2018 was my 4th consecutive year participating in the Heysen 105.
My first Heysen 105 was in 2015. A lot of things went wrong (lost car key, fell over, got epically lost, in that order) but I absolutely loved it and went back for more in 2016. I still don’t see how I can improve on how I went in ’16, so I haven’t been back to do the 105 again since!
I decided to give one of the shorter distances a crack last year – running the 35km. Again I managed to add a bit of distance to the course.
This year my aim was to improve on my 2017 35km time and get under 4 hours. All I needed to do was not get lost and it should be a no-brainer!
I’m mostly telling you this for my own benefit if I run this again and re-read this report in preparation, my pre-race dinner was some excellent food from Pure Vegetarian at Adelaide Central Market. And a cider of course!
My day started early, with 3 alarms set for 3:05, 3:10 and 3:15. I had most of my gear prepped but allowed myself plenty of time to get ready before my departure time of 4:00am. I went for the exact same kit as last year’s 35km (because I couldn’t really blame the kit for getting me lost) except I used lululemon socks and my trail shoes were brand new (still Salomon Speedcross 4, just a new pair as the old ones were a bit worn!)
I made it to Myponga, the 35km finish line, by just after 5am, in plenty of time for the bus. I tried to have a little snooze on the bus but it wasn’t happening! Sam, who had run the 105km last year but had downgraded to the 35km this time, and I were having a chat about our plans for next year. The Adelaide 24 hour came up, and Sam said she was planning to do it, saying “sounds like fun!” A couple of guys in front of us turned around as if to say “WTF??” and I burst out laughing, saying “What’s wrong with us???”
We stopped in Victor Harbor for a toilet stop, given that there are no toilets at the start line.
Pretty soon we were at the start line at Newland Hill, plenty of time before the 7am start (in fact, we’d not long missed the 6am 105km start group – but we would see some of those runners along the way). I’d done my gear check the week before so all I had to do was collect my race number and I was pretty much ready to go!
At the start I caught up with Rebecca, who I had last chatted with at the pre-race dinner the previous week, who was doing the 35k too. When she saw me she told me she’d “had an accident” – what she meant was, she had ‘accidentally’ (a.k.a “my finger slipped”) switched from the 35k to the 57k, which would be her first ultra – and hadn’t even told her husband! Kate had talked her into it apparently – that didn’t surprise me, she ALMOST talked me into the Hubert 100 miler while we were walking laps together during the 24 hour race! (Rebecca had originally entered the 35km thinking that we were running the LAST 35km of the 105, not the first! The elevation profile of the last 35km is VERY different!)
I said to Sam, with about 20 minutes to go before the start, that I only had 2 things I needed to do – “sunscreen and wee”. Sam laughed and said “I thought you said WEED!”
One thing I really liked about this year was that the 35km runners started with the 57km and 105km runners at 7am, instead of at 6:30 like last year. Firstly, it theoretically meant an extra half hour sleep (although it didn’t, because the bus was still at the same time, plus I had a longer drive to get to the start line this year). Secondly and more importantly, it meant that there would be more people around throughout the run. Last year, with only a small field in the 35km and a separate start wave, it got a bit lonely out there at times!
Last year my plan was to run the first 17-18km to Checkpoint 1 at Inman Valley. After the navigational mishap I did end up walking a bit, but other than that I did manage to run the whole way, so there was no reason why I couldn’t do it this time.
We started just after 7am, I was about mid-pack. One thing that surprised me was how fast some of the 105km runners started! One of them was Kent, who had done a few very speedy 50k ultras but this was his first 100km. He ran behind me for a short while, saying I was stopping him from going too fast too early! He ended up passing me before long and I never caught up with him again!
Also in the 105km were Steve, who was the brainchild behind the SA Five 50 Ultra series which has been generating quite a lot of interest! The series is 5 ultramarathons of around 50km in SA, some in Adelaide and some regional, and next year for the first time there will be medals for anyone who completes all 5, and prizes for those with the fastest combined times. As a current Board member of SARRC, the organisation which puts on the Yurrebilla 56k ultra, I am the Yurrebilla ‘rep’ for the series. One of the other races, the Federation Trail ultra in Murray Bridge, is organised by Morgan, who was also running the 105k (his first hundy!). The three of us had a bit of an impromptu ‘meeting’ in the early stages of the race before those two took off, another couple of very speedy 105k runners!
There was a fair bit of road in the beginning and as always I had a buff around my neck to pull up over my nose and mouth when cars went past on the dirt roads.
Early on I managed to catch up with Jenny (57km) and Dave (105km) who I had done a few trail runs with in the leadup to Heysen. Although they were running further than me, they left me to eat their dust very early!
After what seemed like an eternity, we reached my favourite type of trail, nice wide soft fire track through the forest. I was running with Ryan at this stage, also doing the 35km, and he agreed that this was the best kind of trail!
I was determined to avoid getting lost, particularly at the spot where I’d missed the turn last year. With many more people out on the trail than last year, that was less likely to happen, but also it’s a bit dangerous to follow people, assuming they know where they’re going! I certainly wouldn’t encourage anyone to follow me, unless they’re keen for an adventure!
Anyway I was so busy trying not to get lost, before I knew it, I was approaching Inman Valley Road and the re-route to the hall which was the site of Checkpoint 1. It seemed kind of pointless running up the road to the checkpoint only to do a quick U-bolt and go straight back where I’d come from, but it was part of the course – the only thing I had to do was get my number checked off the list and I was outta there! (I had plenty of food and drink so there was no reason to stop) I later found out that Adam, who had infamously got lost with me last year, was at that checkpoint volunteering!
I forgot to mention I was running blind – once I’d started my watch at the start line, I had covered it up with my arm warmer and wasn’t intending to look at it again until I stopped it at the end! So I didn’t know how close I was to the checkpoint until I was practically there! And somehow I’d managed to miss the spot where I’d got lost last year – I’d made the turn without even realising it!
That was the easy bit done. The second half would be WAY harder.
I managed to run the first few kilometres after CP1, and found myself actually hoping for an unrunnable hill so I could start getting some food in! (I hadn’t had anything to eat up to that point as I’d been running the whole way). Eventually I hit the uphill road bit I’d remembered from previous Heysens, and it was time to smash a Clif bar!
I was carrying: 1 litre of Gatorade plus enough powder to make another litre, 4 different Clif bars, a peanut butter sandwich and a different nut spread sandwich, and 2 small packets of sweet potato crisps. As always I had WAY more food than I was expecting to eat. Most of that would be eaten while I was sitting at the finish line later!
I caught up with Daniel during this section and we ran bits and pieces together. He was doing the 105k (I think his second) and was smashing it at that stage! We chatted about the merits of sleeping in the back of the car (he’d slept in the back of his car the previous night, and his car was even smaller than mine! I was planning to sleep in the back of the car at the 105k finish line) among other things.
One bit I had completely forgotten about, and I have NO IDEA how, given that I’d done it 4 times before, was the climb out of Myponga Conservation Park. It was NASTY! Beautiful, but nasty! I did grab a sturdy stick at one stage to help me up some of the climbs! Strava says that bits of it are a 30% gradient. Not sure exactly what that means but it is STEEP!
Somewhere along here I caught up with Merle who was one of the 6am starters in the 105km. She asked me how I was going and I said “F***ed!” I said it laughing though. I knew I could not have too much further left to go!
Daniel had told me that the last 6km was on road, so I knew roughly how much further was left, but I still didn’t look at my watch.
Somewhere during the climby bit, a fence jumped out at me. I went splat, but I had my cycling gloves on so I just grazed one knee and my hands were protected. I bounced, kept going, and forgot all about it until other people saw the blood and asked me about it!
The road bit wasn’t much fun but at least I knew it was ‘about a parkrun to go’ when I reached it!
Along the road I overtook a few people, mostly 105km runners. I tried not to let my excitement show – they still had a LOOOOONG way to go!
I caught up with a 105k runner called Sam. During the conversation he informed me that I had 2.5km to go – this was the first time I actually knew where I was in relation to the finish line! I picked up the pace a little after this – the end was in sight!
Somewhere around here I distinctly smelled watermelon. It was so weird! I don’t even particularly like watermelon. I knew it would be at the finish line but I wasn’t craving it, watermelon doesn’t have a very strong smell, and even if it did, we were WAY too far away from the finish line for me to be actually smelling it! (I even asked the guy behind me if he could smell it, pretty sure he thought I was a bit strange!) Needless to say, there was no watermelon in sight!
I got to the finish line and stopped my watch – my time was around 3:55:30 (give or take a few seconds) – I’d cracked 4 hours! And someone told me I was in second place, I actually had no idea what place I was in, with the 3 different distances all starting together. I knew there were plenty of women ahead of me but I had no idea who was in the 35k! As it turned out, only one of them! She was already long gone by the time I finished, she wasn’t a local so I didn’t know her and I didn’t even get to meet her! (I later checked my previous Heysen results and was gobsmacked to find out that I’d actually run from the start to CP2 a few minutes FASTER when I’d run my first Heysen 105!
Only a few minutes after me, Tracey finished – she had also broken 4 hours and got 3rd place. We’d run together the week before and I knew she’d be around my pace as she was also hoping to go sub 4.
Then it was time to sit down, take off my shoes and socks, and raid my race vest for food!
It was a nice day to sit and just watch the runners come in! I was glad to be finished as it was starting to get a bit warm. I chatted all things triathlon with Shane for a while, he was waiting for his wife Emily who was also doing the 35km (dare I say it maybe a bit reluctantly) and was giving him regular updates via text of how much she was enjoying herself out there! (ie not very much!) At some point in the conversation I’m pretty sure he said he’d do the 105k again!
After hanging out at CP2 for a while I then made my way to CP3 via the Sip N Save at Mount Compass where I got myself a six pack of cider. I hadn’t been to CP3 before except while running the 105, so it was nice to see it from a different angle!
I got there just in time to see Jenny finish, she got second place in the 57km! She later told me she had fallen (quite early on) and hurt her shoulder and a rib, and a few days later it was confirmed she had actually fractured a rib!
I hung out at CP3 for a while – I saw Sirelle finish 3rd in the 57km and then dash off to buddy run Tina in the 105km – now that is impressive! I was tired just thinking about that!
Jenny had been waiting a while for the 3rd place finisher, so they could do a trophy presentation and Jenny could get going, so Jenny’s husband went for one last drive up the road to see if anyone was coming. If there was no-one there she was going to have to leave. As it turned out there were TWO 57km runners pretty much together. He leaned out the window and said to them, “One of you is going to finish 3rd!”
I was hoping to see Rebecca finish her first ultra but I also wanted to get to the finish line in time to see the winner, so I ended up having to leave before seeing her!
I got to the finish line where they had the couches and fires set up like last year. Michelle and Mark had done a lot of the work and it looked really great! A perfect way to kick back after running 105km (or in my case, 35km!)
I won’t write too much about the rest of the night, mostly because I slept through most of it, and I didn’t take very many photos.
One ‘funny’ moment was when Joel, who had been an impromptu buddy runner for Steve for one section, had given me some car keys to look after for Sean, who was Steve’s official buddy runner. I thought that was quite funny as Joel obviously hadn’t heard the story of me losing my key in 2015! I told Joel in great detail where I was going to put the keys, so he could tell Sean, in case I happened to be asleep when he got back! I was actually awake when Steve and Sean finished, and I gave Sean his keys straight away, and then a little bit later on Sean came up to me and asked me if I knew where his car was – unfortunately I didn’t! So there you go, in 2015 I only lost my key, but at least I knew where my car was!
I went to sleep in my car around 10pm and woke up about 2:30, just in time to fall asleep in my chair! In between naps I got to see Dione finish her first 105k. I missed seeing Kim finish her second Heysen, and I also missed seeing Kym and Kate finish (Kym has done every single Heysen) but had a bit of a chat to all of them around the campfire!
I had brought my guitar along like I had done last year, but this time I couldn’t be bothered getting it out – it just took up space in my car, and made my sleeping quarters just a little bit tight!
I had intended to help with the packing away, as I had last year, but I had somehow managed to sleep right through it! Sorry guys!
So that’s Heysen done for another year. I can safely say I won’t be back next year – I have just been accepted into the Chicago Marathon and I have also paid a deposit for New York. And in 2020 I think it will be my time to volunteer as I will be doing the full Murray Man which will be a week or two later and I will be wanting to save my legs for that!
Well done to everyone who participated, whether they finished or not – special congrats to all the people who completed their first Heysen, first ultra or first 100km!
And of course thanks to Race Director Ben and all of the fantastic volunteers – special thanks to the volunteers at CP2 where I spent a big chunk of the day – I don’t know all their names but Kirstie, Estha, Paul and Derek were a few of them – thanks to all of you! And to the first aid guy who cleaned up my knee!
I’ll finish with this. If you’re interested in a challenge but don’t think you’re up to an ultramarathon distance (or just don’t particularly WANT to run an ultra), definitely consider the 35km. But don’t expect it to be easy – it is definitely the hardest section of the 105km! You can walk it or run it – there’s plenty of time to finish. Heysen really does have something for everyone!
This was my 4th consecutive year participating in the Ultra Runners SA (formerly Yumigo!) Adelaide 6/12/24. It also marked the 10th anniversary of the first 6 hour event (back then, if you’d told me this event would later become a staple on my calendar, I would have strongly encouraged you to seek psychiatric help!)
My first 6 hour was three years ago in 2015 – it also happened to be my very first ultramarathon. (The 2018 12 hour was my 14th) After having gone into it without a clue or a plan (backing up from a marathon, at least I had the training in my legs), I went back to do it ‘properly’ in 2016. Last year I made a last minute decision to do the 12 hour and I learned a lot, so I decided to go back and do it again, to try to do it better!
Here’s the short version. Ran for 3 hours, turned around and ran the other way for 3 hours, turned again and ran the other way for 3 hours, turned once more and ran the other way for 3 hours, then finished.
There shouldn’t be too much to say about a race like that, should there?
I’d prepared a lot better than last year, given that 12 hours was in the plan since, well, the day after last year’s 12 hour!
Since UTA100 8 weeks ago, my focus had been on this event. It really was my ‘A’ race for the whole year. I had done 4 solid training runs over the past 6 weeks, broken up by a trail half in Mount Gambier and a duathlon. My training runs were 3 hours, 4 hours, 6 hours and 3 hours. I used the strategy of 25 min run/5 min walk throughout all of those runs. My first 2 training runs were way too fast (30km in 3 hours and 40km in 4 hours – not sustainable over 12 hours!) but I nailed it on the 6 hour run, covering 55km, and then ran the last 3 hour run with 6 hour first timer Gary.
My pre-race dinner was from Pure Vegetarian at Adelaide Central Market – pumpkin, chickpeas, spicy eggplant and noodles – lots of carbs! And a glass or two of red wine to wash it down.
Race fuel was similar to last year – a mix of peanut butter and chocolate spread sandwiches (3 of each), Clif bars and nut bars. I also had some mashed sweet potato with salt but didn’t end up using any of that during the race. The plan was that on every 5 minute walk break I would eat either half a bar or a quarter of a sandwich. I had 6 bottles of Gatorade and 2 extra serves of powder. I’m not much of a drinker especially in cooler weather so I was confident that would be more than enough.
I’d also included a caffeination schedule – a shot of cold brew just before the start, at 2 hours, 6 hours and 10 hours, an energy supplement at 4 hours and an energy drink at 8 hours. Caffeine every 2 hours. I’d done a couple of the training runs with cold brew and it seemed to work well. In previous years I had enlisted running buddies James, Leanne, Kate and Beck to bring me coffee at strategic times. This time I wanted to be self reliant, to have coffee ready when I needed it, and to be able to quickly down it rather than have to waste time slowly sipping it and/or burning my mouth! I’d put the coffee in empty vanilla extract bottles, which was an interesting conversation starter when people saw me drink it!
I had music – my waterproof iPod that I use for swimming, with a nice upbeat playlist on it. I was only planning to use that for short periods, mainly between the end of the 6 hour and the presentation. I’d never run in this event before with music, but that was mainly because it had always been raining and I didn’t want my iPod to get wet! This year, I not only had a waterproof iPod, but amazingly it looked like it was going to be a fine day!
I’d gone with toe socks which I’d only just started using, they had worked well on a trail run last weekend and people seem to like them, so I decided to give them a go (instead of taping my toes like I did last year).
