Greenbelt Challenge was an appropriate name, as it turned out, in more ways than one!
This year for the first time, the traditional Hills to Henley (30km run along the length of the Torrens Linear Path from Athelstone to West Beach) was combined with the Greenbelt Half Marathon (formerly starting at the same place at Athelstone and finishing in the city). It made a lot of sense from a logistical point of view, I know there were some people who weren’t happy about the change (as there always is!) because they like to run both events. However, in the current climate, with a very congested running calendar, there are always going to be clashes.
The Greenbelt half had to change. One of the recent innovations at SARRC events is the finish line village, complete with food trucks, music and a stretch station. It’s a great way to keep people hanging around long after they’ve finished running, meaning that the later finishers still have a bit of a crowd to cheer them on!
Because of this, it wouldn’t make any sense to have the Greenbelt finishing where it used to, in the city. The finish line village meant that there needed to be just one finish line, and if need be, multiple start lines. The plan was for Greenbelt to start at Klemzig or thereabouts, and run to West Beach. It would still be a one way half marathon, but just on a different part of the river.
There would also be a 5k and 10k, as well as a 1k kids’ fun run, and if you ask me their medals were even better than those for the rest of us!
Medals are a big thing – I have to admit that I was strongly motivated to enter this event because of the unique ‘Triple Crown’ medals. This year, at the three Triple Crown events (Clare, Greenbelt and McLaren Vale), all finishers of all distances get medals, rather than just the half marathon finishers in the past. (In fact, two years ago, the only time I ran the 30k, back when it was ‘Henley to Henley’, the 30k runners didn’t get medals – I always thought it was a bit strange that you could get a medal for a half marathon and nothing for a 30k!)
I really like the inclusiveness we now have, EVERY finisher gets a medal, regardless of whether you’re a back-of-the-pack 5k’er or an elite half marathoner. What is really great about it is, it’s a fantastic way to progress through the year – start at Clare with a 5k, run the 10 at Greenbelt and build up to a half at McLaren! (I’m going the other way!) Or do a 5k at all 3 – the possibilities are endless!
The really cool thing is that the 3 medals link together to form a combined Triple Crown medal. And now I’ve done the first two, there’s no way I’m missing out on completing the puzzle at McLaren Vale! (And I bet I’m not on my own there!) Again there were complaints when the announcement was made – “What, I only get 3 medals for running 3 half marathons? Where’s the 4th medal for the Triple Crown?” It’s actually not that long that medals for half marathons have become a thing – I remember in 2014 doing my first half at Clare and there were no medals – imagine that? (And the Triple Crown has only been a thing for a few years – anyway, let me get off my soap box now and start talking about the actual event!)
The ‘Challenge’ came in due to the seemingly never ending road works on South Road and along the path. For one, an unprecedented ‘dead zone’ had to be created as 30km runners had to stop along the path due to the road works. The idea was (and I don’t know the full details of this so apologies if I got it wrong) that the time clock would effectively be stopped while the runners were stopped, and then start again once they got going. Kind of like when you use ‘Auto Pause’ on your watch. (There was talk of a temporary bridge but the cost of that would have been astronomical!) By all accounts it seemed to work quite well thanks to Malcolm and his timing gear!
The other issue was that parts of the path were closed, necessitating a late change to the half marathon course. It ended up having to be an out and back, although a lot of people I spoke to got PBs so although theoretically the traditional net downhill course would be faster, it didn’t seem to affect some people!
The beautiful weather probably helped – a bit crisp in the morning but not a hint of rain. It was a bit windy at times – at one stage after I’d finished my 10k two of us were holding down the SARRC tent to stop it blowing away despite it being pegged into the ground, and despite the best efforts of a number of staff and volunteers the finish arch had to be taken down before all the runners had come through – better it be taken down early than actually collapse on a finishing runner! I was lucky enough in the 10k not to be affected by the wind – we were told it would be a headwind on the way out and a tailwind on the way back, although I didn’t really notice the wind much at all!
I had offered to pace the 10k as I had at Adelaide, once again 1 week after an ultramarathon (for the 3rd event in a row!) and had my services not been required I would have run the 5k. No way was I doing a half marathon the week after an ultra although Glen managed to do just that after doing the 24 hour!
