me, and the seed was planted!)

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With the lovely Mel before the Gunners concert. (That’s not my real hair!)
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June 1 2017 – I am now blonde!

I’ll finish off by talking a bit about being involved in races ‘from the other side’!

This year I MC’d my first race at Mt Crawford and then was asked to MC the Yurrebilla 56k Ultra which was just the best fun EVER! I’m a bit torn because I think I’d like to run Yurrebilla in 2018 but if for some reason I can’t, or choose not to, I’d love to MC again!

 

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A tiger with a pistol at Belair…
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…and Snow White with a mic and a bottle of red at Athelstone!

Obviously that’s just a taste of the year that was 2017 – just a few of many highlights! And a few hints of what is to come in 2018!

What were YOUR highlights of 2017? Could you pick just one?

 

Race report – Boston Marathon 2017

I’m going to assume you’ve read my previous posts or have an idea about what the Boston Marathon is and what it means to run it – otherwise I could very well fill the equivalent of one whole blog post just with the background!

So, following on from my last post. I had my traditional pre-marathon dinner of pizza (I Googled and found a pizza joint with a vegan menu, you guessed it, within walking distance from where I was staying!) from the All Star Pizza Bar – delicious pizza! I could only eat half! Well I probably COULD have eaten more than that… 

Just a few doors down was a liquor store and after umming and ahhing over the choices I eventually settled on a local craft cider.

The tradition continues! Marathon #6, every one preceded by pizza and cider the night before!

Then it was time to work out what time I needed to set my alarm (a very civilised 6:30 – I also set one for 6:35 and 6:40!) and get my gear ready. Because the bib is quite ‘long’ I decided to pin it to my top instead of wearing it attached to my belt as I normally do. 

With security being (understandably) very tight, there are strict rules about what you can and can’t take to the start line and have in your finish line bag. I had planned to bring an Australian flag to the finish but that was on the banned list (not that they have anything particularly against Australians, just large flags in general are banned!) So we were all given a small start line bag (mainly just for nutrition and drinks) and a larger finish line bag (I put my long sleeved finisher shirt, a T-shirt in case it was warm, long pants and thongs in there). All of that was packed and ready to go, my gear was all laid out and my breakfast, except the stuff that needs refrigerating, was also in the bag. Because my start time was 10:50, and I would be getting on the bus to the start at Hopkinton between 8 and 8:40, and I would be on a train from Cambridge at around 7:30, it would be too early for me to eat breakfast before leaving the house. I had brought a disposable container with a lid and a disposable plastic spoon (which may or may not have been courtesy of Cathay Pacific) so I could eat breakfast just before getting on the shuttle bus!

I had decided to change one thing on race day – instead of the (slightly stretched and therefore more for aesthetic than practical value) aqua calf sleeves I’d planned to wear, I opted for the BRAND NEW, NEVER BEFORE TRIED 2XU ones I’d bought from the expo. “What happened to not trying anything new on race day?” I hear you ask. But when you consider that I’m in Boston, and my top has a yellow trim on it, how could I not wear these babies?

Now I just needed to make sure I put them on the correct legs…

I did tape my feet – despite my new favourite Steigen socks being pretty much guaranteed blister-proof, I wasn’t taking any chances – a blister can totally ruin your day!

I set 3 alarms – not leaving anything to chance!

I actually woke up before the first one – another guest at the house where I’m staying, Alissa, was also running the marathon but she was in an earlier wave, so she needed to be up and gone earlier. So I took my time getting ready. I decided to leave the beanie at home – it was going to be a warm day and I kind of liked the beanie so I didn’t want to have to ditch it! I did wear the track pants, even though they weren’t really needed, because I needed to make room in my suitcase for all my new purchases!

I headed to the train and while on the train I decided to put my gloves in my finish line bag – no way would they be needed! In fact the arm warmers were probably superfluous too but they look cool so they stayed!

At Boston Common I dropped off my finish bag and headed to the bus loading area. With strict rules on what could and could not be taken on the bus, I ate my breakfast before getting in the bus queue.

DOZENS of buses, just like this!

The girl next to me on the bus was a veteran of 7 Bostons, being a local. She has never done any other marathon! She told me it is not a fast course (which I knew, but then, she doesn’t have anything to compare it to!) and at that point I decided not to get too hung up on the sub-4. Que sera, sera! As long as I had that sweet medal hanging around my neck at the end, time was irrelevant!

We arrived at the Athletes Village at Hopkinton. They had everything! Fruit, bagels, gels, mini Clif bars (I did have one of those) and even coffee! I can’t do coffee before a race!

Papped on the way in (hence the reason why I’m not smiling!)

I requested the photographer get my ‘best side’ because I had to get a shot of those AWESOME calf sleeves!

Everything was supremely well organised, the whole day! The portaloos at the village were plentiful but (well the one I used) pretty nasty! I wonder if as many spectators would high five runners if they knew what the portaloos were like! The MC kept making announcements about which wave and corral needed to go where and when. There was really no excuse for not knowing where to go! (He kept calling our wave the ‘Smurf’ wave on account of our bibs being blue!)

Pretty soon our wave (Wave 3) was called and it was time to make our way into our corrals and to the start. It all happened pretty quickly. All along the way there were opportunities to discard clothing which would all then go to charity (much of it was probably purchased from charity stores in the first place – I know mine was!)

Being a warm day (they described it as ‘hot’ and it did feel that way at times while running but it was actually mid 70s which is around 24 degrees Celsius) I put sunscreen on while walking to the start.

And pretty soon we were away!

The start!

It’s going to be pretty hard for me to describe this race in any great detail – although I did try to take in as much of it as I could, given that I was on unfamiliar turf, I probably can’t do it justice.

I’m going to try to keep it in some kind of chronological order but I’ll also be jumping all over the place – bear with me!

I did buy this book, at the Harvard Book Store, on Tuesday, which I hoped may help!

As I had been told by all of the many friends I have who have previously run Boston, “It’s downhill at the beginning, don’t get carried away, save your legs!” Easier said than done!

The crowd, right from the start, was phenomenal and got right behind me. My name was emblazoned across the front of my top in big bright yellow letters so it could be seen from a distance. That was an idea I got from friend Tory who ran Boston 2 years ago. It meant the crowd could cheer for you by name. Unlike all the other marathons I’ve done, the Boston bibs don’t have names on them.

I went in with no plan and no pacing strategy. I’d set my ‘slow alert’ on my watch to 7 minutes per km. That was more to alert me if my GPS dropped out (which has happened several times recently) rather than to tell me if I was running too slow. I didn’t expect that I would actually be running that slow, but as it turned out, at times I was! I was still HOPING for sub 4. I was fully expecting a ‘Personal Worst’ and absolutely fine with that!