It was pretty chilly at the start so I had my beanie, gloves and Boston Marathon jacket as well as my normal race gear. I was set up in a tent with the ‘Vegan Beast Mode Team’ – consisting of fellow 12 hour runner Ian from Melbourne along with another Melbourne runner Cheryl, and the awesome 24 hour trio of Kate, Tracey and Sheena, being ably crewed by Sheena’s daughter Elle. I had all my food and drinks set up within easy access so it would just be a matter of ‘grab and go’. I didn’t want to waste time on fuel stops! Consequently I had a bit of sandwich in the pocket of one Spibelt and a nut bar in the other one. Ready to go on the first walk break, so I wouldn’t need to stop at the tent for an hour or so! I’d managed to get a car park just next to our tent – winning!
To fit with the theme, I wore my brand new Mekong ‘Vegan Beast Mode’ T-shirt. (I had never run in this particular top, but I had run in a lot of other Mekong tops before, so I wasn’t concerned about the whole ‘don’t try something new in a race’ thing! (As it turned out, Sheena, Tracey, Kate and another vegan runner Ryan were all wearing the same thing! (I had spare tops to change into later, as I had never run 100km before wearing the same top throughout!)
The 6 and 12 hour runners kicked off at 6am, after the briefing from Race Director Ben and a special mention for 6 hour runners Kym and Graham, two of the three runners to have completed every one of the 10 6/12/24 events. (the other one was Colin, who would start 4 hours later in the 24 hour). Initially the event started as just the 6 hour, and eventually the 12 and 24 were added to make it the event it is today!
My goal was to beat last year’s 102.7km. I was aiming for 105km, as this would be the furthest I’d ever gone in one hit (my previous best being Heysen 105 in 2015, which actually ended up being around 104km). I’d aim to be on 55km at the 6 hour mark, giving me a bit of a buffer, expecting I would slow down in the second half. Last year I did 57km in the first half and just under 46 in the second – I was aiming to be more consistent this time. Last year I also had to change my walk/run strategy after 8 hours – I wanted to try to keep the 25/5 going as long as possible this time.
I started out running with Gary, who was utilising the same run/walk strategy as me (after we’d successfully used it on the run we did together) and he had alerts set on his watch, so while I was running with him I didn’t really have to look at my watch! Intermittently we were joined by Belinda who was also doing her first 6 hour.
I hadn’t looked at the 12 hour start list. It’s my thing. I prefer not to know who else is going to be there until I’m actually out there! I knew one of them, Kay, who I’d met on my first training run this year. She was aiming for 56km, her first ultra! Other than that, I didn’t know who I’d be up against! I was fully expecting to see Amelia, who had thrashed me (and the rest of the field) last year and it wasn’t until a few laps in when I hadn’t been lapped yet, that it occurred to me that she wasn’t there, and I had no idea who I was competing against! Actually I did know who I was competing against – 2017 me! I had to follow my plan to the letter, and I wasn’t going to let what other people were doing, interfere with that. I wasn’t going to look at the computer screen at all – I would keep track of my laps (47 was the magic number) and that would be all that mattered!
In the 12 hour we also had Randell who was aiming for a sub 10 hour 100km. So the only way I’d be seeing him would be when he was lapping me! Uli was there too – he just never looked like slowing down, I did tell him at one point that he made me feel totally inadequate as a runner, and he was always so damn chirpy (much like Randell!)
We had a few visitors during the morning – the Uni Loop is a very popular place for runners especially on the weekend, and it’s hard to go for a run there without bumping into someone you know! Nat and Beck came past on their long run quite early on, and then again on their way back – it was great to see them!
Another visitor was Voula who came to support Gary and myself with coffee and donuts! Voula and a few other regular Sunday runners were going to have lunch with Gary to celebrate Gary finishing his first 6 hour. Of course, I wouldn’t be having lunch with them – I’d still have another 6 hours to run!
The first 3 hours went pretty smoothly and I was running with Gary for most of it, until he dropped the pace a bit and I went on ahead. I was conscious of not going out too fast, but I still wanted to be on 55km by halfway.
3 hours marked the first turnaround. Sally and another girl, in giraffe onesies (because, why not?) informed me that I had 15 seconds to go before turnaround time. In other words, I could keep running another whole lap before turning around, or I could stop, wait 15 seconds and turn around now. I was all psyched up for the turnaround so I decided to go with the latter (I was walking anyway at this stage).
The turnarounds offer a change of scenery of sorts, as well as the opportunity to see a lot of the other runners that might be just behind or ahead of you, who you otherwise might not see!
From 9am we started to see some of the 24 hour runners arrive and get set up – they would start at 10. There were a lot of familiar faces there. Each time I went past our tent I tried to relay the message to the girls that there were some donuts on the table if they wanted any – I’d made a trip to the nearby Bakery On O’Connell for some of their famous vegan chocolate donuts!
10am came and we were joined on the track by the 24 hour runners. It was a record field for this event – possibly due in part to it being the Australian 24 hour championships. Consequently, along with being a relatively large field, it was also a star-studded one – including 2018 UTA100 champion Brendan Davies. I wondered how long it would be before he started lapping me! Also among the 24 hour field was Felix, an international runner and fellow vegan!
And it would be remiss of me not to mention the most distinctive person in the 24 hour, Thor! Actually his name is Stewart but he ran the 24 in full Thor costume complete with wig and hammer! And even when I saw him in the late stages of the 24, he was still in full Thor costume! Now that’s dedication!
Just after the 24 hour runners started I decided it would be a good time to visit the portaloo. Silly me had to choose the broken one with no water – by the time Michelle told me this, I was already committed!
As 12:00 and the 6 hour finish approached, I encountered Gary again. He was on track for his goal of over 50km and doing well! When I calculated I was on my last lap before the siren signalled the end of the 6 hour, I picked up my iPod so I could drown out the sounds of the presentation, and focus on getting through the next few hours!
The iPod worked really well to distract me, however unfortunately somehow I’d unknowingly started it earlier and I ended up only getting just over an hour and a half worth of tunes before the battery died! Oh well, it was enough to get past the presentation! (I’d got a solid 6 hours out of it during my training run, so I was expecting to get a bit more than I did!) And I had brought a mobile charger so all was not lost – when I went past the tent again I plugged it into the charger for a few hours to bring back out again towards the end!
I’d made it to my goal of 55km at the halfway mark. From memory it was 25 laps, which equates to EXACTLY 55km (one lap being 2.2km). I got pretty good at calculating how far I’d gone based on the number of laps – I couldn’t rely on my Garmin watch, as they are always out by some margin especially on a loop event like this! So to get my 105 I just needed to get 50km in the last 6 hours. Simples!
8 hours was the next big hurdle in my mind, as this was the point last year at which I had had to revise my run/walk strategy. I’d started doing 13/2 and quickly realised that 2 minute walk breaks were useless, so had reverted to 10/5 from 9 hours to the finish. I really didn’t want to have to do that this time, but I had in the back of my mind that whatever I had to do, the walk breaks would need to stay at 5 minutes. No more, no less.
One of the great new innovations this year was the motivational signs – I believe Michelle was responsible for these! I’m not sure exactly how many of them there were, over the course of the first few hours they were gradually put up around the loop. All of them were double sided so it meant we had something to look forward to when we changed direction! Some of them put ideas in my head that weren’t there before (eg “Your feet hurt because you’re kicking arse” or words to that effect – well my feet didn’t hurt before that but once I had the idea in my head…)
I had the idea early on to get my ‘RUN LIKE SOMEONE JUST CALLED YOU A JOGGER’ sign out of my car. That sign had been pretty much living in my car since I’d made it for the 2014 Adelaide Marathon. Coincidentally, it was in almost the exact same spot as the start/finish area for this race, that I stood in my tiger onesie and cheered on the runners 4 years ago! As Michelle was going around putting up the signs, I told her where my car keys were and where my car was, and suggested if she wanted to she could use that one as well. And sure enough, a few laps later, there it was, conveniently displayed right near our tent – it was a good landmark so I wouldn’t miss my tent (although I did nearly run past it once!) – our tent was a bit set back from the path due to the ground being a bit uneven, so it was hard to see until you actually reached it. But with the sign there, you couldn’t miss it!
Early in the 24 hour I noticed that lap after lap, Merle and Stephan were running together, sometimes with Merle’s running buddy Trish. I jokingly said “People will start to talk!” – they were chatting constantly the whole way! And then later I encountered Merle and Trish but no Stephan – apparently he’d ‘ditched’ them and gone on ahead – so later on when I ran into Stephan again I jokingly had a go at him for taking off! It’s this kind of camaraderie and good fun that makes this event what it is – a great fun day out!
10 hours came and I was still on my 25/5 run/walk, and relatively comfortable although the sign that said ‘Blisters are braille for awesome’ was starting to speak to me – I was certain there were at least a few blisters on my toes, and was thinking maybe the toe socks were a bad choice! It was at this time that I decided it was time for another hour of tunes, so I grabbed the iPod but to my horror it hadn’t charged at all – absolutely NO battery! Devastated! However thankfully I did have a backup – I had my prized iPod classic with its 9000-odd songs, and had thankfully also thrown in a normal set of running earbuds (the earbuds that went with the waterproof iPod only had really a really short cord, which was perfect when I had the iPod clipped to the back of my hat, but would not work with the Classic that I would need to carry in a pocket. So next time around the loop I grabbed the Classic and the normal headphones.
This was the only time when I really got shitty during the race, and it was only because of stupid technical issues! Sheena was near me at the time and she commented that she’d never heard me swear, I got all my swearing for the day out in that couple of minutes! The iPod was fine, it was the ear buds I just couldn’t get in! They were those ones that hook over your ears and I was getting really frustrated having tried seemingly every way to get them in! Sheena’s suggestion of stopping to do it properly was a great one and I did acknowledge that but I wasn’t having any of it – no stopping today!
Eventually I did get them in and decided that the appropriate track to kick off this part of the race was ‘Detroit Rock City’ by Kiss. Boy did that give me a huge boost! If anyone had seen me a minute earlier and then once the music kicked in, they would have thought I’d had an injection of something really good! As the first song finished I saw Ben sitting on a bench, I now think that was the 100km mark and he was waiting to record someone’s 100km split – possibly Randell (who got the 100km in only a few minutes over the 10 hours he was hoping for).
I had my playlist on shuffle for a little while until I got to the next walk break when I had a bit of time to mess around with the settings and I put on my favourite running album, Def Leppard’s ‘Adrenalize’ which kicks off with ‘Let’s Get Rocked’. That usually makes me run too fast but luckily I was on a walk break for that one! I knew it was about 45 minutes worth of music which would take me through to 11 hours 20, and from then on I’d reassess whether I still needed music or whether I’d ditch the iPod for the closing stages.
The end of the album also coincided with around the time I reached the magical 100km mark! I remembered roughly where the little sign was last year, and had been looking for it but hadn’t seen it – I later found out that a few of the signs had been stolen, including that one – so it wasn’t just my lack of observational skills! Michelle’s husband Mark was sitting on the bench next to where the sign had been, and one of the other 12 hour runners, John, with whom I’d been going back and forth for the past 11 or so hours, was just ahead of me. I remembered him saying at some point he was going for an age group record. It was possible to get milestones recorded officially if you thought you were in line for some kind of record (age group or overall) but as I wasn’t in that league, I wasn’t doing that. However, John was, so that was when I realised that must be the magical 100km mark (which I confirmed with Mark)! A brief moment of celebration as I continued on! Last year I’d reached 100km with 20 minutes to go, this year it was more like 40. To get a PB I only needed just under 3km in that 40 minutes. To get my 105 I needed 5. And I was still hanging on to the 25/5, although I know my running pace was getting slower. Every now and then I’d switch to a ‘shuffle’ where I’d really shorten my stride and pick up the pace, barely lifting my feet. It worked well – really saves a lot of energy! Not really recommended on a trail ultra where you can easily trip over something, but on a track ultra it’s a great way to conserve!
With around half an hour to go, I was on 46 laps. I was hoping to get 2 more in that last half hour which would be well beyond my expectations! Even 47 laps would be 103.4km and a clear PB. Helping me was the fact that I wasn’t planning to take a 5 minute walk break in this half hour. I’d used up the last of my Gatorade but it wasn’t worth stopping to mix up another bottle now! (I’d been carrying a bottle from the first walk break onwards! I’d taken between 3 and 4 hours to drink the first one but then somehow I’d managed to get through them all!)
When I got to 47 laps I saw my parents waiting at the finish line for me, I wasn’t expecting to see them as I knew they had dinner plans, so it was a nice surprise! Voula also came out again, this time with her puppy Bob who was a bit excited! I went to get my rock (each runner is given a personalised rock which they drop when the siren goes off to signify the end of the race, and then the volunteers measure the distance covered since the last full lap. That way you get a measure of the whole distance, not just the full laps) and Ben jokingly told me he couldn’t find mine! Luckily he WAS joking because I wasn’t about to stop and wait for him to find it! I had about 15 minutes to go and I was pretty sure I could get around again but I didn’t want to get 2km into the loop when time was up and not get credit for that 2km!
Voula and Bob ran with me for some of that loop although they did cut across the grass so they didn’t go the whole way! I knew I was going to get my 48 laps (105.6km) and probably then some!
I crossed the timing mat for the last time, still with a few minutes left, so I tried to pick up the pace a bit – no sense leaving anything in the tank! The siren went off, I dropped my rock and made my way back to the finish line!
My official distance was 105.91km which was very satisfying! The plan worked perfectly and I was able to keep the same run/walk schedule going for the whole 12 hours which was extremely pleasing!
And the top lasted the whole day – not a single issue, no chafing, no nothing! Kudos to Mekong for a great product!
I went to greet Mum and Dad (turned out Dad had been attacked by a possum which thought he was a tree and tried to climb him – luckily the first aid lady was there ready to attend to him – not that she was expecting to deal with a possum attack!) and Voula and Gary who had come back to see me finish.
After Mum and Dad left it was time for me to grab some Coke (I’d managed to hold off drinking any during the 12 hours – MAN that tasted good at the end)! and a slice of vegan pizza, and then go see the first aid lady to look at my blisters. I probably had blisters on most of my toes and I put it down to the socks – I had managed to wear a hole through the bottom of one of them, although I didn’t get a blister where the hole was, strangely! Just everywhere else! (Toe socks are not for me, apparently!) While the lady (I can’t remember her name!) was examining my feet and patching up the bits that needed patching, Michael (who was also the course measurer) was very helpfully telling me that I should pop the blisters (which went contrary to what the first aider was telling me – I was pretty sure I was going to follow her advice and not his!) Michael also told me I was 2nd female which I didn’t realise up until that point – I was 5-6km behind 1st, which was far enough that there was really nothing I could have done to beat her. It was weird because I’d barely seen Kerrie (who was 1st) all day! Actually there weren’t many people in the 12 hour – only 20 in total, a much smaller number than either the 6 or the 24.
After that I went back to the tent to get changed into some warmer clothes and have some wine and donuts! We then went back to the start/finish area for the presentations. This was the first time I could remember having an official photographer at the 12 hour presentations – being at night time, often we only get people’s phone photos, but this time official photographer Gary was there to capture the moment! Cheryl also got over 100km to finish 3rd (another runner I’d hardly seen!) and the men’s podium consisted of Randell, Uli and another guy Ben who I hadn’t met before.
I was also lucky enough to win a $100 voucher for The Running Company in the random prize draw – I guess the odds of winning are pretty good when there’s 5 prizes and only 20 runners in the event, of which a lot of them had already left (and you had to be there to be eligible for a prize!). Looking at my shoes at the end of the run, (and they were past retirement even BEFORE the race) I have a feeling I’ll be putting that voucher to use sooner rather than later!
I hung out in the tent with Elle for the next few hours, refuelling (I had about 2 of my 6 sandwiches left, which were quickly consumed – that meant I’d eaten pretty much an entire loaf of bread that day on top of several Clif bars and nut bars!) and cheering on the 24 hour runners especially Kate, Tracey and Sheena. I wasn’t really doing much in the way of supporting (to be fair, I wasn’t really capable of much at that stage other than cheering) but Elle was doing a stellar job supporting the 3 girls, along with Lachlan who came down and did some laps.
