Point to Pinnacle was not really in my plans for 2018 but when I found myself in Hobart for a conference starting the day after this iconic event, I figured, it would be rude not to!
Dubbed as the world’s toughest half marathon, Point to Pinnacle is just like any other half marathon, really. 21.1km of running fun, from Wrest Point Casino to the top of Mount Wellington. Over 1200m of elevation gain in 21.1km. It is practically ALL uphill. Sounds like fun, huh?
According to the report, 2900 people thought it sounded like fun. A further 830 thought it would be more fun to run 10km uphill and finish at a pub.
I’m going to backtrack a little now because I wanted to share a little bit of my trip to Hobart – my first ever trip to the Apple Isle! I decided to extend my trip beyond the conference and the race, and spend just over a week here.
Scroll down to the picture of the frog bride and groom if you want to skip the travel blog!
I decided to do a tour of Bellerive Oval, and on quite a gloomy Thursday afternoon I Ubered to the oval only to find that I was the only person on the tour! A personalised experience! It was kind of surreal as there was a game starting there a few days later, and the Tasmanian team were training while I was there. We still went into the home dressing room and quite a lot of the players were in there – my tour guide Glenn even showed me the showers (after first checking that there was no-one in there!) – they seem a bit more relaxed here, I can’t imagine being able to access the rooms WHILE THERE ARE PLAYERS IN THERE, at any other ground in Australia! (Consequently you’ll find I didn’t take any photos inside the rooms!)
One of the striking things about this ground is that the beach is literally RIGHT THERE. If you’ve ever watched a game from there on TV you would have seen the scenic shots of the river and the beach but you can’t quite appreciate it until you see it in person!
On Friday I booked a full day trip to Richmond and Port Arthur.
From there we made our way to Port Arthur, another very beautiful place!
On Saturday I did the obligatory parkrun (Queens Domain, for those playing at home – the closest one to where I was staying) and then hit the famous Salamanca Market – on every Saturday. I spent a good 3 hours here including gin and beer tasting, first and second lunch, and a bit of shopping too!
On Saturday night I managed to find a vegan pizza about 100m from where I was staying, and paired it with a Spicy Mule (purchased from the market) – ginger beer, vodka and chilli. Surprisingly very delicious!
I had been chatting to my 3 roommates on Saturday afternoon about the Point to Pinnacle, so they were all pre-warned that I would be up early in the morning! Fortunately I woke up just before the first of my 3 alarms!
I decided to use my large running vest, with both 500ml bottles filled with Gatorade, and 3 Clif bars. This was based on the assumption that I would be walking a fair bit. There were drink stations along the way of course, but I figured it would be good to have drinks on me the whole time.
The walkers set off at 7am and the runners at 8, with both groups having a cutoff time of 11:40am. 3 hours 40 sounds pretty doable but I didn’t know how much would be runnable and how much I’d be walking. If I had to walk most of it, I might be struggling to make cutoff! I set myself a goal of getting under 3 hours but I didn’t think that was particularly realistic. Anything under cutoff would be fine!
Once I was ready I booked an Uber, with the theory being that if for some reason I couldn’t get an Uber, I would have enough time to walk to Wrest Point (about 2.5km away). That wouldn’t be ideal, but at least I’d get there! Fortunately I managed to get an Uber and while I was waiting, I got chatting to a group of runners from Melbourne and we ended up sharing the Uber. One of the guys had done it before and had done about 2 hours 15. That was fast!
On the way to Wrest Point we passed the walkers just after they’d set off. There were a lot of them (as it turns out, about 1800) and at some stage along the road we’d be passing them!
At the start line I saw a girl in a Barossa Marathon top, so I went to chat to her, I hadn’t seen any familiar faces and I didn’t know if there were any South Aussies out there. Turned out she had lived in SA last year and had run the marathon. While chatting to her one of her friends told me that there was a flat/even a bit downhill section at around the 10km mark. Something to look forward to!
The 10km Point to Pub started next – another group we’d eventually be catching up to (well, the slower ones, anyway!)
After a pre-race warmup led by a group of Mo Bros (Movember is the main charity partner of the event) we lined up at the start line and were sent on our way by MC Pat Carroll in a very loud jacket!
I decided to try to run the first few kilometres, because that was supposedly the ‘easy’ bit. It was cool at the start but it didn’t take long to warm up!
I decided to go with my new favourite tactic of not looking at my watch. As long as I kept running I knew I’d make cutoff. And there were course markers every kilometre so I’d know how far I’d come (or, how far I had left to go!)
As it turned out, it was all ‘runnable’. Don’t get me wrong, I could totally have walked a lot of it. But once I started running and set a goal to keep going as long as I could, I just took it ‘one kilometre at a time’ and just kept running!
It wasn’t long before we started passing walkers – firstly the Point to Pub walkers – the Point to Pinnacle walkers, with an hour head start on us, would come later.
Someone had put a sign on a post that said (something like) “Good luck runners and walkers” and one of the walkers commented that it was nice for them to mention the walkers! I quickly said, “We’ll all be walkers soon!” – at that stage I was still expecting to walk but hoping to put it off as long as I could!
I passed a couple pushing a pram and I jokingly asked for a lift. Surprisingly I was the first person who’d asked that question! Probably not the last though!
Around the 8km mark there was a bank of portaloos (from memory I think that was the only bank on the course) so I decided to make a quick pit stop. I didn’t time it but it had to have been less than a minute. Not that it really mattered – time was not an issue!
Just before 10km the Point to Pub runners and walkers veered off the main road to their finish line, so it meant we had the road to ourselves just for a little while!
And there was that flat/downhill bit – and then it was gone!
Back to the relentless climbing!
One of the coolest things was when we ran through thick mist. The best thing about that was that you could only see a few metres in front, therefore you couldn’t see what was coming.
Even though you kind of knew what was coming.
MORE F***ING UPHILL!
And then we broke through the mist and could see again.
I used the ‘look down and pretend it’s flat’ tactic a lot but it didn’t really work.
Along the way there were a few vehicles on the course – mostly police motorbikes but the occasional ambulance too. As there were so many walkers out there, I had opted to run on the right hand side of the road, so I wouldn’t have to keep going around walkers. One particular ambulance didn’t seem to like the fact that I was on the right side, even though I was totally off the road, and would not go around me! So I decided in a moment of silliness to try to outsprint the ambulance. That lasted about 5 seconds and then I moved to the left with everyone else and regretted it for a while – that was totally unnecessary!
With 5km to go I had to be ‘that’ person who said “Only a parkrun to go!”
The last 5km were the hardest, I had managed to keep running but it kept getting steeper!
Within the last kilometre there was a PA system blasting out AC/DC’s ‘Thunderstruck’. Because how can you not get fired up when you hear that?
And then, a woman ran up from behind me and pushed me into a finish line sprint – I was just plodding along at that point and didn’t realise quite how close I was to the end, so thanks to Susan for giving me a little push over the edge!
My official time was 2:28:34.9 and official time 2:28:08.5. Under 2:30, well beyond expectations! (Also easily my Personal Worst half marathon time, as expected!)
Unfortunately there was no view from the top due to clouds – hopefully I’ll get back up there before leaving Hobart, so I can actually see stuff!
After taking the mandatory photos it was time to board the bus back to the casino. Yeah – we weren’t going to run back down. Although some people did. including the dude in the banana costume. Because that’s totally normal. Imagine running 21km DOWNHILL? Surely tougher than running up?
The after party was great – everyone got a voucher for food (not vegan friendly sadly but I did have spare Clif bars and there was plenty of fruit) and a drink (happily they had cider as well as beer!), there were free massages, and some musical entertainment out on the deck. A great way to spend a few hours on a Sunday arvo!
While in line for a massage, I was chatting to a girl wearing an Ironman jacket, she had done a 70.3 at Busselton and said that Point to Pinnacle was tougher than that! I always knew runners were more hardcore than triathletes!
So in summary. Point to Pinnacle is a really unique event. I’m so glad I did it and I would recommend it to anyone who wants a challenge, and plus it’s a great opportunity to visit Tassie (I will be back!) Now I don’t think I’ll be rushing to do this one again, once is enough for me!
Thanks to all the wonderful volunteers for making this event happen – it’s one of the best organised events (and it really is more of an event than just a race) I’ve done! (I don’t think too many of the volunteers looked disappointed to be volunteering and not running!)
And well done to everyone who ran/walked/jogged/crawled/got to the top by any means necessary!
City-Bay has been a staple in the SA running calendar for over 40 years now. When I first started running a little under 6 years ago, my first goal event was the City-Bay 12k (as it is for many new runners) and I completed it 4 times, in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. 2016 was a bit disappointing as I didn’t get close to my 2015 PB (which I now realise was significantly wind-assisted!) so I opted not to run in 2017.
I hadn’t really planned to run it again, and then in 2018 the half marathon was added. I was a bit dubious at first, but then I realised, “Hang on, this could be a fast one!” The last 12k, the same 12k that the 12k runners do, is essentially all downhill. Yeah, the first 9k is kind of uphill, but it’s not really THAT uphill. The only thing that could possibly make it not a fast course would be strong winds!
So I decided to run the half, my first ‘proper’ road half for the year, my last one being McLaren Vale in October 2017, which was not as fast as I would have hoped.
My half marathon PB was a touch under 1:38, set in the Australian Masters Games nearly 3 years ago. I kind of ignore that when I’m thinking about PBs. It was the only time I’d ever broken 1:40 in 18 half marathons, and I hadn’t got close since. My next best half was Barossa in 2016, 1:41:45.
The only downside I could see to the half marathon was the arse o’clock start, scheduled for 6:15am at Morphettville. That was to ensure that all the half marathon runners were well past the city and on their way back to the Bay by the time the 12k kicked off at 8:00. There would be nothing worse for an elite 12k runner trying to win one of the not insignificant cash prizes, or any runner wanting to go for a good time or a PB, than having to dodge tiring half marathoners!
My hope was to be finished by the time the 12k started – that would be a sub 1:45 time, which I had just missed at McLaren Vale. The coolest thing would be standing near the finish line watching the elites (and other friends not far behind them) finish! I’d never seen the ‘pointy end’ of the field before, apart from at the start line and at the presentations!
During the week I had happened upon an old ‘pace band’ from a previous half marathon (not sure which one!). The 21k split was 1:41:17. I would be happy with that! I contemplated wearing it but decided against it – I’d just go by feel.
I was lucky enough to get a lift with regular running buddy Riesje and her family (I say running buddy but I can’t keep up with her these days – I’m usually eating her dust!) so we didn’t have to worry about parking at Morphettville. We got to the start area at around 5:45 which just gave us enough time to queue up for the toilets and JUST make it to the start line in time! (We later found out there was a large block of portaloos at the main Morphettville carpark on Anzac Highway, but by the time we found that out there would not have been enough time to get there and back for the start. I must remember that for next time!)
I opted not to wear my compression shorts as I normally would for a half marathon, because they would have looked weird under the floral skirt I’d decided to wear. I’d worn the same skirt for my last City-Bay and thought it was time to give it another run! I also went with the compression socks I’d worn for my last City-Bay, it was a bit of a risk because I have been known to get black toenails from said socks, but I liked the look of them!
Nutrition/hydration wise I’d just bought a bottle of Gatorade and hoped that would be enough to get me through. That’s no different really from what I would normally do in a half, except normally I mix my own Gatorade and use my own handheld bottle. This way, I figured I could ditch the bottle once it was empty. The only thing I hadn’t factored in, was trying to drink out of the Gatorade bottle (a wide-mouthed bottle, rather than the pop-tops I’m used to) while running. A pop-top water bottle may have been better, although I did find the bottle shape fitted nicely into my hand.