I had no costumes left to run in that I hadn’t already used, and being a coolish but dry day, I decided to go with the tiger onesie. I had previously done a few parkruns in it, but never 10k – I figured it should be fine! (In case anyone is wondering, the idea of the costume is to make me easy for other runners to spot out on course, especially if, as often happens, my balloon happened to pop or blow away!)
I had the week off from running after the 12 hour and had my first run back on Saturday at parkrun, a nicely paced just-under-30-minute 5k – perfect preparation for Sunday’s 60 minute pacing gig!
Coach Kent asked me to organise the pacers for the half marathon, as he was running the 30k, so he would be up at Athelstone in the morning. There were 3 pacers, and I just had to organise the helium balloons for them. There wasn’t a heck of a lot of helium in the tank so I thought I’d better do their balloons first, and if there was any helium left I’d get one for myself. Actually I would have been more than happy to run without a balloon and I figured people would be able to see me anyway, but as it turned out there was just enough helium to do me a balloon too – damn it!
Due to potential congestion on the course, both the half marathon and 10k were wave starts. I wasn’t sure what implication that would have for my pacing but it worked out perfectly as I was at the front of the second wave, so I started my watch on the gun (although there wasn’t an actual gun for the second wave – you know what I mean!)
The course was impeccably marked – there was no way I could have got lost! Where there was a fork in the path there was an arrow clearly marking which path to take. The only slight issue I had was looking for the kilometre markers – not that they weren’t there but I didn’t actually see one until the 4km mark – they were spray painted in green on the path. I spoke with Harry from the event team afterwards and he explained that they’d decided to just use the kilometre marker signs for the half and the 30k, because they were put out the previous day and it can get quite windy in that neck of the woods! Which makes perfect sense to me – I’d rather have spray painted markers (as long as I know what I’m looking for) than stand-up signs that have blown into the wrong place!
Running in the onesie was OK – although I did have to make an adjustment early on. My top button kept coming undone which meant my tiger head kept slipping off – I took one of the pins out of my bib and pinned the costume at the neck to hold it together. Rather that than running with one hand holding my head on and the other with my arm extended, continually looking at my watch!
I managed to pace it pretty well once I got into a rhythm – I did get confused at times, starting to follow the 30km signs on the way back, then seeing the green spray paint on the ground a minute or so later, and neither of those coincided with the distance on my Garmin! I had alerts set to go off if I went faster than 5:55 and slower than 6:00 (for the mathematicians among you, a 60 minute 10k equates to 6:00 per km)
It’s a challenge, this pacing caper! I do enjoy it, I’ve now done 6 half marathons and 2 10ks (and a couple of parkruns, informally). It was pretty quiet out there this time, I didn’t have too many people running with me but I did have a few people thank me afterwards. I ran with a young lad called Jack for a little while in the second half who is a regular at West Beach parkrun and ended up finishing a few minutes ahead of me – not a bad effort for his first 10k (although he did tell me he’s done City-Bay, and I told him that when I was his age I couldn’t even run 1k!)
Towards the end there were a couple of kids offering high fives so I high fived both of them, jokingly saying “I need to power up!” and then one of them gave me a second high five! I always try to get at least one high five in!
And then RIGHT near the end, around the time my balloon popped, there was another kid with a sign that said “Tap here to power up” so of course I had to get that last little boost to get me to the finish! I ended up just under 59:30 so I was pretty happy with that.
I ended up staying for a good few hours after I finished my 10k, the atmosphere and weather were great and it was fantastic to catch up with a whole lot of running friends – what else would you rather be doing on a beautiful Sunday?
Thanks to all the volunteers who made this event a fantastic experience, and well done to all the runners/walkers who took part!
And a special thankyou and congratulations to Ben and the event team for overcoming all the obstacles to make this event happen – the goal posts kept moving but they didn’t let that stop them! HOPEFULLY (and I think I say this every year) next year the roadworks will be done and we can go back to a one way half marathon (and, dare I say it, I might even attempt the 30k!)
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!
Ahh, the old ‘anniversary’ run! Everyone has one – the first ‘Fun Run’ they ever did. There’s always something special about running that event each year.
For those who find my race reports a bit long-winded, I’ll save you some time.
Glenelg Classic Race Report 2017.