I tried to have a sleep in Tracey’s tent out the back, but that wasn’t happening, so eventually I decided the best thing to do was go home for a few hours sleep in my own bed, which also meant I got to have a shower (THE BEST!). I woke up around 4am and headed back down to the Uni Loop around 5:30 to watch and support for the last few hours. When I arrived, Lachlan informed me that Elle was asleep in the tent, Sheena was about to get taken off in an ambulance, Tracey was finished, and he hadn’t seen Kate for a number of hours. My plan had been to do some laps with the girls, as long as they were only walking, and I’d left my running shoes at the track along with a fresh pair of socks (WITHOUT holes) in preparation. Oh well, it looked like that wasn’t happening, so I went to hang out with Vicky (who was backing up with a volunteer stint after finishing 2nd in the 6 hour – machine!) and Dione at the food tent. Where they also had a heater. Best place to hang! I brought what was left of the donuts from the previous day, and also made a quick trip to the bakery for coffee and a sausage roll for Ben!
Not long after this, Kate surfaced – she’d had about a 7 hour rest break and was ready to go for the last 3 hours! I offered to walk a few laps with her, and my offer was gratefully accepted! Her mission was to get to 110km and she was on 99 – just 5 laps in 3 hours!
We were walking at a reasonably brisk pace, every now and then Kate would break into a shuffle and although I tried I couldn’t go with her, so at times I’d cut across the grass to catch up with her! There was a fair bit of socialising going on as well as a bit of coffee drinking, so consequently we had to pick up the pace in the last few laps otherwise she wasn’t going to get her goal! Not only did she get her 110km she actually kept going after crossing the line for her 50th lap, until the siren went off! (Although she didn’t reach the distance she’d done last year, she also didn’t end up in hospital this time so surely that’s a win!)
I think it was great for me too, partly because I needed to keep moving and stretch my legs after the 12 hour, but also I got to see what the end of a 24 hour looks like, from a runner’s point of view rather than just a spectator! In previous years I have always gone to see the end of the 24 hour, and even when I’ve had thoughts about wanting to do the 24 hour one day, watching the runners stagger around in the final hours has made me never want to even contemplate it! This year was different. Firstly, I think I’ve achieved as much as I can in the 12 hour. I don’t think I can improve on this year’s effort. Maybe if I dedicate myself to this event and train specifically for it for the whole year, but if I want to continue running trails and road races as well, I don’t see how I could possibly do a better 12 hour. Kate is one person who has been egging me on to do the 24. She said it’s not for her, and she never wants to do it again, but she thinks it would be right up my alley. And I think she may just be right…
Also encouraging me to ‘step up’ is Glen, who ran the 24 hour this year as well. I had no idea until afterwards that this was his first time doing the 24! So he was encouraging me based on NO experience! (I asked him afterwards if he still thought I should do it and if he’d do it again – the answer to both questions was a resounding ‘Yes’!)
Last year, when I stayed all night and saw a lot of the 24 hour runners at various stages, I had no desire to do the 24. Here is a direct quote from me from last year: ‘One of the pluses of staying overnight after finishing the 12 hour was getting to see the 24 hour runners through the middle of the night. Watching them made me decide I NEVER want to run the 24 hour. Although, I do want to do a 100 miler one day and I’m sure a trail miler is not in my future, so I guess I will have to do it eventually. Give me a few years!’
Now – I think I might just give it a crack next year!
It was great walking the last 5 laps with Kate because we got to see most of the other 24 hour runners who were still going. Felix was going from strength to strength, never looking like slowing down, and ended up winning, and in doing so, obliterating the course record to finish on just over 260km! Second place was a runner called John who just looked super strong and smooth throughout, and his distance would have been good enough to win most years! In third place was Brendan, who Kate and I passed on our last lap, and I said to Kate “We just passed Brendan Davies – you don’t get to see that too often!” OK, admittedly he HAD done more distance than both of us combined, but still… small win!
In the women’s race, the winner was Heather who had passed me fairly regularly while I was still running, and looked super strong. Second place went to Anna (another vegan on the podium!) for the second year in a row, followed closely by a runner I hadn’t met before called Melissa, who astounded me with her crazy fast walking pace!
Congratulations to everyone who participated, particularly to those who dipped their toes in the 6/12/24 water for the first time, and I hope to see a lot of you back next year! It was a pleasure to share the track with you all! I always have to thank the volunteers and this event is no exception! The volunteers who had the ‘witching hour’ shift deserve special thanks and I’m sure I will be appreciating them even more next year! Thanks also to everyone who cheered us on, whether they were there supporting other runners or just out to give everyone a boost! (Special thanks to the crew with the maracas and clappers – you guys were one of the highlights of every lap and I really missed you when you weren’t there! I’m not sure who you are but I hope you’re there next year!)
And as always big congrats and thanks to Ben for making this such a fabulous, inclusive, fun, challenging, brutal, delicious and enjoyable event!
So who’s going to come out and run with me next year?
Five Peaks Ultramarathon & SA Trail Running Festival is a brand new event on the SA running calendar, organised by Trail Running SA who have been putting on awesome and incredibly popular trail running events in Adelaide and surrounds for the past few years. Five Peaks wasn’t initially on my radar, but when I realised it was 5 weeks out from UTA100, I thought it would be an ideal ‘training run’ – a training run with support throughout AND a medal at the end! The best kind of training run! And let’s face it, there are two chances of me going out and running 50+ kilometres by myself – Buckley’s and none!
I’m not sure exactly how this event came about but a couple of years ago, a few keen trail runners suggested that TRSA’s previous ‘big’ event, the Cleland SA Trail Championships, could be made into an ultramarathon by making it a 2 lap course (the long course trail champs is 24km) – no further course marking or drink stations required – a no-brainer! At the time I can clearly recall the response from TRSA being “TRSA is not in the business of ultramarathons” (or words to that effect).
At this time, the Adelaide metro region only had one trail ultramarathon, the Yurrebilla 56k. People had to venture further afield to the Flinders Ranges for the Hubert 100 or down south for the Heysen 105.
Then, last year, Yumigo! (the organiser of Heysen and Hubert) put on a ‘local’ trail ultra, the Cleland 50. By all accounts it was a pretty tough 50k! (I was going to run it, in fact I had entered, but withdrew when I realised just how tough it was going to be!) It does take in some of my favourite trails, so I’m sure I will run it one day!
And now Adelaide is really spoiled for choice, as TRSA has now decided they ARE in the business of ultramarathons, so we have 3 x 50km trail ultras in the metro region!
So I decided that I was going to run the Five Peaks. It starts at Athelstone (where the new Yurrebilla finish line is) and finishes at Belair (not quite at the Yurrebilla start line, but close!) and for a lot of the way, follows the Yurrebilla Trail. So it is kind of like a reverse Yurrebilla, with a few extra nasty little hills thrown in!
Like Yurrebilla, there were 3 organised training runs, covering the entire 58km (ish) course. The two times I had run Yurrebilla, I had never managed to fit in all the 3 training runs (probably due to those pesky marathons and associated long training runs which now are thankfully a thing of the past!) but this year, happily they all fit into my schedule quite nicely.
Now the tendency with ‘crazy ultra runners’ is to do these training runs as ‘back and outs’ or ‘out and backs’ rather than ‘point to points’. The ‘official’ training runs are point to point, with carpooling arranged so most of the cars are at the end and only a few at the start. The ‘out and back’ removes the need for carpooling and also (somewhat obviously) makes the run approximately twice as long. For my very first Yurrebilla training run in 2015, I opted to do the ‘back and out’ but other than that, one way is generally enough for me!
The advantage of ‘back and out’ versus ‘out and back’ is that you finish your run with everyone else. And at the end, there is always copious amounts of food, coffee and Coke, supplied by our wonderful supporters Mal and Merrilyn. I never liked the idea of getting to the ‘buffet’ in the knowledge that I would then need to run all the way back again! Much better to start at arse o’clock, in the dark, and be able to eat ALL OF THE FOOD!
A better option even, than ‘back and out’, is just running the one way! Which is exactly what I did for all 3 of the training runs.
Training run 1, which was approximately the first 18km of the course (Athelstone to Norton Summit), could only be described as brutal. By far the best part of that run was the refreshments afterwards! I think I may have drunk an entire 2L bottle of Coke! That run made me question everything, it made me seriously consider giving up trail running (and at times even giving up running altogether!). I ran (‘ran’ is generous – I’d say it was more than 50% walking!) with Beck and Kate. Neither of them were planning to do the event. And after that run, neither was I! But it’s funny how quickly you forget. I think by the end of that day I was as good as signed up! To be fair, that 18km section, which took us almost 3 hours, was run on a particularly hot day in February and contained 3 of the 5 peaks and over 1000m elevation gain. Plus, I’d just run a 50km ultra the week before on not much training. The heat was definitely a factor, and when the event was run in April, it would be much cooler. (Having said that, it was an unseasonal 36 degrees on the Wednesday 3 days before the event!)
I don’t really remember much about training run 2 (Norton Summit to Cleland), other than the fact it was a lot nicer than training run 1! Beck and Kate had been put off completely by training run 1, so I seem to recall I did a fair bit of it on my own. Which was good because neither of those two would be there on race day so I needed to get used to running on my own! It was around 16km with 680m of elevation gain – MUCH more civilised for a non-mountain-goat such as myself!
Then there was training run 3, on Easter Monday, 21km on the back of a solo 23km the previous day. I figured the best way to get more distance in, and get used to ‘running on tired legs’ would be to do back to back long hilly runs, rather than try to ‘cram’ all the mileage into one run, which would probably result in a longer recovery time. It worked really well – I was pretty stiff on Tuesday but back to normal programming by Thursday! That run was the nicest of the lot, only 500m of climb (just the one ‘peak’) and some spectacular views over the city.
Not that you can read too much into training runs, but if you combined my times for the 3 training runs (bearing in mind that on the first training run we probably cut out about 1-2km of extra little loops) it all added up to 7 hours 10 minutes. Now I had been told that Five Peaks would be harder than Yurrebilla, so I should expect to be about 20 minutes slower than my Yurrebilla time. My best YUM time (and indeed the only time I’d run the ‘proper’ course) was 7:07, so somewhere around 7½ hours would be the best case scenario. Conservatively I thought somewhere between 7 and 8 hours should be around the mark.
I had opted for the 7am start (the other options were 6am and 8am). 7am was the best option for me – 6am would necessitate a 4:45am bus from Belair (so probably around 4:15am leaving home!) plus I may well get to the drink stations before they open. 8am was the ‘racing’ group – you had to start in that group if you wanted to be a podium contender. As I knew I wasn’t going to be a podium contender, starting at 8am would only mean I would be one of the slowest in that group and would end up running most of the day on my own. The extra hour’s sleep was not enough to make that a good option for me!
After the final training run, I went out for one last trail hitout on the Sunday before the race. I went with my usual haunt (Chambers) and just did the one loop, but pushed it reasonably hard. Tuesday was a regular road running day and I cut it a bit short but again tried to pick up the pace. I decided not to run after that until race day – I walked on Thursday instead of my usual run, and had the luxury of a Friday sleep-in!
After my walk on Thursday I had a twinge in my left knee, patellofemoral joint to be precise, which was not something I had experienced in a long time. I expected it was just the dreaded ‘taperitis’ and that all would be good come race day. However come Friday it was still there and more noticeable going down the stairs at work, and sitting down and standing up. I wasn’t expecting to have to do much sitting down or standing up during the race, but going downhill WAS something I knew I would be doing, and in fact it was the one thing I knew I could do well (being a bit slow on the uphills!) So I decided to try taping my patella, which seemed to do the trick – instant relief!
I packed all my gear the night before, as my alarm was set for 4:30 as it was. There was the option of having a drop bag at Drink Station 3 (approximately the halfway mark) and I decided to leave a spare pair of shoes and socks in there as well as a spare T-shirt and arm warmers, and a bit of food. The forecast was for a fair bit of rain. I had never changed shoes and/or socks during a race before, but I figured it was better to have them there and not need them, than vice versa!
The only difference to my ‘usual’ race kit was a pair of gaiters from Groovy Gaitors – purchased specifically to match my T-shirt! At the last training run I had had a few rocks in my shoes so I thought my run would be a bit more comfortable without that! Plus, the gaiters look cool (most importantly!)
I arrived at Belair Country Club in the dark and rain at 5:30am. Although we were starting at 7 (when it would be light), a headlamp would have been useful if only for the walk from the car to the bus! I ended up walking to the bus with a guy who arrived around the same time, he thought it was bus stop 27B where the bus was picking us up. I was a bit suspicious when we got to said bus stop and there was no-one there, let alone any buses! He checked and it was actually bus stop 27A! We made our way there and onto the bus where I sat next to Hoa, who was also going for a 7-8 hour finish. She was doing Five Peaks, followed in a few weeks by the Hubert 100 miler, then UTA in 5 weeks (but ‘only’ the 50k!).
The bus trip seemed interminable, for some reason we went through the city, and consequently we arrived at the start line at Athelstone a bit late, meaning there was really just enough time to collect our bibs and have a last toilet stop before we were summoned to the start line to listen to the briefing by Race Director Claire and timing guy Malcolm.
After it had stopped raining during the bus ride from Belair to Athelstone, it started again JUST as we were about to start, so I quickly got out my light rain jacket and put it on.
I was fully expecting the first section to be nasty – as it had taken me 3 hours to get to Norton Summit in the training run, my goal was to get to Norton within 2.5 hours. Some of the hills were definitely not runnable, but I would power hike those, and run all the downhills and flats.
In the first training run, which contained 3 of the 5 peaks, Kate, Beck and I had decided not to run any of the ‘out and back’ diversions as we felt the run was long and hard enough as it was! Consequently these were a bit of a surprise in the event itself. It was a nice touch – at each of the Five Peaks, there would be a sign we had to run around saying the name and number of the peak. Peak 1 (Black Hill) was at 5km. I jokingly said to whoever was around me at the time, “So if we’ve done 1 peak out of 5, does that mean we’re 1/5 of the way there?”
There was a drink station around the 5km mark – just as we were about to start the climb up Chapman’s Track (one of the unrunnable bits!). I didn’t need anything at that stage, but Hoa, who I’d been going back and forth with in the first little bit, needed to top up her water. She would smash me going up the hills but then I’d usually catch up with her on the downs. She didn’t take long to catch up with me after refilling and it wasn’t too long before she powered past me and I didn’t see her again until the finish line!
Walking up Chapman’s, it had stopped raining so I took the opportunity to take off my jacket and try to put it back in my pack. Turns out it’s pretty hard to stuff a damp rain jacket into a not-very-big pack while walking uphill and trying not to trip over on a pretty rocky track! A lot of people passed me while I was trying to do this, and eventually I gave up and stopped for a minute to put it away.
While we had a break in the weather and I was walking anyway, I decided why not take a few photos rather than rely on other people to illustrate my blog!
For a little while on Chapmans I was walking with Jai and Tim, who seemed to be having WAY too much fun! Jai was suggesting that windscreen wipers for his sunglasses would be useful – I suggested that maybe sunglasses were not needed on a day like this! (Indeed I was not wearing sunnies in a race for the first time in a long time – I had them in my pack but did not end up using them at all!) Like other people throughout the day, I’d be with them for a while, then they’d get away, I’d catch up again, and they’d get away again. It was a nice distraction but by the time I stopped briefly at Drink Station 2 at Norton Summit, they were long gone!
Just before we reached Norton Summit, we had to run on the road for a bit. As I approached the road I could hear a familiar voice calling my name – it was Ziad, who is often the course sweeper/trail demarker but today was a road marshal. He directed me onto the road and told me as always to “Keep smiling” and “Have fun!”
I was pretty happy when the markers directed us off the road and back onto the trail – I don’t much like running on non-closed roads, especially in trail shoes! I caught up with Jim, one of the 6am starters with whom I’d had a long chat about this event at a SA Road Runners Club social event during the week, and he seemed to be travelling OK. I had just passed him when I reached a fence with a closed gate, I pushed the gate only to find it was padlocked! I couldn’t see a way around, so the only option seemed to be to jump the fence! I wondered how the fast 8am runners would feel about having to jump a fence – I bet that wasn’t in anyone’s race plan! We both climbed over the fence – thankfully the only bit of fence climbing we’d have to do for the day!
As I mentioned earlier, there was over 1000m elevation in the first 18km of the run. (Norton Summit was ‘Peak 3’) That was almost half of the overall elevation gain, in less than 1/3 of the distance! Mentally, I knew that once I got to Norton Summit, half the battle was over! And I made it in just under 2.5 hours, as I had hoped. I didn’t linger long – just long enough to fill up one of my bottles with water. I was carrying 2 bottles of Gatorade and no water, and I’d drunk one of my bottles of Gatorade. I had Gatorade powder in my pack, but I couldn’t be bothered taking off my pack to get it out at this stage. Besides, it was only 9km to the next drink station where I would definitely be stopping. One bottle of Gatorade SHOULD be enough, and I had a bottle of water as a backup. I do prefer to drink Gatorade rather than water, most of the time during runs.
