Race Report – Tower Trail Run 2018

Last year I ran the Tower Trail Run in Mount Gambier for the first time. You can read all about it here.

I loved it so much I just had to go back!

This year I’d opted to run the half marathon again (2 laps) although the competitor in my kind of wished I’d gone with the marathon (4 laps) when I saw only 2 women on the provisional start list! Along with the single lap 10.5km event, this year an ultra distance (56km) had been added – it was 4 laps like the marathon, but the loop included a lap around the iconic Blue Lake. Something a bit special just for the ultra runners!

This weekend was also the weekend of the Pichi Richi marathon (starting in Port Augusta) and also the launch of the Port Augusta parkrun. I have always been keen on Pichi, the idea of a one-way marathon (like Boston, only on a much smaller scale!) appeals to me and I was thinking that I might give it a crack next year. The timing has never worked out before!

Joining me on this trip were Karen, Daryl and Wendy who had also made the journey last year, as well as Wendy’s partner Graham. We were all doing the 21.1km.

A road trip from Adelaide to Mount Gambier would not be complete without a stop in Coonawarra for a wine tasting. This year we went to Zema Estate on Friday afternoon on the way there, and Redman on Monday morning on the way back. I thank Karen and Daryl for indulging me as they are both non-drinkers, although at Redman Karen managed to occupy her time with the resident ‘wine dog’ while I was doing my tasting! I love Coonawarra, it’s so compact and the wines are fabulous!

Wendy and I sampling some of Zema’s wares!

Friday night I had arranged to meet a vegan friend, Mount Gambier local Rose (who I hadn’t actually met in real life, just on social media) and her fellow vegan friend Karl, visiting from Sydney. We had some fantastic vegan burgers and fries at the new burger joint in town (not just vegan, also catering to omnivores!) – Natural Born Grillers. It was great to chat about running and vegan deliciousness with a couple of like-minded people!

A Saturday morning in Mount Gambier, particularly for a runner, would not be complete without Mount Gambier parkrun. I’ve done a lot of different parkruns now (I think 31 globally?) and I have to say this is my favourite. It’s a bit challenging, with a few little hills (up until the launch of Cleland it would have been the most challenging parkrun in SA) but with the most incredible view over the Blue Lake. I always find myself getting distracted by it on the way out (it’s an ‘out and back’ course) – run run run run run – oh, look at the lake! – run run run run run – oh, still the lake, wow! – etc etc! It was particularly distracting the first time I went there, as that was in December when it’s actually a really striking blue. In June it’s more of a blue-grey but no less impressive!

And a parkrun in Mount Gambier must always be followed by coffee at Metro, probably a big part of the reason why it is my favourite of all the parkruns. Even though on this particular occasion they didn’t have any vegan cakes in!

Karen trying to choose just one of the amazing looking cakes!

It rained a bit on parkrun but the promise was for a dry morning on Sunday which would be perfect – last year it was pretty wet, but I still loved it! A dry, cool morning would be ideal!

A tad wet and chilly!
Some of Team Adelaide after parkrun!

The rest of Saturday was spent wandering around the shops, dodging showers. I remembered Ecologie Organics, the organic store, from last year, and that when I went last time, they were going to start serving hot food about a month later. Sure enough, they had a lot of lovely vegan lunch goodies, I went for a vegetable soup which was perfect on a cold, wet winter’s day!

Sorry for the language – I saw this coaster in a shop and couldn’t help myself!

We stayed at the same place as last year, very conveniently located within easy walking distance of both parkrun and the start of the race. On Saturday night we went back to Metro for dinner and were joined by SA running legend Kym, who had originally signed up to do the marathon but had decided to join the cool kids in the half instead.

On race morning Kym had to get down to the start line early to change from the marathon to the half, and rather than hang around at the start line in the cold, he came down to hang out at our place while we got ready to walk up. Somehow he had managed to put his back ‘out’ while going under some bunting, so Karen helped him out with some Deep Heat before we all wandered to the start line.

At the start line Race Director Phil gave the briefing and a couple of warnings about dangerous sections of the course – one of them being the concrete pretty much RIGHT on the start line – he commented that it would be pretty bad to trip over literally ON the start line! There was also a downhill trail section early on with a lot of tree roots to be careful of, but that was the trickiest bit.

With Karl and Rose (Team Vegan!) at the start! Pic stolen from Karl!
Karen and I trying to blend in!

My time from last year was just over 2 hours 20, so I was hoping to improve on that this time around, although I hadn’t been doing a lot of trail/hill running recently (my main focus being the 12 hour event in mid July) so I couldn’t really expect anything too spectacular! Also, I was running with arm warmers as per usual, and my newish Garmin watch has a built-in heart rate monitor which needs to be against the skin to work, so consequently my watch was covered for pretty much the whole race. That suited me fine – it worked for me at UTA100!

Away we went at 8:00!

The start of the half marathon. Photo: K8 Photographics

Very early on in the race (before we hit the trail) fellow Adelaide runner Andy, who I had met and run with last year at Mt Gambier parkrun, commented that he had seen my post. I asked him “Which one?” thinking he was referring to a Facebook post. “The Heysen one” he replied, at which point I realised he was talking about an ACTUAL POST, the post in the field around the 60km mark on the Heysen 105, where Justin had immortalised me with a plaque to commemorate the spot where I had infamously got lost during my first Heysen! I really must get down there and visit said post – I haven’t run the 105 since the plaque was put up, so I haven’t really had any reason to go down there!

I won’t talk too much about the course itself because I covered that pretty well last time. It’s a very ‘up and down’ course, with not a lot of flat in between! I ended up walking a lot of the hills, especially the big one up to the Centenary Tower (the ‘Tower’ after which the Tower Trail Run is named!) as I felt I really couldn’t have run them any faster than I walked them.

The elevation profile. This is for the half (2 laps) and around 800m total elevation gain. A few little walk breaks in there!

We encountered a few of the marathon and ultra runners out there but they were few and far between. Probably because there were vastly more runners in the 21.1k and the 10.5k (the 10.5k didn’t start until after I’d commenced my second loop) than in the marathon and ultra. The marathon was by far the smallest – only 10 starters – probably because a lot of the runners who would previously have done the marathon would have been tempted by the prospect of running the inaugural Tower ultra!

I opted to wear my small race vest with 2 small bottles of Gatorade, as well as a couple of bars just in case, but I wasn’t expecting to need those for that distance. It wasn’t hard to slip them into the pockets of my pack and they didn’t weigh me down too much!

Love this pic, really captures the enjoyment! Photo: K8 Photographics

Around halfway through the first lap I met up with Andy again, and we would end up running pretty much the rest of the race together. It was really enjoyable, once again I hadn’t planned to run it with anyone, but it’s always nice to randomly meet up with someone along the way that is of the same pace and have great chats with them!

Unfortunately I was looking down at this point but this is a great illustration of how much I enjoyed myself out there! Photo: Darren Galwey Photographics

Have I mentioned the volunteers yet? They were FABULOUS. There were a few aid stations along the way, I didn’t need to use any of their services as I’d come prepared to be self-sufficient (as I prefer to do – I don’t like to stop if I can avoid it!) but it was always nice to see their friendly faces. The marshals were also very friendly with very clear directions so I never felt like I was in danger of getting lost (which, considering my history at Heysen as outlined earlier, is very important!). There were also HEAPS of photographers out there, and the photos were fantastic (the course is very photogenic in itself!). As I approached one photographer, my nose was running a bit (as it tends to do in the cold) and I called out “Can you please Photoshop out the snot?” to which Andy responded “Can you photoshop it IN?”

Another lovely touch was when we were approaching the end of the first loop and there was a table out in a field with lollies on it for the runners – that’s just one of those things that makes this event so special!

Other than the other runners, we kept encountering a guy called Troy, a mate of Andy’s who was out supporting. It would have been nice of him to bring a couple of ropes to tow us up the hill, but the support was appreciated nonetheless!

It was nice at the halfway mark to see the 10.5k runners waiting to start, a few familiar faces among them! They gave us a great cheer as we went past to start what Andy described as the ‘victory lap’ (We just had a ‘warmup lap’ and a ‘victory lap’. No proper racing laps!)

Towards the end of the second lap, probably with a few kms to go (I didn’t look at my watch but I knew the Tower was about 3km from the finish and we’d passed that) I started to get a bit hungry but I knew we were close enough that I would make it to the end. Still, it was good to know I had snacks if I needed them! From that point on I decided to run, even on the uphills (which weren’t too bad after the Tower) because I knew I didn’t need to conserve energy anymore!

Always good to see a funny sign out on course! This was near the start/finish area, and I will admit I didn’t get it first time around!

The second and final lap finished with a bit of a sprint when Troy reappeared to give Andy a bit of a push to the finish. This was roughly the spot where Graham and I had fought it out in an epic finish line sprint last year! It was nice to know that again I still had a bit left in my legs!

Thanks to Karen for this finish photo of some of Team Adelaide – from left, Graham, me, Kym, Wendy, Karen, Daryl and Ian (all half marathon finishers)
A few of the girls! Sandy, Fiona and Bee had all run the whole thing together! Thanks Karen for the pic!
Wendy, me, Merle and Karen showing off our bling – thanks to Karen for the pic!
There were a lot of us there from Adelaide and this wasn’t even everyone! Thanks Karen for the pic!

In the end I was a couple of minutes slower than last year, but given that I wasn’t looking at my watch, hadn’t really done a heck of a lot of trail training, and really enjoyed myself out there, I couldn’t really be disappointed!

Thanks to Phil and Nikki and all of the fantastic volunteers for making this event a highlight on my calendar – definitely got it pencilled in for next year (will be inked in once the date is confirmed!) I had planned to go to Pichi Richi but I can’t resist coming back to the Mount! I would highly recommend this event to anyone who likes a bit of trail fun and for those in Adelaide it’s a great excuse for a weekend away in a pretty fabulous location!

A post-script to the event. Last year I was unfairly branded a monster by Karen at our post-run stop at seaside Port Macdonnell, because I told her not to feed the seagulls chips until we’d all had enough. You know, because they’re pests and they won’t leave you alone if you give them one! Well Karen and Wendy decided to have their revenge this time around.

We’d finished eating so it was OK. All is good., The seagulls are happy.
‘Throw chips at Jane!’ they said. ‘The seagulls will attack her!”

But it all worked out OK in the end because one of them shat on Karen.

Karma, I say. Karma.

Race Report – Five Peaks Ultramarathon & SA Trail Running Festival

Five Peaks Ultramarathon & SA Trail Running Festival is a brand new event on the SA running calendar, organised by Trail Running SA who have been putting on awesome and incredibly popular trail running events in Adelaide and surrounds for the past few years. Five Peaks wasn’t initially on my radar, but when I realised it was 5 weeks out from UTA100, I thought it would be an ideal ‘training run’ – a training run with support throughout AND a medal at the end! The best kind of training run! And let’s face it, there are two chances of me going out and running 50+ kilometres by myself – Buckley’s and none!

I’m not sure exactly how this event came about but a couple of years ago, a few keen trail runners suggested that TRSA’s previous ‘big’ event, the Cleland SA Trail Championships, could be made into an ultramarathon by making it a 2 lap course (the long course trail champs is 24km) – no further course marking or drink stations required – a no-brainer! At the time I can clearly recall the response from TRSA being “TRSA is not in the business of ultramarathons” (or words to that effect).

At this time, the Adelaide metro region only had one trail ultramarathon, the Yurrebilla 56k. People had to venture further afield to the Flinders Ranges for the Hubert 100 or down south for the Heysen 105.

Then, last year, Yumigo! (the organiser of Heysen and Hubert) put on a ‘local’ trail ultra, the Cleland 50. By all accounts it was a pretty tough 50k! (I was going to run it, in fact I had entered, but withdrew when I realised just how tough it was going to be!) It does take in some of my favourite trails, so I’m sure I will run it one day!

And now Adelaide is really spoiled for choice, as TRSA has now decided they ARE in the business of ultramarathons, so we have 3 x 50km trail ultras in the metro region!

So I decided that I was going to run the Five Peaks. It starts at Athelstone (where the new Yurrebilla finish line is) and finishes at Belair (not quite at the Yurrebilla start line, but close!) and for a lot of the way, follows the Yurrebilla Trail. So it is kind of like a reverse Yurrebilla, with a few extra nasty little hills thrown in!

Like Yurrebilla, there were 3 organised training runs, covering the entire 58km (ish) course. The two times I had run Yurrebilla, I had never managed to fit in all the 3 training runs (probably due to those pesky marathons and associated long training runs which now are thankfully a thing of the past!) but this year, happily they all fit into my schedule quite nicely.

Now the tendency with ‘crazy ultra runners’ is to do these training runs as ‘back and outs’ or ‘out and backs’ rather than ‘point to points’. The ‘official’ training runs are point to point, with carpooling arranged so most of the cars are at the end and only a few at the start. The ‘out and back’ removes the need for carpooling and also (somewhat obviously) makes the run approximately twice as long. For my very first Yurrebilla training run in 2015, I opted to do the ‘back and out’ but other than that, one way is generally enough for me!

The advantage of ‘back and out’ versus ‘out and back’ is that you finish your run with everyone else. And at the end, there is always copious amounts of food, coffee and Coke, supplied by our wonderful supporters Mal and Merrilyn. I never liked the idea of getting to the ‘buffet’ in the knowledge that I would then need to run all the way back again! Much better to start at arse o’clock, in the dark, and be able to eat ALL OF THE FOOD!

A better option even, than ‘back and out’, is just running the one way! Which is exactly what I did for all 3 of the training runs.

Training run 1, which was approximately the first 18km of the course (Athelstone to Norton Summit), could only be described as brutal. By far the best part of that run was the refreshments afterwards! I think I may have drunk an entire 2L bottle of Coke! That run made me question everything, it made me seriously consider giving up trail running (and at times even giving up running altogether!). I ran (‘ran’ is generous – I’d say it was more than 50% walking!) with Beck and Kate. Neither of them were planning to do the event. And after that run, neither was I! But it’s funny how quickly you forget. I think by the end of that day I was as good as signed up! To be fair, that 18km section, which took us almost 3 hours, was run on a particularly hot day in February and contained 3 of the 5 peaks and over 1000m elevation gain. Plus, I’d just run a 50km ultra the week before on not much training. The heat was definitely a factor, and when the event was run in April, it would be much cooler. (Having said that, it was an unseasonal 36 degrees on the Wednesday 3 days before the event!)

Thanks to Sputnik for this pic from training run 1. Luckily you can’t see my face! I don’t think it would be a pretty sight!

I don’t really remember much about training run 2 (Norton Summit to Cleland), other than the fact it was a lot nicer than training run 1! Beck and Kate had been put off completely by training run 1, so I seem to recall I did a fair bit of it on my own. Which was good because neither of those two would be there on race day so I needed to get used to running on my own! It was around 16km with 680m of elevation gain – MUCH more civilised for a non-mountain-goat such as myself!

My one and only photo from training run 2!
Smiling faces at the end of training run 2! Thanks Gary for this photo!

Then there was training run 3, on Easter Monday, 21km on the back of a solo 23km the previous day. I figured the best way to get more distance in, and get used to ‘running on tired legs’ would be to do back to back long hilly runs, rather than try to ‘cram’ all the mileage into one run, which would probably result in a longer recovery time. It worked really well – I was pretty stiff on Tuesday but back to normal programming by Thursday! That run was the nicest of the lot, only 500m of climb (just the one ‘peak’) and some spectacular views over the city.

How’s that for a view? During training run 3 – I think the best view of the whole 58k Five Peaks course!

Not that you can read too much into training runs, but if you combined my times for the 3 training runs (bearing in mind that on the first training run we probably cut out about 1-2km of extra little loops) it all added up to 7 hours 10 minutes. Now I had been told that Five Peaks would be harder than Yurrebilla, so I should expect to be about 20 minutes slower than my Yurrebilla time. My best YUM time (and indeed the only time I’d run the ‘proper’ course) was 7:07, so somewhere around 7½ hours would be the best case scenario. Conservatively I thought somewhere between 7 and 8 hours should be around the mark.

The elevation profile. Pretty sure I can count more than five peaks!

I had opted for the 7am start (the other options were 6am and 8am). 7am was the best option for me – 6am would necessitate a 4:45am bus from Belair (so probably around 4:15am leaving home!) plus I may well get to the drink stations before they open. 8am was the ‘racing’ group – you had to start in that group if you wanted to be a podium contender. As I knew I wasn’t going to be a podium contender, starting at 8am would only mean I would be one of the slowest in that group and would end up running most of the day on my own. The extra hour’s sleep was not enough to make that a good option for me!

After the final training run, I went out for one last trail hitout on the Sunday before the race. I went with my usual haunt (Chambers) and just did the one loop, but pushed it reasonably hard. Tuesday was a regular road running day and I cut it a bit short but again tried to pick up the pace. I decided not to run after that until race day – I walked on Thursday instead of my usual run, and had the luxury of a Friday sleep-in!