The start was delayed a bit, possibly due to the toilet queue, and possibly waiting for a tramload of punters to arrive? I caught up with Amelia, told her I would see her at the finish, to which she responded she was just up for a ‘jog’ today, bearing in mind that her jog is faster than my sprint! I also saw the 2 pacers, Coralie was pacing 1:40 and thought I might be near her, I thought she was out of her mind as sub 1:40 is pretty far off for me at the moment, but I thought it might be nice to try to keep her in sight at least for the first km or two! I didn’t know the 1:45 pacer but I did know I wanted to stay in front of him!
And soon we were away – I started my watch and then covered it up, not to be looked at again until I crossed the finish line!
One of the first things I noticed was the ’20km to go’ sign – I’ve never seen that before! I know they have ‘x km to go’ signs throughout the 12k but I’m not sure if I like being told I still have 20km to go!
The first 9km was uphill-ish. I needed to avoid getting caught in the trap of going out too fast (like I did once in the Clare half marathon). Of course, it was hard to gauge that without looking at my watch!
In the first few kilometres a LOT of people overtook me. That was not right! I wasn’t going THAT slow, was I? Eventually I worked out that they had probably started late (maybe stuck in the toilet queue) and were naturally faster than me anyway, so ordinarily they would have started ahead of me and I would not have seen them. Once I figured that out I forgot about them and settled into my own rhythm.
Despite the road being supposedly closed, there were a few cars trying to get out of driveways onto Anzac Highway. ‘Oh no you don’t!’ I thought to myself (OK maybe I said it out loud, and maybe those weren’t the EXACT words I used…)
We were also overtaken by a couple of cyclists at one point, out for their morning ride and not to be deterred by the road closure and thousands of runners! They DEFINITELY were not meant to be there! This was OUR day!
The turnaround point was just before North Terrace, a few hundred metres away from where the 12km runners were undoubtedly gathering. The clock on the Town Hall as I passed showed about 7:02 – I’d hoped to turn around by 7am but as we’d started late, I supposed 7:02 wasn’t too bad!
The run up King William Street was where we got to see most of the other runners for the one and only time in the race! (In the other distances you don’t get that at all, as they’re all ‘point to point’). On the way to the turnaround we saw the people ahead, and on the way back towards Glenelg we saw the runners behind us. Happily the 1:45 pacer was still a fair way back!
The last 12k was relatively easy – apparently there was a bit of a head wind on the way out, and a bit of a tail wind on the way back, but it wasn’t really noticeable. The weather was perfect – actually you could almost say it was warm when the sun came out! Once we were ‘homeward bound’ the ‘x km to go’ signs didn’t seem so daunting!
One thing I noticed about the half marathon that I hope can be changed somehow next year, was the lack of atmosphere. The volunteers were all there and I tried to thank as many of them as I could, but the crowds that generally gather to watch the 12km, well they were probably still in bed like most normal people! I don’t expect to see crowds that early on a Sunday morning, but it would be nice to have a bit of music to get us fired up! There were a number of bands along the route, and many of them were setting up as we ran past, but they wouldn’t actually start playing until later. And that’s fair enough, it’s a long day for them already. Perhaps there could be a PA system with a radio set up in a few spots along the way?
The kilometres ticked by pretty steadily. When we reached the ‘5km to go’ sign I was just behind Sonja and another girl who I didn’t know, and I said “Just a parkrun to go!” The other girl said “I prefer to break it down into laps of the Uni Loop!” To which I responded “Yeah I have a love/hate relationship with that place!” Plus, for me, a parkrun generally equals a relatively fast run, however most of my Uni Loop running is slow and steady and interspersed with walking. Probably not a helpful analogy for me, but as I said at the time, “Whatever works for you
I was mindful that I had neglected my high fiving duties (to be fair, there were limited spectators to high five!) so when we turned off Anzac Highway into Brighton Road in the last kilometre I made up for it by high fiving as many of the CFS volunteers who lined that part of the course, as I possibly could!
And then we turned into Jetty Road where I really picked up the pace as the finish line was really close now! And finally I managed to find a kid to high five (my ‘policy’ is to try to get at least one high five from a kid in every race!) just before turning the corner to the finish line where I saw the time clock.
From memory I thought it said 8:02 – not too far off my planned finish time of 8:00. The 12k leaders were probably a kilometre in by now!
I crossed the finish line, stopped my watch and only then did I look at it – 1:41:33 (my official time was a whole second quicker!) – I was pleasantly surprised! My second fastest out of 19 half marathons! Admittedly it WAS a fast course. But I think if I’ve ever got a chance of breaking 1:40 again, this would be the event to do it!
After catching up with a few other half marathoners and collecting my gear bag, I headed back to Jetty Road to watch the elites finish – that was one of the highlights of the day!
After seeing the elites with their accompanying flag bearers, I got to see quite a lot of friends finish the 12k too, including Kristie who was 2nd female in the elite walker category (behind an Olympian, so that’s not too shabby!)
Then it was time for some R&R – first stop was the Westpac Red Zone – a VIP area for customers and staff, where everything was laid on including food, coffee and free massages! Thanks Westpac!
I caught up with running buddy Kate who had cracked the sub-60 in the 12k, and we grabbed a coffee and sat down at a table to get a massage!
I probably could have stayed there all day but I had places to go and people to see, so after the presentations I headed off with Maree (who had also done the half marathon) to find her car at Morphettville and then she gave me a lift home – thanks Maree!
The half marathon has definitely got me interested in this event again! While a great event, I felt I’d given the 12k all I could and the chances of getting another PB there were pretty slim. However, I definitely believe I can improve on my half marathon time so hopefully the 21.1km will become a regular part of the City-Bay!
Thanks to the organisers and fantastic volunteers for putting on yet another fantastic event! I look forward to running it again next year and hopefully getting another PB!
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!
I learned a few things yesterday. Not the least of which was the fact that Mourvedre (the ‘M’ in GSM) is actually the same as Mataro (also often in GSM!) Mind = blown!
I also learned a few things about how to run (or not to run) a half marathon. More on that later!
This was my 4th consecutive McLaren Vale Half, making it the only half marathon I have done 4 times.
In 2014 I went into the event pretty unprepared. After my first marathon in May, I hadn’t done ANY long runs, as I had come back from my overseas trip and gone back to playing soccer every Sunday, although I had still been doing my regular weekday runs, so it’s not as if I hadn’t been running at all! I had no pacing strategy and low expectations. It ended up being a ‘personal worst’ at the time, but there would have probably been something wrong if it HADN’T been! It was still a respectable time mind you – 1:46.41 which was the PB I was aiming to beat this year!
In 2015 I paced 2:00, the day after having set what is still my half marathon PB (managing to score a gold medal as well, and celebrating accordingly!) at the Australian Masters Games. You can read all about that one here.
In 2016 I paced 2:00 again, this time dressed up as the Devil for some reason. It was a Devil of a day as well, as those who were there will no doubt remember! If you want to refresh your memory, you can read all about it here.
This year I decided to run it ‘properly’ for the first time!
My friend Donna, seeing that I was going to the event (thanks Facebook!) suggested she could come down with me and we could go wine tasting afterwards. To which I replied, that sounds great, but if you’re coming down, you might as well run the 5k while you’re there! So she entered!
At the end of August, after a little over a year of mostly avoiding hills, I started running hills on Friday mornings in lieu of speedwork. And then I started doing trail runs on Sundays instead of long road runs. I decided I quite liked this, and actually felt it was making my running better even on the flat. Consequently, I decided not to do long road runs to train for a half marathon, instead I was doing long trail runs around Cleland with quite a bit of elevation. MUCH more enjoyable! (Plus, the Heysen 35k run, with 1000m elevation gain, was only 2 weeks later, so I needed to train for that as well)
I had a pretty good week in the leadup. I had 2 fast flat morning runs, a few easy hilly runs, and a trot at Carisbrooke parkrun on the Saturday. I also did my first proper ‘brick’ session on Monday – a 20k bike ride followed by a 4k run. Probably not in any way helpful for McLaren Vale but certainly a step in the right direction when it comes to my triathlon aspirations!
Sunday morning Donna picked me up and we arrived at McLaren Vale in plenty of time for the 8am half start (and WELL in time for Donna’s 9am 5k start!). It was all a bit of a blur though because I spent most of the 40 minutes in the toilet queue then I had just enough time for a 1km warmup before it was go time!
The weather conditions were PERFECT. At the start it was around 15 degrees with no wind to speak of. A far cry from last year!
I had seen quite a few familiar faces (as I had expected!) but I hadn’t seen Beck who had entered at the semi-last minute. We hadn’t planned to run together but I had expected to see her at some stage. There were a LOT of people there for the half though (well over 650 finishers which is phenomenal!) so I guess it’s not really surprising that we didn’t cross paths!
At the start I saw a 1:45 pacer which I was pretty happy about, I figured I could stick with him for about the first half, and then, all being well, take off after that. 1:45 would be just under 5 minutes per kilometre which on recent form should be very doable. I had never planned to run with a pacer but figured if he was there I might as well let him do the work so I could switch off for a bit!
We started, me trying to stick close to the pacer but even in the first few kilometres I was struggling to keep up. I then looked at my watch. After 2km I was averaging 4:44 minutes per kilometre but he was still ahead – I’m not sure quite what his game plan was but I guess he was probably factoring in a fade at the end, and/or some drink stops. Whatever the plan, I was kicking myself, this was way too fast for me to be starting and I definitely could not sustain this pace for the full 21.1! I should have just stuck with my own plan, which was to start at around 5 minute kays and try to pick up the pace towards the end.
LESSON #1 – Never rely on someone else to do the work for you!
The great thing about a course with out and back sections is that you get to see everyone, from the leaders to the back-of-the-packers. I was pretty sure I saw Beck, probably less than 5 minutes behind me, and wondered if she’d catch me! I was certainly slowing down by this point.
At about the 7km mark we went back past the start again, where the 5k runners were getting ready to start their race. The next time we came past here, we’d be DONE! But before then came a pretty tough out and back section. It was loooong. I’m sure that I looked pretty grumpy on the ‘out’ bit, with the faster runners coming back the other way, many offering encouragement!
Around this point I made my second mistake of the day. There was a guy right in front of me with a very ungainly and distracting running style. Don’t get me wrong, it was effective! He was, after all, AHEAD of me. However, I didn’t really fancy watching him for the rest of the race so between the 8km and 9km marks I passed him. The problem was that almost immediately he tried to pass me again. I was working WAY too hard to stay ahead of him, and then eventually he passed me anyway. All that effort for nothing, and that definitely took its toll!
LESSON #2 – Don’t be too keen to get ahead (and stay ahead) of someone in the early stages! Save your energy and you’ll be reeling them in in the final kilometres!
After this it was very much ‘head down’ and ‘get it done’. My pace had dropped to slower than 5 minutes per kilometre which was going to make sub 1:45 very tough, unless I could find something at the end. I actually considered slowing down and waiting for Beck to catch up with me so at least I’d have some company!
The last turnaround was a godsend! Still there was over 5km to go, but it somehow felt easier. This was when I started to get some pace back (mostly because it was a bit downhill!) and started passing a few people who had passed me earlier. There was one girl with red shoes who had passed me a long time ago and I was surprised to see her. I did eventually pass her and I believe I stayed ahead of her!