For a while I was running with Jon and Jess, Jon using hiking poles, and Jess doing his first ultra. They both seemed to be going pretty well, and I must admit I could have done with some poles on some of the earlier climbs!
It took me a good hour to do the 7km from Norton Summit to Coach Road, which was almost the halfway mark. During this time I was overtaken by a girl who I assumed was one of the fast 8am starters, as she passed me apparently quite effortlessly! I was chatting to her, and Jon and Jess, about the merits of changing shoes and socks at Coach Road. I was agonising over it for probably the last 5km of that section – given that there would likely be more rain, and existing unavoidable puddles, was it worth taking the time to change into dry shoes that would soon be wet? Jon didn’t think it was worth it, and none of the people I talked to had spare shoes anyway, but I kept thinking about it and by the time I reached the drink station I had decided that I was going to change. There was water sloshing around inside my shoes, my socks were saturated, and I figured I’d be on the fast track to Blisterville if I kept those socks on for the rest of the day! Even if my dry shoes and socks got wet, at least they would be dry for a short period! And with less rain forecast in the afternoon than in the morning, there was a chance I might remain relatively dry!
I collected my drop bag and took everything out – spare Gatorade powder, an extra sandwich, and all my dry clothing. I changed T-shirts and arm warmers, and quickly put my light rain jacket back on because of course it was raining again! No sense putting on a dry top only for it to get wet while I was in the process of changing my shoes! The cycling gloves which I like to wear in trail races to protect my hands in case I fall over, were completely drenched. After having taken them off and wrung them out, I didn’t fancy putting them back on again. Into the drop bag they went. The T-shirt I had been wearing at the start was so wet that I think I could have bypassed the drink station and filled my drink bottle by wringing it out!
As I was changing my shoes, a lot of runners went past me. I didn’t time how long I spent at the drink station, but I was convinced that any time ‘wasted’ on changing shoes would be time well spent, if it meant making the second half of the race more comfortable! I managed to change shoes and socks while still standing up (I don’t like sitting down during a race – it’s too hard to get back up and going again!) While I was changing shoes one of the 6am starters, Belinda, was umming and ahhing about whether or not to change her shoes. I told her in no uncertain terms “Do it!”. She did, and I hoped that my advice turned out to be good!
After my wardrobe change I went to top up my drink bottles and have my first Coke for the day. TRSA have a ‘no cups’ policy which meant that runners needed to bring their own receptacles (bottles, cups etc) for drinks. It’s a great initiative and everyone seemed to be well prepared. With the strong winds, plastic cups would have blown away anyway! As well as Coke I had a couple of Maurice’s delicious vegan brownies to fuel the next section of my run!
There was still a fair bit of climbing to come. With storms the previous day, and strong winds throughout the race, there were plenty of fallen tree branches creating potential trip hazards. Or, in my case, potential makeshift ‘hiking poles’! I think on 3 occasions I picked up a sturdy branch to help me up some of the hills, and then ditched them once I could see level or downhill trail ahead!
OK now I will admit that maybe I didn’t read the briefing document as diligently as I should have. The second training run ended at Cleland, which was also the start line for the 22km run. Although I had printed out a list of drink stations with estimated timings based on different race times, I had incorrectly assumed that the next drink station would be at Cleland.
The next ‘Peak’ was Mount Lofty, Adelaide’s highest point. The Waterfall Gully to Mount Lofty hike is an extremely popular walking trail especially on the weekends. It is sometimes (perhaps unkindly) referred to as the ‘Lorna Jane Highway’, in reference to the plethora of activewear-clad ladies who go there to take Insta-worthy selfies and generally be seen. On a day like this though, it was only the hardcore crazies who were out there. By that, I mean participants in the Five Peaks, and a few intrepid others! It made a nice change!
Just before Mount Lofty I saw a familiar face with a camera at the top of Pillbox Track – it was Bek, who I’d been chatting with a few days before, she’d told me where she was marshalling, and I told her I hoped I’d be smiling when I saw her!
At Lofty, as per the previous peaks, we had to do a lap around the ‘Peak 4’ sign, which meant running around the big arse white monument and checking out the view. On a clear day, Mount Lofty is a pretty good place to get a great view over the city (once you’ve elbowed all the other view-seekers out of the way), although on this particular occasion it was pretty misty (I had predicted a complete white out, so I was pleasantly surprised to be able to see anything!). As I got to the monument I noticed a gazebo there, and after having run past it, I realised it was a drink station! Not until much later did I realise this WAS, in fact, Drink Station 4! This was the 31km mark. The last drink station had been at 25km and as it turned out my next opportunity to refill would not be until the final drink station at 44km. That’s a long time between drinks (pun intended!) but fortunately due to the cool conditions I managed to get by quite comfortably!
Not long after Lofty we got to Cleland where TRSA committee member Murray was getting the start line set up for the 22km, I reckon this was just before midday. For some reason I had in my head that I ran the last training run in under 2 hours so if I could reach Cleland within 5 hours I was a chance of a sub 7 hour finish which would be phenomenal! I later realised that it was actually the SECOND training run that I had done in under 2 hours. 22km of trails in under 2 hours would have taken some doing!
Possibly around this point, or maybe a bit earlier, was when I started running with Damian, who I hadn’t run with before but who had finished just behind me in my last Heysen 105 (coincidentally my last trail ultra, 18 months ago) and was also doing UTA100 (for the first time) this year. It was great to have someone to run with consistently, we didn’t run the whole of the rest of the race together but we were never far apart, and we ran quite long sections of it together. We had plenty to chat about! Also with us at this stage was Jon – Jess had gone on ahead and ended up doing a smashing time for his first ultra! Jon was trying to convince us to do the Wonderland run in the Grampians – he prefers smaller events rather than big ones like UTA! (When I asked him if he’d ever done UTA he quickly said “No, too big!”) I must admit he did make it sound pretty appealing…
While running with Jon he mentioned Kent, a Mount Barker parkrunner, regular parkrun tourist, SA Statesman (a fair effort considering SA now has 23 parkruns, more than double the number we had when I was a Statesman, and with 2 more to come before the end of this month!) and generally Very. Fast. Runner. (This is the guy who did the parkrun double on New Year’s Day last year – 5k at 7:30am, then RAN the 23k to the second parkrun and was there in time for the 9:30am start!) Jon said he had been trying to convince him to do a trail ultra and over time he went from “No” to “Maybe” to “Where do I sign up?” He was in the 8:00 (speedy) group, doing his first ultra.
Not long after this we hit the old Mount Barker Road, where we were directed to run in the bike lane. This is a very popular route for cyclists, being quite a challenging climb, on a relatively quiet road, with the bike lane being physically separated from the traffic. We were running down, not up, so we would be running towards the bikes, and therefore it would be relatively easy for us to jump out of the way. Except, on a rainy and windy day, the road was devoid of cyclists so we had the bike lane all to ourselves! Luxury!
About 1km down the road we crossed over and back onto the trails again. Here I saw Kent’s parents, and asked them how far away he was, to which they replied, “He’s right behind you!” And not far down the trail he and his bright orange shorts went cruising past me, looking fresh as a daisy! Not bad for a first ultra!
Around the same time I caught up with Luke, another one of the 8am starters, who I’d gone back and forth with a few times since he first passed me. When I approached him I saw something sticking out of his mouth and for a split second I thought he was having a smoke! Of course he wasn’t, it was just a Chupa Chup (a kind of lollipop in case you’re not familiar!) I thought if I could hang on to him for a while I would be doing OK. Sure, he was an hour ahead of me but he DID finish 3rd at the Adelaide Marathon last year so to be ‘only’ an hour behind him was pretty good in my book!
Then came possibly the best moment of the race for me, we were running through a cow paddock and the cows were just hanging out, they didn’t seem bothered by all us runners! Fortunately there was a photographer right here so she managed to capture some pretty cool shots of us with the cows!
Not long after this was that spot where I took that stunning panoramic shot 2 weeks ago. Safe to say it didn’t look quite like that on this particular occasion, and I wasn’t going to stop to take a photo of it this time around! Fortunately it had stopped raining by this stage but the wind was as strong as ever, I was being blown sideways!
Soon we reached the steep cement driveway that led down to McElligott’s Quarry and the final drink station. Lining the driveway were a whole lot of cheering people in onesies, who seemed to be having a LOT of fun – it was great to see at this late stage in the race! Also on the driveway I saw Kent’s parents, and his mum Karen offered to take my rain jacket, which by now I was holding in my hand. I had planned to put it in my pack when I reached the drink station, but I gratefully accepted Karen’s offer, handed over the jacket and kept running! I quickly topped up my Gatorade with the help of Laura and the other volunteers, grabbed a brownie and a handful of chips, and away I went!
In the latter stages I caught up with Damian again, and also went back and forth with Emily, and also with Kay, who I’d seen at the start and then at DS3. We seemed to go back and forth quite a few times! Turned out Emily was actually a 7am starter, not 8am as I’d thought! Damian and I were running together most of the time, and we’d pass Kay, and then we’d walk for a bit, and she’d come powering past, then we’d pass her again, and so on!
The last big climb was up the Pony Ridge switchbacks (which, when run in reverse, are my favourite part of Yurrebilla) but not before another seemingly endless section of road, along Brownhill Creek Road. Kay was ahead of us at this stage, we were walking but trying to keep up a good pace. 7.5 hours was still a possibility but we couldn’t afford to waste any time if that was going to happen!
Probably around the 50km mark my Garmin watch started to show ‘Low Battery’ – I suspect my watch is on the way out, as I have previously got through Yurrebilla with plenty of juice left in the battery. I quickly got my phone out and started to record the run directly onto Strava, in case my watch died completely!
On Pony Ridge Road, just as we were about to enter Belair National Park, we saw TRSA committee member David, who advised us we only had 3km to go! Looking at our watches we couldn’t see how that was possible – it had to be at least 5km!
The next milestone was the Echo Tunnel, which had reportedly been lit up like a Christmas tree! Before we hit Echo Tunnel there was a sign saying “2km to go!” Well I’ll tell you, if that was true, it was the longest 2km I’ve ever done!
The tunnel had been unofficially renamed “Steve’s Tunnel” after TRSA committee member Steve who had done the lighting work!
After coming through the tunnel, I was passed by Erin, one of the 8am starters, and decided, given that there were less than 2km to go, to try to stick with her all the way to the finish. Her bright pink shorts made it easy to follow her! I left the rest of them (Damian, Kay and Emily) behind and just went for it! It’s a nice feeling to be able to finish a race strong and have a nice little kick at the end, even after 50+km!
It seemed to take forever but finally I got there! In the end I was only 17 seconds behind Erin (well, 1 hour and 17 seconds actually!). I almost forgot to get my medal! Imagine that!
My time was around 7 hours 31, so based on my pre-race predictions, about as good as I could have hoped! Damian ended up a few minutes behind me, with Emily and Kay not far behind.
With about 3 hours before cutoff time, I grabbed my chair and blanket, a cider and a Coke and settled in to watch the rest of the finishers! Thanks to Wendy who went and got my drop bags for me so I didn’t have to get up!
It was great to see all the people cross the line, including some very fast 22km and 12km runners! The finish line atmosphere was fantastic, with food trucks and even a bar! (Even though the Indian place didn’t have any vegan curry, which I had been looking forward to for at least the second half of the race!)
Towards cutoff time I got to see Kim and Kym, two very well known trail running identities, cross the line together.
I ended up leaving just after the 5:30 cutoff time, as it started raining again and I had curry on the brain!
It was a very long day but it would had to have been an even longer day for the volunteers. They would have been there hours before me, and probably hours after I left. Some of them were standing in the rain and wind all day. Also some of them were out on Friday in even worse conditions, marking the course! (And impeccably I might add. I had downloaded the GPX file of the course and an offline maps app ‘just in case’ but at no stage did I even consider using it!)
So, huge congratulations to Race Director Claire and all of the TRSA committee for getting this event off the ground. After not really wanting to do it, and really only entering because it would be a great lead-in to UTA100, I absolutely loved it and would definitely do it again! It’s a tough ultra, tougher than Yurrebilla for sure, so if you’re planning to do it, definitely don’t expect it to be an easy one, but SUCH a fantastic course! And the 22km is a great option for people who don’t fancy the ultra distance and/or like a bit of a sleep-in! There’s also the 12km which still has almost 300m of elevation gain so it’s not exactly City to Bay!
And of course the volunteers were wonderful – aid stations, marshals, course markers, setting up and packing up – the list is endless! THANK YOU to every single one of you!
Last but not least, well done to everyone who ran, special congratulations for all those who did their first ultra – hopefully you’re now hooked and I’ll see you out on the trails again soon! And special thanks to all the people I ran with along the way, you certainly helped to make it a truly memorable day!
Today was the 4th and final race in the 2017-2018 Yumigo! Summer Trail Series. The races are held once a month over the summer months (so it’s not just a clever name!) and this was the 3rd one I had run this season. You can read all about Race 1 at Anstey Hill and Race 3 at O’Halloran Hill if you’re keen!
Race 4, in the time I’ve been trail running, has been held at Newland Head, near Victor Harbor (where I was last Sunday and will be again next Sunday!), a nice 90 minute drive from Adelaide. This was the last year it would be held at Newland Head, as from next year it will be somewhere closer to Adelaide! I actually quite like a bit of a road trip and despite the early start, I think I’m going to miss it!
The weather forecast was looking a bit gnarly. In fact, a fairly large cycling event, the Coast To Coast, was supposed to be held today but was cancelled yesterday due to forecast dangerous conditions. When it comes to trail running, a little mud and rain never hurt anyone, so I was quite looking forward to a mudbath! (Plus, hopefully the weather might put off some of the competition!)
I did plan my clothing accordingly – I didn’t want to wear anything that would be ruined by mud! So, all black on the bottom half as usual (although I did brighten it up with some hot pink long socks!) and for some inexplicable reason I had decided to wash my trail shoes after my last run, so they looked brand new! (OK I like them to be nice and clean at the start of a race – rarely are they that way by the end!) I wore an old favourite, the pink top I’d run my first 3 marathons in, and my original arm warmers, which I’d purchased in Liverpool the day before my first marathon. I was expecting it to be cold in the morning so I also threw a buff into my bag, to wear as an ear warmer. A full change of clothes and 2 rain jackets also made the journey – gotta be prepared for anything!
I set my alarm for 5am, planning to leave around 5:50 to get there a good 40-45 minutes before race start at 8:15. (The race was originally meant to start at 8, but a last minute change was forced by a 15 minute detour on one of the roads leading to the event. So instead of having to leave home 15 minutes earlier, we started 15 minutes later – thanks to Race Director Ben for that!
It rained a little bit on the way down there, and there had been a fair bit of rain overnight, but it was looking pretty clear by the time I arrived. It was windy though! A couple of the gazebos threatened to blow away!
It is really a spectacular part of the world. One of my all time favourite bits of trail is the section of the Heysen Trail between Newland Head and King Head. That is a pretty technical section and probably not suitable for a race with a large number of participants, but definitely worth checking out if you want some challenging trail along with some spectacular scenery – just make sure you stop to admire the view, don’t try to admire it AND run at the same time, it won’t end well for you!
I went to take a photo of the ocean before we started. On the way back to the start area, sweeper and course demarker Ziad told me to go back so he could take a photo for me with me in it! After a few photos from different angles, we headed back and literally almost ran into a big f***er of a kangaroo bounding across the path, I’m not sure if anyone else saw him but he had to be at least 6 feet tall!
As mentioned earlier, I had brought 2 rain jackets, one light one which I was only wearing to block out some of the chill before the start, and a proper one in case it actually rained. (Fortunately the rain never eventuated!) So when it came to getting ready for the race, I was able to leave the jacket and my buff in the car, and put on my hat, sunnies and small race vest. I was ‘only’ running the short course, which was meant to be 11.5km (but as all trail runners know, distances in trail running are a guide only!) so I wasn’t expecting to need much in terms of nutrition and hydration. All I had was 500mL of Gatorade and a Clif bar (which I was planning to have at the end).
