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!

Race report – Tower Trail Run Mount Gambier

There’s a theory – go in with low expectations and you won’t be disappointed.

I used this theory with some success on Thursday night when I went to see the recent three-peat premiership winning but now cellar-dwelling Hawks take on the top-of-the-table Crows at the Adelaide Oval. I was not particularly confident but hoping for a good contest. Against all odds (unbelievably paying $7.50 in a 2 horse race!) the Hawks managed to pull off a miracle win!
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Thursday night well spent!
I don’t often subscribe to this theory in running events. If I don’t expect to do well, I generally don’t run. (As evidenced by my recent ‘wussing out’ of the Mt Misery race, and to a lesser extent, the Cleland 50k).
This weekend was different. I’d been running laps around the 6 hour event course for the past 3 weeks, and it was time for a break from the monotony! Never mind that I have done next to no hills training (Sturt Gorge 6 weeks ago was probably the last time I ran any kind of trail).
But, it WAS an excuse for a weekend away with friends, so it was with little hesitation that I signed up for the 21.1km.
The course was a 10.5km loop, with the options being 1, 2 or 4 loops. The mathematicians among you may have worked out that 4 loops = a marathon. This was the first year that the Tower Trail Run included a marathon.
With running buddies Karen, Daryl and Wendy, I hit the road at reasonable o’clock on Friday for the drive to Mt Gambier. The journey was uneventful but I did insist on a rest stop at Coonawarra, which just happens to be one of Australia’s leading Cabernet Sauvignon regions. So, naturally there was some wine tasting (and subsequent purchasing) on the cards! Majella was our hydration stop and let’s just say it’s a good thing Karen and Daryl have an SUV with a big boot!
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When in Rome!

Our AirBNB accommodation was in a great location – before we headed out for dinner, we went for a walk to the parkrun start location where we’d be heading the following morning, and were pleased to find it was only an easy 7 minute walk away! (As it turned out, it was also walking distance to the Tower Trail Run start!)

The accommodation was nice – although my room was what appeared to be the back porch before an extension was built. It had no door (a doorway, but no door), it was a through room to the laundry, and there was a (frosted glass) window just above my bed, on the other side of which was the bathroom!
On Saturday morning we walked to parkrun and it seemed like half of Adelaide was there, including my Boston buddy Maree who happened to be in town for a party!
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Just a small part of the Adelaide contingent!
It was my second time doing Mt Gambier parkrun so it held no surprises for me (Maree was also a ‘veteran’) although I had forgotten that the first climb is practically right at the start!
The last time I’d been here was in December when the famous Blue Lake was at its picturesque blue best, and was constantly distracted by its beauty during the run! Now, it was more of a slate grey but I was still distracted, thanks to an amazing rainbow which seemed to end in the lake – I would have stopped and taken a photo had I brought my phone with me!
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Luckily Kristy had her phone with her to capture the rainbow!
I ran most of it with Andy, one of the guys from SRG (Adelaide’s Southern Running Group), until he took off at the end – a few of the guys who had already finished were egging me on to chase him but I was ‘supposed’ to be taking it easy so I declined. Turned out he was just trying to get under 25 minutes, which he did, as did I. And Maree was first female!
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parkrun pic courtesy of Sputnik!
As per tradition we gathered at the fantastic Metro Cafe and Bakery for coffee and some pretty spectacular looking cakes!
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The parkrun crew pretty much took over the entire place! Pic from the Mount Gambier parkrun Facebook page.

 