The sports drink on the course was lemon-lime Gatorade which for once was what I was used to! From previous experience at City-Bay in Adelaide (up to 40 000 people) and City2Surf in Sydney (around 70 000) I expected that the drink stations might be hard to get to. So despite being familiar and comfortable with the sports drink, I still carried a handheld bottle of Gatorade so I could drink whenever I needed to. The drink stations were very frequent (almost too frequent!), being every mile from mile 2 onwards. I had been told that there was first one on the right, and soon after, one on the left. So if you happened to be on the ‘wrong’ side of the road it didn’t matter, you didn’t need to fight your way through the crowd to get a drink!

Paper cups were good too. Much easier to drink out of than plastic. You could fold it into a spout and drink without wearing half of it! (Although, it was warm, and many people were pouring water on themselves intentionally. As long as that didn’t happen with the Gatorade!)

Speaking of pouring water, there were a few spots along the course where fire hydrants were made into makeshift sprinklers – I can tell you they were VERY much appreciated! I did make the mistake the first time of getting too close to the water source and consequently getting DRENCHED – I soon learned to stay a bit away from the hydrant and just get a LIGHT shower!

I was amazed throughout the race, at how many people were there (there always seemed to be a sea of people ahead) and yet I never felt like it was congested. Whereas, when I did City2Surf, I actually couldn’t get close to a drink station!

Around the 2 mile mark, in Ashland, near the first drink station, the ‘Rocky’ thrme tune was blasting – great motivation! (I read in the book that this is a tradition – Rocky theme on a continuous loop – so nice and motivating for the runners who are just passing through, but must be VERY tedious for the spectators!

I wasn’t aware of it at the time but within Ashland, at around 4 miles, is where Kathrine Switzer famously was almost dragged off the course in 1967, for being a woman back in the Dark Ages when it was a ‘men-only’ event.

Back to the crowd support. I was expecting great things and boy did they deliver! There were quiet patches, sure (and at times I actually needed a bit of ‘quiet time’ to focus and drop the pace and effort down a notch) but for most of the 42.2km (or as they say here, 26.2 miles – doesn’t sound quite so bad, does it?) there was amazing support. As I said earlier, having my name on my top made ALL the difference. I didn’t know a single person out there but it seemed like everyone knew me! And a LOT of fellow runners commented on it, too! There was one point where someone called out “GO JANE!” and a few moments later, “GO RUNNER NEXT TO JANE!” Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it!

It seemed appropriate that in the home of the TV show ‘Cheers’ that it really did feel like everybody knew my name!

There were MANY high fives. Hundreds, I’m sure! Many were from kids but there were a few from very enthusiastic gentlemen, many with a beer in the other hand, and a few stung a bit! (I made a mental note, after one particularly ‘stingy’ one, to only high five kids from then on! That lasted about 2 minutes!)

The spectators were also handing out stuff left right and centre. Oranges were popular, along with water (in between the official drink stations), ice, ice blocks, licorice, and even beer! The only thing I took was 2 bottles of water throughout the course of the race. Having a water bottle as well as my handheld Gatorade made high fiving a bit more challenging but I was determined to make it work – the Gatorade bottle could slide up over my wrist, freeing up my hand. It did mean, though, that I could just take the centre line through the drink stations and avoid getting caught up in the congestion (which, truth be tokd, wasn’t actually that bad).

After Ashland we arrived in Framingham. A few things I can remember here (with the help of my trusty book) was the massive party atmosphere and the sports scoreboard! The party atmosphere, as it had done for a lot of the early part of the race, had got me really pumped up (especially with the crowd yelling out my name) and caused me to run a fair bit faster than I probably should have at that point. So while I found the crowd support incredibly motivating, and there was much air punching and fist pumping as well as high fiving, it may have caused me to spend a bit too much energy early! The sports scoreboards is another tradition – the Red Sox always play at Fenway Park on Marathon Monday so there was someone along the side of the road posting score updates from the game (which the Sox did end up winning) on a blackboard.

Somewhere in Framingham we passed the 10k mark. I wasn’t looking at my watch – and when I did look at it, it was just to look at the distance – not time or pace. However Strava reliably informs me that at the 10k mark I was sitting on 5:12 pace with a time of 52:24. Somewhat way too fast for what was expected to be around a 4 hour marathon!

Around the 12km mark we entered Natick which according to my trusty book, is a local Native American name meaning ‘place of hills’. Not sure if that’s ACTUALLY true but never let the truth get in the way of a good story! Here the Fire Department was kind enough to give us a cooling spray station which was much appreciated!

Then came Wellesley and the famous/infamous ‘Scream Tunnel’ which is around the 20k mark. This is where hundreds of girls from Wellesley College line the course and create a level of noise that can be heard from (seemingly) miles away. This is where, if you’re that way inclined, if you can’t get a kiss, there’s something seriously wrong! This tradition dates back to the earliest days of the Boston Marathon, remembering that back then, women weren’t allowed to compete. These days, a few guys join in the fun – I guess they would like their chances, given that the field now would be close to 50% women!

I did see a few guys with signs asking for kisses but decided not to take them up on the offer – I settled for a whole bunch of high fives!

There were LOTS of great signs along the way. One of the most memorable was a girl holding up a signs saying ‘Nipple Vaseline Station’ (or words to that effect!) I ran past her saying “I’m good!” and laughing! And someone had my personal favourite sign (the one I held up at the 2014 Adelaide Marathon) – “Run like someone just called you a jogger!”

Then there was this guy. I saw him but it didn’t register at the time what it was.

This of course was the score in the 3rd quarter of the Super Bowl, which the Patriots ended up winning! Great motivator for Patriot fans, I’m sure fans of the Falcons wouldn’t have appreciated it quite so much!

I saw a few participants in wheelchairs – not the elites though, they start before the runners as they go CRAZY fast. I remember seeing Aussie legend Kurt Fearnley during the Gold Coast Marathon last year, coming back the other way – unbelievably fast! But as Boston is one way rather than out-and-back, we weren’t going to see any of those speedsters! (Fearnley ended up finishing 4th at Boston this year)

There was one guy in a wheelchair who was going backwards (with a few supporters helping)! I did ask if he was going backwards the whole way but I couldn’t understand what they said.

Turned out he was – and has done so many times before! 

I saw a few walking with crutches, several amputees with prostheses (proper running prostheses, like that guy whose name I don’t want to mention here) and a few moon boots. I also saw one girl just in her socks and carrying her shoes – presumably blisters? (Bet she was wishing she’d taped!)