I didn’t see my ‘nemesis’ Jenny at the start, but didn’t think much of that as she had probably already sewn up her age group series win, and with the weather forecast as well as the long drive, I suspected a lot of people would not be making the trip today. (To be eligible for an age group series placing, you had to run at least 3 of the 4 races, and I knew Jenny had run all of the first 3 races)
As with all the previous races, the short and long course runners all started together, and the bulk of our 11.5km course was identical to the first part of the long (19km) course. Consequently, unless I asked, I wouldn’t know whether other runners were in the short or long course, until our paths separated around the 8km mark! It didn’t matter though, I would just assume every female I encountered was a) running the short course and b) in my age group. (Not that I was worried about age group placings anymore – having missed Race 2 at Cleland and finished 4th in my age group at O’Halloran, I was pretty certain that train had sailed!)
RD Ben described the course as ‘flattish’. Where the previous races had included some challenging hills, the challenge here was more in the terrain than the elevation (lots of sand, tree roots and rocky sections). I had actually run this event before, 2 years ago, (the long course) so I had a fair idea of what to expect. Strava tells me there was an elevation gain of 190m which is not huge for a trail race.
It started a bit uphill, in fact looking at the elevation map the first 3km were pretty much all uphill, but again, not particularly steep and very runnable. I was averaging about 5:20 per km over that first 3km. I had no idea where I was placed, given that I didn’t know which runners were doing the short course, and also I hadn’t paid attention to how many runners started ahead of me. I was pretty much just running my own race!
Probably around 3-4km (I was making a conscious effort not to look at my watch too much, because I wanted to keep an eye on where I was putting my feet!) I started running with Steve, who was doing the long course. He was about the only person I ran with in this event, so it was nice to have the distraction for a few kilometres! We chatted about what events we had coming up, and about ultras we’d done in the past. It’s always good to be able to have a little chat while in a race – I guess you could say that if we were chatting then we weren’t running hard enough, but I didn’t really see it that way! One thing I did say was that I was hoping to finish the race in less time than it took me to drive down! I didn’t really have a time in mind – I guessed somewhere around the hour would be a pretty good time! (There wasn’t much chance of Steve finishing in less time than it took him to drive there – I think he said it was about a 45 minute drive and he was doing the 19km!)
Around 5km was the only time during the race where I actually had to stop running. I didn’t walk, I literally had to stop for maybe about 10 seconds because I somehow got tangled up in a loop of wire that had come loose from a fence. I wasn’t able to just kick it off, I had to stop and remove it. Luckily there was no damage done (luckily I wasn’t running very fast!) and I tossed the wire over near the fence, where hopefully no-one else would trip on it! Of all the things I was looking out for, a rogue piece of wire was NOT on the list!
A few people passed me while I was disentangling myself, but I did eventually catch up with and pass them. I caught up with Steve again after a while and we ran together again until the drink station where we were sent in opposite directions. From there I was following a guy in a Heysen 105 buff who was running at just the right pace for me to sit a couple of metres behind him. I’m not sure if he realised he was pacing me but he did a great job!
The course was beautifully marked, thanks to Denis and anyone else who was involved in marking it yesterday! One thing I wasn’t expecting but came as a nice surprise was kilometre markers. Ben had told us about this at the pre-race briefing, and there were different colour coded markers for the different distances (red for short, blue for long), but he had said that if we saw a blue kilometre marker on the short course, not to be alarmed and think we’d taken a wrong turn! (Even after the two courses separated, there was some overlap of the courses later). I’m glad he did say that because at one point I saw (I think) a blue 12km marker and then probably 500m later I saw a 15km one!
I got to the red 10km marker (definitely the short course 10km marker!) so it was around 1.5km to go. I passed my pacer and started to accelerate a bit. (It was, literally, practically all downhill from there!)
I saw, up ahead in the distance, a peach coloured top with a backpack on, attached to a pair of legs in capri pants. Now I don’t want to get into gender stereotyping here, but I had to assume it was a female. And I had to assume she was in my age group. I already knew she was in the short course – none of the long course runners had passed me. So all that was left to do was to try to catch her!
I had a sneaky look behind, while on a section of trail that was not too technical. No sense ruining it all by falling over at this late stage! I couldn’t see anyone, so I thought I was safe from attack from behind! I wondered if the runner I was currently pursuing, had any idea that I was there!
It was pretty windy by this stage. I wasn’t breathing all that heavily, and although I tend to be pretty heavy on my feet, especially when I get a bit tired, I was confident that she wouldn’t be able to hear my footsteps. I could barely hear my own footsteps or breathing over the howling of the wind! (OK maybe that’s a slight exaggeration but you get the idea!)
Due to the high winds, there was no finishing arch today. Consequently we wouldn’t know when we were nearly at the finish line, until we were actually nearly there! (Normally you can see the arch from a few hundred metres out, signifying that it’s time to start the sprint!)
I saw the gazebos, miraculously still standing after almost blowing away at the start, and I was steadily making gains on the UFR (Unidentified Female Runner). I thought what the hell, let’s go for it! So I sprinted.
Approximately one metre from the finish line, she must have heard me, turned around and saw me literally RIGHT THERE, swore (just the S word mind you!) and finished strong to hold me off by about half a second.
Then she turned around to see who it was, and I realised it was Jenny, she was there after all, having arrived with just minutes to spare before the start! I had run with her a bit during Ansteys and back and forth at O’Halloran, but I’d never been that close at the end! I actually would have felt like a bit of a bitch if I’d passed her, mainly because I’m sure if she’d had any idea I was there, she would have picked up the pace much earlier and beaten me by a much bigger margin!
Still, it was kind of cool to do a sprint finish at the end of a somewhat challenging 11.5km and to almost pull it off, against someone who is significantly faster than me on a good day, certainly makes for a good story! (And let’s face it, who wants to read a race report that goes “Started. Ran well throughout. Finished comfortably”?)
After catching my breath I got myself an EXCELLENT coffee from the Stir coffee van (I have to give them a plug because it’s the first coffee van I’ve been to that makes a proper long black!) and caught up with the other runners, including meeting Sally, who I can only assume won our age group (having finished 3rd overall today). And of course there was the obligatory photo with Gary, who had also run the short course today. (Seriously, where would my race reports be without you, Gary? Never change!)
Then we hung around and watched the presentations for the short and long courses (the male winner of the 19km did it in about 75 minutes. That’s moving!) and finally the bit we were all waiting for – the random prize draw! After a slow start (you have to be there when your name is called to be a winner, and a lot of people were being called out who had already left), one by one the prizes were all given out. I didn’t win anything today but Denis kindly gave me the sparkly gaiters he’d won, at the end of the presentation. I actually thought they would have suited him but was happy to accept the gift – secretly I thought they’d probably look better on me!)
One of the best finish line moments (apart from Jenny’s and mine, of course) of the day happened during the prize draw. Quite a few of the long course runners were still out there, and as they finished, Ben paused reading out the names so we could all cheer them on. It was a nice touch! Anyway, one girl got to within about a metre of the finish line and then just stopped. We wondered what was going on but she said she was waiting for someone, they were going to finish together. Several more runners came through while she was waiting but then there she was, her mum coming up over the hill and joined her for a memorable finish! Well done to Michelle and Chloe!
Then it came time for the huge job of packing everything up and into Ben’s 4WD and trailer – I’m amazed at how much stuff goes into these events, and I hate unpacking my car at the end of a race, and for me it’s only my personal race gear! I hate to imagine the job Ben has to unpack his car after an event!
Thanks as always to RD Ben for putting on another great event, and for once actually organising GOOD weather for us! (Amazingly enough, I did not have a spot of dirt on me at the end – not even on my shoes!) And of course to the wonderful volunteers – I hate to name names because I’m bound to forget someone but here are just a few that I know of: Ziad, Sheena, Denis, Justin, Robbie, Kim, Simon and Graeme.
Well done to everyone who made the journey down despite (or perhaps because of!) the forecast nasty weather! It was a great day to farewell Newland Head from the Summer Trail Series, and to end the season on a high note!
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!
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?
This past weekend was the third running of the SA Track Championships, the brainchild of Yumigo!’s Ben Hockings.
An ultramarathon where it is impossible to get lost and where you are never more than 400m from first aid, hydration, nutrition and toilets!
Sounds pretty good, right? Yeah, until you realise that you’re literally running around a 400m track for 50km or 100km.
Still interested? Keep reading!
I ran the 100km at the first 2 Track Championships and if you want to read about THAT, you can read my 2016 and 2017 reports.
This year was a little different.
I had planned to run the 100 again. I had looked at my Strava for the corresponding time last year, to see what I did in the way of training. I recalled that I didn’t do too much specific training for this event (it’s pretty hard to train for this kind of event!) but I did see that I ran 30km along the coast the week before. I’d had a pretty good run in the 100k that year so I figured I’d better do the same again this year! So I went out and ran 30km on a pretty hot day last Sunday, and had a pretty crap run! I was walk/running by 10km, I wanted to call an Uber at 15km, and I was running a full minute per km slower than I’m used to!
So at that point I decided that I was definitely not in 100km shape, so I planned to run the 50km. However, with a forecast maximum of 420C on both Saturday and Sunday, so presumably not a particularly cool night on Saturday, I did consider the possibility of not running it at all! (I had missed the early bird cutoff date so I basically left it till the last minute to make the call! In the end I decided to bite the bullet and run the 50km.
50km is a different beast altogether! Whereas in the 100km I started having tactical walk breaks at about 30 minutes, theoretically I shouldn’t need to walk in the 50km. After all, it’s a marathon with a bit extra tacked on the end – and I have been able to complete most of my marathons without walking. Ordinarily, I would have expected to be able to run 50km in under 5 hours. My 30km run last weekend was JUST under 3 hours, so I wasn’t all that confident of the sub-5. Given the heat, I vaguely planned to do the run/walk thing like I had done in the 100km.
In the lead-up week I did my usual Tuesday and Thursday runs. Friday was Australia Day and I had a pretty cruisy day including the traditional Australia Day cricket at the Adelaide Oval which thankfully Australia managed to win (after being 5-8 early on, England almost came back and won it!).
Saturday was scheduled to be my 200th parkrun which was a pretty big deal! I’d been liaising with fellow parkrunner John who was approaching his 250th and we had worked out that we could do our milestone runs together, back where we’d both done the inaugural Torrens parkrun a little over 5 years ago. Although it wasn’t ideal preparation for a 50k, if I hadn’t done my 200th that day I would have ended up doing it at the Port Broughton launch next weekend, and I preferred to do it at ‘home’. So I decided to do my first ever ‘parkwalk’, and as luck would have it, another friend Ellen was doing her 150th on the same day, and we ended up walking it together!
Fellow parkrunner and entrant in the 50k track race, Graham, said to me when I told him I was going to walk, that he bet I wouldn’t be able to resist breaking into a jog at some point! So I was determined to prove him wrong, and crossed the line in about 49 minutes, a nice leisurely walk!
I also picked Graham’s brain about the 50km, which he had done last year, and he said he did a run/walk. I had already sort of planned to do that, and Graham’s words confirmed that it was a good ‘sort of plan’.
I re-read my reports from 2016 and 2017. I had taken mashed sweet potato last year but barely touched it, so I decided not to bother with that this year! I just took 2 sandwiches, one peanut butter and one chocolate spread. Along with that I had some almonds, a couple of nut bars and a couple of Clif bars. Hydration was going to be particularly important so I had 3 litres of Gatorade mixed up and ready to go in 6 bottles. That was the same amount I’d had for the 100km last year, so I didn’t think I’d need that much, but I figured it was better to have too much than not enough! Also in the esky I put a cider and a Coke for afterwards.
As I had done the previous 2 years, I had breakfast for dinner. About 2 hours before the race I had a bowl of cereal – the theory being that normally when I do a race, it’s in the morning, and my last meal pre-race is breakfast! For breakfast I had smashed avo and chickpeas (I had run out of bread and the previous day being a public holiday, my bakery hadn’t been open!) and for lunch my now traditional sweet potato mac and cheese (which I’d made for a previous ultra and had frozen the leftovers!)
After parkrun I went to Bakery on O’Connell to get myself a chocolate donut for after the race, and on a whim decided to get 4 donuts to share with my fellow vegan runners. They are enormous donuts so I cut them into quarters!
Due to the heat, the 50km event was put back an hour, from 7pm to 8pm. That worked out well because it meant that the sun would be almost gone by the time we started. It would still be hot, but at least we wouldn’t have the late afternoon sun beating down on us! The 100k start was left at 7pm, the thinking being that with a 14 hour cutoff, their cutoff time would be 9am. Should the start have been moved to 8pm, cutoff would be 10am, by which time it would already be pretty hot!
I arrived at the track about 6:30 because I wanted to see the start of the 100km. To my surprise (well actually it wasn’t that surprising given the weather conditions!) there were only 8 starters in the 100 and they were all men! I saw Sam and her husband Clinton at the track, I had thought Sam was doing the 100km but she’d opted for the 50km too. She jokingly said she should upgrade to the 100km for a guaranteed win! I wondered, if I’d seen the start list and realised that there were no females on it, if I would have been tempted to enter the 100km! It would be a guaranteed win, IF I finished! And in those conditions, and given my recent form, there were no guarantees!
Along with the 100km starters, 2 of the 50km runners, Merle and Trish, were starting at 7 as they needed to be finished as early as possible. I couldn’t understand why anyone would CHOOSE to start this particular event an hour early (given that the first hour would be probably the hottest!) but it made sense!
After the 100km runners and Merle and Trish set off, I went to get the rest of my stuff out of the car and set up my ‘base camp’. I seemed to have a LOT of stuff for a 50km run (actually more stuff than I had last year for the 100!). This year I was driving myself, whereas previously I had been picked up by Karen and Daryl, so I guess I tried to be a bit circumspect with how much stuff I brought! With just me in my car, I could bring as much stuff as I wanted!
I had 2 eskies – one larger one with all the drinks, a bag of ice, plus a spray bottle full of water, and a smaller one with my food in it. I also had a 1.5 litre container of water (why I felt the need to bring that, I don’t know – there’s ALWAYS plenty of water on hand at events!), a folding chair and a bag containing a few buffs, 2 pairs of running shoes and socks (I was wearing my Birkenstocks at the time), a change of top, plus a full change of clothes for afterwards. I also had my phone which this time I wasn’t going to carry with me. In previous years, although we had electronic timing, we couldn’t see the live results on the screen and had to rely on hourly updates on a whiteboard. Consequently I’d take a photo of the whiteboard every hour so I could see how I was tracking. This year there would be a big screen on the side of the track so we could see our progress at any time, negating the need for me to take photos! I’d also done roughly hourly updates on Facebook during my walk breaks, whereas in 2018 people could track us live online, so there was no need for that either!
And finally, given that music was such a big part of my 100km runs, I had my iPod ready to roll, all cued up on Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me” – I thought that would be a good song to start with if I did decide I needed some tunes! I wasn’t planning to use it – I’d only really started using it in the 100km late into the night after the 50km runners had finished. I’d never used it during the 2 6 hour events I’d done, so I suspected I probably wouldn’t need it. But in these conditions, who knew? Best to have it there, just in case!
There were a lot of unfamiliar faces in the 50k, and a few in the 100k! Familiar faces included the Vegan Beast Mode Team (Ryan, Kate, Sheena and Tracey, the latter choosing to spend her birthday running around in circles!) plus fellow vegan Ian from Melbourne, Sam and Clinton from Victor Harbor (Clinton entered because it would give him something to do while waiting for Sam to finish!), John who I’d met at the first 100km race and who had been back last year for the 50km, regular weekday morning running buddy Mark, Rachael who had been talked into entering by Kate only that morning, a couple of speedy runners Daniel and Toby (the latter having finished a few laps ahead of me in the 100k last year) and 2 very familiar faces in the trail running world, Kym and Mal, in an event that is about as far from trail as you can get!
Because of the heat, a few measures were put in place. At a couple of spots around the track were large tubs of iced water, with sponges in them that we could use to cool ourselves off. There was meant to be a misting station but that didn’t work out, so instead at the drink station the vollies were all armed with spray bottles of water – a human misting station!
In 2016 the 50km runners and the 100km runners were all mixed in together, sharing the same lane. In 2017 the two groups were separated, with the 100km runners running in Lane 1 and the 50km runners running in Lane 4, separated by a line of cones. 2018 was the same as 2017, with the 50km runners starting partway around the track so that we would still finish on the finish line. (Because Lane 4 is longer than Lane 1, the number of laps we would run would be less than half what the 100km runners did, and it wouldn’t be a round number of laps). I didn’t actually know exactly how many laps it was, I just knew it was less than 125!