After my walk on Thursday I had a twinge in my left knee, patellofemoral joint to be precise, which was not something I had experienced in a long time. I expected it was just the dreaded ‘taperitis’ and that all would be good come race day. However come Friday it was still there and more noticeable going down the stairs at work, and sitting down and standing up. I wasn’t expecting to have to do much sitting down or standing up during the race, but going downhill WAS something I knew I would be doing, and in fact it was the one thing I knew I could do well (being a bit slow on the uphills!) So I decided to try taping my patella, which seemed to do the trick – instant relief!

I packed all my gear the night before, as my alarm was set for 4:30 as it was. There was the option of having a drop bag at Drink Station 3 (approximately the halfway mark) and I decided to leave a spare pair of shoes and socks in there as well as a spare T-shirt and arm warmers, and a bit of food. The forecast was for a fair bit of rain. I had never changed shoes and/or socks during a race before, but I figured it was better to have them there and not need them, than vice versa!

The only difference to my ‘usual’ race kit was a pair of gaiters from Groovy Gaitors – purchased specifically to match my T-shirt! At the last training run I had had a few rocks in my shoes so I thought my run would be a bit more comfortable without that! Plus, the gaiters look cool (most importantly!)

I arrived at Belair Country Club in the dark and rain at 5:30am. Although we were starting at 7 (when it would be light), a headlamp would have been useful if only for the walk from the car to the bus! I ended up walking to the bus with a guy who arrived around the same time, he thought it was bus stop 27B where the bus was picking us up. I was a bit suspicious when we got to said bus stop and there was no-one there, let alone any buses! He checked and it was actually bus stop 27A! We made our way there and onto the bus where I sat next to Hoa, who was also going for a 7-8 hour finish. She was doing Five Peaks, followed in a few weeks by the Hubert 100 miler, then UTA in 5 weeks (but ‘only’ the 50k!).

The bus trip seemed interminable, for some reason we went through the city, and consequently we arrived at the start line at Athelstone a bit late, meaning there was really just enough time to collect our bibs and have a last toilet stop before we were summoned to the start line to listen to the briefing by Race Director Claire and timing guy Malcolm.

Thanks as always to Gary for this photo with Hoa and myself (and nice photobomb by Kate!)
All smiles at the start line with Hoa and Kate!

After it had stopped raining during the bus ride from Belair to Athelstone, it started again JUST as we were about to start, so I quickly got out my light rain jacket and put it on.

I was fully expecting the first section to be nasty – as it had taken me 3 hours to get to Norton Summit in the training run, my goal was to get to Norton within 2.5 hours. Some of the hills were definitely not runnable, but I would power hike those, and run all the downhills and flats.

In the first training run, which contained 3 of the 5 peaks, Kate, Beck and I had decided not to run any of the ‘out and back’ diversions as we felt the run was long and hard enough as it was! Consequently these were a bit of a surprise in the event itself. It was a nice touch – at each of the Five Peaks, there would be a sign we had to run around saying the name and number of the peak. Peak 1 (Black Hill) was at 5km. I jokingly said to whoever was around me at the time, “So if we’ve done 1 peak out of 5, does that mean we’re 1/5 of the way there?”

Umm, no.

Thanks to Sputnik for this great pic. I’m not sure exactly where this was but I think it was quite early on.

There was a drink station around the 5km mark – just as we were about to start the climb up Chapman’s Track (one of the unrunnable bits!). I didn’t need anything at that stage, but Hoa, who I’d been going back and forth with in the first little bit, needed to top up her water. She would smash me going up the hills but then I’d usually catch up with her on the downs. She didn’t take long to catch up with me after refilling and it wasn’t too long before she powered past me and I didn’t see her again until the finish line!

The fabulous vollies at DS1. Thanks to all the vollies who endured challenging conditions to give us the opportunity to run in this event! Photo is from the official Trail Running SA race photographer.

Walking up Chapman’s, it had stopped raining so I took the opportunity to take off my jacket and try to put it back in my pack. Turns out it’s pretty hard to stuff a damp rain jacket into a not-very-big pack while walking uphill and trying not to trip over on a pretty rocky track! A lot of people passed me while I was trying to do this, and eventually I gave up and stopped for a minute to put it away.

A rare pic of me without a rain jacket on! Official TRSA photo.

While we had a break in the weather and I was walking anyway, I decided why not take a few photos rather than rely on other people to illustrate my blog!

The only two photos I took during the race are quite cool unless you look too closely in which case you’ll see they’re quite blurry! This pic is looking up the hill, with Jon (in blue with the poles) and Jess (closest to camera), who I would later run with on and off throughout the day. The picture really doesn’t do the hill justice!
I quite like this picture too, from a distance! In this pic is Jai who I would be walking with shortly after this!

For a little while on Chapmans I was walking with Jai and Tim, who seemed to be having WAY too much fun! Jai was suggesting that windscreen wipers for his sunglasses would be useful – I suggested that maybe sunglasses were not needed on a day like this! (Indeed I was not wearing sunnies in a race for the first time in a long time – I had them in my pack but did not end up using them at all!) Like other people throughout the day, I’d be with them for a while, then they’d get away, I’d catch up again, and they’d get away again. It was a nice distraction but by the time I stopped briefly at Drink Station 2 at Norton Summit, they were long gone!

Just before we reached Norton Summit, we had to run on the road for a bit. As I approached the road I could hear a familiar voice calling my name – it was Ziad, who is often the course sweeper/trail demarker but today was a road marshal. He directed me onto the road and told me as always to “Keep smiling” and “Have fun!”

I was pretty happy when the markers directed us off the road and back onto the trail – I don’t much like running on non-closed roads, especially in trail shoes! I caught up with Jim, one of the 6am starters with whom I’d had a long chat about this event at a SA Road Runners Club social event during the week, and he seemed to be travelling OK. I had just passed him when I reached a fence with a closed gate, I pushed the gate only to find it was padlocked! I couldn’t see a way around, so the only option seemed to be to jump the fence! I wondered how the fast 8am runners would feel about having to jump a fence – I bet that wasn’t in anyone’s race plan! We both climbed over the fence – thankfully the only bit of fence climbing we’d have to do for the day!

As I mentioned earlier, there was over 1000m elevation in the first 18km of the run. (Norton Summit was ‘Peak 3’) That was almost half of the overall elevation gain, in less than 1/3 of the distance! Mentally, I knew that once I got to Norton Summit, half the battle was over! And I made it in just under 2.5 hours, as I had hoped. I didn’t linger long – just long enough to fill up one of my bottles with water. I was carrying 2 bottles of Gatorade and no water, and I’d drunk one of my bottles of Gatorade. I had Gatorade powder in my pack, but I couldn’t be bothered taking off my pack to get it out at this stage. Besides, it was only 9km to the next drink station where I would definitely be stopping. One bottle of Gatorade SHOULD be enough, and I had a bottle of water as a backup. I do prefer to drink Gatorade rather than water, most of the time during runs.

For a while I was running with Jon and Jess, Jon using hiking poles, and Jess doing his first ultra. They both seemed to be going pretty well, and I must admit I could have done with some poles on some of the earlier climbs!

It took me a good hour to do the 7km from Norton Summit to Coach Road, which was almost the halfway mark. During this time I was overtaken by a girl who I assumed was one of the fast 8am starters, as she passed me apparently quite effortlessly! I was chatting to her, and Jon and Jess, about the merits of changing shoes and socks at Coach Road. I was agonising over it for probably the last 5km of that section – given that there would likely be more rain, and existing unavoidable puddles, was it worth taking the time to change into dry shoes that would soon be wet? Jon didn’t think it was worth it, and none of the people I talked to had spare shoes anyway, but I kept thinking about it and by the time I reached the drink station I had decided that I was going to change. There was water sloshing around inside my shoes, my socks were saturated, and I figured I’d be on the fast track to Blisterville if I kept those socks on for the rest of the day! Even if my dry shoes and socks got wet, at least they would be dry for a short period! And with less rain forecast in the afternoon than in the morning, there was a chance I might remain relatively dry!

I collected my drop bag and took everything out – spare Gatorade powder, an extra sandwich, and all my dry clothing. I changed T-shirts and arm warmers, and quickly put my light rain jacket back on because of course it was raining again! No sense putting on a dry top only for it to get wet while I was in the process of changing my shoes! The cycling gloves which I like to wear in trail races to protect my hands in case I fall over, were completely drenched. After having taken them off and wrung them out, I didn’t fancy putting them back on again. Into the drop bag they went. The T-shirt I had been wearing at the start was so wet that I think I could have bypassed the drink station and filled my drink bottle by wringing it out!

As I was changing my shoes, a lot of runners went past me. I didn’t time how long I spent at the drink station, but I was convinced that any time ‘wasted’ on changing shoes would be time well spent, if it meant making the second half of the race more comfortable! I managed to change shoes and socks while still standing up (I don’t like sitting down during a race – it’s too hard to get back up and going again!) While I was changing shoes one of the 6am starters, Belinda, was umming and ahhing about whether or not to change her shoes. I told her in no uncertain terms “Do it!”. She did, and I hoped that my advice turned out to be good!

After my wardrobe change I went to top up my drink bottles and have my first Coke for the day. TRSA have a ‘no cups’ policy which meant that runners needed to bring their own receptacles (bottles, cups etc) for drinks. It’s a great initiative and everyone seemed to be well prepared. With the strong winds, plastic cups would have blown away anyway! As well as Coke I had a couple of Maurice’s delicious vegan brownies to fuel the next section of my run!

There was still a fair bit of climbing to come. With storms the previous day, and strong winds throughout the race, there were plenty of fallen tree branches creating potential trip hazards. Or, in my case, potential makeshift ‘hiking poles’! I think on 3 occasions I picked up a sturdy branch to help me up some of the hills, and then ditched them once I could see level or downhill trail ahead!

OK now I will admit that maybe I didn’t read the briefing document as diligently as I should have. The second training run ended at Cleland, which was also the start line for the 22km run. Although I had printed out a list of drink stations with estimated timings based on different race times, I had incorrectly assumed that the next drink station would be at Cleland.

The next ‘Peak’ was Mount Lofty, Adelaide’s highest point. The Waterfall Gully to Mount Lofty hike is an extremely popular walking trail especially on the weekends. It is sometimes (perhaps unkindly) referred to as the ‘Lorna Jane Highway’, in reference to the plethora of activewear-clad ladies who go there to take Insta-worthy selfies and generally be seen. On a day like this though, it was only the hardcore crazies who were out there. By that, I mean participants in the Five Peaks, and a few intrepid others! It made a nice change!

Just before Mount Lofty I saw a familiar face with a camera at the top of Pillbox Track – it was Bek, who I’d been chatting with a few days before, she’d told me where she was marshalling, and I told her I hoped I’d be smiling when I saw her!

And I was!

At Lofty, as per the previous peaks, we had to do a lap around the ‘Peak 4’ sign, which meant running around the big arse white monument and checking out the view. On a clear day, Mount Lofty is a pretty good place to get a great view over the city (once you’ve elbowed all the other view-seekers out of the way), although on this particular occasion it was pretty misty (I had predicted a complete white out, so I was pleasantly surprised to be able to see anything!). As I got to the monument I noticed a gazebo there, and after having run past it, I realised it was a drink station! Not until much later did I realise this WAS, in fact, Drink Station 4! This was the 31km mark. The last drink station had been at 25km and as it turned out my next opportunity to refill would not be until the final drink station at 44km. That’s a long time between drinks (pun intended!) but fortunately due to the cool conditions I managed to get by quite comfortably!

Not long after Lofty we got to Cleland where TRSA committee member Murray was getting the start line set up for the 22km, I reckon this was just before midday. For some reason I had in my head that I ran the last training run in under 2 hours so if I could reach Cleland within 5 hours I was a chance of a sub 7 hour finish which would be phenomenal! I later realised that it was actually the SECOND training run that I had done in under 2 hours. 22km of trails in under 2 hours would have taken some doing!

Possibly around this point, or maybe a bit earlier, was when I started running with Damian, who I hadn’t run with before but who had finished just behind me in my last Heysen 105 (coincidentally my last trail ultra, 18 months ago) and was also doing UTA100 (for the first time) this year. It was great to have someone to run with consistently, we didn’t run the whole of the rest of the race together but we were never far apart, and we ran quite long sections of it together. We had plenty to chat about! Also with us at this stage was Jon – Jess had gone on ahead and ended up doing a smashing time for his first ultra! Jon was trying to convince us to do the Wonderland run in the Grampians – he prefers smaller events rather than big ones like UTA! (When I asked him if he’d ever done UTA he quickly said “No, too big!”) I must admit he did make it sound pretty appealing…

While running with Jon he mentioned Kent, a Mount Barker parkrunner, regular parkrun tourist, SA Statesman (a fair effort considering SA now has 23 parkruns, more than double the number we had when I was a Statesman, and with 2 more to come before the end of this month!) and generally Very. Fast. Runner. (This is the guy who did the parkrun double on New Year’s Day last year – 5k at 7:30am, then RAN the 23k to the second parkrun and was there in time for the 9:30am start!) Jon said he had been trying to convince him to do a trail ultra and over time he went from “No” to “Maybe” to “Where do I sign up?” He was in the 8:00 (speedy) group, doing his first ultra.

Not long after this we hit the old Mount Barker Road, where we were directed to run in the bike lane. This is a very popular route for cyclists, being quite a challenging climb, on a relatively quiet road, with the bike lane being physically separated from the traffic. We were running down, not up, so we would be running towards the bikes, and therefore it would be relatively easy for us to jump out of the way. Except, on a rainy and windy day, the road was devoid of cyclists so we had the bike lane all to ourselves! Luxury!

About 1km down the road we crossed over and back onto the trails again. Here I saw Kent’s parents, and asked them how far away he was, to which they replied, “He’s right behind you!” And not far down the trail he and his bright orange shorts went cruising past me, looking fresh as a daisy! Not bad for a first ultra!

Around the same time I caught up with Luke, another one of the 8am starters, who I’d gone back and forth with a few times since he first passed me. When I approached him I saw something sticking out of his mouth and for a split second I thought he was having a smoke! Of course he wasn’t, it was just a Chupa Chup (a kind of lollipop in case you’re not familiar!) I thought if I could hang on to him for a while I would be doing OK. Sure, he was an hour ahead of me but he DID finish 3rd at the Adelaide Marathon last year so to be ‘only’ an hour behind him was pretty good in my book!

Then came possibly the best moment of the race for me, we were running through a cow paddock and the cows were just hanging out, they didn’t seem bothered by all us runners! Fortunately there was a photographer right here so she managed to capture some pretty cool shots of us with the cows!

Getting up close and personal with the locals! Thanks to Bec Lee for this photo (official TRSA photographer)

Not long after this was that spot where I took that stunning panoramic shot 2 weeks ago. Safe to say it didn’t look quite like that on this particular occasion, and I wasn’t going to stop to take a photo of it this time around! Fortunately it had stopped raining by this stage but the wind was as strong as ever, I was being blown sideways!

Soon we reached the steep cement driveway that led down to McElligott’s Quarry and the final drink station. Lining the driveway were a whole lot of cheering people in onesies, who seemed to be having a LOT of fun – it was great to see at this late stage in the race! Also on the driveway I saw Kent’s parents, and his mum Karen offered to take my rain jacket, which by now I was holding in my hand. I had planned to put it in my pack when I reached the drink station, but I gratefully accepted Karen’s offer, handed over the jacket and kept running! I quickly topped up my Gatorade with the help of Laura and the other volunteers, grabbed a brownie and a handful of chips, and away I went!

In the latter stages I caught up with Damian again, and also went back and forth with Emily, and also with Kay, who I’d seen at the start and then at DS3. We seemed to go back and forth quite a few times! Turned out Emily was actually a 7am starter, not 8am as I’d thought! Damian and I were running together most of the time, and we’d pass Kay, and then we’d walk for a bit, and she’d come powering past, then we’d pass her again, and so on!

The last big climb was up the Pony Ridge switchbacks (which, when run in reverse, are my favourite part of Yurrebilla) but not before another seemingly endless section of road, along Brownhill Creek Road. Kay was ahead of us at this stage, we were walking but trying to keep up a good pace. 7.5 hours was still a possibility but we couldn’t afford to waste any time if that was going to happen!

Probably around the 50km mark my Garmin watch started to show ‘Low Battery’ – I suspect my watch is on the way out, as I have previously got through Yurrebilla with plenty of juice left in the battery. I quickly got my phone out and started to record the run directly onto Strava, in case my watch died completely!

On Pony Ridge Road, just as we were about to enter Belair National Park, we saw TRSA committee member David, who advised us we only had 3km to go! Looking at our watches we couldn’t see how that was possible – it had to be at least 5km!

The next milestone was the Echo Tunnel, which had reportedly been lit up like a Christmas tree! Before we hit Echo Tunnel there was a sign saying “2km to go!” Well I’ll tell you, if that was true, it was the longest 2km I’ve ever done!