A few other familiar faces were (like me) finding the run a bit tougher and slower than expected, including Claire, who had made the same mistake as me, of trying to go with the pacer early. Late in the piece I also overtook fellow SARRC Board member Amanda, who has been running really well lately so for her to be struggling as well, made me realise it wasn’t just me!
Towards the end I went back and forth with a guy called Christopher who I later realised I had met before. It wasn’t until we’d been running and chatting for a while that he mentioned this was his longest run in SANDALS! It certainly didn’t seem to be doing him any harm and he ended up finishing just ahead of me!
My pace quickened – but it seemed like every time I got back up to 5 min kays I’d drop back to 5:01 – I may have sworn at one point! By the end, I’d got my average pace down to 4:58.
The last kilometre or so was quite comical. I have this ‘policy’ if you can call it that, in any race where there is a medal involved, that I can’t get a medal unless I have high fived at least one kid during the race. I hadn’t managed to get any high fives in so I just needed to get one before I finished! All the kids were on the wrong side of the track though! After a few ‘false starts’ where the kids wouldn’t come to the party and the parents high fived me instead (which was nice, but it doesn’t count – has to be a kid!), just as I ran up the road towards the entrance of Hardy’s Tintara winery, finally a little girl got on board and gave me what I was after – just in time for the sprint to the line!
Then I looked at my watch – I was so sure I would have gone sub 1:45 but was a bit disappointed to see 1:45:43! (Officially 1:45:39) I may have sworn again, this time in front of Christopher, his wife Rebecca and their two young kids – oops!
Oh well, at least it was a McLaren Vale PB! And the medal was pretty sweet so any disappointment was quickly forgotten!
In hindsight, maybe hilly trail runs were NOT the best prep for a flattish half! Actually, on Friday night I was running with Cherie, who is a trail runner who has done a few ultras but never a road marathon. She is planning to do one one day. I told her for a marathon you can’t really avoid doing long road runs, trail runs just don’t cut it! I guess maybe I should have taken my own advice! Hopefully though, the hilly runs WILL be beneficial for Heysen which is now less than 2 weeks away!
I was pretty sure Donna would have finished before me (and if she hadn’t, I would have passed her towards the end, as I had passed a lot of the 5km walkers in the closing stages) but I thought I’d hang around at the finish line to wait for Beck. After about 5 minutes I saw Voula (another SARRC Board member) and asked if she’d seen Beck, to which she responded that she’d pulled out at the 7km mark (when she came back past the start line) – so it was a good thing I hadn’t slowed down to wait for her to catch up with me!
Eventually I found Donna and she had done better than expected – the old competitive spirit kicked in and she ended up finishing under 40 minutes, well above expectations!
We didn’t stay long at the finish line, although the atmosphere was great and there was plenty to keep people hanging around! We had wine tasting to do!
Thanks as always to all of the fantastic volunteers and staff for putting on a brilliant event! Special thanks to Donna for being the designated driver so I could get all my rehydration in!
And especially thanks to Race Director Ben for organising perfect weather for an event – for once!
AAAAND of course last night I came home and signed up for the next SARRC event, the Glenelg Classic! It will be my 5th anniversary of running so that event is always a special one! As always I’ll be doing the 5k, that sounds pretty civilised to me!
There’s a theory – go in with low expectations and you won’t be disappointed.
I used this theory with some success on Thursday night when I went to see the recent three-peat premiership winning but now cellar-dwelling Hawks take on the top-of-the-table Crows at the Adelaide Oval. I was not particularly confident but hoping for a good contest. Against all odds (unbelievably paying $7.50 in a 2 horse race!) the Hawks managed to pull off a miracle win!
I don’t often subscribe to this theory in running events. If I don’t expect to do well, I generally don’t run. (As evidenced by my recent ‘wussing out’ of the Mt Misery race, and to a lesser extent, the Cleland 50k).
This weekend was different. I’d been running laps around the 6 hour event course for the past 3 weeks, and it was time for a break from the monotony! Never mind that I have done next to no hills training (Sturt Gorge 6 weeks ago was probably the last time I ran any kind of trail).
But, it WAS an excuse for a weekend away with friends, so it was with little hesitation that I signed up for the 21.1km.
The course was a 10.5km loop, with the options being 1, 2 or 4 loops. The mathematicians among you may have worked out that 4 loops = a marathon. This was the first year that the Tower Trail Run included a marathon.
With running buddies Karen, Daryl and Wendy, I hit the road at reasonable o’clock on Friday for the drive to Mt Gambier. The journey was uneventful but I did insist on a rest stop at Coonawarra, which just happens to be one of Australia’s leading Cabernet Sauvignon regions. So, naturally there was some wine tasting (and subsequent purchasing) on the cards! Majella was our hydration stop and let’s just say it’s a good thing Karen and Daryl have an SUV with a big boot!
Our AirBNB accommodation was in a great location – before we headed out for dinner, we went for a walk to the parkrun start location where we’d be heading the following morning, and were pleased to find it was only an easy 7 minute walk away! (As it turned out, it was also walking distance to the Tower Trail Run start!)
The accommodation was nice – although my room was what appeared to be the back porch before an extension was built. It had no door (a doorway, but no door), it was a through room to the laundry, and there was a (frosted glass) window just above my bed, on the other side of which was the bathroom!
On Saturday morning we walked to parkrun and it seemed like half of Adelaide was there, including my Boston buddy Maree who happened to be in town for a party!
It was my second time doing Mt Gambier parkrun so it held no surprises for me (Maree was also a ‘veteran’) although I had forgotten that the first climb is practically right at the start!
The last time I’d been here was in December when the famous Blue Lake was at its picturesque blue best, and was constantly distracted by its beauty during the run! Now, it was more of a slate grey but I was still distracted, thanks to an amazing rainbow which seemed to end in the lake – I would have stopped and taken a photo had I brought my phone with me!
I ran most of it with Andy, one of the guys from SRG (Adelaide’s Southern Running Group), until he took off at the end – a few of the guys who had already finished were egging me on to chase him but I was ‘supposed’ to be taking it easy so I declined. Turned out he was just trying to get under 25 minutes, which he did, as did I. And Maree was first female!
As per tradition we gathered at the fantastic Metro Cafe and Bakery for coffee and some pretty spectacular looking cakes!
We ended up booking in there for dinner as well, as they have a good vegan-friendly menu.
In the afternoon we headed to check out Mt Schank. You can hike down to the bottom but we decided to save that for AFTER the run! The weather was pretty perfect on Saturday afternoon, though!
I had an email from our AirBNB host, checking if everything was OK. I asked if there were any spare blankets, as it had been a little cold on Friday night. Later that afternoon she turned up unexpectedly with 3 brand new faux mink blankets which were much appreciated!
Sunday morning was chilly but fortunately there was no rain at that stage, so we were able to walk to the start/finish line. We were all doing the half marathon which had a very civilised start time of 8:30! The marathon had started at 7, just before it got light.
My pre-race preparation was nothing out of the ordinary other than a fair bit of angst and swearing while trying to put on my new gaiters – this would be my first time ever using gaiters. I had brought a singlet, T-shirt and long sleeved top with me, so I could decide on the morning what would be best. In the end I went with the T-shirt and arm warmers, as well as gloves. Sunnies did not look like they would be needed but I thought it best to take them just in case. Ditto with my cap, which would also keep rain (which was forecast) out of my eyes!
With plenty of time to spare we made the short walk to the large permanent concrete shelter that served as the start/finish area. It was the ideal spot, with plenty of parking nearby, several permanent toilets (as well as portaloos!) and ample shelter. And the obligatory coffee van, which I was looking forward to patronising after the race!
We got to see most of the marathoners coming past during the time we waited for our start. There were plenty of familiar faces among them, including Mick and Howard at the pointy end! Howard’s partner and support crew Pauline had kindly offered to look after our bags for us while we ran!
I ran with my small race vest and 500ml of Gatorade – I probably could have got by without anything but I like to be able to keep going without needing to stop at drink stations. Having the vest also allowed me to carry a light rain jacket just in case. With minimal weight in the pack it felt like wearing ‘Nothing at all!’
We got started at 8.30 and very quickly we were running uphill. The race started on road, and a few of the marathoners passed us coming back the other way. One of them was Graham, who has a very distinctive running style. We greeted each other, and he said he could spot me from a mile away – I replied ‘I could say the same about you!’
At first I was running with Glen, one of the SRG runners, but it wasn’t long before he was ahead of me. I intentionally started conservatively. I had not much idea of what to expect, having not studied the course beforehand. I just didn’t see much point!
The course was interesting, challenging and scenic. Being 2 laps, I used the first lap as a bit of a ‘reccy’. Quite early on I saw Sputnik, who took a pic of me and said “There’s one for your blog!” to which I replied that I was looking for suitable selfie spots on the first lap, then I’d actually take photos second time around!
There were stairs, which I quickly realised I was better off walking up rather than trying to run. Alongside the stairs I’d generally find a well-worn mud track, which I figured out was sometimes easier to walk or jog up than the uneven stairs.
There were also some nice downhill bits – some nice wide flat dirt track which I could fly down, and others that were a bit treacherous with moss and tree roots, and I had to exercise caution.
And of course there were uphills – some short and sharp and some longer but not too steep, both of which I would try to run up. The longer steep hills I wouldn’t even attempt to run.
I kept my gloves on until about 6km in, and during one of the long steep climbs I had time to take off my pack and put them in there, to save having to carry them. Another reason why the pack was worth having!
The course was impeccably marked. I could always see the pink tape in the trees or on the fence to signify that I was on the right track. And there were arrows and ‘Wrong Way’ X signs wherever there might be some ambiguity. This was particularly helpful on my second lap, especially just after passing the start/finish line where Nikki, one of the awesome Race Directors along with husband Phil who also happens to be the man behind Mt Gambier parkrun, was announcing all the runners as they passed by – a lovely touch! As I started my second lap I was on my own, and the route I’d run just over an hour earlier now felt unfamiliar! I was a bit confused when I started to see half marathoners as well as marathoners coming back the other way – I hadn’t recalled that on the first lap, but the pink tape let me know I was on the right track!
There were plenty of marshals out there as well as frequent drink stations – a very well supported event! FABULOUS volunteers and in a lovely touch, they all got medals too, with special ‘VOLUNTEER’ ribbons.
I had gone in with no real expectations and not really even a time goal, although it’s funny how these things change when you cross the start line! Initially I had said ‘sub 3 hours’ as a conservative goal. However, cutoff time for the half was 3 hours 50 – I would normally be WELL under cutoff time so I thought maybe 3 hours was a bit TOO conservative! I had 2.5 hours in my mind but, not knowing the course and knowing that going up hills is definitely a weakness, I wasn’t sure how realistic that was. I ran the first lap without exerting myself TOO much, knowing I had to do it all over again. I only occasionally looked at my watch, mainly to see how much further I had to go, not so much to look at time or pace. I had forgotten to turn off my pace alerts from training – consequently my watch was beeping at me every time I went under 5:30 and over 6:00 minutes per kilometre (which was often!)
I was pleasantly surprised to reach the halfway mark in just over 1 hour 10 minutes. That gave me roughly a 10 minute buffer for the second lap to still run 2:30. I was expecting to run the second lap slower but not 10 minutes slower, so I was pretty confident.