I wondered about the crutches and moon boot but then I thought, if I’d qualified and then the unthinkable had happened there’s no way I would have missed this. So if it meant walking it, with crutches, in a moon boot – so be it!

There were also a lot of visually impaired runners with sighted guides. I noticed 2 spots along the course where there were changeovers of guides. And at one point there was a guy calling out that there was a visually impaired runner and guide coming down the middle of the road so we could keep out of their way. 

Still within the town of Wellesley we reached the halfway mark (well, in distance anyway!) According to Strava I reached halfway in 1:52:48 which is 5:21 minutes per km. I didn’t know that at the time (again, not looking at my watch!) but based on the time clocks that were at every mile marker, and knowing that we had started 50 minutes after the official start of the race, I thought I was on just under 2 hours. And with some hills coming up in the second half, I was pretty sure a negative split was not on the cards – so I held out little to no hope of a sub-4!

I heard music… and it was Bon Jovi, but not the song I expected to hear when I was ‘halfway there’ – instead it was ‘It’s My Life’ (still good!) I had to settle for singing the chorus of ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ in my head!

Not long after this came the 4 Newton Hills between 26 and around 34km, the last one being the infamous Heartbreak Hill. Now, I am in no way a mountain goat, but the hills didn’t scare me. I figured, if I had to walk up some of them, so be it. As it turned out, I managed to run the whole way although I did slow down to a plod at several stages (that was when my watch started notifying me that I was going slower than 7 minutes per km). I didn’t find any of the hills too terrible – if anything I found the heat more of a problem than the hills. I didn’t notice anything particularly menacing about Heartbreak Hill, nor did I get complacent after having ‘summited’, knowing that there was still a long, long way to go! My Strava time for the Newton Hills segment was 48:44 (6:13 minutes per km) with an overall elevation of 62m which doesn’t sound so bad, does it? The Heartbreak Hill segment itself (800 metres) I completed in 5:53 (6:47 minutes per km) and the elevation was 29m. 29m over 800m is quite a lot. Not that you should compare apples and oranges but if you put that elevation over 100km you’re looking at 3600m elevation. So yeah, it is steep but it is short.

Around here we passed Boston College. This was when spectators had paper cups of drinks which I quickly realised were beer! (I didn’t take any drinks from cups during the race – only bottles of water!)

This was also where I was looking out for Adelaide friend Maree’s daughter Emily, who was to be holding a yellow inflatable kangaroo. Unfortunately I had never met Emily so I didn’t know what she looked like! In preparation I took out the small Australian flag that I had in my pocket, and I did see a kangaroo, only it was a guy holding it! I held up my flag and cheered, and later found out that Emily WAS there and called out to me, only with all the other people cheering for me, I didn’t hear her! Turned out she’d given the kangaroo to the guy to hold as he was taller and would be more easily seen by the runners!

I can’t remember exactly where it was, but I saw a marquee to the left that had ‘Run Jane Run’ on the side of it! I pointed out my name to the supporters hanging out there (presumably supporting someone else called Jane, not me, but I like to think they’d heard I was coming) and got an extra enthusiastic high five from each of them! (I did hear quite a lot of people throughout the race calling out “Run Jane Run” and “See Jane Run” which was pretty cool!)

At around 22 miles we reached Brookline, and Beacon St which seemed to go forever – not so many welcome distractions here! The ‘T’ train was still running, parallel to the course, and some of the passengers waved to us!

Coolidge Corner was a welcome relief from the relative monotony, with a large cheering crowd – including one girl who went out of her way to track me down and send me this photo!

Coolidge Corner in Brookline – around the 24 mile mark. Photo thanks to Katie Collins who tracked me down via my bib number to send me the photo – thanks Katie!

Next came the iconic CITGO sign with just one mile to go. It’s pretty big though so you can see it WELL before you hit the last mile! But, once you see it, you know you’re nearly there! And I could hear the cheering of the crowd at the Sox game at Fenway Park!

Hard to miss, even during the day!

With about 1 mile to go, I snuck a look at my watch. I roughly calculated that if I did just under a 9 minute mile I might get the sub-4. (If I’d known for sure at this point that the sub-4 was definitely off the table, I planned to back right off and just enjoy the ride. But it was still a vague possibility so, while I still continued to enjoy it (and high five), I gave it my best shot.)

1 mile has never seemed quite so far! But the crowd was once again incredible. One girl was handing out stars that had ‘BOSTON STRONG’ written on them so I grabbed one of those.

You can sort of see it in my hand (the red thing) along with my Aussie flag.

One guy called me ‘a savage’ – I’m not quite sure exactly what to make of that but I have to assume it was a compliment – spectators heckling runners during a marathon is not really a thing, certainly not in Boston!

Those last 2 turns. ‘Right on Hereford, left on Boylston’.

On Hereford – not long before the last turn!
I didn’t stop here during the race, of course, but couldn’t resist a photo op the next day – possibly one of THE most iconic intersections!

And there it was – the finish line! 

Tiny Australian flag aloft, I sprinted (well it felt like a sprint, I’m sure it didn’t look like it!) to the finish line and I was done!

I JUST FINISHED THE BOSTON FREAKING MARATHON!

I DID IT!!!

Watch stopped. Time (officially) was 4:00:19 – oh so close! But, I had done it! (I later found out that my finish time of around 2:50pm was exactly the time the first bomb had gone off 4 years ago – eerie!)

As we started the long walk out of the finish area I got chatting to a girl called Millie who wanted to get a selfie with me! 

Millie said she was right behind me a lot of the way and could hear the crowd cheering for me!

Then came the best bit – that glorious bling!

So much happy!
I could LEGITIMATELY wear this shirt now!

As had been the case for the rest of the day (and the weekend as a whole), the finish area was really well organised. Everyone was given a shiny blanket (like a space blanket – to keep warm) and even a sticker to hold it closed so we didn’t have to hold it on! And we were also given Clif bars, fruit, water and a goodie bag with more food!
After leaving the finish area I went to try to find my Adelaide running buddy Maree, but I somehow missed her (easy enough to do with 30 000 runners out there!) While waiting I met a girl who had a brother who had lived in Australia for a while – I asked her where and she said ‘Adelaide’ – I said ‘No way, that’s where I’m from!’ Normally when I tell Americans that I’m from Australia, they’ve never even heard of Adelaide! I got to meet him briefly – my one Adelaide connection for the day!

I then made my way back to Cambridge (my only issue for the day was getting out – the marathon was still going, so I couldn’t cross Boylston St – so after going round in circles for a while I eventually got out!)