This year, for the first time, there was an official photographer for the first few hours – Tracie from Geosnapshot, who also happens to be an old school friend! I had suggested to her to come for the first few hours when she’d be able to capture everyone, we’d all look relatively fresh, and she’d get a bit of daytime and a bit of night!
We started right on 8:00. According to the temperature reading in the stadium, it had dropped from 34 degrees at 7pm, to 33 at 8. I started with my sunnies on but wouldn’t need them for very long. I was also wearing a tiara, as were Sheena and Tracey, in honour of Tracey’s birthday. I’d never run in a tiara before!
It became apparent early on that I was going to have a huge battle on my hands in the form of a girl called Ina who I had never met before. But all I could do was just do my thing, and if it was good enough, then great, but if not, I could be satisfied in the knowledge that I could not have possibly done any more!
I decided to just run for as long as I could, despite what I had originally planned to do – it was a RACE, after all!
I started pretty comfortably, running consistent splits around the 5:20-5:30 mark. It was early days but all signs were looking good.
I ditched my sunnies early, however my aim was not that great so they landed a fair way from my base camp – I totally forgot about them, never to be seen again!
I got to 10k in just under 55 minutes (according to Garmin which we all know is not 100% accurate so you can take all these time splits with a pinch of salt!) which was the furthest I’d ever run on the track (ie without walking). I decided then to try to push through to the 2 hour mark, when we would have our first turnaround. The turnarounds were every 3 hours, presumably to break up the monotony of running laps around a 400m track! As the 100k runners had started an hour earlier than us, the first turnaround was at 3 hours for them but 2 hours for us. Our next turnaround would then be at 5 hours. I planned (hoped!) to be finished by then!
I can’t go any further here without thanking the fantastic volunteers at the drink/food station. As one who didn’t have a dedicated support crew, I relied on them. I was relatively self-sufficient, providing my own Gatorade and all my own food, but I did partake in some Coke a few times! At one point I decided I felt like water, and I grabbed a cup only to find it was warm! I was running with Kate at the time and she gave me the tip to ask for a cup of iced water which I did on my next lap. I’d ask on one lap for iced water on my next lap, and then one of the volunteers would have it ready for me. The iced water was magic! I don’t really like drinking straight water much, and when I do I tend to prefer it room temperature rather than chilled, but on this occasion it was just what the doctor ordered!
Even more so than the Coke and iced water, the aforementioned misting station. Hopefully I don’t forget anyone here (and there was one guy there whose name I didn’t know, so apologies in advance!) but almost every time I went past the food/drink station, I would get squirted, initially just with spray bottles which was fantastic, but a little later Kim started shooting everyone with her big arse water pistol (which she was clearly enjoying VERY MUCH!) I remember getting sprayed at various times by Kim, Katie, Linna, Elle, Ken and Merrilyn. SO GOOD!
I was also wearing a buff around my neck by now, as well as one on my head, so when I got squirted/tipped a cup of water over myself/squeezed a sponge over myself, the buff would get wet and keep my neck cool for a while.
I was not watching the live tracker, and although I was using my Garmin to check my kilometre splits as the kays ticked by, I knew it wouldn’t be accurate. I quickly lost count of laps (which wouldn’t have been all that useful anyway given that I didn’t know how many laps we were doing!) and so I was just running, not trying to maintain any particular pace, just running by feel.
The first indication I had of where I was positioned was when Ben did a progress update over the PA system, all I heard was that I was 2 laps behind Ina, and as far as I could tell she wasn’t walking, so therefore neither was I! I didn’t hear who was in 3rd place for the women and how far behind she was, but it didn’t matter – as long as whoever it was didn’t pass me, I would stay in front! And as long as I kept running, she probably wouldn’t pass me!
At the 2 hour turnaround mark I was on a Garmin 21.3km (which was probably more like 20, but still on track for a sub 5 hour 50k). I was still relatively comfortable and I wasn’t going to die wondering, so I kept running. The next goal was 25km which was (for the mathematicians among you) the halfway point. Again, 25km on my watch wasn’t really 25km but it was close. I figured once I hit 26km on the watch I was probably halfway! And still running…
30km was the next goal. 30km was how far I had run last Sunday and I hadn’t been able to manage to run the whole distance then, so to be able to do it here would be a great mental boost. According to Strava, I reached the 30km mark in 2:49.
“Only” 20km to go!
The next goal was to tick off the marathon distance. In most of my marathons, I have run the whole way. I’d never previously RUN that far nonstop in an ultra, often because of undulating terrain that necessitates walking at times, and in the loopy ultras I seem to like, it’s about not going out too hard early and having nothing left at the end!
Tracie had left the stadium around 9pm and came back a few hours later to snap some photos of us looking not quite so fresh, and also there was the added bonus of being able to capture some of the 50km finishers. Not long after she came back, I was closing in on the marathon distance and just under 4 hours. Even though I know it wasn’t an accurate distance, in my previous marathon at Boston I had JUST missed the sub-4 by a matter of seconds, so to get a sub-4 here would be very pleasing! When I realised how close I was, I SPRINTED past Tracie and she wondered what I was doing – I explained it afterwards! I got the sub-4 by a matter of seconds – not bad considering I had done only one 30km run in preparation for this event and that’s it!
I knew I was getting close. Ina was getting further away and showed no signs of slowing down or walking, but despite the fact that I knew I was definitely going to get second place, I figured I’d come this far, I might as well go the whole hog and run the full 50km – something I’d never done before! Running the whole way would also be the best way to ensure a sub-5! I was talking to someone along the way who had had some walk breaks and had found it hard to get running again.
Given that I was treating it more like a marathon than an ultra, it’s not surprising that I didn’t eat anything during the run. I had enough Gatorade to last me (and a couple of bottles left over) and I ran the whole way with a bottle in my hand. I had the occasional Coke and that was it – just as I would in a marathon. It’s hard to eat food while you’re running (as it happens it’s also hard to drink Coke out of a cup – I managed to spill it down the front of my legs on one occasion so I had to ask the guy with the water pistol to shoot me in the legs to wash it off!) and I don’t do gels.
Not long after I reached the ‘marathon’ some of the faster runners started to approach the end. One of them, Justin, when I ran with him for a bit, was 2 laps ahead of me. It turned out he knew Tracie too – that is SO Adelaide! As we crossed the timing mat someone called out that Justin was on 100 laps and I was on 98. I managed to keep track of laps after that! At one point Tracie had asked me how many laps the 50km runners were doing, and I didn’t know but someone around me said 118. Actually it was 119 (the first lap being just a part lap, so it was really 118-point-something). I had around 20 laps to go – the end was in sight!
From then on I started counting up laps (I didn’t want to fall into the trap of counting down until I knew I was down to maybe 5 laps) and it was a good way of distracting myself!
In the 100k event there was a clear leader, Darren, who reached 50km in just 4 hours! I planned to stick around afterwards long enough to see him finish – it was unlikely that I would get to see any of the others finish! The rest of them were motoring along – Stephan was there to do it all again after coming up short by about 4km last year. The extra 2 hours should have made a finish a no-brainer for him, but the weather conditions were going to make it very difficult!
The rest of the girls in the 50k were looking good but the ones who were clearly enjoying themselves the most were Tracey and Sheena! Sheena was doing her thing that I remembered her doing last year, she would walk quite a lot, but then break into a sprint! On a few occasions when they came up behind me they would sprint to get past me, then back into a walk again!
The next thing I was waiting for was for the 3 runners ahead of me to finish, then I would know I was nearly done! Andrew was first, closely followed by Ina. Next was Justin, but when he came up behind me, I had caught up a bit, he had had a pit stop so when we crossed the timing mat Ben told us we both had 2 laps to go. Which was great, except that on MY previous lap Ben had told me that I had 2 laps to go! I asked him to check it because if I was on my last lap I would run it quite differently than if it was my penultimate lap! Imagine the devastation if you crossed the line having gone hard on what you thought was your last lap, and then being told you had a lap to go? Nope, it was definitely my second last lap. I took it relatively easy on that lap (2:25) and when I got to the bell lap it was on! I got to my chair, took off the buff I’d been wearing for the whole race, and put on my pink fedora to finish the race!
I had intended also to drop my drink bottle but forgot. Tracie was at the finish line taking photos, and I didn’t want my drink bottle in the photos, so I threw it off to the side of the track about 50m from the finish and sprinted my way across the line! I had finished in 4:53:43, only 23 seconds behind Justin in the end! My last lap was by far my fastest, 2:06. It’s amazing what you can pull out when you know you only have 400m left to run! (My average lap pace throughout was just under 2:29)
FINISHED ! So good! I was beyond stoked, I never would have expected to be able to RUN 50km nonstop in these conditions (it was still 32-33 degrees by the time I finished) with limited training, and although I had hoped for a sub 5 hour finish, again the weather conditions meant that it was hardly a foregone conclusion! Fastest 50km, first all-run 50km, could not be happier!
After getting my medals (one finisher medal and one 2nd place medal) my first thought was getting my shoes off! I went back to my chair and sat down, and everyone’s favourite first aid person Susan came over to me and offered to take off my shoes for me! How nice it was to finally get them off AND to find not one single blister on my feet! (I had put tape around both feet, at the arches, as I always do for long distance events, but I hadn’t bothered to tape my toes – I’ve only done that once or twice and I didn’t think it would be necessary for 50km) I had to remove my calf sleeves myself though – they were VERY tight! (They had been tight when I put them on!)
I had my vegan donuts ready and there was ample pizza this time (last year I had missed out, but then again I had run the 100km so it had been a lot later by the time I was ready for it!) – this year ALL of the pizza was vegan! ALL OF IT! We are taking over the world, one ultramarathon at a time!
But first things first, a quick photo op of the top 2 men and women in the 50km. Tracie’s camera battery was about to run out so she wasn’t able to wait for the 3rd placed man and woman to come in. We got to the podium, and Tracie wanted me to stand on the ‘3’ spot, to which I replied, “No, I was 2nd! I’m not standing on the 3” (I was already standing on the ‘2’ spot while I was saying this!) I presume it was to spread us out across the podium but I was having none of that! In the end we all stood on the ground in front of the podium. MUCH better!
Justin had a beer in his hand so I thought it was an appropriate moment to crack open the cider!
The 50km runners kept finishing. Matthew, Andrew and Toby finished in quick succession, followed closely by 3rd placed female Gabrielle, who I hadn’t met before. I went over to her picnic rug to have a bit of a chat and a photo.
Not long after that, Graham finished. I could see him coming (the hi-viz yellow top giving him away!) and for half a second I did think about chasing him to the finish (as he had done to me at the Tower Trail Run) but as I was in my Birkenstocks by now and comfortably sitting down, I quickly decided against it!
I eventually got around to having some pizza and donut – I started off just taking one piece of pizza (remembering how devo I was when I missed out last year!) and then realised that there was a CRAPLOAD of pizza. And did I mention that it was ALL VEGAN?
It was nice to be able to just sit back and relax, drink my cider and watch the world go by. And by ‘the world’ I mean ‘crazy runners’! I found a great spot, just near the finish line, actually on the long jump pit. Imagine lying on the beach, but on a towel so you don’t get sand all over you. That was what it was like – I could have stayed there all night!
A little while after fellow Team Vegan member Ryan, I was at the finish line to see Kate, who was accompanied by the ever-present Tracey and Sheena. Of course they were a fair way off finishing themselves, but they were there to join in Kate’s finish line party!
It was apparently pretty early on who the likely winner of the 100k event was going to be. Darren was going from strength to strength. Being separated by 2 lanes, I didn’t see him lap me as many times as he undoubtedly did, but when I heard speedy footsteps 2 lanes away, I knew who it was!
At 3:16am, in a super impressive time of 8:16:19, Darren crossed the line to win the SA 100km track championship. I didn’t see him walk once!
One thing I had wanted to do the last 2 years, and quite a few times during the 50k this year, was have a lie down on one of the high jump mats – they looked so damn comfy! Well eventually Kate and I decided to go and try it out, and were soon joined by super volly Michelle, taking a brief break from her marathon volunteering shift! Like the long jump pit, I probably could have stayed there all night rather than going home! Probably should have, actually! (Remind me next year!)
The main reason Kate and I were hanging around was because we had to see Tracey and Sheena finish – they were having a little bit too much fun out there! We kept moving though – at one point we considered joining the two of them for a lap, except that was against the rules, so we wouldn’t do that, plus there was no way we were going to do any jogging! Instead we just walked an easy lap around the outside of the track. I think the fact that we hung around for a while after finishing, helped my recovery. I may otherwise have gone straight to bed, but while waiting for the girls to finish, we moved around a reasonable amount! (Recovery Tip #1: try to keep moving as much as possible straight after, and keep lightly active the next day!)
Before too long, ultra running legend Kym finished (he has now done every Yurrebilla 56k, every Heysen 105k and every track champs 50k – a fairly exclusive club of which he is 100% of the membership!) leaving Tracey and Sheena with Lane 4 all to themselves!
Somehow Sheena was 2 laps ahead of Tracey. We wondered what they were going to do, because I couldn’t see any scenario in which they wouldn’t finish together! We soon found out.
At 4:16am Sheena crossed the line to complete the 50k, with Tracey still 2 laps behind. What did Sheena do? Well, she kept going, of course! After having run 50km (118ish laps) she went and ran another 2 laps to finish with Tracey! That’s friendship for you! (If it was me I would have taken a 2 lap break with 1 lap to go, and let her catch up! But that’s just me!)
It was so great to see the two of them finish together, what better way for Tracey to celebrate her birthday?
We stayed for a bit longer after that, chatting with a few of the volunteers and Susan. The conversation soon (as it always does) turned to hydration and wee colour. I made the mistake of telling Susan that I hadn’t been since before the race started (so this was about 9 hours later!) – she was horrified! Then when I did eventually go, she showed me a chart and asked me what colour it was – suffice to say I needed to drink a LOT of water to rehydrate!
I had one last look at the live results before leaving. Looking at Colin and Stephan, it looked like they should be able to make cutoff time but it would be a near thing – there wouldn’t be time for much resting!
Then I realised that I could have packed all of my stuff into the car while we were waiting for Tracey and Sheena, my 2 eskies, chair, bag of clothes and shoes, and all the rest! Luckily super volly Ziad was happy to help me carry my stuff so I only had to make one trip to the car! The security guards (who were there all night – what a boring gig for them!) escorted us to my car – apparently some weirdos hang out at the athletics stadium on a Saturday night! I wouldn’t have thought they would be any weirder than the weirdos INSIDE the stadium!
And then, just before 5am, I headed home. After unloading the car, having a shower and donning the compression tights (Recovery Tip #2 – put compression tights on ASAP after the event, ideally for 24 hours!) I finally got to bed at around 6am. If anyone had asked me how my Saturday night was, and I started by telling them I got to bed at 6am, they may have had quite a different picture of how the night went!
Sleeping is overrated as all ultrarunners know, so I was awake again by 9:30. First order of business (after making sure my legs still worked) was to check the final results – cutoff time was 9am! I was so happy to read that Colin and Stephan had both finished within the last 10 minutes. Stephan had made it with just over 4 minutes to spare! After he had missed out narrowly last year, I was over the moon for him! I would have loved to have been there to see it! In hindsight, I probably would have slept just as well lying on a high jump mat at the stadium than I did at home (especially on such a warm night!) I’m certainly not hoping for another night like this next year, but sleeping at the stadium would have been quite pleasant this time around!
And now for the thankyous.
Firstly, congratulations to everyone who turned up to run this year – much respect for braving the heat and getting out there and doing it anyway – in fact this year was a record field which is amazing!
And THANKS too, to all the runners, everyone as always was very encouraging and supportive, and it was great having the company out there!
Thanks to all the support crews, who were mostly there supporting other runners but were always happy to give anyone a cheer as they went past!
To all the people who came down to support us – it’s always good to see friendly faces on the sidelines and cheering – even though they probably would rather have been in the pool or inside with the aircon cranked up!
To Susan for helping me with my shoes and making sure I was rehydrating appropriately – and for everything you do for our running events! Always great to see you out there and even better to not require your services!
To Tracie, official photographer – it’s great to have some photographic evidence of the different stages of the race! Hope watching us run around in circles wasn’t too boring for you!
Then of course, all of the FABULOUS volunteers who kept us hydrated and as cool as possible in the conditions!
Oh and let’s not forget Race Director Ben. I’ve kind of run out of words! Another wonderful event (seriously I think I could cut and paste this bit and put it in EVERY race report!) and I don’t know how you do it, but please keep doing it! (Even though you did let me think I was on my second last lap when I actually had three laps to go!)