The tunnel had been unofficially renamed “Steve’s Tunnel” after TRSA committee member Steve who had done the lighting work!

Pic stolen from Gary – thanks Steve for making it so much easier to get through the tunnel with the fairy lights along the edge and lights along the walls!

After coming through the tunnel, I was passed by Erin, one of the 8am starters, and decided, given that there were less than 2km to go, to try to stick with her all the way to the finish. Her bright pink shorts made it easy to follow her! I left the rest of them (Damian, Kay and Emily) behind and just went for it! It’s a nice feeling to be able to finish a race strong and have a nice little kick at the end, even after 50+km!

It seemed to take forever but finally I got there! In the end I was only 17 seconds behind Erin (well, 1 hour and 17 seconds actually!). I almost forgot to get my medal! Imagine that!

But I didn’t forget to stop my Garmin! It lasted the distance but the battery died minutes later. This is a still shot from my finish line video (hence the low res!)

My time was around 7 hours 31, so based on my pre-race predictions, about as good as I could have hoped! Damian ended up a few minutes behind me, with Emily and Kay not far behind.

With Damian at the end of our UTA100 training run!

With about 3 hours before cutoff time, I grabbed my chair and blanket, a cider and a Coke and settled in to watch the rest of the finishers! Thanks to Wendy who went and got my drop bags for me so I didn’t have to get up!

Thanks to Kay for this pic – me all rugged up like a Nanna with cider in hand!
Another Gary photo – this time with Kate, who had exceeded her expectations, and is currently training for the Hubert 100 miler in a few weeks!

It was great to see all the people cross the line, including some very fast 22km and 12km runners! The finish line atmosphere was fantastic, with food trucks and even a bar! (Even though the Indian place didn’t have any vegan curry, which I had been looking forward to for at least the second half of the race!)

And I got to be part of another Ali selfie – Karen (in the front) and I both did the 58km and Ali, Libby, James and Sharaze did the 22km.

Towards cutoff time I got to see Kim and Kym, two very well known trail running identities, cross the line together.

Kym and Kim just after crossing the line, being congratulated by Race Director Claire (in the hi-viz)

I ended up leaving just after the 5:30 cutoff time, as it started raining again and I had curry on the brain!

It was a very long day but it would had to have been an even longer day for the volunteers. They would have been there hours before me, and probably hours after I left. Some of them were standing in the rain and wind all day. Also some of them were out on Friday in even worse conditions, marking the course! (And impeccably I might add. I had downloaded the GPX file of the course and an offline maps app ‘just in case’ but at no stage did I even consider using it!)

So, huge congratulations to Race Director Claire and all of the TRSA committee for getting this event off the ground. After not really wanting to do it, and really only entering because it would be a great lead-in to UTA100, I absolutely loved it and would definitely do it again! It’s a tough ultra, tougher than Yurrebilla for sure, so if you’re planning to do it, definitely don’t expect it to be an easy one, but SUCH a fantastic course! And the 22km is a great option for people who don’t fancy the ultra distance and/or like a bit of a sleep-in! There’s also the 12km which still has almost 300m of elevation gain so it’s not exactly City to Bay!

And of course the volunteers were wonderful – aid stations, marshals, course markers, setting up and packing up – the list is endless! THANK YOU to every single one of you!

Last but not least, well done to everyone who ran, special congratulations for all those who did their first ultra – hopefully you’re now hooked and I’ll see you out on the trails again soon! And special thanks to all the people I ran with along the way, you certainly helped to make it a truly memorable day!

Race Report – Yumigo! Summer Trail Series Race 4 – Newland Head

Today was the 4th and final race in the 2017-2018 Yumigo! Summer Trail Series. The races are held once a month over the summer months (so it’s not just a clever name!) and this was the 3rd one I had run this season. You can read all about Race 1 at Anstey Hill and Race 3 at O’Halloran Hill if you’re keen!

Race 4, in the time I’ve been trail running, has been held at Newland Head, near Victor Harbor (where I was last Sunday and will be again next Sunday!), a nice 90 minute drive from Adelaide. This was the last year it would be held at Newland Head, as from next year it will be somewhere closer to Adelaide! I actually quite like a bit of a road trip and despite the early start, I think I’m going to miss it!

The weather forecast was looking a bit gnarly. In fact, a fairly large cycling event, the Coast To Coast, was supposed to be held today but was cancelled yesterday due to forecast dangerous conditions. When it comes to trail running, a little mud and rain never hurt anyone, so I was quite looking forward to a mudbath! (Plus, hopefully the weather might put off some of the competition!)

I did plan my clothing accordingly – I didn’t want to wear anything that would be ruined by mud! So, all black on the bottom half as usual (although I did brighten it up with some hot pink long socks!) and for some inexplicable reason I had decided to wash my trail shoes after my last run, so they looked brand new! (OK I like them to be nice and clean at the start of a race – rarely are they that way by the end!) I wore an old favourite, the pink top I’d run my first 3 marathons in, and my original arm warmers, which I’d purchased in Liverpool the day before my first marathon. I was expecting it to be cold in the morning so I also threw a buff into my bag, to wear as an ear warmer. A full change of clothes and 2 rain jackets also made the journey – gotta be prepared for anything!

I set my alarm for 5am, planning to leave around 5:50 to get there a good 40-45 minutes before race start at 8:15. (The race was originally meant to start at 8, but a last minute change was forced by a 15 minute detour on one of the roads leading to the event. So instead of having to leave home 15 minutes earlier, we started 15 minutes later – thanks to Race Director Ben for that!

It rained a little bit on the way down there, and there had been a fair bit of rain overnight, but it was looking pretty clear by the time I arrived. It was windy though! A couple of the gazebos threatened to blow away!

A few extra volunteers were needed today, to hold the gazebos down so they didn’t blow away!

It is really a spectacular part of the world. One of my all time favourite bits of trail is the section of the Heysen Trail between Newland Head and King Head. That is a pretty technical section and probably not suitable for a race with a large number of participants, but definitely worth checking out if you want some challenging trail along with some spectacular scenery – just make sure you stop to admire the view, don’t try to admire it AND run at the same time, it won’t end well for you!

Weather looking pretty good at the start!

I went to take a photo of the ocean before we started. On the way back to the start area, sweeper and course demarker Ziad told me to go back so he could take a photo for me with me in it! After a few photos from different angles, we headed back and literally almost ran into a big f***er of a kangaroo bounding across the path, I’m not sure if anyone else saw him but he had to be at least 6 feet tall!

She was a windy old morning! Thanks Ziad for this pic!

As mentioned earlier, I had brought 2 rain jackets, one light one which I was only wearing to block out some of the chill before the start, and a proper one in case it actually rained. (Fortunately the rain never eventuated!) So when it came to getting ready for the race, I was able to leave the jacket and my buff in the car, and put on my hat, sunnies and small race vest. I was ‘only’ running the short course, which was meant to be 11.5km (but as all trail runners know, distances in trail running are a guide only!) so I wasn’t expecting to need much in terms of nutrition and hydration. All I had was 500mL of Gatorade and a Clif bar (which I was planning to have at the end).

I didn’t see my ‘nemesis’ Jenny at the start, but didn’t think much of that as she had probably already sewn up her age group series win, and with the weather forecast as well as the long drive, I suspected a lot of people would not be making the trip today. (To be eligible for an age group series placing, you had to run at least 3 of the 4 races, and I knew Jenny had run all of the first 3 races)

As with all the previous races, the short and long course runners all started together, and the bulk of our 11.5km course was identical to the first part of the long (19km) course. Consequently, unless I asked, I wouldn’t know whether other runners were in the short or long course, until our paths separated around the 8km mark! It didn’t matter though, I would just assume every female I encountered was a) running the short course and b) in my age group. (Not that I was worried about age group placings anymore – having missed Race 2 at Cleland and finished 4th in my age group at O’Halloran, I was pretty certain that train had sailed!)

RD Ben described the course as ‘flattish’. Where the previous races had included some challenging hills, the challenge here was more in the terrain than the elevation (lots of sand, tree roots and rocky sections). I had actually run this event before, 2 years ago, (the long course) so I had a fair idea of what to expect. Strava tells me there was an elevation gain of 190m which is not huge for a trail race.

Thanks to David Fielding Photography for this photo, taken near the start line! There’s me on the far right.

It started a bit uphill, in fact looking at the elevation map the first 3km were pretty much all uphill, but again, not particularly steep and very runnable. I was averaging about 5:20 per km over that first 3km. I had no idea where I was placed, given that I didn’t know which runners were doing the short course, and also I hadn’t paid attention to how many runners started ahead of me. I was pretty much just running my own race!

Hills? What hills?

Probably around 3-4km (I was making a conscious effort not to look at my watch too much, because I wanted to keep an eye on where I was putting my feet!) I started running with Steve, who was doing the long course. He was about the only person I ran with in this event, so it was nice to have the distraction for a few kilometres! We chatted about what events we had coming up, and about ultras we’d done in the past. It’s always good to be able to have a little chat while in a race – I guess you could say that if we were chatting then we weren’t running hard enough, but I didn’t really see it that way! One thing I did say was that I was hoping to finish the race in less time than it took me to drive down! I didn’t really have a time in mind – I guessed somewhere around the hour would be a pretty good time! (There wasn’t much chance of Steve finishing in less time than it took him to drive there – I think he said it was about a 45 minute drive and he was doing the 19km!)

Around 5km was the only time during the race where I actually had to stop running. I didn’t walk, I literally had to stop for maybe about 10 seconds because I somehow got tangled up in a loop of wire that had come loose from a fence. I wasn’t able to just kick it off, I had to stop and remove it. Luckily there was no damage done (luckily I wasn’t running very fast!) and I tossed the wire over near the fence, where hopefully no-one else would trip on it! Of all the things I was looking out for, a rogue piece of wire was NOT on the list!

A few people passed me while I was disentangling myself, but I did eventually catch up with and pass them. I caught up with Steve again after a while and we ran together again until the drink station where we were sent in opposite directions. From there I was following a guy in a Heysen 105 buff who was running at just the right pace for me to sit a couple of metres behind him. I’m not sure if he realised he was pacing me but he did a great job!

The course was beautifully marked, thanks to Denis and anyone else who was involved in marking it yesterday! One thing I wasn’t expecting but came as a nice surprise was kilometre markers. Ben had told us about this at the pre-race briefing, and there were different colour coded markers for the different distances (red for short, blue for long), but he had said that if we saw a blue kilometre marker on the short course, not to be alarmed and think we’d taken a wrong turn! (Even after the two courses separated, there was some overlap of the courses later). I’m glad he did say that because at one point I saw (I think) a blue 12km marker and then probably 500m later I saw a 15km one!

I got to the red 10km marker (definitely the short course 10km marker!) so it was around 1.5km to go. I passed my pacer and started to accelerate a bit. (It was, literally, practically all downhill from there!)

I saw, up ahead in the distance, a peach coloured top with a backpack on, attached to a pair of legs in capri pants. Now I don’t want to get into gender stereotyping here, but I had to assume it was a female. And I had to assume she was in my age group. I already knew she was in the short course – none of the long course runners had passed me. So all that was left to do was to try to catch her!

Thanks to David Fielding Photography for this photo, taken near the finish line!

I had a sneaky look behind, while on a section of trail that was not too technical. No sense ruining it all by falling over at this late stage! I couldn’t see anyone, so I thought I was safe from attack from behind! I wondered if the runner I was currently pursuing, had any idea that I was there!

It was pretty windy by this stage. I wasn’t breathing all that heavily, and although I tend to be pretty heavy on my feet, especially when I get a bit tired, I was confident that she wouldn’t be able to hear my footsteps. I could barely hear my own footsteps or breathing over the howling of the wind! (OK maybe that’s a slight exaggeration but you get the idea!)

Due to the high winds, there was no finishing arch today. Consequently we wouldn’t know when we were nearly at the finish line, until we were actually nearly there! (Normally you can see the arch from a few hundred metres out, signifying that it’s time to start the sprint!)

I saw the gazebos, miraculously still standing after almost blowing away at the start, and I was steadily making gains on the UFR (Unidentified Female Runner). I thought what the hell, let’s go for it! So I sprinted.

Approximately one metre from the finish line, she must have heard me, turned around and saw me literally RIGHT THERE, swore (just the S word mind you!) and finished strong to hold me off by about half a second.

Then she turned around to see who it was, and I realised it was Jenny, she was there after all, having arrived with just minutes to spare before the start! I had run with her a bit during Ansteys and back and forth at O’Halloran, but I’d never been that close at the end! I actually would have felt like a bit of a bitch if I’d passed her, mainly because I’m sure if she’d had any idea I was there, she would have picked up the pace much earlier and beaten me by a much bigger margin!

Congrats Jenny on today and the series! Just that little bit too good for me! 🙂

Still, it was kind of cool to do a sprint finish at the end of a somewhat challenging 11.5km and to almost pull it off, against someone who is significantly faster than me on a good day, certainly makes for a good story! (And let’s face it, who wants to read a race report that goes “Started. Ran well throughout. Finished comfortably”?)

Gotta love a nice little kick at the end!

After catching my breath I got myself an EXCELLENT coffee from the Stir coffee van (I have to give them a plug because it’s the first coffee van I’ve been to that makes a proper long black!) and caught up with the other runners, including meeting Sally, who I can only assume won our age group (having finished 3rd overall today). And of course there was the obligatory photo with Gary, who had also run the short course today. (Seriously, where would my race reports be without you, Gary? Never change!)

Gary and I looking pristine AFTER the run, with Stir coffee van in the background!

Then we hung around and watched the presentations for the short and long courses (the male winner of the 19km did it in about 75 minutes. That’s moving!) and finally the bit we were all waiting for – the random prize draw! After a slow start (you have to be there when your name is called to be a winner, and a lot of people were being called out who had already left), one by one the prizes were all given out. I didn’t win anything today but Denis kindly gave me the sparkly gaiters he’d won, at the end of the presentation. I actually thought they would have suited him but was happy to accept the gift – secretly I thought they’d probably look better on me!)

One of the best finish line moments (apart from Jenny’s and mine, of course) of the day happened during the prize draw. Quite a few of the long course runners were still out there, and as they finished, Ben paused reading out the names so we could all cheer them on. It was a nice touch! Anyway, one girl got to within about a metre of the finish line and then just stopped. We wondered what was going on but she said she was waiting for someone, they were going to finish together. Several more runners came through while she was waiting but then there she was, her mum coming up over the hill and joined her for a memorable finish! Well done to Michelle and Chloe!

Then it came time for the huge job of packing everything up and into Ben’s 4WD and trailer – I’m amazed at how much stuff goes into these events, and I hate unpacking my car at the end of a race, and for me it’s only my personal race gear! I hate to imagine the job Ben has to unpack his car after an event!

Thanks as always to RD Ben for putting on another great event, and for once actually organising GOOD weather for us! (Amazingly enough, I did not have a spot of dirt on me at the end – not even on my shoes!) And of course to the wonderful volunteers – I hate to name names because I’m bound to forget someone but here are just a few that I know of: Ziad, Sheena, Denis, Justin, Robbie, Kim, Simon and Graeme.

Well done to everyone who made the journey down despite (or perhaps because of!) the forecast nasty weather! It was a great day to farewell Newland Head from the Summer Trail Series, and to end the season on a high note!

Race Report – Yumigo! Summer Trail Series Race 3 – O’Halloran Hill

This weekend was the 3rd of 4 races in the Yumigo! Summer Trail Series. I had previously run the first race at Anstey Hill but missed Race 2 due to being on my way home from Thredbo! For the first time, this summer, I planned to run 3 of the 4 races in the series (my previous best being 2) with a view to trying to crack a Top 3 age group placing!

I’d never run this event before but did volunteer 2 years ago – what a fun night that was!

So, this month, before Sunday’s race, I had done quite a bit of trail running.

There was a 3 hour epic a couple of weeks back (that was only 17km!) – the first training run for the new 5 Peaks Ultramarathon which I vowed several times during the training run I was DEFINITELY NOT going to do. By the end of that day I was asking “When does earlybird entry close?” So yeah, I’m pretty much signed up for that one!

Last weekend I doubled up, doing my own personal favourite trail training run – the Chambers loop plus an extra smaller loop. This run is my favourite because it’s close to home, I can run it without any danger of getting lost, and post-run coffee and vegan Snickers at Basecamp Cafe makes it all worthwhile!) Later that day I did the Morialta Special Grand Loop as I’ve entered a Strava challenge and up until then I’d only run/walked it once as a reccy run, but had not actually posted a ‘proper’ run. I may or may not have run that whole thing with my phone in my hand, closely following the map!

And during last week I did the annual ‘Pub Run’, a run of about 9km uphill to the pub, a refreshment stop, and a nice 11km downhill back to the start. That was really enjoyable except that Norton Summit Road, normally favoured by cyclists because most cars take the Old Norton Summit Road, was overrun with motorists with the Old road being closed! Damn cars, ruining my run!