One of the coolest things was the number of people I met during the walk to the bus, who congratulated me – complete strangers! (Of course, for those who were also marathon finishers, the sentiments were reciprocated!) It was pretty obvious in my case as I was still proudly wearing my medal, my race kit and my ‘shiny blanket’! 

You can sort of see the shiny blanket here – kind of looks like a cape!

(Side note – one of the many things I love about Boston is how the people here can actually understand me when I speak, unlike many other places in the USA! It’s because they don’t pronounce the letter ‘R’ unless its followed by a vowel. Just like us! So they pronounce ‘Harvard’ like ‘Hahvuhd’ whereas other Americans would say ‘Harrvarrd’.)
First order of business when I got back home was the rest of last night’s pizza!

Then a shower, compression tights on, and off to Fenway Park for the after party! 

I didn’t stay long as I didn’t know anyone there but I did get to walk on the field (not on the grass but on the dirt around the edge) and sit in the dugouts which was really cool!

After that I walked (further than I thought I’d be walking) to Ben and Jerry’s for a non-dairy dessert (PB and Cookies, my favourite!) On the way there was a motorcycle cop leading a bunch of runners who got cheers from passers-by.  I asked a girl waiting at the lights what it was all about, she told me it was the marathon race director running the course (this was around 9pm) as he does every year! So that was a really cool thing to have seen!

Well worth the walk!
One of many examples of Boston getting behind the marathon and all its participants!

After Ben and Jerry’s I headed back home to Cambridge and to bed after a long, amazing, huge and very satisfying day!

It was everything I thought it would be and more! Thanks to the city of Boston, the BAA and the 9500 wicked awesome volunteers as well as the 30 000 runners – what a freaking amazing event!

That’s what I’m talking about!

Just a footnote – the following day I happened to be at adidas Runbase on Boylston Street to exchange a hoodie. Talk about being in the right place at the right time – as I walked out of the store, Kathrine Switzer just happened to be involved in a ceremony to retire her famous #261 bib, the one she controversially wore 50 years ago and again this year. It was so fitting to be able to see someone who was essentially a pioneer for women’s marathoners, still doing marathons and being an ambassador for female athletes 50 years later! I’m currently reading her book so this was such a cool way to end my marathon experience!

Inspirational!

The journey begins!

As I post this, it is marathon eve! All the training leading up to last year’s qualifier and the training that started just after Christmas, has led me to this point! All that is left to do is run the thing – which of course will be a subject for another post!

But before that, wouldn’t you like to hear about my first week in the States? Of course you would!

It started with an epic 34 hour journey – a 3am alarm, a 4am taxi and a flight that ended up leaving around 7am from Adelaide. I was lucky enough to get one of the ‘extra legroom’ seats at no extra cost!

And was pretty happy about it, too!

That was the short flight, only around 9 hours. Then came the big one, 16 hours from Hong Kong to JFK (with only a few hours stopover in Hong Kong). No extra legroom this time but I was on the aisle in the middle set of 3 seats, with no-one in the middle seat. So while I couldn’t stretch out, I could both get up and move around as I pleased, AND sleep without a neighbour needing to disturb me. And I did manage to catch a few Z’s on that flight too!
Because I was using a shared shuttle, and I was the last to get dropped off, it was nearly midnight by the time I got to my hostel – the Blue Moon Hotel on the Lower East Side. 

Longest. Monday. EVER!

All my roommates were asleep so I had to somehow find my bed in the dark (top bunk – not my preferred choice but any bed was good at this point!)
The next morning I took the subway to Central Park for a much needed leg loosener! Unsurprisingly I wasn’t the only one that had that idea! It is an extremely popular spot for runners, and with good reason. I just had to negotiate my way around all of the tourists! (Maybe early morning would have been better, but there was no way I was setting an alarm that day!)

The Reservoir track – a popular spot for runners (although I swear I saw a sign that called it a ‘jogging’ track!)
View of the Reservoir
Nice spot for a paddle!
Terrible spot, this!
One of the friendly locals!

After that I found an awesome cafe across the road from the hostel and had some amazing avocado toast and good coffee (and learning that ‘Americano’ is what they call a long black here!!)

And check out that table number!

I then spent most of the rest of the day checking out the neighbourhood which was really cool. Busy, yes – it is New York after all – but not crawling with tourists like Times Square! Lots of cool street art too!

Just around the corner from my hostel!
Above a pizza shop… of course!
‘The Cage’ – a famous street basketball court which always draws a crowd!
Stumbled upon a film set but couldn’t find out what it was!

I even found a restaurant with my name on it but I didn’t go in as it didn’t look very vegan-friendly!

Hey! It’s named like my name!

That night I went to a comedy club – UCBT – which was within walking distance. The show was only $8 and it was a bit of fun – it is a monthly event called ‘Channel 101’ and people can submit clips of up to 5 minutes of their own comedy show, the judging panel narrows the field down to 10, and those are voted on by the audience at a live screening. The top 5 then get to be part of next month’s screening, with a new episode. It was pretty cool – in the end 4 of the 5 shows that I voted for, were in the top 5!

Decisions, decisions!
In the restroom at the conedy club. I HOPE this is a joke!

On Wednesday I found the vegan bakery! Erin McKenna’s Bakery, once again, JUST around the corner! Did I mention how much I like this area? I had a donut which was delicious (if a little sticky) and then made my way to the Port Authority Bus Terminal to take a bus to Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut. It was quite a long trip – I didn’t arrive until 4pm and I hadn’t thought to pack a lunch! I had an apple and a granola bar in my bag and at the last minute I bought a bag of chips from a vending machine at the station. But that wasn’t exactly enough!

The reason for my trip to Mohegan Sun was not to visit one of the largest casinos in the world (impressive though it is – I do have a few nights in Vegas coming up so I should get my fair share of casinos!) but instead to see the legendary Def Leppard live. 25 years ago I wanted to see them when they came to Adelaide but my mum wouldn’t let me (and I do still remind her of this on occasions!). On one of their more recent Australian tours I happened to be inconveniently overseas. I had tickets to see them during their Vegas stint in 2013 but ended up cancelling that trip altogether. Then I heard they were doing a North American tour and thought – can I make this work? Mohegan Sun was the only date that fit with my travel plans (everything was already booked) even if it meant missing the best part of 2 days in New York. And I did have to wake up at 1:30am to book tickets as soon as they went on sale – no way was I missing this!

I even bought merch! I never buy merch!

So anyway, on arrival at the casino I found the shuttle to my hotel, checked in, literally dumped my bag, got changed, and went back downstairs to get the shuttle back to the casino – I needed to find food, stat! I had been Googling using the free wifi on the bus, for vegan options at Mohegan Sun, but hadn’t found anything. I’m sure I could have got something at one of the restaurants but I just wanted something quick. So sweet potato fries it was! Followed by my first experience of Ben and Jerry’s vegan icecream – PB and cookies! So good! Australia NEEDS this!