I wasn’t racing anyone else, although every time I passed another woman I did try to sneak a look at her bib colour. There was one girl ahead of me for quite a long time who I eventually passed going up a hill on lap 2 – after I passed her I noted she was a half marathoner but actually I was thinking more of an age group placing than an overall placing! I was one of 7 in my age group so I was hoping for a top 3 placing there. As far as I could tell, an overall podium finish was out of the question!
Not long into lap 2 I was passed by Mick, the eventual winner of the marathon, on his final lap. He was well ahead of Howard who ended up finishing second, and in fact Mick was the only marathoner who passed me. He called out to me before he passed me – he must have recognised me from my signature striped arm warmers – and congratulated me on Boston before flying off into the distance! Well, actually I kept him in sight for a time, and was heartened to see him walking up one of the steep hills, but by the time I got to the top of the hill and back on the flat, he was long gone!
One of my favourite bits was a downhill section that was all stairs. A few people I encountered on the second lap were having knee and calf issues which were aggravated by the downhill (and down stair) sections, but I was able to get into a good rhythm, and the evenness of the stairs meant that, even though I was being a bit cautious (it had been raining on my second lap, so everything was a bit more slippery), I could get up some decent speed. There was even a photographer at the bottom of the stairs who would have got some great shots! (I made sure I gave my nose a quick wipe with my sleeve before getting to him on the second lap – didn’t want any errant boogers ruining my race photos! Although, when I said that to the photographer, he jokingly replied “That’s what Photoshop is for!”)
Speaking of race photos, I had decided that on my second lap I would stop for a quick selfie at the Centenary Tower, after which the race was named. However, as it turned out, I didn’t need to, as a photographer had been posted there! He was asking everyone to stop for a couple of photos – given that it was at the end of a fairly long climb, I wasn’t exactly moving that fast anyway, so stopping was not an issue – I think he got some great shots too!
It was all (mostly) downhill from there. I started passing a lot of 10k run/walkers and some marathoners too. With only 1k or so to go, I caught up with Glen who informed me that he thought I was in 6th or 7th place. I decided to go for it in that last kilometre and once I reached the 2 girls with the cowbells (who really added hugely to the atmosphere – thanks girls!) I picked up the pace and (politely of course) passed everyone I could, including one familiar face in Ros, who was in the 10k event.
Before too long I could hear the finish line festivities and knew I was nearly there! Up ahead I saw a familiar figure in Graham. I realised I would need to pass him so snuck past him to keep my momentum going. He realised who it was and he wasn’t having any of that, so he picked up the pace and practically sprinted past me to the finish line and into the aid station, me giving chase but unable to catch him! After receiving my awesome medal, I went to jokingly have a go at him for making me sprint, and was gobsmacked when he told me he still had a lap to go! I had assumed he was finished!
A little later, his partner Vivienne told me she’d seen him a little further up the road and he’d said he was regretting the sprint finish! I was looking forward to exacting some ‘revenge’ when he came back on his final lap!
I had finished in just over 2 hours 20. In fact, when I later checked my results, I had managed a marginal negative split by around 16 seconds (I guess, in part, I have Graham to thank for that!) – well beyond expectations! I ended up in 5th place out of the women – less than 5 seconds behind 4th (thanks again to Graham!) and less than 2 minutes behind 3rd place! And I did manage to place first in my age group too – all of that was just a bonus. More importantly I had a most enjoyable run, got out of it unscathed and did a surprisingly good time considering my lack of recent trail running! I had started to think I just wasn’t cut out for trail running, even though I really enjoy it! I don’t imagine I’ll ever be a podium contender but to be able to go out there and do reasonably well and enjoy every minute is encouraging!
I’d only drunk one of my two Gatorade bottles during the race (250ml in total) so I finished that off after having annihilated a can of Coke and a long black – then I eagerly devoured the nut bar I’d brought with me! (I’d been thinking about the nut bar from about halfway through the race but when I finished, all I could think about was Coke and coffee!)
Not long after that Karen and then Wendy finished, both happy with their runs – both under 3 hours. Daryl was still out there and unfortunately got caught up in a pretty heavy shower! Eventually we saw him coming in the distance and gave him a great reception as he finished! Not long before Daryl, Kristy crossed the line, also to a great cheer, and she was also very happy with how she went!
I decided to head along the course to meet up with Graham, being careful not to go near any of the timing equipment, given that I was still wearing my race bib! It wasn’t long before I saw him coming, quickly passing my bib to the marshal to look after for a minute, before chasing Graham to the finish!
We were all getting pretty cold by then so headed back to the house to get into some warm clothes and defrost! And of course, eat all of the things!
Unlike most of the Adelaide people we opted to stay another night in the Mount and have a leisurely drive back on Monday – including another winery stop of course – this time at Wynn’s!
On Sunday afternoon we went for a drive to Port Macdonnell for chips by the sea while watching kiteboarders. Karen and I had a disagreement about feeding chips to the circling seagulls (she was pro, I was very anti, and of course I was right!) before heading back to town for the perfect recovery meal, takeaway from Gourmet India and red bubbles from Majella!
It was a fantastic weekend all around – and just a wonderful, scenic, friendly and enjoyable event. I hope to be back again to do it all again next year and would recommend it to anyone who loves trail running! I won’t do the marathon – 4 laps of that course is just not for me, but I would absolutely do the half again!
Congratulations and thanks again to Phil, Nikki and all the amazing volunteers for making it all possible!
This week, we go back to where it all (ie this blog) began!
2 years ago I ran the Barossa Marathon and wrote a little report about it, which I posted on my Facebook page. The positive feedback I received about this report (in some cases from people I hadn’t even met before) in the subsequent days, led me to create ‘Random Thoughts and Race Reports’ and I guess you could say the rest is history!
I am in the process of creating a new blog which I’ll share when I’ve finished playing around with some of the formatting (amid much swearing, at times!)
Anyway, back to Barossa. Some months ago, knowing that it was 6 weeks after Boston and 2 weeks after I got back to Australia, I volunteered to do the 2 hour pacing gig for the half marathon. I figured, I wasn’t really going to be in ‘race shape’ and I find pacing really enjoyable and rewarding, so it would be a great way to be involved!
Up until last weekend, I hadn’t run 21.1km since Boston, so I was actually a bit unsure if I could even run a sub 2 hour half, let alone pace one! So I went out and ran about 10 laps of the Uni Loop (2.2km) and came in about 4 minutes under the 2 hours. I wasn’t trying to push hard but by the same token I wasn’t trying to run ‘slow’. I was just running at the pace I was comfortable with. So that pretty much confirmed to me that I could do the pacer gig!
Ideally you want to be able to run about 15 minutes faster than the time you’re pacing. I don’t think I could run 1:45 at the moment but I was definitely confident I had this!
I bought a new costume to run in – ostensibly to make me easier to spot for those trying to run with me, but just quietly because I kind of enjoy dressing up in wacky outfits! This one was a psychedelic hippie dress, complete with belt and headband. I even found a pair of sunglasses which were left at my house a few years ago but never claimed, that fit the outfit perfectly – and my yellow Boston calf sleeves were a perfect match! Underneath was another brand new item, my new 2XU compression shorts.
The weather wasn’t looking too good! There was a lot of rain overnight (both at home in Adelaide and up in the Barossa) and more rain forecast for race day. I was not looking forward to the idea of running in the rain – mostly for the reason that it would slow me down, and I couldn’t really afford to lose too much speed!
I went up with Beck, who wasn’t running this year due to injury but was still happy to go up and cheer! She picked me up at 5:45am so we would get to Tanunda in time to see the start of the marathon at 7. (The half didn’t start until 7:45)
Fortunately, although it was cold (and colder when we got to Tanunda), the rain appeared to be holding off.
We made it with minutes to spare – just enough time to wish the marathoners all the best and see them set off! (One thing I like about Barossa and Adelaide as opposed to some of the larger marathons, is that, as spectators, we could actually get into the starting area literally minutes before the start!)
The next 45 minutes went very quickly – just enough time to collect my bib and pacer balloons, stand in a lengthy toilet queue, then attempt a contortionist routine in trying to change out of my warm multiple layers and into my race ‘kit’ within the confines of a small toilet cubicle. Once that was done it was pretty much time to go to the start line! Luckily I had Beck there to take my bags as I probably would not have had time to getto the baggage tent!
I was one of 3 pacers in the half. We had Bryn doing 1:30 (his first pacer gig) and Jim 1:45 (Jim’s a veteran pacer and pretty much has the 1:45 slot sewn up!) with me doing my favourite, 2:00. I wasn’t sure exactly where to stand, as I couldn’t see Jim. In the end I just chose a spot well behind Bryn, and behind a few people I knew were planning to run sub-2. It didn’t really matter that much – 21.1km gives plenty of time to sort out pace and position!
(As it turned out, Jim wasn’t there – he actually missed the start due to bib issues, and went flying past me a little while after the start! He did eventually catch up to the 1:45 group and expertly paced them to the finish!)
I started my watch on the gun, rather than as I crossed the line. That way, if I crossed the line in 2:00 exactly on the clock, everyone who was with me would get under 2 hours, regardless of whether they started in front of me or behind me. (That was a lesson I learned during my very first pacing gig!)
For those who aren’t familiar, the role of a pacer is to run as close as possible to a specified time, and people who want to run that time (or thereabouts) just need to stick with the pacer and don’t need to worry about their own pace. It is particularly useful for runners who don’t use a GPS watch. As a pacer, there is definitely a bit of pressure but it’s also really enjoyable and rewarding to see your pace group achieve their goals.
I know I’m going to forget some people so apologies if I do! There were a lot of runners either with me or just ahead of me. Michelle was trying to stick with me as long as possible but her main goal was a sub 2:15 to qualify for Wonderland trail run. Eventually she dropped off my ‘bus’ but she got in well under her goal time! Regular running buddy Nat was with me for a while and ended up finishing just a few minutes behind me, saying that she really enjoyed the run.
Sally thought she would be running just ahead of me but ended up smashing out a huge PB and on top of that won 2 bottles of wine in the random prize draw!
Others running ahead of me included Gary (different Gary from the one we’d seen off in the marathon!), Victoria, Ali and Peter. There were definitely a few PBs among that lot – they didn’t need any pacing help from me!
With me pretty much from the start were Brianna, fresh off a PB at the Paris Marathon, and first time half marathoner Kathryn from Brisbane (who was unaccustomed to the cold weather that we turned on for her!) Brianna was hoping to go sub 2 but hadn’t run that far since Paris, and Kathryn was just hoping to stick with me as long as possible – she’d done a half distance in training, in about 2:10.
Due to the staggering of the start times for the marathon, half, 10k and 5k, there were never any issues with congestion. We didn’t see the 5k or 10k runners at all (in fact, I never even saw race ambassador Jess Trengove, who won the 10k race) but we did get to see the marathoners on multiple occasions, and due to the ‘out and back’ sections we also got to see all the half marathoners (over 500 finishers!) – from the leaders all the way to the back of the pack!
Pace-wise it took me about 3km to hit my goal pace of 5:37 – 5:38 mins per km. I found Barossa the easiest out of all the halves I’ve paced – due to the flat nature of the course and the favourable weather conditions. Once I hit my pace I managed to hold onto it. Towards the end I did a few calculations so I would come in JUST under the 2 hours, so I did need to slow down just a touch!
I think with about 5km to go, Brianna took off but Kathryn was still with me! She was determined to stick with me until 16km, then it would be ‘just a parkrun to go!’ Personally I don’t find that comparison super helpful but it certainly works for a lot of people!