Friday morning’s run was great too, it was a regular Friday route up ‘The Big Kahuna’, officially named Mt Osmond Centre Track. Centre Track is pretty steep. It’s runnable in that you can run up it, but in that you could probably walk it twice as fast as I ran it. For the first time EVER I extended this run to go all the way to the old Mt Barker Road (which is what the fast people do, so they don’t get back to the start HOURS before the rest of us!)

Before Sunday, I had accumulated 4000m of elevation in February. That’s a LOT for me, who for a very long time avoided hills like the plague!

I did parkrun on Saturday, Mount Barker being quite a fast course (probably the fastest current parkrun in SA but I’m prepared to be proven wrong on that!) I had to remind myself that I wasn’t ‘racing’ this time. That was made a lot easier by my seeing Lisa, Sarah and Coralie at the start, effectively ruling out any chance of my getting a top 3 finish, even if I ran close to my PB! It was also great to see my friend Donna finally do her first parkrun, and I’m pretty sure she’s hooked, already talking about where we’re going to run next week!

With the start of the race being at 7:30am, I was aiming to leave home at 6:15am to be there by 7. There was a slight snafu with my navigation there. I’ve done the drive down the expressway more times than I care to remember, but on most occasions I’ve gone all the way to the end of the expressway. Only a couple of times have I exited before the end. I had had a look at the directions the night before, and had somehow missed one crucial part of the directions which involved taking an exit. As I was driving down the expressway, thankfully I was paying attention to the names of the roads I was driving under (which I don’t normally do!) and noticed that I was driving under Majors Road – which I was actually supposed to be ON! Luckily I’d factored in PLENTY of time to get there so I took the next exit and made it to the start just on 7am! Must pay more attention next time!

The setup at O’Halloran Hill was great, everything was nice and close together, even the car parking wasn’t too much of a hike! I did end up in the portaloo that didn’t flush, but at least that was at the START of the day – I can only imagine what it must have been like by the end!

As always there were a lot of friends there (including quite a few that I didn’t even get to catch up with!) so the time leading up to the start went pretty quickly!

First up was the kids’ race, a new thing this season, to encourage the kids to get into trail running! Many of the older kids already do the events but it was great to see some of the younger ones getting involved, look out for more kids running with the ‘big kids’ in future years!

The short (13ish km) and long (18ish km) courses started together and there was no distinction between the two on the bibs. We would all run together for the first 12km and then we’d split. By then we (smart) short course runners would be nearly done!

I was a little concerned with the comment in the race briefing about it being a tricky course and easy to get lost. I’m pretty good at getting lost, but I’m not good at following maps, so studying the course would be of little value to me!

I had what was by now a fairly standard race kit. I’d decided on a pink theme today, even though my trail shoes are blue and purple. Pink socks, top and hat, as well as a pink buff around my neck. I wouldn’t normally run a short race like this with a buff on (unless it was particularly cold) but it became necessary because I had some pretty epic chafing on the back of my neck from trying out my new wetsuit during the week (which, other than this little problem, went perfectly!). Last thing I wanted was to get any sun on it! Hence the buff!

At the start line I was chatting with Jenny who had just been celebrating her son’s 18th so had had a pretty late night! She was talking down her chances, suggesting that I might beat her today, which I thought was pretty funny – she must have thought she was going to have a REALLY off day!

I hadn’t really looked much at the course profile but RD Ben said at the race briefing that it was pretty flat for about the first 6km and then we’d hit a few hills.

So we set off, and for the first 5km or so Jenny and I kept seeing each other! There was a bit of a pattern – she’d pass me on the uphills (yes, even in the ‘flat’ early section there were a few undulations!) and then I’d pass her on the down. Around the 5km mark she passed me for the last time, and not long after that I couldn’t even see her anymore. I expected that would be the last I’d see of her until the finish line!

Very early on we passed Tracey and Sheena’s drink station. Fresh from having easily the most fun at the 50km track championships, they went on to make volunteering look way more appealing than running! (And that’s no disrespect to the event or the course – they just manage to make EVERYTHING fun! These are the people who stopped at the pub during the Yurrebilla Ultra last year!)

We had to go through a tunnel twice. I found that a bit disconcerting as we had come out of fairly bright sunlight into a pitch dark tunnel. We could see the light at the end of the tunnel but what we could not see was what we were stepping on. And prior to the tunnel there was quite a lot of horse crap, so I can only assume the tunnel was full of shit too! (To the best of my knowledge I managed to avoid stepping in any!) This was the spot where Kate had tripped on an unseen obstacle in last year’s race, injuring her ankle quite badly. She was back for redemption this year, and had even upgraded from the short to the long course as part of her training for a 100 miler later in the year! I think in future I might carry a small handheld torch for this little section – tripping in a dark tunnel would be a very unfortunate way to DNF a trail race (especially if you end up landing in poo!)

After losing Jenny I started following father and son team Cliff and Sam (who it turned out were doing the long course, but as stated earlier, the short course was identical to the long course for the first 12km). I passed them a few times, but again it was on the uphills that they’d pass me. I’m not too bad on the downhill, actually I really enjoy it, but I’m still lacking something on the uphills. Maybe the 4000m elevation in the last few weeks was taking its toll…

And then I lost those two, and I found myself for the first time in the event, with no-one to follow! Luckily the course was impeccably marked, thanks to Michelle, Lauri, Damien and anyone else I may have forgotten who marked it yesterday! No danger of my getting lost out there today!

Behind me was he of the bright shorts, Matt, with a couple of people. I asked him “What are you doing back here?” (he’s a fast runner so naturally I would have expected him to be ahead of me all along) to which he replied “I started late. And I’m slow”. My response to that was, “You could have just said you started late – if you’re slow, what does that make me?” Also he was sounding way too cheerful going up the hills so I’m pretty sure he wasn’t working hard enough!

With him was one of the Adelaide Harriers, Bec, who I kept going back and forth with, with her having the edge on the uphills and me on the downs. When she passed me for the last time I thought that’s it, I’m not going to catch her now! And then we reached the split between the short and the long course, and she was long course so I was pretty happy with that! There was however a girl ahead of me on the short course who I was trying to keep in sight, and not long after the split another one passed me. That’s not right – no-one passes me in the last km of a race and gets away with it! Unfortunately for me I didn’t really have much left so I had to let them go, I could see them cross the line, it was a pretty tight tussle between the 2 of them (2 seconds difference!) and then 17 seconds back to me. I was 7th out of 68 females. (Jenny ended up 4th, 2.5 minutes ahead of me.) Melissa, who was 6th was also in my age group! I might have tried a bit harder at the end if I’d known that! 17 lousy seconds! I was 4th in my age group, that was a blow to my hopes of getting an overall age group placing for the series, but I happened to be born at a ‘bad’ time, with 1st and 3rd females overall also being in my age group! And I wouldn’t have been much better off had I done the long course, with the long course winner also being in the same age group!

When I started running 5 and a bit years ago at the age of 35, I realised I was in a tough age group when the top 3 women in my first ever fun run were all in my age group! And it doesn’t seem to have gotten any easier since I turned 40! Track, road, trail, parkrun, there’s always someone faster in my age group! A bit frustrating when you know you’ve done the best you can and it’s just not good enough. I know plenty of people who go out and run and aren’t fast and are completely OK with that, and love every minute. Don’t get me wrong, I love running (and trail running in particular) but I do have a pretty strong competitive streak! And I have had some success over the years but I still want to get better (as I’m sure we all do!)

However. Let’s not dwell on that. I can’t say I had a bad run. I managed to run all the way up the first 2 hills, before admitting defeat at the 3rd one and reverting to a fast walk. I completed the 13km in 1:13:49 with an average pace of 5 min 28 sec per kilometre, which with 369m elevation gain (according to Strava) is pretty respectable. And let’s also say it was EXCELLENT training for UTA 100km which is fast approaching!

Probably the highlight of the day for me was at the presentation when there was a special podium presentation for the first dog to complete one of the Trail Series events! (Luckily he/she wasn’t in my age group because I would be pretty shitty about getting beaten by someone with twice as many legs as me!) He/she even got up on the podium and posed for photos!

Thanks to Ben for putting on another fantastic event and of course to all the wonderful volunteers (too many to name but you know who you are)! And well done to everyone who ran, walked or a combination of the two – where else would you rather be on a Sunday morning?

Only a few pics today. Gary wanted a selfie. Then he mentioned the fact I was crouching so I insisted he take one with me standing up straight – hilarity ensued!

 

See you at Newland Head in 4 weeks!

The Best of 2017!

What an epic year 2017 has been!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Two words. FUCK. YEAH!

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

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

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

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

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

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Pic from the Tower Trail Run courtesy of Sputnik!

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

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

 

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The finish line setup – pretty sweet!

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

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

 

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With Karen after successfully conquering Norton Summit!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Race report – Yumigo! Summer Trail Series Race 1 – Anstey Hill

This Sunday was the first race of the 4 race Yumigo! Summer Trail Series. There is a race every month from December to March, each with short and long options, and each one getting progressively longer! At the end of the series, points from each race are added up and prizes are awarded for the top 3 males and females overall in both the short and the long courses, and also the top 3 males and females in each age group.

I have only ever run a couple of races in the series. In 2015/2016 I ran Anstey Hill in December and then the final race at Newland Head in March. Last season I didn’t run any of the races (being interstate for the first 2) although I did volunteer at the last one. This summer, I plan to run 3 of the 4 races, as I will be away for January’s event (unfortunately the one that is closest to home for me!) It will mean that I miss the last 2 Gatti Triathlons, as unfortunately they clash with the last 2 races of the trail series!

This season I have decided I want to try for an overall age group placing. Both the Yumigo! summer series and the Trail Running SA winter series have series awards and I have never run enough of the races to be in contention!

I’m not sure exactly why, but I decided that this season I was going to focus on the short courses. I had always gone for the long course before, but this time around I decided that short was the way to go! Sure, I am doing a 100km trail ultra next May (and probably a 58k warmup in April) which I need to train for, but speed is still important! And how do you get speed? Well, in part, by running shorter events!

I had a great week of running in the lead-up. A fast, flat 10k on Sunday, a fastish hilly 11k on Wednesday and a fast flat 10k on Thursday. No trails, and not a whole lot in the way of hills, but I was very happy with my pace!

On Saturday I decided to make the trip down to Victor Harbor for parkrun, a nice change of scenery, and I picked a great day for it too. It was my 10th Victor parkrun (and the 7th time I’d driven down on the day to run it) and probably the best conditions I’d ever run there. Sunny, mild, and very little wind! I ran it with Simon, who was taking it really easy (hence the reason I was able to run with him) and we chatted the whole way about triathlons, as he was doing his first one on Sunday. It worked out well for me too, because I was able to run at a relatively fast pace, but slower than I otherwise would have, and I really needed to save my legs for Sunday!

I hadn’t really thought about what I was going to wear. I gave myself an hour to get ready in the morning, so that gave me time to decide what to wear and change my mind once or twice. It was an early start, 7:30 for both the short and the long course, so I was up at 5:30.

I ended up going with pretty much the same kit as I wore for Heysen. That was a good omen, as Heysen had gone pretty well! The only real difference was that instead of wearing my large race vest, I went with the smaller one. I probably could have managed without a vest altogether, given that the short course was supposedly only 8.5km, but it was going to be a relatively warm morning, and I wanted to have drinks on hand so I didn’t have any need to stop at the aid stations. This event was going to be all about speed! I had 2 x 250ml bottles of Gatorade in the front pockets, and the only other things I had in there was a nut bar (left over from the last time I’d used that vest!) and a snake bandage (which most likely would not be required, but it’s always good to have on hand!)

Even though it was relatively warm, my outfit was looking a little bit bland with the blue Mekong ‘Vegan Beast Mode’ top, black skirt and calf sleeves, and white hat. So I put my rainbow arm warmers on, just on my wrists, just to add a bit of colour!

As I got in the car ready to head up there, I got a text from Beck asking if race day entries would be accepted. The official word was ‘no’ but at a previous race, when I was on the registration desk, I had taken a late entry literally as everyone was lining up at the start! (And he ended up getting a placing!) She had always intended to enter, but just didn’t get around to it!

As always at these events, there were a lot of familiar faces, including the Adelaide Running Paparazzi (aka Gary) who ensured there were at least a few pics for me to use in this race report (my phone memory is almost full so I hardly have any room for any more photos!). Beck was there too, and managed to sign up with no issues.

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With Gary just before the start. Gary was also doing the short course!
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Good to go!

Given that we all started at the same time (short and long course) I didn’t quite know who I was ‘competing’ against! As a relatively late entrant, my bib number was in the 1000s. Theoretically the long course runners had the lower numbers and the short course runners the higher ones, but the late entrants were a mystery! I kind of assumed that the more elite runners would be doing the long course (another reason why I was doing the short course!) but I saw Jenny at the start and she was doing the short course. Other than Jenny and Beck, I wasn’t sure which other females were in the short course. Jenny I had met at this very event 2 years ago – on that occasion I had finished ahead of her, but that feat was unlikely to be repeated – she has certainly gone on to bigger and better things since then!

The race started with a little 500m loop around the start/finish area – I wonder if that was to try to spread the field out a bit before we hit the single track? It was a new course this year, significantly different from when I had run it 2 years ago.

Just over 1km in, we hit the first steep uphill bit. Almost 1km straight up, before we’d even got warmed up! New course designer Justin loves his hills!

Not long after we’d gotten over the first hill, we had another (shorter) uphill section and then it flattened out a bit.

Early on in the race we were on single track, making it difficult for anyone to pass. It wasn’t really an issue for me, I was quite comfortable sitting where I was sitting! I could sense at times people ‘breathing down my neck’ but I figured if they wanted to get past they would either call out, or wait until we reached a wider section of track and just go. I would have let them past if they’d asked (unless they were a female, especially one aged 40-44, in which case it would have been elbows out!) (That was a joke by the way!)

Early on in the race I was running alongside Cliff and his 10 year old son Sam, who were doing the long course. They were not racing, said Cliff, just taking it easy. I’d like to see their ‘racing’ because not long after our little chat, I couldn’t see them anymore! Which was particularly impressive as Sam was wearing a fluoro orange cap that was hard to miss!

Another familiar face I saw at the start was Adam, with whom I’d shared most of the Heysen 35k (actually, come to think of it, probably the last trail run I did!). He was just ahead of me for about the first half of the race, every time I got close we’d hit an uphill and I’m not so good on the uphills (but getting better!). Eventually I caught up with him, and in the approximately 30 seconds we were running together, I stepped on a rock and nearly rolled an ankle. After our little navigational mishap at Heysen I decided that us running together was a bad idea so I wished him all the best and went on my way!

Around the same time (before or after, who knows?) I was on a single track section, kicked a rock and was nearly sent flying, but managed to catch myself. I heard a voice behind me, I recognised it as Uli (not quite sure what he was doing behind me!) and called out “See, that’s why you don’t want to run right behind me!” Pretty soon after this he passed me on a wider section. He (like Adam) was of course doing the 14km. He said he wouldn’t tell anyone about my little almost-stack but really, if I didn’t mention this, I wouldn’t have much to write about in my blog! Races where everything goes perfectly don’t make for particularly interesting race reports!

Another familiar face out there was Claire, one of the Trail Running SA committee and a very good trail runner, especially going up hills (which I may have mentioned is not my forte!) I passed her early, then she effortlessly passed me going up a hill. She wasn’t carrying any hydration so I kind of assumed she was in the 8.5km, but when I did eventually catch up with her I found out she was doing the long course!

I was pleased that I was able to run most of the course. I walked a little bit on the early hill (only because I could see EVERYONE in sight ahead of me was also walking, so I figured it was OK!) and then towards the end I walked a couple of times, firstly on what I believe was the steepest part, up the bricks, approximately a 15 degree gradient. Amazingly a guy, who I didn’t know, who I had passed not long before this, passed me, RUNNING up the bricks! (It was kind of like Ambers Ridge in Yurrebilla 2016). After about the first half of the bricks I moved across to the left hand side of the bricks and was able to resume running, as it was not quite so steep.

Just after this, at the 7.5km mark, the short and long courses split. Up until then, we were all running together. Now I would know for sure who I was ‘competing’ against! (I made sure I followed the right path, as the long course runners would soon go up a hill known as ‘Torture Hill’. I had no desire to go up ‘Torture Hill’ – I’m sure it was as pleasant as it sounds – especially given that it was not part of the course I was meant to be running!) Theoretically that meant I only had 1km to go! (I didn’t know what the terrain was like though – for all I knew it could have been 1km straight uphill!)

I walked one more uphill bit after this, right near the end. I couldn’t see anyone ahead of me, and the people behind me were far enough behind that I was pretty confident they wouldn’t catch me, so I figured it was OK!