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Karen trying to pick just one!
We ended up booking in there for dinner as well, as they have a good vegan-friendly menu.
In the afternoon we headed to check out Mt Schank. You can hike down to the bottom but we decided to save that for AFTER the run! The weather was pretty perfect on Saturday afternoon, though!
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Living on the edge!
I had an email from our AirBNB host, checking if everything was OK. I asked if there were any spare blankets, as it had been a little cold on Friday night. Later that afternoon she turned up unexpectedly with 3 brand new faux mink blankets which were much appreciated!
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Wine, cakes and warm blankets! Yep – we know how to party on a Saturday night!
Sunday morning was chilly but fortunately there was no rain at that stage, so we were able to walk to the start/finish line. We were all doing the half marathon which had a very civilised start time of 8:30! The marathon had started at 7, just before it got light.
My pre-race preparation was nothing out of the ordinary other than a fair bit of angst and swearing while trying to put on my new gaiters – this would be my first time ever using gaiters. I had brought a singlet, T-shirt and long sleeved top with me, so I could decide on the morning what would be best. In the end I went with the T-shirt and arm warmers, as well as gloves. Sunnies did not look like they would be needed but I thought it best to take them just in case. Ditto with my cap, which would also keep rain (which was forecast) out of my eyes!
With plenty of time to spare we made the short walk to the large permanent concrete shelter that served as the start/finish area. It was the ideal spot, with plenty of parking nearby, several permanent toilets (as well as portaloos!) and ample shelter. And the obligatory coffee van, which I was looking forward to patronising after the race!
We got to see most of the marathoners coming past during the time we waited for our start. There were plenty of familiar faces among them, including Mick and Howard at the pointy end! Howard’s partner and support crew Pauline had kindly offered to look after our bags for us while we ran!
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Here’s me collecting my bib – Gary was there ready with the camera, as always!
I ran with my small race vest and 500ml of Gatorade – I probably could have got by without anything but I like to be able to keep going without needing to stop at drink stations. Having the vest also allowed me to carry a light rain jacket just in case. With minimal weight in the pack it felt like wearing ‘Nothing at all!’
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Ready to roll!
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With the rest of the crew! Thanks to Wendy for this pic!

We got started at 8.30 and very quickly we were running uphill. The race started on road, and a few of the marathoners passed us coming back the other way. One of them was Graham, who has a very distinctive running style. We greeted each other, and he said he could spot me from a mile away – I replied ‘I could say the same about you!’