Eventually we reached the ‘parkrun turnaround mark’ (2.5km to go) and it became apparent that Kathryn was going to get under 2 hours! It was kind of like a proud mother bird moment for me when she took off with around 1km to go – I had to hold onto my pace so couldn’t go with her but I was thinking ‘Fly, my pretties!’ as each runner left my ‘nest’!
There were a few other runners around me who were looking good for sub 2 – some just in front and some just behind. One guy, Gerard, had not long given up smoking and was on track for a PB (and finished just seconds behind me) and regular running buddy Deb was ahead of me for a good portion of the race, but stuck with me after I passed her, and also came in under 2 hours. Another girl, whose name I didn’t get but who was wearing a Step Into Life top and not wearing a watch, was also hoping for a sub 2 and I’m not sure if she finished ahead of me or behind me but she came up to me afterwards and told me she got the sub-2! And then there was another regular running buddy Fiona, who was determined not to let me pass her (jokingly telling me I was going too fast) and ended up finishing about half a minute ahead of me.
I crossed the line with 1:59:42 on the clock. My official time was 1:59:18 which I was pleased with!
And the timing was perfect because not 5 minutes after I finished, the heavens opened! Unfortunately that meant missing the presentations for the 5, 10 and 21.1k as I hightailed it back to Beck’s car to get changed into some warm, dry clothes and then head back to see our friends finish the marathon!
There was a large group of runners around the 3:30 pacer (I think the only pacer in the marathon) including Coralie, Rebecca and Jenny. Not long after that were Carrie, Amanda and Leon (doing his 347th marathon for the year, by my calculation!) with a small gap to my 2015 Barossa running buddy Kay and fellow 2017 Boston Marathon finisher Graham! Then came a few more familiar faces, Peter and Dave, but for me the best moment of the day was seeing Gary finish.
Gary’s daughter Tahlia had run the 10k, and as I approached the end of my half, I saw Tahlia running back to meet her dad. We waited what seemed like ages at the finish (but it wasn’t actually that long – we were just cold and in need of wine!) until we saw Mark, who had been running with Gary when I’d last seen them, so we knew Gary couldn’t be far behind! And sure enough, around 30 seconds later, there was that distinctive purple T-shirt! We gave Gary a huge cheer and I think he might have been a bit fired up (after pretty much crawling across the finish line in his first marathon at Adelaide last year, he had, as he put it, ‘some running demons to vanquish’) and was yelling and cheering and high fiving! It was definitely a highlight for me and I’m sure it was a very special moment for Gary and Tahlia!
As we were getting cold and Beck had post-wine family commitments, we left pretty much straight after Gary finished, for a well earned wine tasting at Hentley Farm (I tasted 9 wines and liked them all – unfortunately the budget would only stretch to one bottle – I went with a Grenache Shiraz Zinfandel, mainly because I’ve never tried or even seen that blend before!
So once again, SARRC have put on another excellent event – the weather wasn’t kind to everyone (the marathoners and some of the half marathoners behind me certainly copped it a lot worse than I did) but it was ideal running weather for me, the volunteers were fabulous as always, the spectators were great, and my fellow runners were always friendly and supportive!
Thanks to everyone involved in making this such a great day! And especially to Beck for chauffeuring me – I owe you one!
In previous years I have used SARRC half marathons as part of my training programme. In 2014, 2015 and 2016 I did Clare and Greenbelt, and also did Barossa half in 2016.
In 2017 the timing of my marathon means that none of the SARRC halves will fit with my programme. Clare would be possible, but is a bit close in time to the marathon (2 weeks) not to mention a bit far in distance. I would want to stay overnight the night before, which would make it a pretty expensive exercise. Which is a pity as it’s a great event. I will definitely have the FOMO happening that day. Oh, bugger it, I might just go up on the day and run the 5k!
The Coastal Fun Runs series is the brainchild of one Chris Glacken (better known as Chris Glacks – actually for ages I thought that was his real name!). The events are low cost and all money goes to the Bravehearts charity. This year alone he is putting on 32 MARATHONS! (Most of his events have shorter options as well – except the ‘5 marathons in 5 days’ and ‘7 in 7’ – but only crazy people do those!)
This was my first time doing one of Chris’ events. They are mostly run in the same area, coincidentally the same area where I do a lot of my long runs. And last week’s Dolphin Run! So this weekend, if I hadn’t done the half I probably would have run into some of the runners in the event while running 30+ km, and undoubtedly would have wished I’d done the half!
With so many events scheduled, it was almost inevitable that there would be one that fit into my programme. There was also a 3k, 5k, 10k and a marathon. The course was a ‘loop’, although probably would be more accurately described as an ‘out and back’ course. For the half marathon, we would run south then back to the start, then continue north and back to the start. We would do that twice, the marathoners did it 4 times and the 10k just the once.
With the 21.1k starting at 7am it was a 5am start for me on Sunday to get an early breakfast (a shake consisting of Weetbix, oats, cacao, chia and almond milk) before getting myself organised. I opted for my Mekong top with aqua lululemon skirt, Skins shorts underneath, calf sleeves, Steigen socks and 2XU hat. I also threw on my rainbow arm warmers as it can be quite cool in the early mornings down the coast!
I got there early enough do a quick warmup before we had our race briefing and group photo. The marathon had already started, an hour earlier. The bib collection process was very smooth – the volunteers were very friendly and seemed to be well on top of things!
The half kicked off around 7 (Race Director John making sure that we weren’t going to run into any marathoners before getting us started)
I hadn’t worked out a pacing strategy nor did I really have a goal time. I guess sub 1:50 was a minimum, with all but one of my previous halves being in the 1:40s (there was one inexplicable sub 1:40 in there, and I’m not counting the 3 times I’ve run as a pacer!). 1:45 was roughly 5 minutes per km, so I supposed I should be able to manage that. Anything under that would be a bonus!
I ran the first kilometre at 4:48 pace, running just behind 2 other girls, Coralie who I knew, and another girl I hadn’t met before called Carrie. I thought that was way too fast for me to be starting, and I was expecting that they would stay ahead of me but before too long we were all running together which was really nice! It was a smaller field than most of the events I’ve done, and with less random strangers spectating, so it could have been a very quiet few hours for me if I’d ended up running on my own!
An awesome thing about the layout of the course was that we got to see all the other marathoners, half marathoners and 10k runners during the race (the full and half marathoners on multiple occasions!). There were a LOT of familiar faces out there. I’ll probably forget some! In the marathon we had the organiser Chris running with Tim for quite a bit of the race – Tim hoping to do 70 marathons before the age of 70! There was Dave, who was going at a cracking pace! We also had Dione, who kept insisting to me that she WAS running as well as walking (she just happened to be walking most of the times I saw her!), Rebecca who looked very strong in the first half but apparently faded in the last 10k, Louise who had planned to continue on to run stairs at Largs AFTER COMPLETING THE MARATHON (she later decided that was a bad idea!) and Jac, one of a large contingent of Mount Barker parkrunners participating across the different events (my running buddies Coralie and Carrie both being Mt Barker parkrunners as well!). There was also Leon who is aiming for 42 marathons this year (plus ultras and halves!) – he is one of those 5 in 5 and 7 in 7 crazies! He did give me a good recovery tip – ice bath! (I had tried that after a previous long run but the water clearly wasn’t cold enough as I had managed to sit in there for an hour!)
In the half we had Mark and Mel who were both pleased with how they went, and we spent a while afterwards reminiscing about last week’s Guns N’Roses concert! There was also regular trail runner Neil who was doing his first road event (in trail shoes!) regular parkrunner Reece, and Chris, who was coming back from injury and showed excellent taste in running kit by running in a Norwood footy guernsey in arch-rival Port Adelaide’s heartland!
So, the 3 of us girls ran together and it seemed like we all had pretty similar time goals. I knew Coralie would be faster than me in the end (unless she was holding back!). Carrie was, by her own admission, a ‘fader’ (in other words, NOT a negative splitter!) so when she took off from Coralie and me, we thought we probably would be a chance to catch her.
The weather conditions were PERFECT, similar to last weekend’s event. Mild conditions to start with (I had my arm warmers pulled up at the start but by the 2k mark I’d rolled them right down) and once again NO WIND!
According to the source of all useful information, Strava, at the end of the first lap, 11.2km, I was on 4:54 pace. The first lap was slightly longer and the second lap was exactly the same as the 10k course. That was great – we knew that once we reached ‘halfway’ we were actually well past halfway and ‘only’ had 10k to go!
On the second lap, it was a bit mental, running south and then back north to the finish line again, but having to run PAST the finish line to complete the last lap! Past the finish line, with about 5k to go, was where Coralie took off. I could see quickly that she wasn’t going to be catchable so I set my sights on Carrie, who Coralie very quickly passed! I could see I was making ground but it wasn’t until after the final turnaround (just over 2k to go) that I eventually caught up to and passed her.
I could still see Coralie in the distance but I set my sights on catching Chris, who had faded somewhat since earlier in the race, when he had been well ahead of me.
As I approached the Semaphore Palais, around 500m from the end, I had a sneaky look behind and thought I saw Carrie, but she looked to be too far behind. Nevertheless I decided to pick up the pace just to be sure! I thought I might catch Chris but he must have found an extra yard in pace too. According to Strava I finished in 1:42:58, exactly 1 minute behind Coralie and only 11 seconds behind Chris! The next finisher WAS Carrie, 26 seconds behind me, she was very pleased to have taken a whopping 10 minutes off her previous half marathon time!
Recovery started with a quick walk in the sea with Chris. Happily, despite having dispensed with my pre-race ritual of taping my feet, there were NO blisters – thanks to my awesome Steigen socks! T
hen it was time to go back for the presentations. The female winner of the half, a girl I didn’t know, was about 10 minutes ahead of me! The male winner, Kent, did it in 1:27. That wasn’t really surprising – this is the guy who did 2 parkruns on New Year’s Day, one at 7 and one at 9, and RAN the 23km between the 2 parkruns!
So on my return home I did run an ice bath (with a 5kg bag of ice) and had 2 x 10 minute stints in there, with a quick hot shower in between. Maybe 2 bags next time! And then with some difficulty I managed to get my compression tights on!
I really enjoyed this event. I have to say, I can’t see myself ever doing the marathon here – nothing against this event but I really don’t enjoy marathons in general, so I try to stick to ‘big event’ marathons when I do run them! It would be a perfect event for someone who wants to run without pressure. The atmosphere is very friendly, everyone is very supportive of everyone else. The team of dedicated volunteers is fantastic and the RD John did a stellar job.
Congratulations to Chris and team for putting on a brilliant event! I’m sure I will be back for another half before too long!
I’ll start by saying, I am prone to exaggeration, but that would have to be right up there with the hardest races I’ve ever done!
McLaren Vale was my third time as a pacer. I’d locked in the gig quite early in the year, knowing that all my marathons would be done by now, and therefore I wouldn’t need to ‘race’. Pacing is a great way to be involved in an event and
volunteer at the same time! I first fell into the role at Adelaide last year when I had put my hand up to volunteer, and then saw an email asking for pacers. I thought, “So I get to run AND volunteer? Sign me up now!”
For those who aren’t familiar with the term, in a marathon or a half marathon (and sometimes other events too), usually there are a few pacers who run at a particular pace, aiming to cross the line just under a particular time. My preferred
pacing time is 2 hours, as my PB is close to 1:45 so for me to be able to pace that time would be too much of a struggle. 2:15 would be just that little bit too slow for me to do comfortably. It sounds weird but running much slower than your comfortable pace
is actually really hard! A pacer needs to try and run at a consistent pace which can be hard – if you’re running significantly slower than your PB pace, it’s easy enough to go out too fast and then maybe slow down at the end to get close to the right time,
but by doing that, you will lose a lot of passengers on your ‘bus’ early. You also want to make sure you finish under (or marginally over) the set time, but not by too much. It is a delicate balance!