Went out too fast.
OK for those who are still reading, I’ll elaborate a bit.
I won’t rehash all of the history of me and this event. I’ll just direct you to my report from the corresponding event last year. Read this and you’ll be up to speed!
This year I haven’t done a lot of 5k races. In fact, from memory, I think my last 5k race was way back in April, at the Clare Valley Half Marathon! That was even before Boston – seems a lifetime ago now! Other than this, I’ve had plenty of practice running 5k, doing parkrun most weeks.
A few weeks back, I ran my fastest parkrun in 18 months, at Mount Barker (I believe it to be SA’s fastest course – I’d love to hear from anyone who thinks otherwise, because if there’s a faster one, I’ll be there next weekend!) – just a touch over 22 minutes.
My major events this year have been longer distances – 100km in January, Boston Marathon in April, the 12 hour in July (another 100km) and the ‘mini Heysen’ 35k just a few weeks back. But I still think I should be able to run a fast 5!
Yesterday I decided to give the fast Mt Barker parkrun a miss – would just be too much of a temptation to try to run fast and break 22 minutes! Instead I went to Aldinga Beach, which was very similar to the Glenelg Classic course in that it was a 5k out and back along the coast. I paced it VERY conservatively – running 5:30s into the wind on the way out, and then couldn’t help myself on the way back, running 4:30s (admittedly with the wind behind me, but I definitely pushed a bit harder in that back half). I remember thinking, “this is what I need to do tomorrow” (albeit a little bit faster!)
Today’s weather conditions could hardly have been a bigger contrast from last year’s wind-fest (and for the 10k runners, bonus sandblasting!). It was warm (warm enough for the start time to be brought forward from 9am to 8am) and there wasn’t much in the way of wind.
It seemed like there were more runners out there this year than last, which wouldn’t be surprising given the less than perfect conditions of the 2016 race! Today there were 105 runners, 67 of them female, in the 5k, all of whom finished. (I can’t confirm the number from 2016 because I can’t find the results!) Consequently I had to park further away than I remembered parking last year, but it didn’t really matter as I was there in plenty of time and a nice walk along the coast was a good way to loosen up the legs!
Just before the start of the 10k the start/finish arch decided it didn’t want to play, but with minutes to spare it was up again and ready!
I had a chat with SARRC manager Cassandra who commented that since she’s been on board the weather has always been good for our events. I said that’s kind of funny because RD Ben has a reputation for bringing the WORST possible weather! So I guess they cancel each other out!
After the 10k start I had 15 minutes to get ready for my start, so I went out and did the same warmup I did last year, past the marina up to the Buffalo restaurant and back. It felt pretty good!
I didn’t recognise any fast females at the start, actually there weren’t many people I knew in the 5k at all! (Most of the people I knew were either running the 10k, or volunteering) One familiar face was Patricia, from West Beach parkrun, who I also remembered seeing at the McLaren Vale half, wearing a particularly funky looking crop top. It stood out to me because I have the same one! And today, she was wearing it again, and I just so happened to be wearing mine!
We lined up at the start and it was a bit of a ‘surprise start’ as I was expecting “On your marks…” but one minute I was chatting with some of the other runners and all of a sudden the gun had gone off and we were away!
At the start, one girl was already ahead of me and another soon passed me, so for a fleeting moment I was in 3rd place.
The first kilometre felt OK, but when I got to the 1km mark, where one of my regular morning running buddies Trish was marshalling, my Garmin went off to tell me I’d just run 4:05 for the first kay. (This was just after Tracey had passed me to move into 3rd spot). I said hello to Trish and also that I’d done the first km WAY too fast! I’m not sure if Tracey heard me, and I don’t know if she plays mind games like I do, but if the roles were reversed and I’d heard the person I’d just passed say they were running way too fast, that would have filled me with confidence!
I’d have to say that I didn’t really enjoy my run much after that, although I did make sure I posed for official photographer (and old friend!) Tracie, both on the way out and on the way back, and Coralie snapped this pic of me as she filled the Sweeper role admirably!
I kept Tracey and the 2nd placed girl in my sights, and on a positive note I don’t think they got much further ahead, but I didn’t seem to be making any ground, so I set my sights on holding onto 4th spot. At the 2.5km turnaround I got to see how far behind me the other runners were, and I thought I had a reasonably comfortable buffer, but I didn’t take it easy (although my split times might suggest otherwise!)