So I’m not even going to go down the ‘never again’ road. I am pretty sure I will be back again next year. I may give the 100km another crack (if the weather forecast is favourable) or I might try to improve on this year’s 50km! Actually I think the 50k was harder than the 100k (possibly due to the weather conditions this year, or the fact that I pushed harder in the 50k, or probably a bit of both!)
I can highly recommend this event to anyone who wants a challenge. The 50km is very doable for anyone – with a 13 hour cutoff time this year, you could walk it quite comfortably! Support is never more than 400m away and you don’t need maps, compasses or snake bandages! If you want an even bigger challenge give the 100km a crack – this year’s 14 hour cutoff is a lot more achievable and I can’t imagine you’ll ever find a flatter 100km race!
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!
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!)
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!
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!
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!
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).
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!)
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.
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!
Ready to go! Thanks to Ziad for this pic!
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.
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.
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!)
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!
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!
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.
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!
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?)
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!)
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!)
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.)
There were 4 start groups, the first at 6am, with the Mayor of Mitcham firing the starters’ pistol.
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!)
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!
The starters’ gun is pretty loud by the way!
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?
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!
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!
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.
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!
(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!
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!
It would appear that my idea of ‘recovery’ after a marathon or ultra, is a little off the mark.
My rule of thumb is, skip the gym Monday, walk Tuesday, and be back running by Thursday. That’s seemed to work pretty well for me up until now.
I did just that, after last Saturday’s ultra. Thursday’s run was frustratingly slow, and punctuated by 2 unexpected showers. (My rain jacket was conveniently in my car). The I second shower was heavier than the first, and I knew that on a ‘good’ day I would have already been back at the bakery having coffee by the time it hit. Oh well – at least I could run!
I sensibly opted to give myself another week off speed training, initially planning on a spin class at the gym but then changing my mind at the last minute and going for a walk with the running group instead.
There was no run on Saturday as I was volunteering at parkrun. Second time ever on the stopwatch – I had sworn ‘never again’ after stuffing it up the previous time, but actually this time it was really easy and kind of fun!
I knew I wanted to run on Sunday, and there were plenty of options. Kate wanted to hit the trails, Leanne and a few of the other girls were also doing an ‘easy’ trail run, and there was a trial run for the new Cleland parkrun as well as a training run for Heysen 105, and James and co were doing a run down West Lakes way (about a 40 minute drive from my place). None of those runs suited me – I wanted to stay on the flat for another week, and James’ run was starting at 0630 which was not exactly compatible with a late Saturday night! There was also a half marathon down at Aldinga – I ruled that one out too because it was too far away and I didn’t think there was any point entering a race when I knew I wouldn’t be competitive!
So, rather than convince myself I could go for a run later in the day on my own, I decided to join the SARRC Sunday run group. There was a range of distances on offer, but I figured I could cut it short at any point. The group is geared towards marathon training (at this point they’re training for the Adelaide Marathon) and I’d run with them a few times in the past, but hadn’t made it a regular thing. Mostly either because the distance I was needing to run was too different from the distance they were doing, or because other commitments necessitated my running at a time other than 0730 on a Sunday! I had seen the group a few times during my training runs for the 12 hour event (the Uni Loop goes right past the clubrooms) – I’m sure most of them thought I was completely insane! Sometimes I’d see them gathered out the front of the clubrooms before starting their run, and then when they came back after their 30km run I’d still be running laps around the loop!
The 6am alarm was a bit unwelcome after not getting to bed until about 12:30am (tearing up the D-floor at a gig by regular running buddy James’ party band) but I got up and made my way to the clubrooms to run probably around 15km. I was surprised and pleased to see Beck pulling up in her car as I walked to the clubrooms – I hadn’t expected to see her there and I thought we could run together, as she is on the comeback trail after injury! She was planning to do 15km so I thought “Perfect!”
The first indication that I may not be doing the right thing was when coach Kent asked me what I was doing there – he would have expected me to be still resting! (I do have City2Surf coming up in 4 weeks – I have no expectations of getting close to the time I ran 2 years ago, but I would like to come in under the 70 minute mark, so I do need to get back into it fairly soon!)
It was a pretty hard run – pace was OK but the legs just felt really heavy especially on the hills! We were doing a lap of the Adelaide Marathon course which brought back memories of 2016 for Beck, Gary and me! In the end I didn’t run much with Beck as she was well ahead!
To get to 15km I would have had to run past the clubrooms and do another 4km loop. In the end, I got to the clubrooms at 11km and decided that was enough. And by then I’d made a decision.
It’s probably not quite enough, but it’s better than nothing. I’m going to take a break from running for the next week and a bit. My next run will be on Tuesday 25 July. The plan is to hit the gym for BodyPump and spin classes, and walk on Tuesday, Thursday and at the Cleland parkrun launch on Saturday. It will be my first ‘parkwalk’ but being reportedly a very challenging trail course, I’m more than happy to skip the run that day! Sunday I’ll be volunteering at a SARRC event, so I wouldn’t be running that day anyway.
Something exciting that happened this weekend was that I got my first road bike! It was the same bike I did a few rides on about 18 months ago – its owner has now grown out of it so I didn’t hesitate to say yes when it was offered to me! So as part of my ‘recovery’ I might get out for a gentle spin or two!
I think social media might have a lot to do with why I possibly don’t allow myself adequate recovery time! On my Strava and Facebook feeds, I’m constantly seeing people run an ultramarathon one day and a ‘recovery run’ the next, and I think to myself, “If they can run the day after an ultra, why can’t I?” or words to that effect!
I have cut back a lot on events this year. My list at the start of the year was quite a bit shorter than my 2016 list, and I’ve already cut a few out (with possibly more to come) so I guess you could say I’m learning… slowly!
Do you have any surefire recovery tips? Do you have a plan you like to follow? How much of a break do you give yourself after a big event?
You know that scene near the end of ‘Wayne’s World’ (repeated several times with the multiple ‘endings’) where Rob Lowe’s character gets out of the car after having been, err, ‘internally searched’ by the local police? Well, that’s kind of how I think I look when I get out of the car at the moment!
Perhaps I should explain myself a bit more here.
The Yumigo Adelaide 6/12/24 hour event has become a fixture in my running calendar over the last 3 years. I have now run the 6 hour twice (see my report from 2016 here) and after having a brief taste of victory last year, within a week of the event I had signed up to do the 6 hour again this year.
Since coming back from the USA this event has been firmly in my sights. With no Gold Coast Marathon this year to give me my distance legs, I have actually had to train for this one. As well as doing a few of my long training runs for Boston at the Uni Loop, since returning I have done 3 x 3 hour runs and 1 x 4 hour run. As stated in previous blog posts I have dropped a few other events to focus on this one.
Then something changed. Firstly I found out that Coralie, super fast marathoner, was doing the 6 hour. I don’t know if she’s ever done an ultra but looking at her marathon times I kind of thought she’d have me covered! Then another fast runner who HAS done ultras, Tracey, was also doing it. The last straw, so to speak, was when Louise, entered in the 12 hour, mentioned that she was thinking of ‘downgrading’ to the 6 hour. Now Louise is a faster runner than me, and has some great recent ultra form, having finished 3rd at the Cleland 50k event only a few weeks ago.
I entered the 6 hour again purely to try to go one better than last year. I actually didn’t expect to get a PB – I couldn’t really see how I could improve on last year distance-wise. And when these fast runners started to pop up – well it looked like winning was becoming more and more unlikely. And even though Louise later told me that she was going to stick with the 12 hour, I had already kind of made up my mind.
So here’s my logic. First, I have run 2 x 100km track races, finishing both in under 11 hours. Looking at the results of the 12 hour from previous years (2010-2016), only once would someone running exactly 100km have missed out on a placing. And given previous results over the distance, you’d think I should be able to get a bit OVER 100km (105 had a nice ring – that would then be my longest run EVER!)
Plus, being my first ever 12 hour event, it would be a guaranteed PB!
And with my 100k track experience, pacing wouldn’t be an issue – I would use exactly the same strategy I used for the last 100km race (link here). From the start, I would run for 25 minutes and walk for 5. And repeat 23 more times. Simples!
And nutrition was going to be the same too – I would take in some nutrition on every walk break – I had 4 white bread sandwiches cut into quarters, 2 with peanut butter and 2 with chocolate spread, plus some nut bars, Clif bars and mashed sweet potato. In training I’d only used nut bars and sandwiches, and in last year’s 6 hour that was all I’d needed, but for 12 hours I needed a bit more variety. I’d put the sweet potato into tiny containers (picture the types of containers you get sauces in when you get takeaway Indian or Chinese food) and brought a spoon along. I’d previously experimented with putting it into reusable flasks and Ziploc bags, which is probably the best way to go on a trail ultra, but on a 2.2k loop event eating it out of a container with a spoon would work fine.
Hydration-wise I went with the same strategy as the 100k in January – 6 x 500ml bottles of Gatorade ready to go. So I literally just had to grab one and keep going. I didn’t want to waste any time on food/drink stops.
Super support crew Simon had kindly offered to bring a gazebo for our unofficial ‘Team Vegan’ and get us chocolate donuts from the nearby Bakery on O’Connell! So I’d have a small table undercover where I could lay out all my stuff for quick access. No using my car as an aid station like I did last year! (That had worked OK last year, but with less than ideal conditions forecast this year, I didn’t really fancy my ability to operate a key in a lock, plus I have a history of losing car keys in ultras! Best keep the key somewhere safe, not to be touched until it was time to go home!) Simon would be joined by Sheena, who had hoped to be running the 24 hour event this year but sadly due to injury it was not to be. Happily for us, she would be supporting instead!
Gear-wise I’d been training with what I planned to use on the day. Starting from the bottom, my trusty Salomon trail shoes, which had served me well last year. My old favourite Nike trail socks (they’re just normal running socks but they’re black, hence they’re the ones I tend to use for ultras). New this year was a pair of gaiters, because on one of my training runs I’d been bothered by rocks in my shoes – the Uni Loop being a gravel track. I’d done my last training run in them, and all had gone well! On the legs I had black calf sleeves (I know, boring, huh?) and then 2XU compression shorts under a plain black lululemon skirt.
I’d gone with 2 Spibelts this year – Karen had kindly given me a spare, so I’d have one for my race bibs and one for my phone. The race bib one could also hold snacks and/or my iPod, should I need to use it.
On the top I went with my favourite lululemon green T-shirt, rainbow armwarmers (see – there was some colour after all!), a zip-up jacket over that, rain jacket, gloves, a buff and a beanie for the start at least. I had a hat and sunnies which I would change into once I got warmed up and the sun came out! I put in a couple of spare tops in case I got drenched like in 2015! And after getting pretty warm last year, I threw in a singlet as well. I had contemplated putting it on under my T-shirt, but in all likelihood I wouldn’t need it, and with the 5 minute walk breaks, I didn’t have to worry too much about wasting time changing!
Because it’s important to know this, my race eve dinner was an old favourite of mine, sweet potato mac and cheese from the awesome vegan website One Green Planet. I had this before this year’s 100k track championships and I’d been super organised and made a big batch last week and frozen it in meal-sized portions. Pre-ultra nutrition for me always consists of lots of carbs – I don’t ‘carb load’ as such but always have a good high-carb meal the night before (or on the day when it comes to overnight ultras) – usually pasta or noodles of some kind!
I taped my feet before I went to bed – rigid sports tape under my arches, and Hypafix around each toe to stop them rubbing. I imagine toe socks (or as I like to call them, ‘foot gloves’) would have done the same job, but having never tried them before, I wasn’t game to try them in this event! I did try to buy a new pair of Nike socks but the socks I have been using are no longer available, and I figured it was best to go with tried and tested (albeit somewhat past it) than something brand new!
With 3 alarms set for 4am, 4:05 and 4:10, I went to bed early, around 9ish. Amazingly, I woke up just before the 4am alarm!
I was already pretty pumped up but to put it beyond any doubt, before I got out of bed, the first order of business was a little motivational music. I went with a recent track from one of my all-time favourite bands (possibly THE all-time favourite, now I think of it!) – “Let’s Go” by Def Leppard, which starts with the line “Do you really really wanna do this now?”. At the time, my response was “Hell yeah!” (Their music was also pretty much the soundtrack to my Uni Loop training runs and one of the few things that made those runs tolerable!)
I had already got everything organised the night before so all I had to do was eat my breakfast, get dressed and put my food and drink in the car. There was one small hiccup when the fastener on one of my gaiters broke as I was putting it on – I figured a half-fastened gaiter was better than no gaiter, so I left it on regardless! Despite this small inconvenience, I managed to get out the door by 4:45 and parked in prime position, near the timing area, just before 5am, plenty of time before the 6am start! It wasn’t especially cold this year – I had my hoodie and track pants on but I was able to remove them well before the start time.
Simon was there around the same time with our gazebo and managed to find a great spot not too far from the timing area, near the portaloos (but not TOO near), in between Team Barry (2016 24 hour winner Barry McBride along with long time wine sponsor and fellow 24 hour runner Paul Rogers along with their amazing support crew Liz) and Team Katie (another 24 hour runner from last year back to do it all again, along with a number of her sisters and cousins tackling the 6 hour for the first time!). I brought out most of my stuff – a chair, a bag of stuff I might need during the race (spare socks, spare tops, rain jackets, sunglasses, iPod and headphones), a bag of clothes for AFTER the race as well as a warm blanket, and my food and drink. Oh and a bottle of red wine and a few glasses, a bottle of vegan Bailey’s I’d bought in San Francisco 2 months ago and amazingly remained unopened, and some shot glasses. (That was for AFTER!) In the car, I left my pillow, sleeping bag and acoustic guitar!
One last minute addition to my kit was a newly purchased ‘Team Vegan Beast Mode’ tech band by Mekong Athletic which Simon had organised (proceeds to animal charities – what’s not to like?) – given that it was dark and I didn’t have a mirror to put it on properly so the logo could be seen, I just put it around my neck for the time being. As it wasn’t super cold at the start, rather than have to worry about keeping my ears warm, I went straight to my old favourite 2XU running hat.
I decided not to go with the tunes to begin with. I thought I probably wouldn’t need to worry about that until after the halfway point when the 6 hour people finished. At the race briefing, Race Director Ben said that the weather looked like it was going to turn in the afternoon. So, I thought that I might not use the iPod at all, as I wouldn’t want it to get water in it.
The first hour or so was fairly quiet, possibly because it was still dark and we were all still half asleep!
A few things were apparent early on.
Firstly, the girls from NRG (Northern Running Group), Mel, Tania, Vicky, Cherie, Karen and Debbie, resplendent in their matching tutus and socks with wings, were a shoo-in for the non-existent ‘best dressed’ award.
Secondly, barring disaster, a girl called Amelia from Melbourne was going to win the 12 hour event – she was already lapping me before the sun came up!
Now, I’m going to stop trying to keep things chronological because it’s really hard to do that over 12 hours!
I want to start by talking about the people I ran with during the course of the day, all of whom had their own reasons for being there and goals they were hoping to achieve. There were quite a few runners out there so naturally I’m not going to be able to mention all of them! The 6 hour had the biggest field, 53 starters. Then there were 19 in the 12 hour. The 24 hour event boasted 27 entrants – they would start 4 hours after the 6 and 12 hour runners.
Early on I ran with well known running identity Sputnik, wanting to test out nutrition and hoping to complete a marathon – he ended up running the full 6 hours and clocking up over 55km!
Also in the 6 hour were a few more familiar faces – Stu who I ran with a couple of times, at one stage he was troubled with cramps but ended up completing 51.7km and a marathon PB along the way! Then there was Scuba who powered to an impressive 58.7km and his better half Chantal smashed out 51km which was her first marathon and first ultra!
My old ‘nemesis’ and the person to blame for getting me involved in all this silliness in the first place, Graham, was back again (he, along with Kym, have completed every 6/12/24 since the event’s inception). Weirdly, the only time I saw him in the 6 hours was at the 3 hour turnaround. (The turnarounds became a huge highlight! Believe me, when you’ve been running around the same loop for 3 hours, turning around and going back the other way almost feels like a change of scenery!) I told him I wasn’t going to chase him to the finish (like he did to me at Mount Gambier) and then he said he might come back and chase ME at the end of 12 hours! Despite the lack of ‘encouragement’ from me, Graham managed 58km. The aforementioned Kym, always one to encourage the newbies in the event, still managed to clock up nearly 44km and probably chatted with every single runner along the way! Another familiar face, Tim, was hoping for 50km but at least a marathon, in the end he was only a few kilometres off achieving the 50!