At McLaren Vale we had pacers for 1:30, 1:45, 2:00 and 2:15. All of us had different coloured balloons. I’d requested red because I wanted them to match my outfit (of course!). I had initially planned to wear my Luigi (as in Mario and Luigi)
costume that I’d worn when I volunteered at Mount Misery earlier in the year. But the forecast was for a warm morning, so I canned that idea, because I thought it would be too hot to run in. Especially with the hat and gloves! Plus, I had never run in that
particular outfit. Most of my other crazy outfits have at least passed the parkrun test!
So, I’d opted for the devil costume that I’d bought a few Halloweens back. It came complete with horns and a pitchfork. There was a slight problem on Saturday when I realised it was still sitting at the bottom of the laundry hamper since
last Halloween. A quick sniff test established that I could probably get away with it but I thought no, best do the right thing and wash it. Having never been washed before I had to handwash it (I didn’t really want to dye all the rest of my washing pink!)
and fortunately it was a warmish day on Saturday so I hung it out on the line for a few hours to dry. The devil dress was a bit short so I went with an extra red tutu underneath for a bit more modesty, and I also wore Skins shorts for comfort and more respectability!
I went down to McLaren Vale on Sunday with regular running buddy Jim who was also running the half, hoping to be under the 1:30 mark. Therefore it was unlikely I’d be seeing him during the race, other than those out and back sections!
The first thing that hit me when we arrived at the Hardy’s Tintara winery (the location for the start/finish – only appropriate given that we were in a famous wine region!) was how windy it was – I wasn’t expecting that! Stuff was blowing
everywhere – bollards had blown over and marquees looked in danger of becoming airborne. This was not going to be easy!
I went into the toilets to get my outfit ready – I like to keep it a bit of a surprise so I had arrived with my tracksuit on over the top of my devil dress. I put sunscreen on because it was already getting quite warm, and although there
was no sun at that stage, I was going to be out there for, well, 2 hours! I’d forgotten to bring my toggles with which I normally attach my race bib to my Spibelt, but in the end I decided that my Spibelt (with phone inside) would be best UNDER the skirt,
and I ended up pinning the bib to the top of the skirt. I thought it would be a good idea to pin it through the dress to my Skins shorts. And it probably would have been a good idea. But I had decided to get everything organised BEFORE my loo stop. Bad move!
Eventually I emerged in my devil costume and went to collect my balloons. David had brought the balloons and all 8 of them were still there (2 for each pacer), all tied to a weight but they had become tangled in the walk from David’s car
to the SARRC tent. After a while we managed to free the 2 red balloons and I tied them to the shoulder straps of my dress – from previous experience that seems to be the best place to tie them. I did wonder how they would behave in this wind – they can be
annoying at the best of times! Probably more annoying for those running behind me though – I’ve only run WITH a pacer once before, at this year’s Gold Coast Marathon, and I remember needing to give him a fairly wide berth if I didn’t want to be eating rubber!
Then I started thinking about how I was going to pace this thing. I had my Garmin pace alerts set between 5:30 and 5:45. I wanted to run around 5:36/5:37 pace. I would start my watch on gun time, so my official time could be well under
2 hours but I was aiming to get just under 2 hours from the gun time. That way, if anyone was ahead of me at the start, and I ran JUST under 2 hours, and they were ahead of me at the finish, they would still get under 2 hours. The issue was going to be, how
on earth would I be able to maintain a consistent pace when some of it was going to be into a very stiff (40+ km/hour) headwind (and probably also uphill)?
I wasn’t even sure if I could run under 2 hours in these conditions!
Shortly before 8:00 I found my place among the 700+ crowd and waited for the gun before starting my watch. I was walking at the start – it was a bit like parkrun! It didn’t matter that my watch was telling me I was going too slow – I knew it would
take a few kilometres to get up to goal pace. I did also have to factor in the extra distance I was going to cover – normally if I’m racing I would start my watch as I cross the start line, because that will give me (close to) my official time. As a pacer
I was going off gun time but that did mean that I would be covering more than 21.1km. The pace I had set for myself was based on running exactly 21.1km which of course we know never happens! Factor in the extra distance at the start, going around people, and
the general inaccuracy of GPS devices, and I would be having to do some mental maths as well to make sure I didn’t miss the mark.
OK so as it turns out, the devil costume was not all that comfortable to run in! Firstly I was constantly trying to adjust my skirt early on, trying to preserve some modesty for the benefit of those behind me. For some reason I’d put my
Spibelt in between the dress and my tutu so it wasn’t sitting all that comfortably. The Spibelt was a bit loose so I could feel my phone jumping up and down. I kept changing hands with my pitchfork (which was already falling apart – never buy a cheap pitchfork
people!) – mostly I carried it in my right hand because I wear my watch on my left and I wanted to be able to keep a close eye on pace, but every now and then I’d swap for a while. Oh and there was also the issue of the balloon ribbons getting tangled up in
my devil horns – possibly not a problem I’ve ever had in a race before!
I think it took me about 5km to get up to goal pace, what with the crowds and also intermittently running into the wind. I was pretty happy with how I managed to maintain that pace after that.
As happens in every race but particularly those with out and back sections, I saw a lot of familiar faces. The good thing about out and backs is you get to see EVERYONE – from the front runners to the back of the pack. There were a few
people expecting to be on or around my pace (my ‘bus’ if you will) – Chantal (who had just got back from Europe), Annie (who was a last minute entrant) and David (who was confident of a sub 2 hour finish) among them. Early on I saw Sheena who had done so well
at Yurrebilla 2 weeks ago, looking comfortable on my bus (sometimes ahead of it and sometimes behind it) despite a dodgy knee. There were plenty of people who wanted to be ahead of me – Bec among them (she said she would cry if I passed her!) – when I saw
her on one of the out and back sections, well ahead of me, I threatened to stab her with my pitchfork if I got too close! I think that was a good motivator!
At around the halfway mark Sheena was with me and running well. I actually thought for a brief moment about handing over the pitchfork and balloons (if I could have figured out out to get them off) to Sheena and saying “Right, you can take
it from here!”
The worst bits were when we were running uphill into the wind. That is hard enough, but when you’ve got 2 balloons dragging behind you, you actually feel like you’re going backwards! I wonder if, in conditions like this, there is some kind
of alternative to balloons that pacers can use, because not only are they annoying for those behind and around, at times they actually slow you down! (I had to be extra careful when overtaking people to make sure they didn’t get tangled up in my balloons.)
When I was running into the wind I ended up pulling my balloons down and holding onto them which made things a bit easier but as a result I wasn’t able to swing my arms to give me a bit of a boost.
Normally as a pacer you want to try to stop your balloons from popping. On this occasion I was seriously considering taking one of the pins from my bib and popping them myself! I did try running close to the trees in the hope that they
might ‘accidentally’ pop, but no such luck – one of them did develop a slow leak though.
My preference, towards the end of a race, as I have said before, is to ‘count down’ by time rather than distance. And as a 2 hour pacer, when I’ve been running for 1½ hours, I can safely say I’ve got 30 minutes to go! I can’t say “5km,
I can do that in 25 minutes”! That would make me a bad pacer!
I slowed down a bit towards the end as I realised I was well under the 2 hour mark. The last few kilometres were a bit easier as we were running mostly downhill and not into the wind. For the last 500m or so I held my pitchfork aloft and
started yelling at people to encourage them as I knew they were all on track for sub 2 hours. When I crossed the line my Garmin time was 1:59:17. I was pretty happy with that, and I actually don’t think I could have run much faster if I’d been racing – I was
glad in that sense that I had opted to pace! (Last year I did it in 1:59 flat, so I’m getting better!)
I got some pretty sweet bling. This event was the final event in the Triple Crown series (whenever I hear that term I think of that Simpsons episode – “the 5th and penultimate event in racing’s Triple Crown”) so all those who
had completed the 3 half marathons in the series (Clare and Greenbelt being the other two) got a special Triple Crown medal as well as the also very cool McLaren Vale finisher medal. I think the Triple Crown has been very successful, so successful that SARRC
were overwhelmed with the number of entries for McLaren Vale, to the point where they thought there might be a chance of running out of medals! As a result us regulars were asked not to take a finisher medal (and we would get one later, when they ordered more)
which was not a problem for me, as long as I got it eventually! In the end I think maybe the weather put a few people off so by the time we left the start/finish area they let us have our medals. (The main thing they were worried about was that some of the
later finishers might miss out on medals and they are probably the people that appreciate them the most!)
It was great afterwards to catch up with people – most of whom had found it tough and very few of whom had run the time that they’d hoped! The wind had died down a bit at that stage so it was nice to sit in the square and hope to win one
of the random prizes (I didn’t!) and have a coffee and chat with friends.
I want to give a MASSIVE thankyou to all the volunteers and SARRC staff who made this event happen. As I’m sure I’ve said before, no matter how hard the conditions are for the runners, it is twice as hard for the volunteers – trying to
stop marquees from blowing away while constantly answering queries such as where the bag drop area was, and trying to keep the cups from blowing away on the water stations (to name just a few tasks!). It takes a lot of volunteers to make these events happen
and I am always grateful that people are willing to give up their time (and in some cases travel a fair way – McLaren Vale is about 45 minutes from the city) to allow the rest of us to enjoy what is always a fantastic event. You guys all ROCK!
If you get the opportunity, I highly recommend pacing as a great way to give back and to test yourself in a different way! It is so rewarding to hear from people you’ve helped, even those that you didn’t even realise were on your ‘bus’!
Oh and Bec did get her sub 2 hours, a massive PB and she did credit my pitchfork threat as a motivator! And Sheena just scraped in too!
Well done to EVERYONE who ran in one of the 3 events – the 5k, 10k and the half. It was a brilliant event and a fantastic day despite the tough conditions! And massive kudos to anyone who somehow managed to pull out a PB!
Barossa Marathon 2015 was my second marathon (a year to the day after my first), a new PB and the subject of my very first blog post.
A year later (give or take a few days) it was back to where it all began, this time to run the half marathon.
There could hardly have been a bigger contrast between the two events.
Last year, it was the culmination of 16 weeks’ hard work which was rewarded with a PB. 6 weeks later, I managed to scrape home at Gold Coast for another PB. This year I was definitely racing the half, but the big picture was the Gold Coast marathon in 5 weeks and a Boston qualifying time, therefore it was not just a race but also a marathon training run. (A repeat of last year’s Barossa or Gold Coast time will qualify me for Boston next year)
The bigger story here was that this was Beck’s Boston qualifying race. I ummed and ahhed over the last few months about giving the marathon a crack, in the hope that I might be able to get my BQ time and then be able to relax and enjoy Gold Coast. But I knew that was unrealistic, especially 2 weeks after UTA100. So I had entered the half, partly just to be a part of which last year had been a very enjoyable event, and partly to make sure I could still run long and fast.
Given that the marathon started at 7 and I had organised to go with Beck, it was an early start. I was up at 4:30 and we hit the road at 5. My race didn’t start until 7:45 which would mean I could have a very relaxed start once we arrived at Tanunda. We were aiming to get there around 6:00. As it gets very cold in the Barossa, I decided to pack my race gear and wear warm street clothes to the start.