At first I was running with Glen, one of the SRG runners, but it wasn’t long before he was ahead of me. I intentionally started conservatively. I had not much idea of what to expect, having not studied the course beforehand. I just didn’t see much point!
The course was interesting, challenging and scenic. Being 2 laps, I used the first lap as a bit of a ‘reccy’. Quite early on I saw Sputnik, who took a pic of me and said “There’s one for your blog!” to which I replied that I was looking for suitable selfie spots on the first lap, then I’d actually take photos second time around!
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Thanks to Sputnik for this great pic!
There were stairs, which I quickly realised I was better off walking up rather than trying to run. Alongside the stairs I’d generally find a well-worn mud track, which I figured out was sometimes easier to walk or jog up than the uneven stairs.
There were also some nice downhill bits – some nice wide flat dirt track which I could fly down, and others that were a bit treacherous with moss and tree roots, and I had to exercise caution.
And of course there were uphills – some short and sharp and some longer but not too steep, both of which I would try to run up. The longer steep hills I wouldn’t even attempt to run.
I kept my gloves on until about 6km in, and during one of the long steep climbs I had time to take off my pack and put them in there, to save having to carry them. Another reason why the pack was worth having!
The course was impeccably marked. I could always see the pink tape in the trees or on the fence to signify that I was on the right track. And there were arrows and ‘Wrong Way’ X signs wherever there might be some ambiguity. This was particularly helpful on my second lap, especially just after passing the start/finish line where Nikki, one of the awesome Race Directors along with husband Phil who also happens to be the man behind Mt Gambier parkrun, was announcing all the runners as they passed by – a lovely touch! As I started my second lap I was on my own, and the route I’d run just over an hour earlier now felt unfamiliar! I was a bit confused when I started to see half marathoners as well as marathoners coming back the other way – I hadn’t recalled that on the first lap, but the pink tape let me know I was on the right track!
There were plenty of marshals out there as well as frequent drink stations – a very well supported event! FABULOUS volunteers and in a lovely touch, they all got medals too, with special ‘VOLUNTEER’ ribbons.
I had gone in with no real expectations and not really even a time goal, although it’s funny how these things change when you cross the start line! Initially I had said ‘sub 3 hours’ as a conservative goal. However, cutoff time for the half was 3 hours 50 – I would normally be WELL under cutoff time so I thought maybe 3 hours was a bit TOO conservative! I had 2.5 hours in my mind but, not knowing the course and knowing that going up hills is definitely a weakness, I wasn’t sure how realistic that was. I ran the first lap without exerting myself TOO much, knowing I had to do it all over again. I only occasionally looked at my watch, mainly to see how much further I had to go, not so much to look at time or pace. I had forgotten to turn off my pace alerts from training – consequently my watch was beeping at me every time I went under 5:30 and over 6:00 minutes per kilometre (which was often!)
I was pleasantly surprised to reach the halfway mark in just over 1 hour 10 minutes. That gave me roughly a 10 minute buffer for the second lap to still run 2:30. I was expecting to run the second lap slower but not 10 minutes slower, so I was pretty confident.
I wasn’t racing anyone else, although every time I passed another woman I did try to sneak a look at her bib colour. There was one girl ahead of me for quite a long time who I eventually passed going up a hill on lap 2 – after I passed her I noted she was a half marathoner but actually I was thinking more of an age group placing than an overall placing! I was one of 7 in my age group so I was hoping for a top 3 placing there. As far as I could tell, an overall podium finish was out of the question!
Not long into lap 2 I was passed by Mick, the eventual winner of the marathon, on his final lap. He was well ahead of Howard who ended up finishing second, and in fact Mick was the only marathoner who passed me. He called out to me before he passed me – he must have recognised me from my signature striped arm warmers – and congratulated me on Boston before flying off into the distance! Well, actually I kept him in sight for a time, and was heartened to see him walking up one of the steep hills, but by the time I got to the top of the hill and back on the flat, he was long gone!
One of my favourite bits was a downhill section that was all stairs. A few people I encountered on the second lap were having knee and calf issues which were aggravated by the downhill (and down stair) sections, but I was able to get into a good rhythm, and the evenness of the stairs meant that, even though I was being a bit cautious (it had been raining on my second lap, so everything was a bit more slippery), I could get up some decent speed. There was even a photographer at the bottom of the stairs who would have got some great shots! (I made sure I gave my nose a quick wipe with my sleeve before getting to him on the second lap – didn’t want any errant boogers ruining my race photos! Although, when I said that to the photographer, he jokingly replied “That’s what Photoshop is for!”)
Speaking of race photos, I had decided that on my second lap I would stop for a quick selfie at the Centenary Tower, after which the race was named. However, as it turned out, I didn’t need to, as a photographer had been posted there! He was asking everyone to stop for a couple of photos – given that it was at the end of a fairly long climb, I wasn’t exactly moving that fast anyway, so stopping was not an issue – I think he got some great shots too!
It was all (mostly) downhill from there.  I started passing a lot of 10k run/walkers and some marathoners too. With only 1k or so to go, I caught up with Glen who informed me that he thought I was in 6th or 7th place. I decided to go for it in that last kilometre and once I reached the 2 girls with the cowbells (who really added hugely to the atmosphere – thanks girls!) I picked up the pace and (politely of course) passed everyone I could, including one familiar face in Ros, who was in the 10k event.
Before too long I could hear the finish line festivities and knew I was nearly there! Up ahead I saw a familiar figure in Graham. I realised I would need to pass him so snuck past him to keep my momentum going. He realised who it was and he wasn’t having any of that, so he picked up the pace and practically sprinted past me to the finish line and into the aid station, me giving chase but unable to catch him! After receiving my awesome medal, I went to jokingly have a go at him for making me sprint, and was gobsmacked when he told me he still had a lap to go! I had assumed he was finished!
A little later, his partner Vivienne told me she’d seen him a little further up the road and he’d said he was regretting the sprint finish! I was looking forward to exacting some ‘revenge’ when he came back on his final lap!
I had finished in just over 2 hours 20. In fact, when I later checked my results, I had managed a marginal negative split by around 16 seconds (I guess, in part, I have Graham to thank for that!) – well beyond expectations! I ended up in 5th place out of the women – less than 5 seconds behind 4th (thanks again to Graham!) and less than 2 minutes behind 3rd place! And I did manage to place first in my age group too – all of that was just a bonus. More importantly I had a most enjoyable run, got out of it unscathed and did a surprisingly good time considering my lack of recent trail running! I had started to think I just wasn’t cut out for trail running, even though I really enjoy it! I don’t imagine I’ll ever be a podium contender but to be able to go out there and do reasonably well and enjoy every minute is encouraging!
I’d only drunk one of my two Gatorade bottles during the race (250ml in total) so I finished that off after having annihilated a can of Coke and a long black – then I eagerly devoured the nut bar I’d brought with me! (I’d been thinking about the nut bar from about halfway through the race but when I finished, all I could think about was Coke and coffee!)
Not long after that Karen and then Wendy finished, both happy with their runs – both under 3 hours. Daryl was still out there and unfortunately got caught up in a pretty heavy shower! Eventually we saw him coming in the distance and gave him a great reception as he finished! Not long before Daryl, Kristy crossed the line, also to a great cheer, and she was also very happy with how she went!
I decided to head along the course to meet up with Graham, being careful not to go near any of the timing equipment, given that I was still wearing my race bib! It wasn’t long before I saw him coming, quickly passing my bib to the marshal to look after for a minute, before chasing Graham to the finish!
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Graham still managed a jump at the finish line despite me making him work for it! (That’s me in the grey hoodie behind him!) Thanks to Howard for this awesome shot!
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With ‘nemesis’ (his words!) Graham!