Although I was keeping an eye out for arrows and the magic red and white tape that showed that I was on the right track, I was also following people. It is helpful to make you run a bit faster – “I’ll just catch up to that person” – and of course also good to know you’re still on track! That is, assuming that the person you are following is in the race!

The last person I followed, as it turned out, was not. I recognised him, elite runner Matthew Fenech, who I would never be that close to if he was racing, plus he wasn’t wearing a bib. I had a quick chat to him, telling him I had been following him (to which he said he should have had a sign on his back saying “Don’t follow me!”). He said he was just trying to find the quickest way to the finish line, as a couple of his teammates were running the long course. I said that I was also trying to find the quickest way to the finish line! At this point I was sitting on about 8.2km so only had about 300m to go.

Or so I thought!

Trail race distances are notorious for not being exactly what you think they are going to be. And by this I mean they are ALWAYS longer. (Even if you don’t make an unscheduled detour!)

There was a bit more uphill, and then with the finish line in sight I commented to a marshal “This is the longest 500m I’ve ever done!” That last 500m turned out to be 1km – no wonder it felt long! My Garmin put the distance at 9km. I think that was reasonably accurate, because every kilometre there was a marker, and my watch was pretty close to the mark every kilometre! (This was probably one of the best marked courses I’ve seen – thanks to all the fantastic course markers for making it pretty much impossible to get lost!)

I crossed the line in 48:58 (according to the official provisional results) which was an average pace of 5:45 (my Strava tells me my average pace was 5:26, probably because Strava tells me I ran 9km whereas the official results are based on 8.5km). I was told as I crossed the line that I was in 4th place. I didn’t really have any expectations before the race, but when I found out I was 4th, I wondered how far off 3rd I had been?

Jenny finished 2nd and she said she hadn’t seen the 1st or 3rd place finishers (ie they were quite widely spaced apart!) I hadn’t seen anyone in front of me either, so I guessed I must have been a fair way back! Still – 4th place is not too shabby, I had gone one better than in my previous Ansteys run 2 years ago!

Just after I finished, a little kid in a race bib (he had done the newly introduced kids’ race just before we had started) came over and handed me a cup of water. A little later he gave me another one. Later again, while I was standing around chatting to a few people, he came back with a cup of Coke! “Now you’re talking!” I said to myself. “You know me well!” I said to him – nothing beats a Coke after a solid run!

When the presentations took place, I found out that I was about 2 and a half minutes behind 3rd, so that explained why I hadn’t seen anyone! (3rd was also in my age group so I ended up 2nd in the age group). Looking at the official results later, 5th was only 40 seconds behind me which is not much!

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Podium pic stolen from Jenny (2nd). These are the people I need to trip up in the next race! (That was a JOKE, by the way!)

So, all in all I was pretty happy with how the race went. I am extremely happy with how I’m running at the moment. It was, as always, a fantastic event all around and great to catch up with so many running friends!

Thanks to Race Director Ben for putting on another brilliant event (I am seriously going to get RSI from typing that phrase so many times, but it’s true!) and to all the wonderful volunteers for making it possible for me to run it! Thanks also to Justin for designing a very enjoyable and challenging course!

 

And thanks to all the fantastic people who were out there running both the short and the long course (I loved how we all ran together for most of it!), it’s always a great, friendly, community vibe, and everyone is so supportive of each other!

Looking forward to the next one!

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Obligatory Strava pic with Beck afterwards – both very happy with how we went!

Race report – Heysen 105 2017

First let’s get this out of the way. Why the 35k? Even the event briefing booklet describes the 35k (and to a lesser extent the 57k) distance as a ‘taster’ for the ‘big one’, the 105k. I’ve done the 105k twice (in 2015 and 2016) so why would I now want a ‘taster’? Surely that would be like buying a bottle of wine, drinking it, and then paying for a tasting of the same wine!

Well, actually it’s not as silly as it sounds. (The bit about the wine IS as silly as it sounds)

According to the race briefing, the 105k has about 1600m of elevation gain. (To put it in perspective, that’s less vert than the Yurrebilla 56k. Walk in the park, right?) The 35k on the other hand, has about 1000m. In other words, more than half of the overall elevation gain of the 105 is in the first 35. So it’s not exactly an ‘easy’ option!

I didn’t really want to do the 105 again. Not this year. Everything fell into place last year – I managed just under 13½ hours and I didn’t see how I could have improved on that this year.

Truth be told, the main reason I entered in 2016 was because I had ‘unfinished business’ after notoriously getting lost just after leaving Checkpoint 3, costing me a good half hour. That point has now been permanently marked with my name as a reminder – I challenge ANYONE to get lost there now!

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Justin and Vicky paying the appropriate respect to ‘Jane’s post’!

I didn’t really start training for this event until late September, so I probably wouldn’t have been prepared for the 105k or even the 57. 35 seemed like the perfect distance! Also, it would allow me to be at the finish line to see the 105k runners finish (and that promised to be quite an epic party!) and also do a bit of volunteering.

Other than my usual diet of road running, my training for the 35k consisted of 3 long trail runs, punctuated with the McLaren Vale Half Marathon. I was also doing a bit of flat cycling, mainly just to get used to the bike and the cleats in preparation for dipping my toes into the triathlon world. I’m not sure if this was a help or a hindrance!

I didn’t make it to either of the official training runs for the 35k due to other commitments. I also couldn’t be arsed driving all the way down there to do the runs by myself on another day. I’d run the 105k twice (so theoretically I had also done the 35k twice) plus I’d run the course in training runs in previous years.

My training runs were all the same. Adelaide trail runners would probably be quite familiar with this route. I would start on Waterfall Terrace, just at the end of Waterfall Gully Road, run up to the start of Chambers Gully, follow the Chambers Gully Track, Bartrill Spur Track, Long Ridge Track and Winter Track back down to Waterfall Gully Road, then run down the road, do that loop all over again, and then run back down to the coffee shop for a well earned coffee and vegan Snickers! It was around 23-24km (depending whether or not I went up to the Long Ridge Lookout) with about 700m elevation gain.

As I kept doing the same route again and again, I got better at it, including being able to RUN the whole loop on two occasions, AND, finally overcoming my fear of running down the steep bit of Winter Track just after the hairpin corner! You know THAT bit – where you have to decide whether you’d be better off faceplanting on the gravel or diving headlong into blackberry bushes. (Interestingly enough I’ve never done either of those things!) I would normally be quite hesitant here and try to almost walk down, but the first time I did the ‘double Chambers’ run, a switch must have flipped in my brain and suddenly I realised I could run straight down!

In the lead-up my last ‘proper’ run was on Tuesday, followed by a swim on Wednesday and a slightly abbreviated run on Thursday.

On Friday I went down to Myponga to mark part of the course with Kate. Kate wasn’t running in the event this year but she was going to be buddy running with SA trail running legend Kym for the last 30km. Our section was only 10km but took us well over 3 hours! The section we marked was just after Checkpoint 2, which was the finish of my race. So neither of us were going to be running ‘our’ section on the day but we still wanted to make sure it was impeccably marked! We may have been overzealous with the markers especially in the beginning, but personally I think it’s better to over-mark than under-mark. (The person who had to de-mark the section may have other ideas!)

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Just part of the beautiful section we marked!

I can highly recommend having a go at course marking if you get the opportunity. Especially on such a well-marked trail as the Heysen. Generally you do it in pairs so you can meet up at the end of your section, take one car back to the start, and then when you get to the end you have a car to drive back! Last year I marked with the experienced Tina, this year I was the ‘master’ and Kate was the very able ‘apprentice’ – it’s definitely a good idea to go out with someone who’s done it before!

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Nope. Definitely do not attempt to walk this trail. It’s truly awful! I do not recommend it!

One thing I took from last year’s experience was the idea to bring a pair of secateurs to trim back bushes that were obscuring signs, and also tidy things up where they were really overgrown, to make it easier for the runners to get through!

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Kate doing a little gardening!

Before meeting up with Kate I had my first blonde moment of the weekend. I went to Myponga for a toilet stop, and while I was there got a message from Kate to say she was running late. So I decided to get myself organised and get out all the stuff I needed from the boot, including my old trail shoes which I put on the roof of the car. You can see where this is going, can’t you? Heading back down the main street I noticed a shoe in my rear window. That was weird! Then I remembered! I quickly pulled over and found just the one shoe, so I turned around and went back towards the toilets, sure enough there was my other shoe right in the middle of the road! Fortunately it hadn’t been run over! I wasn’t too bothered about the shoes themselves – they were retired, and I had brand new ones to run Heysen in, but I DID need the orthotics that were inside, and I DID need the shoes to do the course marking – I don’t think my pink Birkenstock sandals would have cut it, somehow!

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The 45km sign that marked the end of our section. It wasn’t until we got to the end, where my car was parked, that I realised we could have left this sign in my car rather than Kate having to carry it the whole 10k!

Because we took so much longer than I’d anticipated to mark the course, it was a bit of a rush to get back to Adelaide, run a few errands, gather up all my stuff I needed for the next few days, and drive back down south to Victor Harbor where I’d be spending the night. It also meant that one of the items on my list, a trip to the Bakery On O’Connell for vegan chocolate donuts, unfortunately didn’t happen! I always feel like I’m organised, even when I’m really not, if I have a list to work from. It helped that I had done the 105 twice before, so I had my list from last year as a guide!

Friday night was a vegan pasta carb loading feast at Simon and Clo’s place, around 10 minutes from the start line. They had kindly invited a lot of running friends to come for the feast and stay the night if we wanted! For me, even though my first port of call on race day would be my finish line at Myponga, from Victor it would be about a 25 minute drive versus just over an hour, so it was well worth it!

At dinner were fellow Heysen runners Sam, a Victor local doing her first 100k and Tyler, last year’s 57k winner back to do it again. Volunteers Tania (also Tyler’s mum) and Liam were also there for the dinner, and super volunteer Tracey popped in for a while before heading down to camp at the start line. I had to hold myself back from going crazy with the pasta (and falafel, and hummus, and Sam’s bliss balls, and Tracey’s raw carrot cake, and the rest!!!) as I had to remind myself I was ‘only’ doing the 35k!

I put the cushions from the couch on the floor, set my alarm for 4am and had a very comfortable night’s sleep, under the watchful eye of Whiskers the cat! To be woken by a cat sniffing my face was nothing new for me – I felt quite at home! I woke naturally just after 3:30, then closed my eyes for a bit and when it was 3:45 I decided I might as well get up and start the day – I had to leave around 4:45 to get to Myponga.

My outfit for the day was a bit of old and a bit of new. Starting from the bottom, I had my new trail shoes which I’d christened on last Sunday’s trail run, and old white Nike socks (I prefer black for the trails but my only pair of black Nike socks had a hole in them and I hadn’t been able to find a replacement pair) and black calf sleeves. I’d gone with a black skirt over black compression shorts, and I forgot to bring my usual running undies (because they weren’t on the list!) but luckily I had a spare pair that would hopefully do the trick. On top I had a BRAND NEW TOP which I had only received on Friday night, a very awesome ‘Vegan Beast Mode’ top which was organised by Simon and made by Mekong Athletic, the clothing company started by Simon’s brother Ben and his partner Dai. I love their stuff – and the fabric on this top in particular was so luxurious! (I’m not sure if I would have run the 105 in a brand new top but I figured I was pretty safe in the 35k. In previous years doing the 105 I’ve changed tops at the 57k mark anyway so I’ve never ever worn the same top for a whole 100k) I also had my rainbow arm warmers, cycling gloves (to protect my hands from electric fences, barbed wire fences and possible falls!), a hat, sunnies and a buff around my neck (mostly to pull up over my nose and mouth while running on a gravel road if a car went past).

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Mandatory start line selfie!

I had originally planned to wear a different outfit, similar to my Boston outfit, until I found out that the Vegan Beast Mode tops would be ready! I brought the original outfit with me anyway and showed both outfits to Tania at the dinner to see what she thought. Tania immediately chose the new top with the black skirt. So if there were any issues with the new top I had someone to blame!

After brekky and getting my gear together (I’d done most of it the night before) I was out the door just before 4:45 and off to Myponga for the bus.

In my pack I had: 2 bottles of Gatorade, 2 extra scoops of Gatorade for a possible refill, 2 nut bars cut into pieces, 2 Clif bars, a Zip loc bag of sweet potato chips, one peanut butter sandwich (in quarters) and one chocolate spread sandwich (in quarters). I wasn’t anticipating needing anywhere this much food but I always like to have a variety of flavours and textures, plus I would want something to chow down on after I’d finished! Mandatory gear-wise we had a lot of the same stuff as the 105k and 57k people, only we didn’t need hi-viz vests and head torches!

Given that the first checkpoint where we could have drop bags was at CP2 (our finish line) I would have to carry all my stuff on me. As my car would be at CP2 I didn’t bother with a drop bag, I just left everything in my car that I would need afterwards. As the weather forecast was for a relatively mild morning, I was hoping not to have to stop at CP1 at all – the only reason would be to refill my bottles, but if (as I expected) I didn’t drink much in the first half of the race, I’d have enough on board to get me through to the end. As I was hoping to be done under 4 hours, I hopefully wouldn’t even need to reapply my sunscreen (but I did have it in my pack just in case).

I hadn’t looked at the 35k start list. It was the same last year with the 105 and also this year with the 12 hour. I prefer not to know who else is on the list! Whatever plan I have is based on me running my own race, and knowing who else is out there shouldn’t change that.

It was only a small busload of people leaving from CP2 – familiar faces Dione and Toni, Tim and Adam, and one other guy (Kevin) who I hadn’t met before.

The bus called in to Victor Harbor for a toilet stop, as there were no toilets at the start line. (This is a very important piece of information for people running in this event, particularly those who are getting dropped at the start rather than catching the bus. THERE ARE NO TOILETS AT THE START LINE. Make sure you stop off on the way!)

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Victor Harbor at arse o’clock!

We arrived at the start line in time to see the 6am 105k runners head off, and I had enough time to collect my race number and mandatory map (as if I was even going to refer to that – I had the offline maps app on my phone which I would be far more likely to use), sneak into the bushes for a last minute pit stop, and at the very last minute put sunscreen on while Race Director Ben was giving the briefing.

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Snapped by Glen doing my sunscreen!

On the start line, other than those I’d seen on the bus, were familiar faces Luis, Atsushi, Laura, Candice, Marlize and Lauren. Lauren had won the 35k last year and Marlize had won the first 6 hour event that I did. There were quite a few people there that I didn’t know, but I could safely say that 3rd place would be the best I could hope for!

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Ready to go! Thanks to Ziad for this pic!

 

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Just minutes before the start!

Right on time at 6:30 we set off. Luis, Atsushi, Tim, Marlize and Lauren were off like a shot, and I ran briefly chatting with Candice and said “My race plan is NOT to try to stick with those people in front”. I didn’t see most of them again until after I’d finished!

I was expecting to be mostly running on my own. I expected to pass many of the 6am 105k starters, as they were going 3 times as far as me! I expected to be passed by many of the 7am57k and 105k runners. But I wouldn’t be running WITH any of them. That didn’t bother me – I’m quite happy running on my own especially for a relatively short distance. I kept Adam in sight, I have run with him before and he’s probably just a bit quicker than me but he had just got back from a 2 week overseas trip so he was, by his own admission, a little undertrained! Also ahead of me after passing me quite early on was Derek, in hi-viz yellow so he was easy to spot!

The first people I passed were Ros and Mal, which confused me a bit as they were fellow 35k runners and I hadn’t seen them at the start! Turned out that they had started at 6, along with another group of runners who I passed shortly after. I then started to pass some of the 105k runners including Kym and Kristy, and another group including first timer Linna, also in hi-viz yellow (it seemed to be a popular colour!). Also early on I ran past Kim, who was doing the Heysen 105 for the first time, and after having had to pull out of UTA 100 last year, it would be her first 100km.

I made a decision that I was going to try to run the whole way to CP1, approximately 18km, with about 400m elevation. I figured it couldn’t be any harder than a Chambers loop!

Eventually I caught up with Adam and we ran together for quite a while. He had run the 57km last year and had been entered in the 57 again this year but after a less than ideal preparation had ‘downgraded’ to the 35. Having fully expected to be on my own for the bulk of the race, it was nice to have someone to run with for what turned out to be a fair chunk!

During one particularly long road section, I commented “I don’t remember there being this much road in this section!”. Some time later, Adam remarked “I always get nervous when I can’t see someone in front”. You can see where this is going, can’t you?

A little further down the road we saw our first and only kangaroo for the day. It was some form of consolation, as we soon found out that we were never meant to see that kangaroo. Because we were no longer on the Heysen Trail!

Luckily it wasn’t a very long road (for the record, the road is called “Roads Lane” in Inman Valley) otherwise it could have been quite disastrous! Looking at maps after the event, I am estimating it was around a 2km detour.

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If you look really closely you can see where we went wrong. (The bit to the left of the map is the run into and out of CP1 – it looks like another navigational error but it’s actually the correct way!)