I had had most of my gear organised before going out to a comedy gig the night before. I was in bed by 10:30 so I got close to 6 hours sleep.
Beck was happy to drive up there but I would drive back. That was fair enough, remembering how I had to drive myself home from the marathon last year (I do not recommend it!) We took Beck’s car, being an SUV. I didn’t like her chances of getting out of my little Corolla after the marathon and the drive home!
You know how you never try something new in a race? Well I did several things differently this time.
Firstly, I started speed training on Friday morning. It’s something I have been meaning to do for some time but it never quite fitted in. Then UTA got closer and I focused more on that. Once I had recovered adequately from UTA I was out of excuses. A fast marathon needs speed training. The session this week was 4 x 1km reps. I was not as fast as I had thought I would be, but remarkably consistent which was a good start. And I pulled up OK on Saturday.
Next, I ran parkrun on Saturday. I ran by myself and I somehow managed to avoid getting carried away like I normally do even when I’m trying to take it ‘easy’. Interestingly I ran almost exactly the same time I had run the week before when I was actually trying to run as fast as I could!
That afternoon I went to a BodyBalance class for the first time in probably a year. For the uninitiated, BodyBalance is a hybrid of yoga/Pilates/Tai Chi. It can be quite challenging and I have been known to be quite sore after, especially if I haven’t done it in a while.
I decided to wear my new 2XU compression socks, which I had only worn once before for a morning run (around 10km). I want to run Gold Coast in them so this was a perfect o to road test them in a longer, faster run. I put tape around my arches to prevent blisters (which I do in every race longer than 20km. I think it’s just superstition now but with new socks I was taking no chances).
Other than this I went with the outfit I plan to wear for Gold Coast – SARRC pink top and lulu skirt with Skins underneath. Given the cold start, arm warmers were also a necessity!
The drive up was uneventful except for a few erroneous road closures delaying our arrival at Faith Lutheran College until about 6:15. Still plenty of time for Beck and ample time for me.
It was chilly, so while Beck got herself ready I went into the warm room where bib collection and bag drop were happening, and helped hand out race bibs. As 7am approached I braved the chill outside and went to watch Beck and the rest of the marathoners start the 42.2km journey. Beck was running with Jim, another regular running buddy over the last few years who had had a bad run at Boston and was hoping for a better run here at Barossa. Also in the marathon were regular Thursday running buddies John and Liam who looked to be in great form, and ultramarathon legend Andrew whose wife was enjoying the novelty of watching him in a race which would be over in just a few hours rather than taking the whole day!
They were off! After they were out of sight I quickly went back inside to the warmth and started to get myself ready. I didn’t have any sunscreen on me and I didn’t realise at the time that the first aid tent had some, but being a chilly overcast morning, and given that I wasn’t going to be out there all that long, I decided it probably wasn’t necessary. I did wear a hat as always and not long before our start, the sun came out which reminded me to get my sunnies out of the car!
I needed a warmup. My hamstring does not like a cold start so I now have to warm up for every race. Probably not the real big ultras (because I can use the first few kms as a warmup) but when I’m going for a fast time, I know a warmup is now mandatory. I ran about 800m before the hammy started to feel normal and then turned around and ran back. It was a surprisingly fast warmup! Was that an omen? I didn’t know!
I saw many familiar faces at the start, among them Nat, who was hoping for a sub 2 hour half and who had not done a race since August last year; Kate, who I had started several races with and was going for a PB; and Alison and Kay, who were pacing 1:50 and 2 hours respectively. Kay had run most of the first half of Barossa Marathon with me last year.
I was hoping for somewhere between 1:40 and 1:45, and Kate was aiming for just under 1:45 so we decided to start together. I had convinced myself that time didn’t really matter to me.
Of the 9 halves I had raced before (I have also paced 2 but I’m not counting those), 6 of them had been sub 1:45 including the last 4. My Masters PB of 1:37:54 is so far beyond anything else I’ve ever done that I tend to discount it. I find it hard to believe that I actually did that time and harder to imagine I could ever get close to it again!
We started solidly but not spectacularly. In the first km Alison caught up with us. A rushed start meant that her watch didn’t start until about 300m in, throwing out her pacing calculations. Kate offered to swap watches with her and they almost did swap but then Alison said “No, you’re going to do a PB today!” We then moved on ahead as we needed to stay well ahead of Alison to get our goal times.
Our first 5km (according to Strava, where I am getting all my figures from) was 24:50, average pace 4:58 per km. 4:59 pace would sneak us in just under 1:45. Kate was a bit concerned we were going a bit too slowly but I assured her that if we started conservatively we would have the capacity to take it up a notch at the end.
Our next 5km was a very similar pace – marginally faster at 24:46 or 4:57. A solid first 10km, 49:36, average pace 4:58. Right on target.
I had had my energy drink as per usual, about 30 minutes prior to the start. I had forgotten whether I normally had my caffeine supplement before or halfway through a half marathon. I had decided halfway was the way to go. 10km was close enough to halfway so I took it and estimated that at current pace it would probably kick in at around 16km. This was the point at which I’d hit the wall at Greenbelt 4 weeks earlier, so it would be an ideal stage to get a boost!
My only other fuel was Gatorade in a hand bottle. I had about 500ml and estimate I only had about half or less during the race.
Sometime in the first 10km we first saw the frontrunners in the marathon. A little later we saw some more marathoners who didn’t look like they were in the lead pack, and then we saw Paul, the 3:45 pacer. We hoped that Beck and Jim were in the pack in between the frontrunners and the pacer. Beck was going for around 3:40. She would need at least 3:42 to be confident of getting into Boston. Unfortunately we did see her and Jim, a little way behind the 3:45 ‘bus’ – things looked like they weren’t going to plan!
Just ahead of the ‘bus’ was regular Friday and Saturday running buddy Peter, running his first marathon. He was looking strong.
Kate and I reached 13km still on pace at 4:57. It was here that we parted ways with around 8km to go. My legs seemed to want to go faster and Kate told me it was time for us to split! I wished her well and started to pick up the pace a little.
The great thing about Barossa which I’m sure I mentioned last year, is that with the multiple out-and-backs you get to see so many of the runners! Like last year, people were commenting that I seemed to know everyone, cheering them on as we crossed paths. Well, I did know a lot of them but towards the end I was just calling out names on bibs, and many of the people I didn’t actually know. I hope it helped!
I saw Beck and Jim again one more time and they were still well behind the bus. I suspected that Beck was not going to get her BQ time and hoped she and Jim would still enjoy the rest of their run!
I saw the frontrunners one more time too, including John who was sitting pretty in the top 5 and Andrew was also up there!
16km came. I first had flashbacks to Greenbelt and the mythical ‘wall’, but this time I decided to punch my way through it. The caffeine had kicked in and I suddenly had this amazing burst of energy. The last 5km were honestly a blur. I remember seeing my friend Tracie taking photos a few km from the end (I had seen her on the way out but too late to pose for her!) and also occasional running buddy and Instagram legend Chantel like a ninja in the bushes with her camera!
After splitting with Kate, I did not look at my watch at all except when it vibrated to indicate another kilometre had passed. I only looked at my kilometre splits but not my overall time. Kilometre 17 was surprisingly fast at 4:22 (as it turned out, my fastest km).
On the several out and back sections I had seen regular running buddy Maxine, quite a way ahead of me. Each time she seemed to be maintaining her lead over me. I doubted I’d catch her. But then with only a few kilometres to go, I came up behind her, ran with her briefly and kept going. She was running AWESOMELY but she said she was nearly spent.
With around 1km to go I could start to hear the finish line. I remembered the finish last year and all the familiar smiling faces and people cheering for me. Unfortunately I also ran into packs of walkers, walking 3 or 4 abreast, meaning I had to go around them – not exactly what you want after running 20k!
I reached the road leading around to the finish. I remembered to smile, knowing that David would be there with his camera, having taken some of my favourite photos from last year’s Barossa. (He told me afterwards that he was calling out to me, but I didn’t hear. I was so in the zone by then!)
I remember seeing Chantal, who along with husband Neil had run the 10k. I don’t remember much else!
I rounded the corner and hit the finishing chute. I crossed the finish line, stopped my watch, got my medal from Naomi, and had a look at my time. 1:41:53 – far beyond what I had expected! That Masters anomaly aside, it was a new PB!
I had done my last 8km (since leaving Kate) at 4:35 pace and my last 5km in 22:43 or 4:32 pace. My overall pace was 4:49.
After taking all that in for a few minutes, I saw Kate finish. She got her PB! It was great to have played a small part in that story! Max ended up finishing only 10 seconds behind me and was understandably also very happy!
I got cold really quickly when I stopped. I couldn’t bring myself to get completely changed so I put on a long sleeved top and Beck’s hoodie which I would give her when she finished. I noticed a few small issues – a hot spot under one of my toes that was probably the beginnings of a blister – served me right for trying new socks, but all in all I was happy with the socks. I also chafed a bit under one arm which was surprising considering I had run Clare half and also my Masters PB half in exactly the same top with no issues.
I got to see the first few marathoners finish. John finished 5th in 2:50 – a massive PB! Andrew also cracked the top 10 and a sub-3 hour time.
Nat and Dave both broke 2 hours for the half. Nat later found out her official time was just over 2 hours but everyone knows Strava time is what counts. (My official time was actually 8 seconds faster at 1:41:45!)
I then went to get the all-important post-race coffee and then wine! (When in Rome…) and then see the rest of our friends finish their marathons.
I saw Mark finish, followed by Peter, who had done remarkably well in his first marathon considering his longest long run had been 27km! I missed seeing Liam finish but he had done a PB of just under 3:25.
We saw the 3:45 bus go by without Beck and Jim, and around the same time we saw Kath who had entered with not much training and had done amazingly well, along with Tina who had only entered on Wednesday and was treating it as a training run. A marathon as a training run? I couldn’t even contemplate that!
The cheering got really loud when Arwen approached – she broke the 4 hour barrier and had her own personal cheer squad! Even though her partner Vince later noticed that her marathon medal ribbon said ‘HALF MARATHON’ like mine! Oops!
Finally, not long behind Arwen we saw Beck and Jim. They had broken 4 hours but were both understandably disappointed that they had not achieved their goal times. I quickly ran around to the finish line to see them finish and (reluctantly) give Beck her hoodie. While she recovered I went to the car to get my warm jacket and her warm jacket and track pants. I put on both the jackets and went into the bathroom. People had told me my lips were blue but I was shocked when I saw my reflection – they were a lovely shade of purple!
We hung around for a while before heading back home. It was a funny drive home as I had never driven a BMW before and wasn’t used to the European indicators and windscreen wipers! I lost count of the number of times I put the wipers on or indicated the wrong way! Anyway, we made it home in one piece and a few hours later after a shower and quick lunch I picked Beck up again and we headed to the pub for the traditional post marathon drinks. Beck had had a chat to husband Steve who was already planning Beck’s next marathon, Adelaide in 11 weeks, with a longer taper. Steve was not willing to give up on the Boston dream and by the time we all headed off after drinks, the Adelaide plan was well and truly taking shape!
I was super impressed with Beck’s reaction to her race. I think I would have been a basket case! I do know now though, that if Gold Coast in 5 weeks doesn’t go according to plan, I will have a second chance at Adelaide and now I will have a buddy to run it with!
Sunday was my 3rd Greenbelt Half. My first, in 2014, was my second ever half marathon and a huge PB for me, 1:42:43. Last year I missed out on a PB by only 10 I seconds. I couldn’t see where I could have gone any faster, so I was happy with that time.