We were all getting pretty cold by then so headed back to the house to get into some warm clothes and defrost! And of course, eat all of the things!

Unlike most of the Adelaide people we opted to stay another night in the Mount and have a leisurely drive back on Monday – including another winery stop of course – this time at Wynn’s!
On Sunday afternoon we went for a drive to Port Macdonnell for chips by the sea while watching kiteboarders. Karen and I had a disagreement about feeding chips to the circling seagulls (she was pro, I was very anti, and of course I was right!) before heading back to town for the perfect recovery meal, takeaway from Gourmet India and red bubbles from Majella!
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Bling and bubbles. Need I say more?
It was a fantastic weekend all around – and just a wonderful, scenic, friendly and enjoyable event. I hope to be back again to do it all again next year and would recommend it to anyone who loves trail running! I won’t do the marathon – 4 laps of that course is just not for me, but I would absolutely do the half again!
Congratulations and thanks again to Phil, Nikki and all the amazing volunteers for making it all possible!

 

Eyes on the prize!

I’m a sucker for an event. 9 times out of 10 I would rather be out there participating in a race – regardless of terrain or distance – than doing the hard yards in training. This is probably not the best plan if I am trying to focus on a particular event (that I want to do well in!)

I can think of a few examples from recent times. Last year I ran the UTA 100km event as well as a few Masters track races (ranging from 800m up to 10000m) when my primary focus was always getting a Boston qualifier at the Gold Coast Marathon. Fortunately, despite this, I did manage to get my BQ!

This year, I was supposed to be training for the Boston Marathon (although having qualified, time was less of a concern for me than it had been at Gold Coast in 2016) but couldn’t resist going back for another crack at the SA 100km Track Championships in January which probably did set my Boston training back a bit.

So now I’m back from Boston and as always, I have to have a ‘next race’ to focus on.

For me, probably my ‘A’ race for the year (even including Boston) is the upcoming Adelaide 6 hour. This will be my 3rd time running the 6 hour (and hopefully my last, at least for a while).

In 2015 I went into it with no expectations, 6 days after running what was then a marathon PB at Gold Coast. I pulled up surprisingly well the day after Gold Coast so immediately went online and entered the 6 hour event. I exceeded my modest expectations (I was aiming for at least a marathon and hoping for 50km, but ended up getting just over 60km) and even got a surprise podium finish!

6 days after my BQ, I went back for another 6 hours and actually managed slightly further this time. And another 2nd place finish – although there was a bit of controversy surrounding that – I won’t go into that right now but suffice to say, I have ‘unfinished business’ with this event!

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“You can take my trophy, but you’ll never take my bottle of Fox Creek Vixen!

This year is a bit different. With no Gold Coast 6 days earlier, theoretically I should have fresher legs this time around. However, on the flipside, I won’t have the training mileage in my legs either. So this year I actually have to train specifically for the 6 hour!

The 6 hour takes place at the Uni Loop which most Adelaide runners would know well. So I figured, what better way to train than by running laps of the Loop? The loop is 2.2km so I’ll park my car on the side of the road, leave all my food and drinks in there, in the knowledge that I am never more than 2.2km from an ‘aid station’! That means I don’t have to run with a backpack which is quite liberating – plus on race day I won’t be using a backpack anyway.