I had a bit of a wander around the shops and hung out for a while at the record store which was playing a live DVD from the most recent Leppard tour – SO GOOD!

I entered the arena after the first band, Tesla, had already started. I’d heard of them but I don’t think they were very big in Australia. I am a big fan of the guy they’re named after, and electric cars are pretty cool too! I only knew one of their songs (and that was a cover!) but they sounded pretty tight.

My seat was good too – despite being in the second to back row, I had an excellent view. I genuinely believe there is not a bad seat in that arena! (Later on I was seriously wishing I was up the front – but I’m pretty sure VIP tickets were not in the budget!)

Next up was Poison – I wasn’t expecting to know many of their songs but they only played for about an hour and I actually knew all of the songs because it was exclusively old stuff! They really got the crowd going and sounded great!

Then it was time for the main event. I don’t want to go on too much about this but it really was one of the best concerts (if not THE best) I’ve ever been to. I always wonder how hard it must be for a band that’s been around for a long time, to come up with a set list – so many good songs, how do you choose? There will always be a few mandatory songs but there will always be good songs that get missed. And when the band is still recording excellent music even now, how much new stuff do you play and how much of the old favourites? Well I reckon they got it pretty spot on – not surprisingly the set was heavy on old stuff but still with a few tracks from the latest album which, while probably not as well received as the classics, sat very comfortably among them.

Apart from the fact that they make damn good music, one of the things I love about this band is how they’ve kept going after some pretty serious shit! And they are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year – coincidentally, so am I!

Not to mention, musically I love their sound – those delicious harmonies, and the way that every member of the band is equal up there and gets their share of the spotlight, unlike some bands where it’s all about the lead singer and guitarist!

Cool backdrop where you got to see all 5 of the band members simultaneously!

The best!!!!!

I hope they manage to find their way back to Australia sometime and when they do I will certainly be giving VIP seats SERIOUS consideration!

It took a while for us all to get out of the arena (it was a capacity crowd of 10 000) and even longer for me to find my way out of the casino to the shuttle bus pickup point!

Then it was back to the hotel and a night in my own room – luxury!

Breakfast in the morning was a buffet and finding vegan options was a bit of a challenge so peanut butter on toast and cereal with almond milk it was! At least that would tide me over until I got back to NYC!

Then came me almost missing my bus back to New York. It wasn’t my fault, the concierge had told me the night before that I could just call a cab in the morning and it would come pretty quickly. But when I rang I was told that there was only one cab company in town and 2 of the 3 drivers had called in sick, so I couldn’t get picked up until 1:30. Which wasn’t particularly useful given that my bus was leaving the casino at 10! Luckily it wasn’t that far, as my only option was to walk! I made it with 3 minutes to spare but as it turned out the bus was about 15 minutes late, so I made it with plenty of time in the end.

I got lunch (a ‘tuna’ salad) from the vegan grocer Orchard Grocer down the road from the hotel on Orchard St and then went next door to vegan shoe store Mooshoes – I did buy a couple of things but the main attraction for me was the cat Marlowe who hangs out on the fron counter (in a shoe box, of course!)

He didn’t look super happy to have his photo taken – I guess that comes with being a celebrity!

He’s famous too – he features in the book ‘Shop Cats of New York‘!

Next up was a very pleasant walk across the Williamsburg Bridge (the views were magnificent but the bars made it impossible to take any decent photos!) to Williamsburg in Brooklyn where I found more street art and a motorcycle/coffee shop with my name on it!

Amazing stuff!
I saw this one from the bridge and somehow managed to find it!
This was a bar – the eyes follow you!
I bought one of their mugs – it cost $25 but worth it!

Then I grabbed some DELICIOUS vegan sushi from Hana on Rivington St and headed off to see an off-Broadway show – Avenue Q. Highly recommended! (Tip – todaytix.com is a good website to find cheap tix on the day or a few days beforehand!)

You have been warned! Think, ‘Team America’!

Friday morning I went for my last run before the marathon, across the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. It was not a particularly cohesive run what with all the photo stops!

Brooklyn Bridge
Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge
Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge
Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge
Manhattan from the Brooklyn Bridge

After that I took the train to Brooklyn. I notice that the train stations in NYC are almost like art galleries – lots of awesome mosaic work! And on the Brooklyn side some cool glass panels!

Subway art!
Subway art!
Subway art!
These were all over the overground stations in Brooklyn!

The main reason for going to Brooklyn was to check out brand new avocado bar Avocaderia, which 2 of my Adelaide friends had alerted me to the previous night.

This was the ‘Quinoa and Friends’ salad. So good! Well worth the trip!

I then went for a walk to Sunset Park – very much a local park. Not one for the tourists but pretty amazing views across to Manhattan!

Ahhh – the serenity!

I had one more vegan spot to check out – Dun-Well Doughnuts in the East Village.

The peanut butter donut gets the thumbs up from me!

And some more cool mosaics!

These were on every street corner – very cool!

My last tourist stop for the day was Wall Street where I wanted to see the temporary ‘Fearless Girl‘ sculpture, staring down the famous bull.

It seems EVERYONE else in NYC had the same idea! I couldn’t get near her! You can just make out the bull among the crowd!

Then it was off to Broadway for another show – Noel Coward’s ‘Present Laughter’ starring Kevin Kline and also featuring Cobie Smulders (best known for playing Robin on ‘How I Met Your Mother’) – an EXCELLENT show.

I couldn’t escape Times Square altogether – it was literally on the way to my theatre!
So pleased I got to see this!
I decided against a last minute ticket to The Book Of Mormon as I would like to eat for the next week. I could fly to Melbourne and back to see it for less than that!

So that was it for New York – Saturday morning I caught the Greyhound to Boston. First stop was my AirBNB in Cambridge (a lovely spot!) to drop off my bags before heading out for coffee and lunch at the highly recommended Veggie Galaxy!

Cool tip jar!

Next up was a trip to Fenway Park to see the Red Sox play – it was a great game which the Sox won 2-1. It happened to be Jackie Robinson day – the 70th anniversary of the first African-American player in the Major League, so all players on both teams were wearing Robinson’s number, 42. Which was a tad confising for this foreigner at first until I worked it out! It was also the 4th anniversary of the Boston bombings – marked with a moment of reflection at the time the first bomb had gone off, 4 years earlier. So a very significant day all around!

Phew! I’m in the right place!

The atmosphere was fantastic – the whole crowd sang along to ‘Sweet Caroline’ with the mascot egging us all on!