Since then I somehow beat that PB during the Masters Games – 1:37:54. I’m not quite sure how I managed to do that time especially on a 4 lap course that wasn’t exactly flat. I’ve sort of discounted that time as a PB as I currently can’t see how there is any way I’ll beat that time!
My new time to beat was my 1:42:27 at Clare just a few weeks ago. Clare being a notoriously challenging course (not the most challenging ever but 10+km uphill followed by an almost undetectable downhill back half does not make for a great PB course), I was confident that anything I could do at Clare, I could do better at Greenbelt!
I had recovered well from the previous weekend’s 24k trail race at Cleland. In the days leading up to Greenbelt, my hamstring tendon issue that had been bugging me since the 100k in January, miraculously disappeared (well, temporarily at least). I did a hilly run with my UTA100 mandatory gear on Tuesday, a now traditional fast flat run on Thursday, and a gentle (somewhat soggy) ‘jogette’ on Friday morning.
Several weeks ago I had planned to make Greenbelt an ‘out and back’, running from the start at the top of the River Torrens at Athelstone, to the finish in the city at Pinky Flat, and then donning my UTA backpack and running back up to Athelstone. No, hear me out, there was method in my madness!
A fast, downhill course known for being good for PBs would be an ideal marathon training hit-out. From memory I was due to run about 30k as part of my Gold Coast training plan. I wasn’t too concerned about distances at this point as I was committed to events. Besides, a hard half marathon race is equivalent to a longer training run in terms of training effect.
However, there was something else to consider, and that was the small matter of a 100km ultra in 2 weeks. I may have mentioned that before. Well don’t worry, you’ll be hearing a LOT more about it in the next few weeks and beyond!
To get more ‘time on feet’, the run back up to Athelstone would be an ideal solution. Plus I’d be wearing my race vest, which I’ve run a few 10k runs in, but 21k would be better for ultra training. AND, I could have a bonus sleep-in on Sunday – rather than having to get to Pinky Flat to catch a bus up to Athelstone for the start, I could drive straight to Athelstone.
Apart from it being a bit insane, this plan was thrown into disarray when Adelaide United qualified to host the A-League (football/soccer for the uninitiated) Grand Final on Sunday afternoon. Running Greenbelt, waiting for the presentations, then the slow plod back up to Athelstone, would mean I’d really be pushing it for time to get home, showered and on the bus back into town for the big game.
I found a compromise. Beck was also running Greenbelt and lives near me, so I would get a lift with her to the city, leave my backpack in her car, bus it up to Athelstone, run the race, smash out a PB, see the presentation, don the backpack and then run the approximately 8km home. With a short warmup before the race itself, that would make 30km all up. A pretty good day at the office, incorporating training for both a marathon and an ultra!
I had to carefully consider my race day outfit. I wanted to run in one of my South Australian Road Runners Club singlets (as I had at Clare), as I wanted to fly the SA flag at Gold Coast and needed to train in the top I would be racing in. I also needed something that would be comfortable under the backpack on the way home, so that meant no metal bra clips (spoiler alert – this would lead to chafing and probably tears).
Although my ‘wounds’ from Cleland had healed up nicely, the graze on my hipbone was still causing me some trouble and was in the MOST inconvenient spot, I still couldn’t wear jeans comfortably even by Friday! (On discussion with a colleague during the week we decided that rather than a graze it was probably actually a friction burn from my clothing – that would explain how it happened with no damage to my clothing!) I therefore had to pick shorts or a skirt that would not rub in that area!
During the week I had bought some 2XU compression socks which I had tried on and LOVED. And they were such a pretty shade of purple! I was SO keen to wear them for Greenbelt! However sanity prevailed and I decided not to take the risk of trying something brand new on race day. I went with the old tried and tested Compressport compression sleeves. Maybe I will wear them for UTA100 and/or Gold Coast but I will definitely be road testing them first!
On Saturday night there was some pretty wild weather, mostly strong winds with a bit of rain. Not exactly ideal conditions to run a PB!
On race day I got ready as usual as well as preparing my race backpack for the run home. Beck picked me up at 6:15 and we made our way to North Adelaide to catch the bus to Athelstone. I pointed out a girl in front of us as we walked to the bus (she ended up getting on the bus in front of ours) and said, “See that girl there? She’s gonna win it”. It was Micarla, who in the past 4 weeks had won both the Clare half and the Cleland 24k.
We arrived at Athelstone Primary School in plenty of time and had to make the tough choice, toilet first, or warmup? We decided on the former, and it was a good choice, because the toilets were already struggling to flush (presumably not used to 800 people using them in the space of an hour) and were likely to get worse as the start approached! The sky was looking pretty black and it seemed inevitable that it would rain on our parade at some point.
Beck and I did a quick 1km warmup to loosen the legs and then she peeled off her extra layers as we counted down to the 8:00 start. I got to catch up with a number of people, some of whom I had only previously met in passing, some who I had not seen in some time. That’s probably one of my favourite parts of events (well that, and of course the finish!)
Beck and I were aiming for sub 4:50 average pace. That would be a PB for her and pretty close for me. Hopefully I would have a bit left at the end to be able to increase the pace.
With 800 starters, the start line was pretty congested. I couldn’t even find Beck at first but I saw her off to the side. Within the first few hundred metres we had managed to connect! The 1:45 pacer, Rick, was a little way ahead of us (we’d eventually need to pass him to get our goal time) but we were happy to sit behind him for the first little bit, and just keep him in sight.
The first few kilometres were a bit slower than we would have liked, primarily because of the congestion and also because it was marginally uphill. As soon as we could overtake people and get a bit of daylight in front of us, we did. It meant we would have to run a bit faster to get back to our goal pace.
We hadn’t planned to overtake the 1:45 ‘bus’ at any particular stage, just sometime before the finish line! At around the 6.5km mark, the ever expanding group was starting to impede our progress. It was time to make a move. We overtook the bus and almost immediately after that, the threatened shower eventuated. It wasn’t heavy and it wasn’t long but it was enough to make the ground a bit slippery. Especially since pretty soon after that we would encounter a wooden walkway – I called out to everyone around me to be careful.
It was around this time that Beck and I found ourselves running behind two men, who she jokingly thanked for being a windbreak for us! They didn’t come with us when we overtook the bus, but it wasn’t long before one of them, Tom, was with us again. I had seen him before at parkrun but we’d never run together before in an event. We would end up going back and forth for the rest of the race. Also around us was Peter, who I had run with a bit at Clare. He wasn’t having the best day – we also went back and forth but after I passed him later in the race and then didn’t see him again, I knew something wasn’t right! He ALWAYS beats me – not by much, but by enough!
Greenbelt is an undulating course. Some very nice downhills (although with the congestion early on, we weren’t able to make the most of them) and some nasty little uphills. On the uphills I contemplated getting the whip out. This was something I picked up from another Peter. He would often give his thigh a slap to get him up hills. I thought of him as I went up the hills and wondered how he was getting on! (He later told me he got the ‘whip’ out once – he ran a pretty good time too so it obviously worked!)
I knew Beck wasn’t far behind me because at one point I heard her distinctive laugh. It sounded like she was going OK but I dared not look behind me. How does the saying go, ‘Never look back, unless it’s to see how far you’ve come.’
15km was my ‘wall’. I’m not sure why, but as soon as I passed that marker, I guess I knew it wasn’t going to be a PB for me. It was just a hard slog. (Kym, who I had seen marshalling at 2 points along the way and who is pretty much trail running royalty around these parts, said to me after the race that you can’t expect to have a great race after a tough trail race the previous week. He was probably right.)
The slow start and subsequent push to get back under 4:50 pace probably took a bit out of me and meant that my ‘traditional’ fast finish wasn’t on the cards. Then there was Cleland last week. So yeah, there were probably a few contributing factors.
Around this point I saw a few friendly faces. Chantel, who is on the comeback trail from a nasty bike accident was out taking photos because she wasn’t yet ready to run it. It was great to see her smiling face out there. Hopefully she’ll be able to join me at Gold Coast in July! Then not long after that I saw Nat, my cycling coach, on a drink station. I gave her a cheer and a thankyou – I didn’t stop at all for drinks because I was carrying my own. It was great to see her regardless.
The rest of the race was a bit of a blur. There was my friend since high school, Tracie, official photographer in Elder Park – hopefully I gave her some good shots! After passing Tracie I said to those around me (but probably more for my own benefit) “Look straight ahead. Do not, whatever you do, look right”. That was because on the right, across the river, was the finish line. We were still more than 1km away from reaching it – we still had to run up a nasty little hill, back across the Torrens Weir, and along the other side. Seeing the finish line now would be just demoralising. We knew it was there, but seeing it just made it more real!
I had stopped looking at my watch by now. “Que sera, sera”, I thought. I didn’t think I had made up enough time and I didn’t really have a whole lot left to smash out a fast final km.
When I felt my watch vibrate to signify 21km I knew I had about 200m to go. My watch had consistently been about 100m ahead of the actual distance. Possibly because I hadn’t started right at the front of the 800-strong pack, maybe the overtaking along the way, and maybe simple satellite inaccuracy, or a combination of all 3. I entered Pinky Flat and could finally see the beautiful sight of the finish line! Despite being pretty much spent by this point, I was sure I had another 200m left in me!
I picked up the pace and managed to pass a few runners as I approached the finish line (admittedly mostly 10k runners, but still…) and rounded the bend to cross the line in 1:42:47 by my watch. A little disappointing, being 20 seconds SLOWER than Clare, which most would say is a tougher course. (My official time was 1:42:44 – a lousy 1 SECOND off my Greenbelt PB from 2 years ago!)
I remembered to get my medal first before ducking under the bunting to collapse in a heap! It was not 30 seconds later that I saw Beck cross the line for a new PB! She was stoked and I was too, for having been a part of it! She said she had been able to see me the whole way – my choice of a hi-viz yellow top probably helped! We are both hoping to run Boston qualifiers this year and based on that run today she is well on track!
I then got to my favourite part of any race, getting to catch up with friends to see how they went. Greenbelt being a point to point course, after the start you don’t see anyone unless you pass them or they pass you. The fast people at the front I would not see again until the finish. That girl I said would win? She did! Not a bad 4 weeks for her – 2 half marathon wins and a state trail championship! I saw both the Peters – one had a great run, the other not so much. Another regular running buddy John (well we don’t run together that much, mostly because he is too damn fast!) had done a PB and come so very close to his goal of breaking the 80 minute barrier. Imagine. 80 minutes. At this point I’d be happy to break 100 again! (I know it is possible. I’ve done it once!)
After the presentations it was time for the hard run home. It ended up being a bit over 9km, mostly (ever-so-slightly) uphill, on tired legs with my UTA100 backpack. I was so happy that Adelaide United had forced me to abandon my plans of running 21k back to Athelstone. 9km was more than enough, thankyou very much! I was never so happy to crack open an icy cold can of Coke than I was when I staggered in the front door just after midday! I had managed to fit in a relatively fast half marathon as part of my marathon training, as well as some ultra training on top of it. It had been a good day.
And as history shows, it got better. There wasn’t time to collapse on the couch and become a vegetable for the rest of the day – I had an A-League Grand Final to get to! So I quickly demolished a pizza and got a bus into town. And my team, Adelaide United, the mighty Reds, prevailed 3-1 in front of 50000 roaring fans at the Adelaide Oval, which I had run past only hours before.