Prior to Boston I used the Uni Loop for some of my long runs, partly to get the mileage in without needing to stop for traffic, but also thinking ahead to the 6 hour in July. Killing 2 birds with one stone, if you will.

Since returning, I have done one half marathon around the loop (as preparation for my Barossa pacing gig) and in the past 2 weeks I have done a 3 and a 4 hour run. I might try to squeeze in one more but I don’t want to overdo it!

I had entered a couple of events in June. Firstly there was the inaugural Yumigo! Cleland 50k ultramarathon which took place last Sunday. “My finger slipped” and I entered just before the earlybird cutoff. I had a birthday party to go to that afternoon but I was sure I could get it done, get home and showered and maybe just be an hour or so late for the party. Then I bumped into course designer Stephan on one of my pre-Boston Uni Loop training runs, and pretty much by the time we’d finished our run I’d decided to pull out – it would be a tough course, and it would probably take me a lot longer than I had anticipated!

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Just before the start of the Cleland 50 – and I did not have one hint of ‘runvy’!

Next weekend is the Trail Running SA Mt Misery trail race. I have managed to avoid Mt Misery so far – in 2015 it conveniently coincided with the City2Surf in Sydney, and last year I was only a few weeks out from Gold Coast so I volunteered instead of running.

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Having a ball volunteering with the fabulous Michelle at last year’s Mount Misery race!

This year I did enter Mt Misery (‘just’ the 16km) but after taking a few days to recover from one of my long Uni Loop training runs, I decided to be sensible and pull out of Mt Misery. Another fairly tough trail race – which is not really what I need when I’m really focused on a long, flat, ultramarathon. My morning will be better spent with one last loopy run.

Then comes the Tower Trail Run in Mount Gambier. I’ve entered the half marathon and I’ve seen the bling – it’s pretty sweet!

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Those who have been reading my blog for a while would know I’m a sucker for a nice piece of bling!

So I reckon, even though it’s another hilly run, I will probably still do that one. If I decide on the morning that it’s going to hamper my preparation for the 6 hour I will pull out, but I’m happy to just take it ‘easy’. Plus, it’s a good opportunity for a weekend away with friends so even if I do decide not to run, I will get a trip to Mount Gambier (and if I play my cards right, a little Coonawarra wine tasting action!)

So for once I’m actually being ‘sensible’ and being a bit more selective about the runs I do, rather than trying to do everything as usual!

Time will tell if it was the right decision!

 

Race report – TRSA Sturt Gorge 

Last year, I volunteered at this event with Karen, it being 1 week after we’d done the Ultra-Trail Australia 100km. We’d both decided to wear Snow White costumes. Why, I hear you ask? To which I reply, have you met us?

Flashback to 12 months ago – Karen insisted on a pic with Kym, which she somewhat unkindly captioned ‘2 Snow Whites and the one dwarf’!

This year, given that I’m not doing UTA, I entered the race. So what if it was only 2 days after I arrived back in Australia? And so what if, aside from running in a forest in Portland a week and a half ago, I had not run a trail in well over 2 months?

There was a 6k, 12k and 20k. I entered the 12k, so I at least had some sense in me! After the trail run in Portland last week I realised I was going to be very underdone and would have dropped down to the 6k if there wasn’t a fee attached to the change!

I went into this race with zero expectations. Which meant I couldn’t really be disappointed, whatever happened!

Kit-wise I went with a new black lulu skirt (one of my overseas purchases) and my new pink argyle calf sleeves bought at the Boston expo, which I absolutely did not need but which were pretty and only $10!

They’re pink. I must have them!

Given that I was running the 12k, I figured my small race vest would be enough – 500ml of Gatorade should see me through, and there were a few drink stations along the way where I could refill them with water if needed.

I arrived at the start, at Blackwood Football Club, early enough to see the start of the 20k, which started at 8.

The 20k starters and a few of the awesome volunteers!
And they’re away!

It was chilly at the start but it was sunny and it was likely to be warmish out there. So I needed to factor in both arm warmers and sunscreen. 

I had originally chosen black and white arm warmers, then remembered I had pink and grey, so I threw both pairs in.