We were running and chatting, and failed to notice that there were none of the distinctive red and white Heysen Trail markers on this road, nor was there any of the red and white tape flapping in the breeze, signifying that we were on course. It wasn’t until we reached the T junction with Inman Valley Road that we knew that we had ventured off the Heysen! Quickly I got out my MAPS.ME app (thankfully I had re-downloaded it, after having previously deleted it to free up space on my phone!) and could easily see we just needed to head back down Roads Lane, and we would meet up with the trail again. And as we ran, me consulting my map frequently, we were quickly approaching the missed turn off. I would guess it cost us about 10-15 minutes all up.

When we eventually found the turn off, we realised one thing that had contributed to us missing the turn. (Along with not paying enough attention, of course!) There was a big ‘X’ sign attached to a pole, signifying that Roads Lane was NOT the correct way to go. However, that part of the trail had been marked 2 days earlier, and somehow the X had swung around to the other side of the pole, so it was only visible to us when we were coming BACK from our detour! (It could also have been done deliberately, there are some people out there who do deliberately flip signs around to mess with people, but let’s give people the benefit of the doubt here!)

Anyway, we did get back on course, and fortunately it appeared that no-one else had followed us and missed the turn! (There was an earlier turn that I WOULD have missed, had there not been a group of people not far ahead of me, that I had seen turn off. Adam wasn’t with me at the time, but when I mentioned it, he said he also could easily have missed that turn!)

Despite planning to run the whole way to CP1, I did walk for a bit after that. My watch showed about 16km but I wasn’t sure at that stage how far off course we’d gone, so therefore I didn’t know how much further CP1 was!

One positive thing I can say about the whole experience, and it probably has something to do with the fact that I wasn’t alone at the time, is that I didn’t let this little ‘mishap’ ruin the rest of my race. After my notorious misadventure just past CP3 in 2015, I did lose the plot a bit and it probably cost me a sub-14 result. This time I was a little annoyed but was able to refocus my attention on the job at hand! One thing I had no idea about though, was if I was still in 3rd place. Someone could easily have slipped past unnoticed while Adam and I were on our detour!

One funny thing was when we passed people for the second time! Firstly we passed Linna and co, and then one of the Southern Running Group, Sue. On both occasions, Adam was ahead of me. When I passed Linna, I jokingly said “It was all his (Adam’s) fault!’ to which Linna replied “He said the same thing about you!”

We did eventually reach CP1. CP1 is a weird one, you have to take a right turn, run to the hall where CP1 is located, do a U-turn back to where you turned right, then turn right again. Even though I wasn’t going to stop at CP1 I still had to do this little manoeuvre, to get my name checked off at CP1. Adam made a stop here but I just went straight back out. I had a bit of ground to make up! Adam ended up catching me not long after CP1 and we ran together for probably 3/4 of the next section.

CP1-CP2 is what I believe to be the hardest section of the whole 105. Many would say CP2-3 is the hardest, being 22km between aid stations, and with some quite challenging terrain and exposed sections, but as someone who is not the greatest at uphill running, for me it’s 1-2.

I managed to run the first little bit but then I came to this section.

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Steeper than it looks! That’s Adam just in front of me, and the dot in the distance is Tyler. This was the ONLY place I took photos during the race!

 

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Looking back, while walking up the hill!

Adam was just ahead of me at this stage. This was where Tyler, leader of the 57km race, came flying past us. A little further up the hill though, I saw him walk!

And not too long after that, I was passed for the first (and as it turned out, only) time by a 105km runner. That was Dej, looking in great form after having to walk much of the 105 last year due to injury.

There was quite a bit of single track in this section. Adam was just behind me, and I kept asking him if he wanted to pass, but he said he would probably drop back a bit, and for me to go on ahead, which I did. Not long after this, I ran into Justin and Vicky, who were aiming for sub 16 hours, which would earn them a belt buckle. (The belt buckle is a relatively new concept in Heysen but it’s been around for a long time in large international ultras. Last year all the 105 finishers got a buckle, this year only the sub 16 finishers would get one, and the remainder of the finishers would get a medal). I ran and chatted with Justin for a while, and told him about my little ‘adventure’. He was the one who had put a permanent plaque with my name on it, on the pole where I had got lost in 2015, so I did hesitate to tell him the story, but I figured he’d find out eventually! There wasn’t much chance of him getting lost out there, as the organiser of the training runs this year, he knew the trail like the back of his hand!

And then came quite a lot more road as we approached CP2 and the 35k finish line! On the approach to the finish line I passed quite a few more 105k runners including Bec and first timer Cherie (who got a quick good luck hug from me, I was getting pretty excited as I knew I couldn’t have long to go! I then saw Stephan up ahead, I almost caught up with him, I got close enough for a quick chat and then I decided to walk a bit, I could see there was no-one anywhere near me that could pip me at the post, so I figured I had nothing to lose! He was still looking pretty strong at this point, although he has always been much better than me on the uphills!

Heading into the checkpoint I started to see some funny signs that were a welcome sight – I was already pretty happy given that I was almost done, but I’m sure they would have been even more welcome for the 57 and 105 runners who still had a long way to go! (They probably wouldn’t have been quite as excited as me to see the sign that said “35km runners – 1km to go!”) The signs were the work of one of the amazing volunteers at CP2, Brenton. He told me he had measured it out in his car! It was the first real indication I had had, after my detour, of just how close I was to the end!

I saw Luis and his distinctive red calf sleeves up ahead, and I tried to catch him, but he turned around, saw me, and found another gear! He later thanked me for giving him a bit of a push at the end!

And there it was – CP2! Although there was no finish ‘line’ as such, this was the end of the road for me! And what a good feeling that was! (Especially when I was told I was 3rd! Marlize was 23 minutes ahead of me, I’m sure that we didn’t lose that much time on our detour, but it might have been a little bit closer if I’d been paying attention!)

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Marlize (2nd) and me (3rd) at the presentation

The volunteers at CP2 were amazing – all dressed up in Halloween theme and happy to do anything needed for the runners! Thanks so much to Karen, Debbie, Brenton and Penny in particular – you really made me want to hang around there longer! Such a fun atmosphere!

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Best. Aid station. Ever. Pic stolen from Dione!

I had to have a laugh at one of Brenton’s signs, ‘Susan’s checklist: Eating? Drinking? Weeing?’ – this was a reference to the head first aid officer Susan at the 24 hour event who would ask the runners these 3 questions at regular intervals! Unfortunately in relation to the 3rd item on the list, there was no toilet at CP2!

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Susan would have approved of this I’m sure!

My first priority was getting my shoes off and getting my chair out of the car to sit down and watch the rest of the runners come in! Tania offered to go and get stuff out of my car for me but I said thanks but no thanks, she’d never find ANYTHING in there! So I went for a slow walk to the car, and wow did it feel good to get my shoes and socks off!

We had the presentations soon after, another piece of silverware for my collection, to go with the beautiful looking medal!

I had hardly eaten any of my food, and I always expected to have plenty of leftovers, but I think during the race itself I only had 2/3 of a nut bar, 1/3 of a Clif bar, and 1/2 a sandwich. I did drink about a litre of Gatorade, definitely not enough but I had another litre ready to go for afterwards!

I got to see a lot of the runners come through CP2 which was great. After finishing just after 10:30 I didn’t leave until about 1:00! I decided to stay and wait for Mal and Ros to finish, as there was no hurry for me to get to the finish line. In the 105 I saw the first 2 women, Bronwyn and Kazu, who were unbelievably close together – it was going to be a great race! Not far behind was regular running buddy Zorica who was smashing it!

I started to get a bit cold so I decided to do a full wardrobe change in the car. This was a bit challenging as the car was parked on James Track, and the 57 and 105k runners had to run straight past me as they left the checkpoint. So I had to time my manoeuvres in between people coming through! Particularly challenging was getting my post-race recovery compression tights on! I was halfway through putting them on when I could see Graham (doing the 57k) approaching. I quickly wound the window down and gave him some encouragement, hopefully he didn’t notice that I was only half dressed at that stage! I also saw Glen, doing the 105, and he asked me what I was doing – I told him I’d done the 35 and was now finished, he responded by (jokingly I hope!) calling me a “slack b****”!

I went over to Merrilyn, who had her own little aid station set up, waiting for husband Mal. She offered me a coffee which I gratefully accepted! Also there was Maurice (the maker of the brownies!) who was waiting for his wife Sue who was also in the 35k. Maurice also asked me “why the 35k?” I had a feeling I’d be asked that a lot! I was having absolutely no regrets about my decision, no FOMO whatsoever!

I saw Kristy and Kym, still going strong. Kristy had pulled out at this point last year so she said she would be much happier once she’d got PAST this checkpoint! Around the same time, Candice finished, she thought she had beaten her time from the 35k last year, and she needed to be reasonably speedy as she then had to go to work! Now that’s dedication!

Mal and Ros finished not far behind, as did Dione and Toni, all having had a good day out, and I then decided it was time to make a move!

Eventually I made it to the 105k finish line in Kuitpo Forest. Things were starting to take shape, with Race Director Ben and super vollies Michelle and Tracey getting things set up. Michelle and Tracey were in the middle of an incredibly long day – after having been at the start line from arse o’clock until after the last runners had set off, they then had to mark part of the last section of the course! You see, generally the course marking is done on Thursday and Friday in preparation for Saturday’s race, however Friday was a total fire ban, meaning there was no access to the forest. (It also meant that the people who had intended to camp in the forest on Friday night had to make other arrangements at the last minute). Fortunately the conditions on Saturday were ideal!

The finish line was an awesome setup, with lots of lounges and warm blankets, and little fires to gather around.

 

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What a welcome sight this must have  been for the 105k finishers!
I borrowed a tent from Tracey, and thought I’d better set that up straight away, before it started to get dark. I’m not a frequent camper, so I didn’t fancy trying to set it up in fading light! With admittedly a little bit of swearing, I can happily report that I did eventually manage to get it set up all by myself!

 

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My digs for the night!
There wasn’t a huge amount for me to do – helping to set up gazebos, and cutting up watermelon on the world’s smallest chopping board! And eating Michelle’s amazing chocolate hummus – OMG!
The finishing arch was put up, and with high winds expected, it was decided that it needed to be secured with ropes. Unfortunately the ropes needed to be attached to the top of the arch, and we didn’t have any 10ft tall people handy! So as Tracey and I walked back from having put some fairy lights along the track to guide the runners to the finish, it was quite amusing to watch people trying to throw ropes to catch onto the hooks! (I think generally the ropes are attached BEFORE the arch is put up, but where’s the fun in that?)

 

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This is NOT the best way to get the ropes attached!
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Robbie’s 105k race had not gone according to plan but he did manage to find an ingenious use for the podium to get the ropes attached!
A ranger vehicle pulled in to the carpark opposite where we were. He advised us that there was a total fire ban from midnight! Fortunately we were allowed to stay but we were told we had to vacate by 9am, and all our fires had to be out by midnight.
And then it was time to wait for the first runners to come through! Having had the privilege of seeing practically EVERY runner cross the finish line at Yurrebilla, it was exciting to be at the finish line before dark and able to watch the pointy end of the field come through!
And because there wasn’t an actual podium for me to stand on at the end of the 35k, I decided to get me a podium pic while I was waiting!

 

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It’s not quite the finish line, and only one out of the three spots is occupied, but it’ll do!

 

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Tracey and I decided to have an impromptu jam session while waiting for the finish line action to start!
First across the line in 11:18 was the very popular winner in Dej (along with his buddy runner Daniel) who still looked remarkably fresh!
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Dej triumphantly crosses the line!

He then had a brief sit down on one of the recliners, but there wasn’t much time for resting as the first female finisher was hot on his heels!

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… and then puts his feet up for, like, a minute…
Bronwyn was the first woman across the line in 11:21, backing up her win in 2016. Quite a dramatic improvement from 2 years ago when she finished 3rd in around 13 and a half hours! Bronwyn was accompanied by her buddy runner, Howard, who won Heysen in 2016!

 

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What a great run by Bronwyn!
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Dej congratulates Bronwyn as Howard follows close behind.
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Race director Ben congratulates Bronwyn on her big win!
Next to finish was 2017 Yurrebilla winner Kazu, with her buddy runner Tracey. Kazu also finished second to Bronwyn last year. She is having a great year!

 

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Kazu and Tracey cross the line together!
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Kazu is congratulated by Dej
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Dej and Bronwyn share top spot – nice work both of them, getting up on the podium after running 105k!
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Technical difficulties! After snapping this pic, I offered my assistance – my height proved to be a bit of an advantage here!
There was a bit of a break after that before the male podium was complete, thanks to the familiar faces of Shaun and Chris, who frequently run events together. I THINK it was Chris who finished second in a sprint finish, with Shaun close behind in third!

 

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Dej waiting to congratulate Shaun and Chris!
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It’s Chris – JUST!
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Robbie congratulates the boys!
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2 very happy finishers!

 

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The ‘serious’ podium pic…
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Not quite sure what Shaun is doing here! And Dej doing his signature pose!
I was starting to get a bit tired (soft, I know – I only ran 35k!) but decided to wait for the 3rd female to cross the line before hitting the tent for a nap. It was close between Linda and Zorica, in the end Linda took the podium spot (accompanied by her buddy runner and husband Brenton) with Zorica not far behind in 4th place. After the presentation for the women (Bronwyn and Kazu were both still there, nearly 2 hours after finishing!) I decided to hit the hay.

 

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A couple of the awesome finish line vollies, Rula and Rebecca, making sure the runners had plenty of fuel when they finished!

 

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The female top 3!

 

Sleeping in the tent was not super restful – I couldn’t really get comfy and I was mostly either too hot or too cold, and kind of could have done with a pit stop but just could not be arsed getting up! Throughout the night I heard bells, happy voices, and Michelle yelling at runners approaching the finish, “TURN YOUR LIGHTS OFF!” (to make finish line photographs better!)
Eventually I heard Kym’s voice at which point I decided I needed to get up. If Kym was there, that meant his buddy runner Kate was also there, and I’d promised her some vegan Baileys. It was 3:30am! I’d been in the tent for 7 hours and missed the bulk of the finishers including first timers Cherie and Sam who both smashed it, along with Vicky and Justin who earned their belt buckles, as did (a different) Kate. Uli was also there, wrapped up in a blanket looking very relaxed on one of the couches!
Good thing I got up when I did, because I was just in time to see Kim finish her first 100k! And here is my favourite story of the day.
Kim had missed out on ordering an event T-shirt, as they’d sold out quickly. She was doing her first 100, and had wanted to mark the occasion with a T-shirt! Undeterred, she went about designing her own T-shirt. She traced the outline of a kangaroo from the Heysen shirt from a couple of years ago, with her finger on her phone. She described it as looking like a kid drew it. She then got it made into a transfer and managed (with some difficulty) to find a white running T-shirt to transfer it onto! And so she had her own, unique, incredibly special memento of her awesome achievement!

 

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Kim and her special T-shirt – pic courtesy of Sheena, taken at Checkpoint 5 earlier in the evening!

Gradually the other runners crossed the line, Kim was happy she’d finished, AND as a bonus didn’t finish last!

And then, the only runner left out there was a guy called Tass. I’d met him at the 24 hour earlier in the year (I think he was in the 24 hour event) and when I saw him all those hours earlier at CP2, I thought he was already looking a little bit wonky! He was accompanied overnight by the sweeper Beck (if you’d read my report from last year, Beck was the buddy runner for George, and also ran Western States and UTMB last year, as well as being the overall winner for the inaugural Hubert 100 miler earlier this year! This was a bit of a contrast from that! Unfortunately Tass didn’t quite make it, he had to pull out with only about 4km to go, apparently he just could not walk another step!

Once Tass was out, that was the race over! Ben went out to pick up Beck (Tass had been picked up by the first aiders) and the huge process of packing up the site began! It was probably 5:30ish by this stage – so I decided it wasn’t really worth going back to bed!

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At the end of the party!
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I can think of worse places to spend a Saturday night!

Many hands make light work as they say – Ben, Michelle and Tracey who had been there for well over 24 hours, did the bulk of the work but there were a few of us there to help load the gear into the trailer and Ben’s car! Remarkably, one of them was Uli, who had run the 100k, had a bit of a nap and then was there right to the end, helping to pack up!

We eventually got out of there about 7:40am, well before our deadline of 9am.

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And with that, Heysen was done for another year! (Well not quite – Ben still had to unpack the car and trailer!)

So now, I guess it’s time to give some thanks. I apologise if I miss anyone – there’s just so many!

Firstly, as always, to Ben for putting on another amazing event. I am running out of things to say about Ben! Luckily he does not require sleep because I seriously doubt he gets much around event time! Thanks Ben for everything you do for the running community – it is hugely appreciated! (And thanks to Ben’s wife Courtney for letting us steal him for days at a time!)

Next I have to thank the volunteers, special thanks must go to Michelle and Tracey who put in a ridiculous amount of hours to making this event happen! You girls ROCK! I don’t think I can put into words how grateful I am for everything you’ve done!