In the 12 hour event we had Leon, who had originally entered the 24 hour but due to work commitments he had to drop back to the 12 hour. Then there was Ciaran, who I had met last year at one of the Heysen training runs. We ran together on and off for short periods. Notably he had the most amazing support crew in wife Jenny, who was always encouraging to ALL the runners as we went past – either with a different dance for each lap, some singing, and the occasional quiz question! She really added a huge amount of enjoyment to the event, even during the few ‘dark’ hours when I was seriously questioning my sanity!
Other than Amelia who seemed to be a class above everyone else (and I suspect she would have also given the 6 hour event a good shake if the rules which applied in previous years, allowing 12 hour runners to get placings in the 6 hour event, had not been changed this year), there were a few strong looking women in the 12 hour. Firstly there was Michelle, who I knew was a really good runner (and definitely faster than me, although ‘fast’ is not exactly the most important thing in a 12 hour event!) and also Lynda, who I hadn’t met before, but looked strong every time I saw her.
The thing was, while I was hopeful of a podium finish (there were 11 females starting in the race, but I didn’t even know that at the time), I didn’t want to let it mess with my head. All I could do was run my own race. Knowing that I was 1km ahead or behind of someone else wouldn’t necessarily change what I was able to do. So my tactic for the race was to try NOT to look at the live results screen at the timing area. The way it worked was, as you crossed the timing mat, your name and position etc would appear at the top of the screen. At one stage early on, I wanted to see my lap count, because that was really the only reliable way to know how far I’d gone (GPS watches being notoriously inaccurate). At the same time I also saw that I was in 5th position. That was 5th overall, not 5th female, but even so, it was something I really didn’t want to know. After that, I avoided looking at the screen altogether! I asked volunteers near the timing area to tell me what lap I was on a few times, and the rest of the time tried to keep a mental count. The magic number was 45.5 – that would be 100km. That was all I needed to focus on.
Also in the 12 hour was Caitlin who was aiming for 50km which would be her first ultra. Her plan was to complete 50km and then stop. I had a George Foreman grill in my car that I had been meaning to give to her for quite a few months (since well before I went to the USA in April) but our paths had never crossed! Today I was determined to give it to her! As she was walking a fair bit, I passed her a few times so we were able to make the ‘transaction’! Firstly I had to tell her what my car looked like and where the grill was in the boot, then I had to describe where my tent was and where I’d leave my keys so her husband Matt could get the grill out while she was completing her 50k! She later told me that Matt had got the grill and she was almost at her goal distance! So not only did she complete an ultra and get a nice piece of bling, she also got a nice new(ish) kitchen appliance to go along with it!
The first turnaround was around 9am. In the past, when I had done the 6 hour event, that had been the ONLY turnaround. This time, there would be two more!
While I didn’t opt to run with my music, there was a guy in a ute near one of the soccer fields, I’m pretty sure he was associated with the soccer rather than our event, but he was cranking out some classic rock on his car stereo. On one occasion I ran past to the unmistakable sound of Def Leppard’s classic, “Pour Some Sugar On Me” which got me a little excited – I guess that was a sign it was going to be a good day!
Around this time, regular running buddy Kate arrived with my pre-arranged long black. I’d had one at this stage of each of my previous two 6 hour events, and had found they gave me a huge boost! This time I had a tent and a table, so I was able to tell Kate where my ‘base’ was, and she could leave the coffee there, so I could try to time my coffee drinking with my scheduled walk break. Given that it was a 2.2km loop, it would have been pretty lucky if I had passed by just at the right time for a walk break, but given that I was well ahead of schedule at that point, I could afford an extra few minutes walking to get the coffee in – and as it had cooled down a bit by the time I got to it, I was able to drink it relatively quickly!
The timing was perfect too, because just as I finished drinking it, I saw Daryl, there with Karen, not far from the start of the 24 hour event. I handed my empty cup to Daryl and asked him to put it in the bin for me, to save me carrying it around for another lap!
Among the 24 hour runners were two fellow vegans, Kate and Tracey, who were sharing the tent, and the support of Simon and Sheena, with another runner Georgy who was doing the 6 hour, and myself. Other notable entries were Barry, defending his title from last year, and Tia, who you may remember from last year’s event, who ended up winning the 6 hour trophy from the 12 hour event (which triggered the change in the rules this year!)
The first big challenge came at the halfway point, when the horn sounded to signify the end of the 6 hour event. 6 hour runners dropped their personalised rocks as soon as the horn sounded, and made their way back to the timing area, their race done! For the next hour or so, they were hanging around waiting for the presentation while the final distances were added up, meanwhile the 12 and 24 hour runners carried on! That was pretty hard, mentally! In the 100k track event, I had been used to the 50k runners finishing before me, but as that was a distance rather than time based event, they weren’t all finishing at once like they did here. Suddenly, well over half the overall field was gone!
At the halfway point, as well as singing a bit of ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ as I ran past Jenny’s tent (I figured I owed her a bit of ‘entertainment’ after all the entertainment she’d given me so far!) I had an energy drink, the effect of the coffee having long since worn off!
Around the 7 hour mark, the sky started to look ugly. I didn’t want to end up over the other side of the track without a rain jacket if the heavens opened, so I played it safe and put on my rain jacket as I passed my tent. It wasn’t at all hot, so despite the fact that it didn’t actually rain until about 4 hours later, I ran in the jacket for the rest of the 12 hours, quite comfortably.
I’m not sure exactly what point I started having really negative thoughts, but I think it was somewhere just before the 8 hour mark. I remember one of the volunteers at the food tent asking how I was going, to which I responded “Shithouse. SHIT HOUSE”. Hopefully I wasn’t rude – maybe they thought I was just being funny!
This was the point where I was kind of hoping some random would ask me what I was doing. Rather than Ben’s suggested response from the race briefing (“being a total legend”) I was planning to say “Seriously questioning my life choices!”
Up to the 8 hour mark I was able to keep up my ’25 minute run/5 minute walk and eat’ strategy going, but it was becoming more and more of a struggle. I decided to change tactics at 8 hours, and for the next hour I tried ’13 minute run/2 minute walk’ and every second 2 minute walk I would also eat. That lasted for an hour, as I quickly realised 2 minutes walk break was not enough to be of any use.
It was probably around this time that I ran into Karen, at this stage she was walking with Daryl and their dog Feebee. Although I was running and they were walking, it seemed to take me ages to catch up with them. Karen was having a bad day, she had revised her goal and had decided that she would be happy with 100km in the 24 hours. Not too long after this, she informed me that she was too sore and decided to pull the pin after having completed a marathon distance in around 6 hours. Catching up with her a few days later, she was not regretting her decision! She also told me she thought I looked terrible at that stage, possibly even a little on the green side!
(Food-wise I was quite happy with what I’d brought – in the end I only had half a sandwich left out of the 4 that I’d started with, and 2 of my 5 tubs of sweet potato. I think I also had 2 out of my 4 nut bars, and one of the 6 bottles of Gatorade. So that’s pretty perfect! The only thing I ate during the race that I hadn’t supplied myself was a couple of Maurice’s famous vegan brownies!)
So from 9 hours I dropped way back to 10 minute run, 5 minute walk and eat. I was pretty much running at walking pace anyway by this stage!
Not long after this (and another turnaround) Beck arrived with my afternoon coffee! I happened to be walking at the time, so I took it from her and we walked together as I drank it. The conversation went something like this:
Beck: You’re limping.
Beck: What’s hurting?
Beck: Oh, that’s good.
Of course, what she meant was, (and I knew this) you EXPECT everything to hurt when you’ve been running/walking for over 9 hours. What would have been more concerning would have been if one particular area was hurting (like, for example, a troublesome hamstring tendon!)
At that point I told her that I was going to get to 100km and then that would be it, I would stop. I didn’t know how far from the end I would be at that stage, but I didn’t care. 100km was all I cared about by now.
I think maybe that second coffee was the boost I needed to get me through the rest of the 12 hours. It may have also been the fact that there was only 2.5 hours to go. We’ll never know, but the below graph makes interesting viewing. I kept a manual note of my distance (by my watch) at each hour. I then made this into a graph – showing the distance I covered in each of the 12 hours.
I managed to stick with the 10/5 run/walk for the rest of the 12 hours. Except at the end of course – I was hardly going to walk the last 5 minutes of the 12 hour event, unless of course I was unable to run at all! I think this worked really well – 10 minutes was not too long to be running, and 5 minutes was enough time to get a decent amount of food and recovery. And I covered more ground than I would have had I just been walking.
As I got closer to the end, I realised that the hundy was definitely going to happen, and I reached a point where I knew I’d be able to walk it in, but I didn’t want to do that if at all possible. I didn’t know if I was in the top 3, and how close/far away I was from the other competitors, so despite the fact that 100 was at the front of my mind, I knew I had to keep going after that, to get as far as I possibly could.
45.5 laps, as I mentioned earlier, was the magic number. The ‘0.5 lap’ mark was the bollard that signified the 3 hourly turnaround point, so it would be easy to gauge when I’d got there. In fact, 100km was a bit less than 45.5 laps. I realised when I had a couple of laps to go to reach the milestone, that there was actually a yellow marker on the ground next to a bench, that said ‘100km’! To think I had run past it probably 43 times without even noticing it! Probably a good thing. It probably would have messed with my head!
Around this time I saw a familiar face, Brody, another ultramarathoner who I’d met at one of the Heysen training runs, who had come to run some laps with Barry in the evening. He ran about half a lap with me as I got ever closer to the three figures. He was the one who suggested we run on the inside of the loop which, as we were going clockwise at the time, was the right hand side. This felt very unnatural and I was a bit worried about getting hit head on by some of the fast young runners who were out there running in the rain, but it made sense – it was the shortest distance after all! How was I only just learning this now?
Probably with about 20 minutes to go, I reached the magical milestone as I passed that 100km sign for the penultimate time. I raised my arms in the air in a victorious pose (not that there was anyone there to see it!) and kept going – how much further could I go?
When I got back to the timing area to complete my 46th lap, Michelle was there ready to hand me my personalised rock. I loudly and clearly called out “I want my rock now!” so she’d be ready with it by the time I got there, but she was already on top of it! I grabbed my rock (which Michelle very kindly kissed for me before handing it to me!) and set off on what would be my final lap.
It was dark by now, and the watch I was using didn’t have a backlight, so I had to rely on the path lights to see how much time was left. I knew it was only a matter of minutes. I didn’t want to miss hearing the horn!
And then, there it was! 12 hours, done! I dropped my rock and walked back to the timing area. I wasn’t sure of my exact distance (that would need to be manually measured) but I knew I’d done at least 102.2km, as I’d passed the 100km mark one more time and a full lap was 2.2km. But would it be enough to get me a placing? I’d have to wait and see! (Or, I could look at the live results, but I wouldn’t do that!)
As far as I could tell, I was 2nd, 3rd or 4th. I would have been very disappointed if I’d clocked over 100km and not made the top 3! Even so, I couldn’t have done any better, and I was ECSTATIC to have got the 3 figures.
Time to relax! As the volunteers went about the task of doing the final measurements, I got changed into warm clothes (I left my compression shorts and calf sleeves on, partly for recovery and partly because, well, they were too hard to get off!) and hoed into a vegan chocolate donut that Simon had picked up from Bakery on O’Connell – THE BEST!!!!
Michelle, one of the two women (other than Amelia) who I thought might have been ahead of me, came past, and I found out she’d had a few injury issues and got about 98km. So by my calculations that would put me in at least 3rd place.
Then it was time for the presentation when I would find out for sure! As it turned out, Lynda was just behind Michelle in 4th place, and I’d managed to get 2nd! The down side of being 2nd versus 3rd was that I had to climb up onto a slightly higher podium. That was nothing though, compared with how high up Amelia had to get! I was gobsmacked when her distance was announced – just a touch under 130km! If only I’d tried a bit harder and run another 28km, I could have won!
So that was pretty exciting! And for the second year in a row I finished second to a Victorian!
After that it was time to just chill out and support Kate and Tracey and the other 24 hour runners. I got my guitar out at one stage and messed around a little bit with a few chords (Kym, who is a bit of a muso himself, came back to see the end of the 12 hour and we had a bit of a chat about bar chords and other things I don’t know a lot about!) and Simon, legend that he is, went to Crust Pizza to get us some vegan pizza! Fellow member of Team Vegan, Greg also turned up with coffee! Another team member, Dave, was unable to run due to injury but did come and volunteer as well as taking some awesome photos – thanks Dave!
One of the things I had been looking forward to for some time was finally cracking open the bottle of vegan Baileys. Well known trail runner Wendy had happened to drop in at the right time, with dinner for Simon, and was more than happy to sample my wares! The verdict from everyone who tried it was that it was delicious – even the non-vegans! I think devout non-vegan Maurice even enjoyed it a little bit! (Now we just need to get them to sell it in Australia – it’s pretty expensive when you have to fly all the way to the USA to get it!)
Before long I decided I wanted to try to sleep, and Sheena offered to put up the tent that Tracey had brought, so I could sleep in there. I gratefully accepted, and managed to catch a few hours kip in between hearing people shuffle past me, and the general chit chat from Team Vegan and Team Barry next door! I couldn’t really get comfortable, but I don’t think I would have been able to get comfortable in my own bed at this stage either!
Probably around 5:30 I woke up, I could hear Susan, the first aid boss, in the tent next to me, asking people as they went past “Are you eating? Drinking? Weeing?”. I could hear something was going on in Team Vegan, I realised that something wasn’t right with Kate, and before too long I heard Susan calling for an ambulance! That didn’t sound good, but everyone seemed quite calm. Turned out she was having blood pressure issues and while she did go off in the ambulance to hospital, we got a message from her not long after saying that all was good after being put on a drip. She eventually made it back in time for the presentation which was good as she won a voucher for The Running Company in the lucky prize draw (you had to be there to claim a prize!)
I made my way to the food tent. Michelle had offered me a range of vegan slices during my 12 hour run but I said I’d wait till I was finished. Now I was finished so I made a point of sampling all of them. Most of them more than once (I had to be sure) – they were all delicious! And of course, I earned them!
Once the sun was up I decided I couldn’t face the gnarly portaloos anymore, so even thought it involved a fair bit of walking, I made my way to the proper, clean, toilets at the Adelaide Uni clubrooms! I think the walking actually helped relieve some of the stiffness!
I snuck back out to Bakery On O’Connell for a coffee run and a few vegan pasties (breakfast of champions!) for myself and Simon!
One memorable moment from the closing stages of the 24 hour was getting to see Stephan running backwards! I can understand why – you get to use different muscles! Afterwards he estimated he had done about 1km in total backwards!
One of the pluses of staying overnight after finishing the 12 hour was getting to see the 24 hour runners through the middle of the night. Watching them made me decide I NEVER want to run the 24 hour. Although, I do want to do a 100 miler one day and I’m sure a trail miler is not in my future, so I guess I will have to do it eventually. Give me a few years!
First overall in the 24 hour was Tia, first male again was Barry (both of them cracking the 200km barrier), and Tracey ended up getting 3rd behind Anna (it was Anna’s first ever podium finish!)
I then hung around to help pack away (the benefit being I got to take home a container full of leftover vegan brownies!) and got home around 1pm! It was a long, exhausting but seriously rewarding couple of days!
From ‘never again’ I am now pretty much certain I’ll do the 12 hour again next year. Let’s call this year a ‘reconnaissance mission’ and I’ve learned a lot that will hopefully help me make it bigger and better next year!
HUGE thanks to the following people (and massive apologies if I forgot anyone!)
Ben, the seemingly superhuman Race Director, for putting on yet another epic event!
All of the amazing volunteers who helped to make it all happen!
All of the other runners in the 6, 12 and 24 hour events for the chats, company and encouragement along the way!
All the supporters along the course – most of them were there to support one particular runner or group of runners but all of them gave encouragement to all the runners as they passed! Extra special thanks to Ciaran’s wife Jenny – you were the best, with encouragement every time I went past!
My wonderful support crew, Simon and Sheena and the rest of Team Vegan
My caffeine suppliers, Kate and Beck! Lifesavers!
All the people who dropped by to see me – including Mum and Dad, Robyn, Gary (who also ran with me briefly in his dress shoes!), and Voula (who ran with me after having completed her long run!)