I asked Chantal which ones I should wear. Pink and grey was the winner. What was I thinking? Of course I should wear the pink!

I hadn’t studied the course. I rarely do. And as a ‘non-competitor’ in this race, I could comfortably rely on following the people in front. 

Pretty soon we were away – starting with a nice comfortable downhill. 

“IT’S A TRAP!” I thought to myself. As all trail runners know, “What goes down must come up!” (I certainly learned that at Boston!)

Near the start – I’m near the right in the pink hat. Photo courtesy of the Trail Running SA Facebook page.

It wasn’t long before we hit the first hill. And then I quickly remembered how not good at hills I am. (I remember, late in the race, someone behind me telling someone else “I’m great on downhills but I suck at uphills”. I was almost going to turn around and say “Me too! Except the bit about being great at downhills!”)

The course was quite technical. Which was actually good. There were multiple water crossings, and a bit of rock climbing in amongst the uphill slogs and the downhills! I found it easier than just running up hill – the variety was a good distraction, and it was kind of fun! (I didn’t see anyone fall into the water – I very much hoped I wouldn’t!)

Climbing over boulders is relatively easy for me, being blessed with long legs! Getting under low branches (along with finding a height-appropriate man!) is not so easy – thankfully I can only recall one ‘limbo’ that I had to do!

There was a guy behind me who had run the practice run last weekend and mentioned a few times that he’d got very lost! I had told him to let me know if he wanted to pass me, but after hearing that, jokingly told him I didn’t want him taking the lead! (In his defence, there were no course markings last week, and the trail at times was difficult to pick out!)

On the course marking, I have to say, this course was IMPECCABLY marked. As one who is, shall we say, ‘navigationally challenged’, I never felt like I was in danger of getting lost – thanks so much to the awesome volunteers who marked the course!

After around 6k I said “OK that’s enough for me!” – again cursing myself for not entering the 6k in the first place!

But of course we all know that’s not how it works. I entered the 12k, and I would run 12k (or thereabouts – the other thing we all know is that trail distances are approximate at best!)

From about 10k to 11k it was a hard slog – and the elevation profile backs that up! There was a lot of walking in that kilometre but I knew it was ‘nearly’ over. (Fellow parkrunner Alex had passed me at around the 7k mark, telling me there was ‘only a parkrun to go’ – which is a lot more encouraging with 5k to go in a marathon than it is with 5k to go in a 12k!)

The elevation profile makes interesting viewing!

There was a nice little bit of downhill towards the end. Even though there was a bit of up as well, I managed to keep running, albeit a slow plod, because I knew the end was (metaphorically) in sight. 

My normal rule when it comes to hills, is “Never run up a hill if you can’t see the end of it!” Meaning, I will run up a short steep hill (in fact, it’s usually easier to run it than walk it) but a long steady climb I will usually walk (and probably faster than I could run!)

Thanks to Chantal for this photo near the finish line!

Eventually I was at the finish line and ran under the arch – stopping the clock (figuratively) in a touch over 1 hr 25. 

The finish line was a welcome sight!

Although I had no expectations leading into the race, there were a lot of pleasing signs:

  • Under 90 minutes ✔ (not that I had a time goal, but I really did)
  • Didn’t fall over ✔
  • Didn’t die! ✔

One thing I will hopefully remember for next time is to wear my cycling gloves – that would have been handy (no pun intended) for climbing over boulders. Plus if I did fall over, I could save myself with my hands!

I then proceeded to chat with a lot of the fellow runners, who all wanted to know about Boston and my holiday (which I don’t think I will ever get sick of talking about) in between eating my body weight in vegan brownies (thanks again Maurice!)

For once I didn’t win any prizes in the random prize draw but I guess it’s only fair to give some other people a go!

This was yet another fantastic event from the wonderful people at Trail Running SA. Great course, perfectly marked, brilliant weather – what more could you ask! Congrats to all the runners, and of course once again the amazing volunteers need to be thanked for making it all possible!

I could not think of a better way to ease back into ‘normal life’ – out on the beautiful Adelaide trails with great friends!

Next event for me is the Barossa half marathon (2 hour pacer). And I have my outfit organised – getting pretty excited! (Now I have 2 weeks to make sure I can actually run 21.1 in 2 hours!)