Also I must thank the CP2 team for being awesome. So much fun!

Merrilyn, who already does so much for the running community, for making me a coffee after I finished. Never has an instant coffee tasted so good!

Simon and Clo, for giving me a place to stay on Friday night and a bloody amazing vegan feast to fuel up for the run! And Whiskers the cat for making sure no-one attacked me in the night!

Kate, for coming out course marking with me on Friday. It was such a great day out! We must do it again!

To all the runners in all the events for being so friendly, encouraging and supportive of the other runners. That’s what I love about this community!

And finally to Adam for being an awesome running buddy, even though he did get me lost 😉

Such a great day. Such a great event. See you all there next year!

Yurrebilla 56km ultramarathon – from the other side!

Apologies that this is a bit late, but it’s been a busy week!
Yurrebilla 56km ultramarathon has been a fixture on my calendar for 4 years now.
In my first year of running, 2013, it was just something crazy people (such as my friend Denis, who was indirectly responsible for getting me involved in running in the first place) did. I had thoughts of going along to one of the checkpoints or the finish to cheer him and the other crazy people on, but I may or may not have been a little worse for wear after celebrating the first of Hawthorn FC’s recent ‘three-peat’ of AFL premierships so I didn’t quite make it. (Yes, Yurrebilla used to be on the day after the AFL Grand Final – ouch!)
2014 was when things started to get a bit more serious. I ran my first marathon that year, and thought that there was no way I was ready for an ultra as well (even though some of my running buddies tried to convince me otherwise) so I decided, to save myself from myself, I’d put my hand up early to volunteer. The race again falling the day after the GF, and anticipating my team would be there again, I requested a late-ish start. I didn’t think a 5:30am start line gig would be very pretty! I was rostered on to the finish line aid station – perfect! And good thing I did request a late start because I was celebrating another premiership on Saturday night!
It was a biatch of a day for running – hot and windy AF. We couldn’t have cups of water and Coke set up on the table as they’d blow away! Some of the marquees even threatened to become airborne! It was also not a great day to be wearing a short skirt – luckily I had shorts on under my Snow White outfit (why Snow White? Because Yurrebilla, of course!) otherwise the runners might have got more than just an icy cold cup of Coke from me! (We actually ran out of Coke at one point – but then when some was brought down from the closing checkpoints, MC Karen got on the mic and announced that we had Coke – and I was swamped!)
I discovered that most ultra runners never normally drink Coke except during an ultra! (If I had a dollar for every time I heard that that day…) I LOVE Coke! Another good reason for me to run the thing!
Despite all this, watching the runners come through, I knew that in 2015 I would be out there with them!
I won’t go into 2015 and 2016 in any detail – I have written very detailed reports on both of them which you can read if you’re interested!
And that brings me to 2017. I had Yurrebilla on my calendar and had every intention of running it, until about July. A few things happened that made me decide to give it a miss this year. Firstly, I looked at the calendar and realised I would miss at least the first 2 of the 3 training runs. Now there’s nothing stopping me from running those courses myself on different days, but I just couldn’t be bothered organising it! The group runs are always fun, very social, and all finish with Mal and Merrilyn’s epic aid station complete with hot coffee and soup! Running it on my own would not be the same! Secondly, I did the Yumigo! 12 hour event which took a lot longer to recover from than I would have anticipated!
So I decided that I would volunteer again, wanting to be involved in some way. Quite late in the piece I was asked to be involved in the organising committee and was very excited when I found out that at the end, instead of the traditional dinner at the local footy club, there would be a ‘finish line festival’ at the new finish location, Foxfield Oval. (Such a festival would not be possible at the previous finish line, the actual Yurrebilla trailhead, due to space and parking restrictions).
Until the Sunday before, I didn’t know what I would be doing, but when I popped into the SARRC tent at the City-Bay finish line, I was asked if I would MC the start. I said sure thing, it sounded like a lot of fun! And then, after all the runners had left, I’d have time to sneak in a quick run myself before making my way to the finish line in time for the forst finisher. Club Manager Cassandra was going to MC the finish but requested my help as I know a lot of the runners!
Saturday was a lovely day, starting with a parkrun down at West Beach with interstate visitors Rob and Richard, followed later in the day by wine tasting and lunch in the Adelaide Hills and then watching Richard’s team, GWS, in the AFL prelim final.
It was an early night on Saturday night as I had my alarm set for 4am!!! I took my breakfast on the road with me, as 4am was WAY too early to be eating! I got to the start line at Belair at about 5:15am dressed appropriately in a tiger onesie. (Incidentally, for anyone wondering, it had NOTHING to do with the fact that the Richmond Tigers had just won their way into their first Grand Final in forever, it just happened to be one of two onesies I had in my house, and the penguin had had a run recently!)
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It was still dark when I started!
My job was to get on the mic every now and then and tell people where the bag drop was, where to pick up bibs and pre-race snacks, and most importantly, that the coffee van had EFTPOS! (It took about 3 goes before I got the bag drop instructions right – Cleland on the blue tarp, Morialta in the trailer and finish line in Ben’s car!)
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With super volly Ziad!
It was great to see so many familiar faces out there! Yurrebilla first-timer (and Thursday morning run group leader) James didn’t start his day in the best way, forgetting his bib, but that was easily fixed with a replacement. Another Thursday morning regular, Kate, had forgotten her hydration vest! Luckily I had a spare collapsible cup in my car so she borrowed that. It wasn’t a hot day so a hydration vest was not essential although most people were wearing them (I would have too – even though this event is extremely well supported, I just like knowing that I can have a drink or a bite to eat any time I want to, not just at the aid stations.)
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With Yurrebilla virgin Gary at the start line!
There were 4 start groups, the first at 6am, with the Mayor of Mitcham firing the starters’ pistol.
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With Sydney visitors Rob, Dani and Karin with the famous sign in the background – that’s Mayor Glenn on the right of the pic.
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With PK who was not running but supporting a friend and making sure that the donuts were OK. PK also ran the first few kilometres out and back and alerted me to a potential hazard near Echo Tunnel which I was then able to warn the later waves about.
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With the fabulous Superwoman (aka Ruth!)
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Probably my favourite pic of the day – with the Northern Running Group, Cherie pretending I have just shot her with the starters’ pisto

I was then pleasantly surprised to be given the honour of starting the next 3 groups – timing guy Malcolm even showed me how to load the pistol myself which I did prior to the final (elite) start – I was relieved that I managed to do it right, as these were the serious racers, competing for the AURA (Australian Ultra Running Association) national short course championship (yep, 56km is considered ‘short’ by ultrarunning standards!)

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I think this was the 7am wave!
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The elites preparing for the 8:30 start!
I did ask experienced Race Director (but Yurrebilla RD ‘virgin’) Ben if he wanted to start the elite group but he said he was happy for me to do it, so he must have thought I was doing a reasonable job!
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Super volunteer Annie, *spoiler alert* eventual winner Kazu and RD Ben keeping warm in the trailer!
The starters’ gun is pretty loud by the way!
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A onesie, a firearm and a microphone. What more could a girl want?
By the time the elites had started and I went back to see if I could help pack up,  was surprised to see most of the packing up had already been done! These guys are a well-oiled machine! All that was left to do was find somewhere to safely store the folding tables and empty rubbish bins (the answer to that question? In the portaloos. Obvs!)
According to my Strava, everything was packed up and I was out running by 8:51 – not bad considering the elite wave set off at 8:30! I ran the first 5km of Yurrebilla, with no worries about getting lost, thanks to the impeccable course marking! Finding my way back was a little trickier but those red and white flags ensured I never went wrong! I did have to negotiate my nemesis, the Echo Tunnel, twice, but I survived! (I think it’s the combination of pitch darkness and having to duck to avoid hitting my head on the roof, that I’m not so keen on!)
There were a few familiar faces out on the trail too – a bunch of the Adelaide Harriers (speaking of red and white!) as well as fellow start line volunteer Angela who was doing exactly the same run as me (only she had started a bit earlier). That’s so Adelaide though – be it road or trail, you can’t run in Adelaide on a Sunday without running into someone you know! Well I can’t, anyway!
It hadn’t rained yet, but gnarly weather was forecast. And sure enough, as I approached the 10k point (and therefore the end of my run), the drops started to fall! I made it back to the car before the shower really started, and it rained all the way home!
I had time for a quick shower and a brief visit to the Botanic Gardens in the city to catch up with school friend Christy, who was visiting from Brisbane, before making my way to the finish line.
I decided, in true Yurrebilla MC tradition, that a change of outfit for the finish line was in order. (My previous Yurrebillas had been MC’d by Karen and Michelle, both noted for their wacky costumes!) I thought Snow White was due another run. However, I didn’t think a blonde Snow White would work, so I also put on a brunette wig!
The finish line looked AMAZING! A marquee with fairy lights, tables and chairs, bean bags, a massage tent (staffed superbly by fellow runner Amanda), fires, food trucks including the awesome vegan pie truck, ‘Give Peas A Chance‘ (which I visited a couple of times during the afternoon) AND A WINE BAR! Seriously, what more could you want?
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Pretty!
It was at this point Cassandra asked me to MC the finish which I said I was happy to do. I had MC’d a trail race earlier in the year using the same timing equipment, so I knew how the system worked. I was given an iPad and as runners reached the ‘spotter’ timing point (which on this occasion was only metres from the finish) their names would pop up on my screen so I could announce them. This year all runners had the same coloured bibs, unlike previous years when different colours signified the different start waves. To make it easier for me to identify the elite wave runners (and therefore the placegetters), Malcolm had listed them all as ‘Open’ age category. Still, I only had seconds between them popping up on my screen, and them crossing the finish line!
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Mic in one hand, iPad in the other. Bottle of wine behind me. I could have used a 3rd hand!
Luckily, because the system was not working perfectly at first, someone told me, before I could see for myself, that Andrew Hough was approaching the finish. I knew this meant he was the winner! He smashed it in just under 5 hours, a PB! I first met Andrew at The North Face 100 (now Ultra-Trail Australia) in 2015, where we stayed at the same house, and that was the event that made me decide I wanted to run 100km ultras! (I’ve since done 6, and just this week signed up for UTA100 next year!) Also at the same event I met David Turnbull – I later found out that that was where Andrew and David had also met, during the race!
I recognised David before he reached the spotter, he was about 5 minutes behind Andrew in 2nd place. It was great to see two locals (as well as being all around great guys and very encouraging and supportive of fellow runners) take out the top two places! In previous years we’ve had ambassadors brought in from interstate, who usually end up winning!)
Rounding out the top 3 males was a runner I didn’t know by the name of Oowan, who had come over from Victoria (which explains why I didn’t know him!)
In the women’s race, another local and well known trail runner prevailed – Kazu Kuwata, who had previously finished 2nd at Yurrebilla as well as at last year’s Heysen 105, and Sonja Jansen finished 3rd, with Rachael Tucker splitting them (another unfamiliar name who turned out to be from Queensland!)
It was fantastic to see elite runners from interstate coming over for the event, especially considering they weren’t paid ambassadors – it just goes to show the high regard this event is held in! (But, it was SO good to have local SA runners taking both top spots – we have a fantastic running community here and some brilliant athletes!)
MCing the finish, I got to see many friends, familiar faces who I didn’t really know but had seen at events, and a whole lot of people I didn’t know at all! I especially liked seeing people cross the line together, such as Ryley and Alex, Justin and Vicky, Shaun and Chris in their distinctive headwear, and the always awesome Sheena and tiara’d Tracey, who I later found off had stopped for a drink at the pub at Norton Summit! Now THAT’S doing an ultra in style!
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Sheena and Tracey doing it in style as always!
A few individual mentions too. Zorica who at Mt Hayfield had threatened NOT to do Yurrebilla, had absolutely killed it in 6:42! Kate had smashed out a PB too! First timers Peter (‘fresh’ from 3 marathons in 12 weeks) as well as the 2 Garys, had all finished in style. Then there was Neil who remarkably WALKED the whole thing in 8:48! Sadly James had had to pull out with injury but was at the finish line with his 2 boys handing out medals.
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First timers Gary (in blue) and Peter (fixing his hair!) along with veteran Kate!
And it was absolutely brilliant to see Barry McBride get to run in the event he had RD’d for a number of years, and do it in style too!
3 of the 7 Yurrebilla Legends – those who had run every event since its inception – Terry (the Godfather of Yurrebilla), Sue and John had unfortunately been unable to run this year, but the other 4 (Brett, Paul, Kym and Doug) all finished well. I didn’t get to call any of them across the line though as they happened to cross while there was a band playing, so I was silenced! (I was later told by some of my friends that they could hear me from about 2km out! That beats being able to hear the finish line announcer at UTA100 when you still have 40km to go!)
From the time Andrew crossed just before 1:30, till the last finishers after the advertised cutoff time, the finish line party was in full swing! After all the runners had finished and/or been accounted for, the people who really put in a ridiculous number of hours to make this happen, finally got to put their feet up and have a well-deserved drink! I’m talking about the SARRC staff Cassandra, Lee-Anne, Harry, Paul and Ron, who were there from start to finish on the day, not to mention the hours in the leadup! You guys ROCK!
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SO. MUCH. AWESOMENESS.
(A few of us may have had a sneaky little dance too, as the band continued to play after most of the punters had left!)
Let’s not forget Ben, the Race Director, who never ceases to amaze me with his ability to function on next to no sleep – he really did put on a brilliant event!
And of course no event would be complete without thanking all of the wonderful volunteers – especially those who had to brave the elements at aid stations or marshalling points!
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Like these guys, who manage to outdo themselves every year with their costumes! Which always seem to involve Harry wearing fishnets… and putting us girls to shame with those legs!
Oh and well done to all the runners too – after all, you are the reason the event exists in the first place!
I had SO much fun! Thanks to the team for trusting me both with the mic and the starters’ pistol – hope I did the role justice!
I’m very excited at the prospect of running my 3rd Yurrebilla in 2018 – I’ve seen video of the last kilometre or so and it looks amazing!
And I CAN’T WAIT to cross the new finish line and join the party!

Race report – Mount Hayfield 2017

I’ve done this before. Last year, in fact. I didn’t read my 2016 race report in preparation for this year’s race. But you can, if you want to, by clicking here.

All I could remember was, a big bastard of a hill. And a crapload of mud. And having to go straight to a Fathers’ Day lunch, no time for a shower, had to make do with baby wipes. My sweaty, muddy running gear did not get any better smelling after 2 hours in the car in the sunshine!

Anyway, I digress. Mt Hayfield 2017 is what we’re talking about here.

2017 for me has been a year dominated by road and track events. Sadly I have not got in anywhere near as much trail running as I would have liked. Consequently I made the decision some time ago to have a year off from running the Yurrebilla 56km ultra.

I did, however, enter the ‘soft option’ 35k at Heysen which is coming up next month. After 2 years of doing the 105k, I knew I couldn’t do much better than last year, so I wasn’t going to run Heysen at all, but as I had done some course marking last year, I had free entry into Heysen 2017. Hence I’d entered the 35k.

But that still requires training! The 35k goes from the start to Checkpoint 2. In my experience, the section from Checkpoint 1 to Checkpoint 2 is physically the hardest of the whole 105.

So, even though I wasn’t really in peak trail form, I decided to enter the Mt Hayfield long course again. A glutton for punishment, you could say!

The previous weekend I had gone out for a VERY enjoyable and cruisy Chambers loop with Beck, which was meant to be 10k but turned out to be 13.5k. As trail runs often do! I remembered how much I enjoyed trail running and hanging out with kangaroos and koalas!

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Like this little dude 🙂

Running the long course at Mt Hayfield would also help me to contribute some kilometres to my team tally in the RAV Virtual Run. This is a virtual run supporting Run Against Violence – teams of 10 have to complete 1300km in 18 days. I am part of an Adelaide-based team featuring some pretty big names in the local running scene, and am hoping to be able to contribute my 130km, although the way my teammates are going, we may well knock off the 1300km long before I get into triple figures!

One of the main rivals of my team, RADelaide Runners, is another SA team, Yumigo Runners. I knew a few of the Yumigoans would be out at Mt Hayfield, as well as Brody, one of my RADelaide teammates.

Mt Hayfield is a BLOODY LONG WAY away, especially when you have to get up at arse o’clock on a Sunday morning to get there from Adelaide! I had to get up at 5am and leave home at 5:45 to meet a couple of other runners in Yankalilla (not far from the race location) to carpool to the start. Carparking was at a premium and was also likely to be MUDDY. Utes and 4WDs were the order of the day. My little Corolla was neither of those and therefore was unlikely to cut it if the mud got really gnarly!

I had a busy but not too strenuous Saturday, in preparation for a challenging run on Sunday. I did cover a lot of kilometres by car though – I drove to Gawler to try out their parkrun for the first time (I have now done all the parkruns in SA except Port Lincoln – a 6.5 hour drive from Adelaide so that will require some planning!) and then after a quick dash back home I went out with a few other runners, Beck and James, for a lovely lunch for fellow runner Kate’s birthday! (I volunteered to be designated driver – I figured I needed all the help I could get to make Sunday’s run a good one!)