Where’s Wally? There he is 🙂
You mean, like, balls? What other objects could they be talking about?

Sunday was nothing but Expo Day. I got up late and went across the road to the local brewery/coffee shop (for a coffee, in case you were wondering!) before jumping on the bus to the expo.

Let’s save the beer for AFTER the race!

But first, the finish line…

This is what it’s all about!
All marathoners obviously resting their legs!

Got to the expo and collected my race number and my finisher shirt (which I tried on for size and promptly put it back in the bag – I was surprised by how many people were wandering around the expo in their shirts! Don’t they know it’s bad luck?)

It’s real!!!

The next few hours (I think it was 3 – totally lost track of time!) I wandered through the expo and I don’t want to think about how much money I spent but it was all stuff I needed (isn’t it always?) WOW that place is overwhelming! My main dilemma was whether to get the small or medium Celebration jacket. After much deliberation and consultation I went with the latter!

I wrote my name on the wall – lucky I’m tall because the only real spaces were at the top. Extended periods of times standing on your toes are good for you the day before a marathon, right?

That’s me in the orange 🙂

I didn’t expect to see a swimming pool – that you could actually try out!

WTF???

I also watched about the last 6 miles of a video of the course which was on a loop! The last 6 miles was enough for me! 

Chills!

Aaand I finally made it out of the expo with only 2 T-shirts, the aforementioned jacket, a hoodie, 2 pairs of calf sleeves, a running light, a bunch of Clif bars, a bumper sticker and a new pair of runners (not the Boston special ones, just my regular ones which were RIDICULOUSLY cheap compared to back home!)

I thought I was quite restrained…

So now it’s time to head back to Cambridge, make sure I’m all sorted for the morning, and go get me a pizza and cider as per tradition! 

Will I be glad to see this tomorrow!

No turning back!

Well, this is it!
By the time you read this, I will have left Australia, bound for New York via Hong Kong. (Side note: I had no idea that Hong Kong to NYC was a 16 hour flight!)
I had a couple of good morning runs during the week. Felt good, nice pace, got rid of the cobwebs. Plus it was nice to be running in daylight in the mornings!
20170404_065446
I’ve done the last of the long training runs – with a mind-numbing 12 laps around the block. But importantly I got it done, and I didn’t break!
IMG_20170407_165452_252I got a sneaky last parkrun in, and broke 25 minutes which was nice. Not sure when I’ll next run that fast!
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I packed all my race gear in my carry-on, tbe number 1 rule of travelling to races! I’m a bit of an old hand at that now – it’s my 7th time flying to a race, and my second overseas one! I’ve never lost my luggage but this is not the time to take chances!
My plan for the week is to try to get in 2 runs in New York (there’s a park there called Central Park which I hear is nice – might be a good spot for a run?) – probably on Tuesday and Friday.
And to make a side trip to Connecticut to see Def Leppard live on Wednesday night which I am ridiculously excited about. At this stage maybe even more so than Boston!
I’ll keep this short and sweet because at the time of writing (Sunday night) I have these alarms to look forward to…
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Looking forward to sharing my adventures in New York, Boston and across the States over the next 4 and a bit weeks!

Race report – Clare Valley Half Marathon

This was my fourth time running at Clare.

2014 was my first EVER half marathon, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

All smiles after my first half!

2015 could have been subtitled ‘When Good Runs Go Bad’ and you can read more about that here. It was my first experience of a race not going to plan!

More relieved it was over, than happy! DEFINITELY not happy here!

2016 for me was all about redemption and I’m pleased to say I achieved it – full report here.

Happy days!

In each of those 3 years I had stayed up in the Clare Valley the night before. In 2o14 I bunked with Rula at the caravan park. In 2015 I left my run a bit late and had to stay 20k away in a motel Auburn. In 2016 I got really lucky and stayed in an AirBNB within walking distance of the Clare Oval!

This year there were a few firsts. It was the first time I had driven up on the day. The drive up is about 2 hours, and I figured that a) I don’t want to spend more time driving there than it takes me to actually run the thing and b) 2 hours in the car makes me really stiff and not in ideal shape to run a half!

Why did I decide to drive up on the day? Well, other than not being able to find accommodation when I looked all the way back in November, I had decided to run the 5k and not the half. Boston being only 2 weeks away, I thought that the risk of damaging myself was too great. I did, however, want to be involved, so running the 5k and volunteering either side of that, seemed to be the logical solution! (It is a long way to go for a 5k but not the longest trip I’ve done – last year I did a 500k round trip to attend the launch of Renmark parkrun!)

It does seem like an odd choice, 2 weeks out from a marathon, to be looking for a ‘fast 5’ rather than the half which could double as my long run for the week.

Especially when the medal for the half looks like this:

No bling for the 5k… but I need to focus on another sweet piece of bling coming my way in a few weeks!

I tried to figure out a way to fit a long run in around the race. I was scheduled to do 24k. Friday evening was out, as I wasn’t going to be able to start until around 7 and didn’t want to run in the dark by myself. Saturday was a possibility but did I really want to run 24k the day before a race? Probably not. And Sunday after the race I wanted to be able to enjoy brunch and possibly some wine tasting – the thought of an afternoon long run after that was not exactly appealing!

So I decided that, after doing 3 runs of over 35k in 4 weeks, I would skip the long run this weekend!

On Sunday my alarm woke me at 5am (the end of daylight saving meaning it was effectively 6am – MUCH more civilised!) with the plan being to hit the road at 5:30 . My race wasn’t until 8:45 but I wanted to get there around 7:30 to help out with bib collection if needed. Consequently, I took breakfast  (a smoothie) on the road and pulled over on the side of the road in Tarlee to drink it – 5:30 was WAY too early for me to be breakfasting!

I wasn’t too fussed about my kit, being ‘only’ a 5k – I even revisited the compression socks that had got me my Boston qualifier at Gold Coast but which had cost me a couple of toenails. I figured they would be fine for a 5k plus I didn’t have any other clean socks!

I had a long sleeved top and a jacket, as well as long pants, over my race kit, but even so, as I approached Clare I could feel it getting colder (but I didn’t want to put the heater on). It wasn’t as cold as I have experienced at Clare in the past, and at least I was better prepared than I was last year!

After helping out at bib collection for a while I warmed up by running a few laps of the oval (taking care not to cross the finish line with my bib on – that would be a great way to piss off the timing team!) before wandering over to the start line just off the Riesling Trail.