I did have thoughts in the last kilometre of trying to make a move on Tracey with a view to a sprint finish, but even though I think I made a bit of ground in the last little bit, it wasn’t enough for me to give it a really good crack.
In the back half I was greeted by Race Director Ben on his bike, not just RDing but also Lead Bike for the 10k – is there anything this guy can’t do? I did ask him for a lift but he told me I’d have to run faster to catch him! Just behind him was 10k winner John. In the last kilometre (just as I was contemplating a late push for a podium spot!) I was overtaken by 10k second placegetter Piete. (Just to put that into perspective, they’d started 15 minutes before me but run 5k more!)
Once I’d established that there was no way I was going to get 3rd, I had a sneaky look over my shoulder to see if there was anyone breathing down my neck. I couldn’t see anyone, so I took my foot off the pedal a little bit. It was pretty hot out there, and whatever I did now wasn’t going to change my placing, so I figured there wasn’t any point in busting my arse!
In the end I finished in just under 22:33 which was 9 seconds SLOWER than last year! Yes, it was quite hot today but I would have expected to beat last year’s time given how challenging those conditions were.
In the end Tracey ran just under 21:50 to take third place. To beat her I would have had to run my fastest time in 18 months. Could I have done that if I’d paced better? Probably not! We’ll never know!
And 5th place was 25 seconds behind me, so really, 4th place was where I was meant to be this year! (Pity, because I really liked the look of those trophies!)
Annoyingly, the girl who finished in 2nd place was also in my age group!
So now in hindsight this is what I SHOULD have done. I should have run at 4:30s in the first half. Then I would have had something in the tank for the second half. And even if I’d stayed on the 4:30s and not picked up the pace, I STILL would have done a better time than I actually did. Essentially what I did (start fast and then get slower) was the OPPOSITE of what I should have done.
My 5k goal for some years has been to crack 20 minutes. I got close, way back in August 2015. It’s still a goal but since then I’ve discovered an affinity for stupid long loopy runs and also more recently I’ve rediscovered my trail legs. I am sure I can do it IF I train for it. The problem is there are so many running events that I love doing and I can’t seem to focus on one thing! (And just quietly, it’s not just running events either, but that’s a topic for a future blog post!)
After the race I sat down on the grass and stretched for a bit, at which point the physio providing the free massages asked me if I’d like to be her first ‘customer’ – an offer which I quickly accepted! She massaged the backs of my legs, gave me a few tips on exercises and stretches (which of course I knew but don’t actually do – maybe I will this time!) and then had to wring out the massage table after I sweated approximately 1 litre all over it! I really need to start getting regular massages – I know after I had one a few weeks ago from friend Wendy who is training to become a massage therapist, I had 2 of the best runs I’ve had in a long time!
Another great way to recover after a race is a dip in the ocean – I didn’t take advantage of that this time around but plenty of people did!
Well done to all the runners in the 5k and the 10k and thanks to all the fantastic volunteers as always for making it possible for us to run! Special mention to SARRC marketing guy Harry who was up at arse o’clock (along with other SARRC staff Lee-Ann, Paul, Cassandra and Ron, to name just a few) on what happens to be his 21st birthday! Hope you had a fantastic morning Harry and enjoyed the rest of your day!
After the race was over, Lee-Ann was telling me about how they made sure every single runner was informed of the time change (from 9am to 8am). Firstly an email was sent out to all participants (as well as the information being posted on social media, which was where I first saw it, as I can be a little slack at checking emails). Then, a list was generated through the wonders of modern technology of those who had NOT opened the email. And Lee-Ann then personally texted ALL of them (over 100 I seem to recall).
The move from 9am to 8am was great for the runners but I did spare a thought for the volunteers who, as a result, had to get up an hour earlier. And they were ALREADY going to have to get up at arse o’clock! (A few people had suggested a 7am start would have been even better – sure, it would have been good for us but the volunteers – not so much!)
And congrats again to RD Ben for another great event, and I think he has well and truly made his peace with the weather gods, although he really COULD have slowed down a bit on the bike and given me that lift…
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!