I decided at the last minute to put tape on my feet to prevent blisters – I don’t do that all the time now, only really for marathons or longer, but with likely wet trail conditions I figured it would be a good idea! It rained a LOT overnight and I wasn’t sure if it was going to rain during the race itself, so just to be on the safe side I took 2 rain jackets – one lightweight one that was about as comfortable to run in as a plastic garbage bag but that would fit easily in my small race vest and/or tie around my waist comfortably, as well as my UTA-compliant Gore-Tex jacket which would not be all that great to run in but which would keep me dry if it looked like it would rain quite a bit. (In the end I opted for the former, stuffed into my pack, ‘just in case’). Given that all Trail Running SA events are now cup-free, I also took 2 small bottles of Gatorade in my pack. (I’m glad that ‘cup-free’ has finally caught on – I remember a couple of occasions when I was volunteering on drink stations and some people refused to carry cups or bottles, so when they got to the drink stations they would actually drink directly out of the water casks – that is NOT OK!!)

One of my favourite things about some of the southern races is the drive down. I really enjoy driving by myself, mostly because then I can crank the tunes I like, and sing if I want to! To get to Yankalilla I had to drive through possibly one of my favourite parts of road in Adelaide, the section between the Victory Hotel at Sellicks Hill and Myponga, including passing the epic Buddha statue! (I hear that this spot was chosen out of places around the world!) It’s truly a magnificent view and never gets old, no matter how many times I drive down there!

I got to Yankalilla in plenty of time, so gathered all my stuff and met fellow runner Melissa, a relative newbie to trail running, who was also getting a lift with Adelaide trail runner Jon (Jon is one of the Event Directors and instigators of Cleland parkrun, SA’s first and so far only trail parkrun) who had anticipated the mud and brought his wife’s 4WD along! Jon and I were both running the 20k, starting at 8am, and Melissa was doing the 8k, starting an hour later.

We made it to Mt Hayfield, parked in the mud pit that was the carpark, and made our way through the sludge to collect bibs, say hello to people and do all the stuff you do before a trail race!

A lot of people were gathered at a spot behind the baggage tent, assistant Race Director Maurice jokingly suggesting we were there to get warm, rather than gathering around the fire that the volunteers had gone to great trouble to get going! Actually, we were there to admire the view, but as it turned out, it WAS pretty warm there!

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Cracking view! And a bit of warmth on a chilly morning! What’s not to like?
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Thanks to Gary Denham for this very cool, slightly eerie pre-race photo with the Sykes family!

The sun was out a bit, so I decided to wear a cap and sunglasses. The cap would do double duty, it would keep the sun but also any rain out of my eyes. I also had gloves on as well as the obligatory arm warmers! It was pretty chilly but I was relatively comfortable in what I had on – it was certainly nowhere near as cold as it had been at the previous TRSA event at Mt Crawford! (And fingers crossed, it might not even rain!)

We gathered at the start for the race briefing and then headed off at 8am. I had no expectations, no goal time in mind, in fact I hadn’t even looked at my results from 2016 to aim for a PB. My goal was to just go out there, enjoy it, and use it as a training run. And hopefully finish at a reasonable time so Jon and Melissa didn’t leave without me (joking – they would never have done that!)

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Pic of the start line stolen from Gary! I just realised I’m in it too (well the back of me) at the right of the photo (green shirt, purple skirt)

The first few kilometres were a bit of a blur. We started out running downhill and I managed to run the first few kilometres (I know that because I was almost ready to walk for the first time, looked at my watch, saw I was on 1.9km and thought “I should at least get to 2km before I start walking”!)

As always, there were a lot of familiar faces out there as well as a lot of people I’d never seen before! Trail running in SA is growing constantly so there are always new people getting on board! TRSA puts on fantastic, extremely reasonably-priced and very ‘doable’ events. There’s always a short course on offer, as a great introduction to trails and a perfect option for walkers (and some REALLY fast runners!) The events are in places that are accessible from Adelaide, with challenging and varied terrain as well as often spectacular scenery – there really is something for everyone!

One of the things I like most about trail running is the friendliness and camaraderie out there on the trail. Because most of us mere mortals are running (and let’s admit, often walking) at a much slower pace than we would in a road event, we actually get to chat a bit! (One woman who I was ‘to-ing and fro-ing’ with towards the back half of this race, kept asking how I could be talking AND running at the same time! It’s one of the many charms of trail running!)

Early on I was passing and being passed by a lot of people I’d spent a lot of time with on the trails! One was Stephan, who had just run the course of the Cleland 50k ultramarathon the other day, just for fun! Also there was Trevor, who had run a 20-odd kilometre section of the Heysen trail the previous day! I couldn’t quite understand it, my tactic is to have a relatively quiet few days before an event (some might call it ‘tapering’) but clearly this is not the case for a lot of my fellow trail runners! I suspect many people were using this race like I was, as a training run of sorts. Most of them were probably using it as training for Yurrebilla, which is now only 3 weeks away!

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With Stephan (in the blue) and Brody, looking like we’re having WAY too much fun! Thanks to the official TRSA photographer for this photo!

I passed one of the TRSA committee members, Murray, within the first kilometre or so, only to have him absolutely FLY past me going down one of the early hills! I was like, “I want to be able to run down hills like that!” – I didn’t see anyone smash a hill like that for the rest of the day!

I’m not sure quite what point in the race we were at, but it was early on, before the first big hill, when I met up with Brody. He is a very good runner, and I would not have expected to be running with him at any point, but it turned out that he, like Stephan and Trevor, had gone and smashed out some kilometres on Saturday! (Doing his bit for RADelaide Runners, unlike yours truly!) As a result of that, Brody was a bit tired and so we ended up running together for the rest of the race. Which was really nice. I can only recall one previous occasion when I’ve gone into a race expecting to run it essentially on my own, and ended up running a significant chunk of it with someone else, and that was UTA100 last year when I ran with Anna for a long time – probably at least 8 hours!

Every now and then one of us would say to the other, “Feel free to go ahead if you want to” but both of us were pretty happy to take it relatively easy. We would walk up the steeper hills (and some of the not-so-steep ones) and run the flats and downhills. Brody was more confident on the downhills especially the slippery muddy ones! At one point we had to cross calf-deep water which I didn’t recall having to contend with last year!

If one of us decided we wanted to walk, the other would usually be MORE than happy to follow suit. And one of us might then decide to run, but set a goal that we would run to (usually a tree – there were plenty of those about!) and then we’d both run to that point before walking again. It was a really, really, enjoyable run! I hadn’t run with Brody before so we had a good chat about our running histories and I couldn’t believe he had only been running for a year or so and had already done 2 100km ultras!

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No forced smile here – LOVING it! Thanks to the official TRSA photographer for this photo!
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Pretty muddy and soggy out there! But that just makes it more fun! Thanks to the official TRSA photographer for this photo!

We also saw 2 kangaroos bounding across the track at different parts of the race, making it look easy! I jokingly said to one, “Can I borrow your legs please?” (weirdly enough he didn’t respond!)

Normally I’m pretty competitive, and whenever I see another woman in front of me I am pretty keen to get ahead of her. This time I wasn’t too fussed but I did go back and forth with Zorica a few times. I asked her at one point as Brody and I passed her, if she was doing Yurrebilla and she said something like “Probably not, after today!” Not long after this, I could hear footsteps behind me and there she was, powering (running) past us as we walked up a hill. I called out to her (something like) “You SO have to do Yurrebilla!”

The long course, purportedly 20km, was 2 loops, one 12km and one 8km. The second, 8km loop, was the same course that the 8km runners were doing. We had been assured that it was ‘flat’.

It was not.

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Yeah, nah. Not flat. Not by any stretch!

You could probably have called it ‘RELATIVELY flat’. Certainly flatter than the first 12k which contained 2 hills that I would describe as ‘unrunnable’.

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One of said ‘unrunnable’ hills. See all those tiny dots of people in the distance? They are ALL walking. It did however give us a chance to enjoy the beautiful scenery 🙂

But there was at least one unrunnable hill in the back 8k too! (After the race I was chatting to Ros who was saying that she had been lied to by all her running buddies, having also been told the 8k was flat!)

We started to see 8k runners and walkers who all seemed to be enjoying themselves. In fact, I don’t recall seeing anyone who didn’t look like they were enjoying it.

At one point I saw Kristy, who had started behind us, coming back the other way and got very confused, I couldn’t figure out how she had got in front of us without me knowing! At which point Brody informed me that we were on an out and back section, she was on her way out and we were on our way back! We had been here before! I had no idea!

We were pretty lucky with the weather, all things considered. It started raining lightly in the second half of the race, at which point Brody got his rain jacket out. And then it stopped. I told him “You do realise it stopped raining as soon as you put your jacket on, don’t you?” It did rain again right near the end but I didn’t think it was worth getting my rain jacket out by that stage!

Brody and I had discussed the ‘forced smile for the photographer’ phenomenon, essentially you only have so much energy during a race, and you don’t want to waste any of it forcing smiles EXCEPT when there is a photographer! We saw a photographer right near the end, when we were walking or about to walk, so we ran up the hill and gave it our best smiles, but I commented that they didn’t really need to be forced at this point as we were SO close to the end!

After passing through the last gate it was then a few hundred metres UPHILL to the finish. I’m sure I would have walked at least some of it if I’d been on my own, but Brody started running so I ran too! We discussed who was going to finish first and I said I was MORE than happy to cross the line together (if he didn’t want to go on ahead) which is what ended up happening! (Just like Anna and me at UTA!)

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This picture really sums up the day nicely! Thanks to the official TRSA photographer for this photo!

First port of call was the food tent for an apple and one of Maurice’s famous vegan brownies, then the coffee van, then out of my wet shoes and socks and into some warmer clothes! (I later realised I may have been a bit premature in my removal of shoes, remembering that I still had to walk back through the mud to the carpark!)

Always a popular part of TRSA events is the trophy presentation and the subsequent random prize draw. OK maybe the latter is of more interest to most of us! It’s always nice to see the placegetters get their sweet medals but let’s face it, most of us are not going to be involved in this part! For the random prize draw, on the other hand, there is one rule. If your name is called, and you’ve already left, you not only DON’T win the prize, but you also get to cop the ridicule of all your friends!

I’ve done pretty well out of the random prize draws. In my very first trail event I won a $200 pair of Salomon trail shoes! I’ve also won a Salomon race vest and most recently a $50 voucher for The Running Company! However, today was not to be my lucky day, so after the prize draw was over, Jon, Melissa and I made our way back through the mudbath, into the car and back to Yankalilla to make the longish journey home!

As always, I have to end my race report with a few thankyous. Thankyou firstly to the committee at Trail Running SA for putting on yet another fantastic and highly enjoyable event – I feel a bit like a broken record as I’m pretty sure I say this after every TRSA event but it’s always true! The many volunteers who made it all happen, thanks to each and every one of you, but extra special kudos to those who were on carparking attendant duty – that was a particularly challenging job in the mud! All the runners for just being an awesome bunch of people to share the morning with! Thanks to Jon for giving me a lift from Yankalilla and back again afterwards! And special thanks to RADelaide Runners teammate Brody for being an awesome (unexpected, but very welcome) trail running buddy! I was not expecting to enjoy today’s run anywhere near as much as I did, and I’m sure running most of it with a friend, with no pressure (from myself or anyone else), played a huge part!

Here is a FANTASTIC video of the run, guaranteed to make you want to go out and run it!

Dare I say it, I’m almost kinda wishing I was running Yurrebilla now…

NO. STOP!!!

Hello Mojo!

Well it’s now been 4 weeks since the 12 hour epic and I was beginning to wonder if and when I’d ever get back to running ‘properly’ again!

Saturday was my first ‘proper’ parkrun since the one I ran in Mount Gambier about 6 weeks ago. Even that day, I was holding back a bit, saving myself for the Tower Trail half marathon the following day.

I opted to make the journey down to Victor Harbor parkrun, because they were celebrating their 3rd birthday, with birthdays always come cake, and with Victor Harbor birthdays come VEGAN cake! It’s also a fast, flat course (albeit often with a fairly nasty headwind one way) so it was the perfect way to try to get a bit of speed back!

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Beautiful morning for it!
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One of my favourite parkruns!

I ran a respectable 23:16, much slower than I have previously run in my 8 parkruns at Victor, but my fastest in nearly 2 months and my second fastest in 4 months. The wind wasn’t much of a factor, I felt like I had something left in the tank, and the cakes were well worth the long drive!

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Where was the pot of gold?
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Even better than gold – a veritable crapload of vegan cupcakes!
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And afterwards I got to test drive one of the AWESOME new Vegan Beast Mode Team tops by Mekong Athletic!

Next on the agenda was something completely different. I was volunteering at a trail race at Mount Crawford the following day. A lot of people had planned to camp there the night before, and I thought that might be a bit fun, so I signed up despite not having a tent! Not to worry, Tracey had one I could borrow. On the day, Tracey (along with a LOT of other people) decided the weather was too gnarly for camping, but still offered to get the tent to me somehow. I decided that if the weather was looking pretty horrendous, I might as well sleep in the car – at least the car wouldn’t leak or blow away (hopefully!)

So from Victor I made my way home to collect my stuff and then made the long drive up to Mount Crawford, planning to get there well before dark so I could get my bearings! I made it in plenty of time, and parked near where fellow runners Kristy and Trevor were swagging. Most of the hardcore campers were still going with tents!

We went to the local pub in Birdwood for a meal (I had a very nice curry) and then back to the campsite, by which time the rain had started. It would continue for much of the night and on and off the next day. I went to find the hut with the open fire, trying to warm up a bit with a glass of wine and some chocolate while Linda was toasting marshmallows! Even though it was still early it seemed much later (I guess I’d had a long day of driving!) so I hit the ‘hay’ reasonably early, listening to the end of the footy on the car radio and reading a few chapters of my book before attempting to get comfortable in the Corolla!

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Snug as a bug in a rug! Still with very cold feet!

It wasn’t the worst, I had the seat reclined right back and changed position often. I figured it couldn’t be any worse than trying to sleep on a plane!

I woke up naturally just before my alarm and all I had to do was throw some clothes on and make my way across the campsite to the registration tent. I was lucky enough to have 2 ‘undercover’ jobs – firstly registration manager, then MC. I felt for the people manning the drink stations and the car park – in the rain!

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Look at all those bibs!

There were over 900 people registered but the forecast nasty weather deterred quite a lot of them – there were a few hundred no-shows, and quite a few people decided on the day to ‘downgrade’ to a shorter distance. Amazingly, 6 people registered at the last minute, even knowing EXACTLY what they were getting themselves into!

The 35k run was the first to start, a short hailstorm coinciding nicely with the start of that event! Then an hour later was the 24k, then an hour after that the 13k. As soon as the 13k had started, we packed up the leftover bibs, and the registration tent was taken down. I had about half an hour to spare before I would need to be in position to call the first finishers over the line.

The timing system was really good. There was a timing point about 100m from the finish line, and the timing guy, Malcolm, gave me an iPad with live results on it. At that stage nothing was happening, but when the runners started to reach the last timing point, their names would pop up on the iPad so I could announce them as they approached the finish. At times there were a LOT of runners coming through at once, hopefully I didn’t miss any of them!

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Seriously though… who gives me a microphone?

I had fun! I had wondered how I was supposed to know who was coming, considering I didn’t know more than half of the runners, but the system worked really well! Unfortunately we had a few technical issues with the PA system, and I wasn’t able to call the later finishers over the line, as Claire had needed to take the microphone away to do the official presentations. But it’s definitely a job I’d be happy to do again!

I stayed right till the bitter end, when 35k sweeper Ziad came back. I realised how important it is to make sure you let someone know if you don’t start or finish, because first aid officer Susan was calling around all the people who were ‘unaccounted for’, some of whom had not actually started the race! By the time Ziad got back, all the runners were accounted for which was good!\par
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MASSIVE congratulations to all the runners who completed this event, the conditions were challenging to say the least! And also kudos to the volunteers that had much harder jobs than I did!

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Other than warm clothes, gumboots were probably the most important piece of kit I had on the day!

This morning I finally went to see physio and running buddy Beck to try to get this hip flexor issue that has been bugging me since the 12 hour, sorted once and for all! Happily it seems to be something that will be relatively easily fixed if I do the right thing and do my exercises!

Which brings me to next weekend – the City2Surf. Up until Saturday’s parkrun I was debating how I would approach it. The 2 options were: Plan A to run it ‘properly’ if I thought a sub-70 minute finish was achievable (it’s 14km so that’s 5 minute kms), and if I thought that was unlikely, Plan B I would dress up and just run for fun, like so many people do in this event! After Saturday I am confident that Plan A is a goer!