According to Wikipedia the Riesling Trail is 35km long. It runs from Auburn, to a place north of Clare called Barinia. It passes a lot of wineries, and is named after the wine that the Clare Valley is best known for (they also have some nice reds – I am NOT a riesling person!) The trail is gravel with a bit of a camber which can make running a bit difficult if you happen to be stuck running on the edge! And with 442 finishers in the half marathon the track can get a bit congested at times!

I was there in time to see the 10k runners set off and then we had 15 minutes to wait until we started. It was a bit chilly – I kept moving and trying to find a patch of sun in the hope that this would be warmer – it wasn’t really, but I tried to convince myself that it was!

It was actually perfect running conditions. Not much in the way of wind, a little bit sunny, but not at all hot.

While the half marathon and the 10k runs headed south towards Auburn (the half marathon turnaround being at Penwortham, roughly halfway between Clare and Auburn), the 5k went the other way, meaning we would be unlikely to encounter any of the 10k or 21.1k runners, except maybe in the finishing chute. (I did a few calculations – realistically I was going to finish well under 25 minutes which would be 1 hour 10 into the half marathon, and 40 minutes into the 10k. So while there was a chance I might cross paths with some of the faster 10k runners, it was unlikely that any of the half marathoners would finish before me.)

There were only 68 runners in the 5k (well that’s how many finished so I assume that was the number of starters) so congestion was not an issue!

I was at the front of the pack but not right on the start line – I was waiting for someone to get in front of me but nobody did! I’m certainly not used to being in that position!

There was quite a range of ages in the race – lots of kids, with their parents (some kids as young as 5!) and also plenty of more ‘mature’ runners (as the race starter John described them!). I assume many of them were locals – I mean, who drives nearly 2 hours from Adelaide to run a 5k? (Don’t answer that.)

There’s not much to say about the race itself – it was all over pretty quickly (quicker than I’d anticipated, even!) 

I had hoped for about 22:30 – 4:30 per kilometre. That was faster than I’d run in a while and especially coming off a 36k run a week ago, that seemed like a fairly challenging goal! (If I added together the 5 x 1000m reps I did at speed training on Friday, that would make 22:20)

I started running a bit too fast – at one stage inside the first kilometre I was on 4:15 pace so I dropped it back a bit and by the time the first kilometre ticked over I was on 4:30. Perfect! The second kilometre was a bit slower, and then we hit the turnaround. Not long before the turnaround the leaders started coming back and I discovered I was in second place -albeit MILES behind the leader! (Well maybe not miles. But almost MINUTES!) And after the turnaround, seeing the runners behind me, I estimated that the 3rd place female was about the same distance behind me. So, pretty much, barring disaster (or the first girl falling over!) I was going to be second!

According to Strava the first 2k was slightly uphill so therefore the next 2k had to be downhill. And my faster splits (4:16 and 4:19) would back this up!

The final kilometre was the same as the half and the 10k, and brought back memories from previous halves! Unsurprisingly I was somewhat fresher this time! It was slightly uphill but only slightly. 

Despite no chance of the placings changing, I still did a sprint finish. After stopping my watch I was surprised and pleased to see 22:06 (and my official time was 3 seconds better!) The winner did it in 20:14 which is 10 seconds faster than I’ve EVER run. And she was only 13! She also won the 5k last year – quite remarkable!

Finished!

I did ask the guys handing out the half marathon medals if I could have one, but they (quite rightly) politely declined my request!

It was my best 5k time since the Christmas Fun Run in December 2016 and oh so close to getting back under the 22 minute barrier. Which WILL happen!

The finishing chute! Great atmosphere!
Just after crossing the finish line. On the ground is Brianna who had just done a 10k PB a week before she does the Paris Marathon!

The great thing about doing the 5k and finishing so early was that I got to see all of the 10k and 21.1k finishers. Well I didn’t see them all but I was there for them all. I saw the first 2 half marathon finishers  (Adelaide Harriers teammates Bryn and Paul in pretty much a dead heat) right through to the last 2 ladies finishing together, right on the 3 hour cutoff time. 

One of the younger 5k finishers crosses the line!

Then it was time for the trophy presentation. Clare being in a wine region, the trophies were actually engraved wine glasses! Despite wandering around for a good half hour holding my glass, no-one put any wine into it! (A group of us did go to a winery for brunch and I may or may not have tasted and purchased some wine to go in said glass. Because, Clare Valley! (When in Rome etc!)

A useful trophy! And something to put in it!

For the 4th year in a row I have had a brilliant time at Clare (despite the race itself not always going to plan). The locals are always very encouraging and enthusiastic! And I couldn’t finish a race report without once again thanking all the amazing volunteers and supporters – you guys rock!

Some of the more colourful local characters at the start of the finishing chute!

So, I’ve got just over 2 weeks until Boston and this race has given me great confidence that not only can I make the distance, but I still have some speed left in these legs!

This time next week I’ll be on a plane to Hong Kong en route to the States!

Shit is well and truly getting real!

The long run – getting it done!

I don’t LOVE marathons.

I LOVE the feeling of accomplishment after having completed one, and the knowledge that I have well and truly earned it with all the hard training.

My first ever marathon – Liverpool, May 2014.

I LOVE the finisher T-shirts and especially the bling.

Gold Coast 2015 – my 3rd marathon and a PB at the time.

I love being able to eat All. Of. The. Things. afterwards (and beforehand!)
But you know what I DON’T love?

The long runs.

I’m currently training for marathon #6, and I have now done 7 x 36k training runs in various forms. And they NEVER get any easier!

I’ve tried different ways to get the ‘big one’ done.

In my first year (2014) I ran with the SARRC Sunday morning group. That was great as I was not yet in a place where I could contemplate doing such a long run on my own. Also, we were all gearing up for the Barossa Marathon (well, in my case the Liverpool Marathon but it was on the same day so the Barossa programme fit perfectly for me).

Looking pretty happy here – and this was only the halfway mark!

I didn’t do another marathon for 12 months. For some reason I decided not to run the 36k with the group that time, I ended up doing my own thing with one other runner, just to the beach and back. That was OK but we had a lengthy stop at the halfway point which meant I started getting cold and a bit stiff. The run back home was mostly uphill (just slightly) but on the plus side I had a can of Coke waiting for me in the fridge at home!

Then I did Gold Coast 6 weeks later. Being so close, I didn’t need to get back up to ‘peak’ distance again so thankfully no more 36k runs! (And I ran a PB at Gold Coast!)

Fast forward to Gold Coast 2016. Admittedly not my best ever preparation for a marathon – what with also trying to train for UTA100 and competing in the Australian Masters Athletics Championships. I did manage to get in 2 36k training runs, however.

The first was, due to a calculation error, actually 38k. It was a looped trail course, I thought it was 900m but it was actually 950. So my 40 laps turned out to be 38k. Bonus! (It was a trial for a proposed 6 and 12 hour event. It happened to fall 4 weeks before the marathon so, perfect timing for me! I just set out to run 36k, not for the full 6 hours)

Doing the long run on trail – bit kinder on the joints although 40 laps is a bit mentally challenging!

The following week I went out and ran 36k for the first time on my own – running south 18k from North Haven and then back north again. Looking back now, I think it was way too fast for a long run, but it did lead to a new marathon PB and a Boston qualifying time so who knows? It wasn’t actually too terrible, I ran along the coast, as I now like to do for my long runs, as there are frequent water taps, and running on the coastal path means no stopping for traffic! (On the minus side though, plenty of dodging kids, dogs and bikes!). One mistake though. I had planned the start/finish at a kiosk at North Haven where I could get a post-run Coke, but alas, it being winter, the kiosk was closed by the time I got back! DEVASTATING! ‘No Coke for you!’

Fast, flat, coastal 36k. Perfect training for a fast, flat, coastal marathon!

After Gold Coast it was quickly back to business to prepare for Adelaide Marathon, 6 weeks later, with good friend (and frequent appearer in this blog) Beck! Beck was happy to join me for a very similar run to my last 36 – only this time we started and finished at West Beach and started out running north.

The start/finish was strategically chosen for good coffee, Coke and a nice ocean view!

This time around I’ve done 2 x 36k and 1 x 35k. 

The 35k was another looped run, 16 laps of a 2.2k loop. Again very challenging mentally but I was lucky enough to have the company of Stephan for more than half of it (completely unplanned but very welcome!)

My first 36k this year was from home (out of necessity as my sister was borrowing my car, but it did help add a bit of variety as I rarely run around home), to the Uni Loop, a couple of big laps around North Adelaide and back home. I may or may not have stopped off at the bakery for a donut at the 21.1k mark!

OK. I did stop for a donut.

This weekend just gone, I had planned on an early Sunday morning 36k but changed to Saturday afternoon to tie in with a planned dinner with one of the running groups. So I parked at the pub and ran from there! It was a warm, humid day. Rather than do the usual 18k south and 18k back, I decided to run north 5k and back, and then south 13k and back. Almost like breaking it into 2 runs. I think it did (sort of) help. I did also get to run beside the North Haven marina, uncharted territory for me, so that was a welcome distraction!

The only pretty thing about that run!

During the second part of the run, it was starting to get pretty hard so I bargained with myself, I told myself I could turn around at 20k if I wanted to, run back to the pub to make 30k, then back north 3k and back. A bit convoluted but still 36k! Then I told myself I’d turn around at the half marathon mark, and by then it was only another 2k before the planned turnaround so I kept going.  

I managed to scrape in under 2 hours for the half marathon distance. That is always a goal of mine in the long runs, especially when I’m doing them on my own!

After the 21.1k I hit a bit of a wall and steadily dropped pace after that. My pace chart makes interesting viewing!

I managed to finish the run just under 3 and a half hours which was what I anticipated (although I was hoping to go quicker). It really was just a matter of ‘getting it done’ – it was definitely not one of my more enjoyable runs!

Then after a quick change I met the rest of the crew for a recovery meal and drink at the pub! First stop was the bar for a Coke!

And now it’s taper time – no more 36k training runs for a LONG time! 

Until the next one.

3 weeks to Boston! BRING IT ON!

Forced rest week!

As I was on holidays in Melbourne last weekend hanging out with my sister, there was no Sunday run for me! But with all the AWESOME vegan food in Melbourne I naturally felt the need to engage in some form of physical activity in an attempt to justify eating All. Of. The. Food. 

Like this, for example. Sunday brunch at Matcha Mylkbar in St Kilda. Well worth the wait!

So on Monday, with my sister working, I went out for a trot along the coast from St Kilda to Port Melbourne and back. A cruisy 14k on a warm morning. It’s always nice to squeeze in a run in a different city!

Change of scenery – ships at Port Melbourne, approximately halfway through my run.

On Tuesday, normally one of my regular running days, I was on the road all day driving home to Adelaide. I did contemplate going for a quick few km at one of my many stops along the way (most notably on the border of Victoria and SA) but the heat and the flies put me off, plus I wanted to be home well before dusk.

On the border – would have made a cool Strava map for a run but those flies!

As it turned out, I made it home in plenty of time to get to my regular Tuesday evening trail circuit session – a welcome relief following a day spent predominantly sitting on my arse! (Even though I did fall over, running UPHILL, and graze my knee!)

D’oh!

I was really looking forward to my Thursday morning run, to get back to my regular routine. However, sometime between Wednesday night and 5am on Thursday when my alarm went off, I suspect I was bitten by something as my left foot was red, swollen and tender. There would be no running so I set the alarm for later and resigned myself to the fact that I would have to be one of ‘those’ people who just turn up for the post-run coffee!
By the end of Thursday the foot had really swelled up – probably a combination of a day at work and a couple of ciders over dinner! I decided it wasn’t even worth contemplating a run on Friday morning so I once again had a bit of a sleep-in and went for coffee in the morning!

Friday night it was possibly even more swollen so I elevated it with an ice pack and watched the cricket (thanks Cricket Australia for embracing the Day/Night test format – much better for us 9-5 workers!)

Spot the difference!

By morning it looked a lot better. Still, I didn’t think I could get a shoe on so I went to parkrun as a spectator only. By the end of a busy day it was a bit swollen but nowhere near as bad as Friday night.
I decided this whole ‘not running’ thing was not working for me, so decided I was going to do the 12k social trail run on Sunday morning. My trail shoes are slightly bigger than my roadies so that meant a bit less pressure on the foot. Morning came and the shoe went on – success! Still a bit tender but relatively comfortable.

The run itself was fine – I noticed the foot when I was on my own but mostly I was running/walking with other people so that was a good distraction. And there did not appear to be any increase in swelling or redness afterwards!

Never thought I’d be so happy to be wearing shoes!

I had contemplated running a 5k event on Sunday but, even prior to the bite (or whatever it was) I’d decided not to, partly because it is a good time of year to have a mini-break, and partly because I’ve been haemorrhaging money lately and I could do with saving on event fees. VERY glad I’d made that decision as I probably would have been tempted to run it even with the foot not 100%. The trail run was a good compromise – I still got to run, but at a more leisurely pace. And closer to home. And fantastic coffee afterwards!

With Beck, who had done her own longer run but all roads lead to coffee!

I think the little mini-break has done me good. Next weekend (which also happens to be Christmas!) the training for Boston begins – it’s 17 weeks today!

17 weeks to Boston – wow!