As it’s a bit of a quiet period in terms of racing/training, I thought this week I might try something different and reflect on a few people who had a big impact on my sporting (and personal) life in 2015. I’ve just picked out 6 because otherwise this would be an incredibly long post!

I’ll start with Karen. Karen has been mentioned before and probably has been the biggest influence on me (for better or worse!). She is a truly remarkable woman, ridiculously generous and selfless, a never-ending source of useful information, a great listener and giver of advice, and always up for crazy adventures and silly dress-ups!

When we first met I thought she was insane (and intimidating!) having just done 160km in the 24 hour event. History shows that I have now completed a 100+km ultra so now that doesn’t seem so crazy. But at the time – wow! She said that when we met she thought I was scary. Fair enough, I’d just shaved my head so I imagine I was quite a sight!

So in particular this year Karen’s influence has allowed me to (and this is just the tip of the iceberg):
– complete the 6 hour event 6 days after the Gold Coast Marathon (most people would have said that was nuts – for her part she went one better and did the 24 hour event 6 days after a 6 day desert race!)
– enter the 100km track race which is coming up at the end of this month – time will tell if that was a good idea!
– complete the Heysen 105 ultra – her advice and pre-race pep talk were invaluable.
– work on my swimming – encouraging me to enter an Aquathlon, and also letting me come to swim at her exclusive health club as a guest!
– get into cycling – my first ride with her was memorable for the fact that I fell off at 7.5km and wanted to quit, but she insisted that I keep going and made it all the way to Goolwa (25km – by far the furthest I’d ever ridden!). She then insisted that I needed to come for another ride 2 days later which was much more successful, with no ‘unscheduled dismountings’! Oh and she also gave me some cycling kit so I can at least sort of look like a cyclist!
– be a running diva (in a good way) – even if the running is not going so well it’s important to look good doing it, preferably in colour-coordinated lululemon gear! However, her influence will only go so far here – hair and makeup done before a 6am group run is a bridge too far for me…
– go to Thredbo for the Fun and Fitness week – that is coming up next week and promises to be a fantastic week away (and no doubt material for a future blog post!)

Then we have Natalie. Nat is one of the organisers of my Thursday running group, a staple of my weekly programme. During this year in particular she has been great at listening to my issues during runs and giving some great advice (not always taken I must admit) – I tell you, group runs are the BEST therapy and also FREE!

Nat is also an excellent cyclist and was the one who first got me onto a road bike and using cleats. She has shown great patience and has always been willing to fit me in for a lesson! Not to mention let me use her son’s VERY NICE bike and also shoes! I have had 3 lessons with Nat so far and while she was away this past week she very generously allowed me to borrow the bike. I went out for the two aforementioned 20+km rides with Karen and the stuff Nat taught me is starting to fall into place! Look out world – my first triathlon is getting closer!

Also part of the Thursday running family is James. He is not only one of the group leaders along with Nat, but also the social organiser of the group – always keen to arrange dinners and impromptu Sunday drinks. And let’s not forget the legendary post-run breakfasts in his backyard!

But James’s biggest influence on me this year was two seemingly small but extremely significant gestures. Firstly, the night before the 6 hour event, at one of our regular group dinners, he asked me if I would like him to bring me a coffee during the run (the forecast was for cold and wet) which I gratefully accepted. And when he arrived with it, about halfway through the 6 hours, my spirits lifted and so did my performance – that coffee was just magic! Then at Yurrebilla, which was on a warm day, he messaged Beck, who I was running with at the time, to ask us if we wanted him to bring us anything. To which I quickly responded, ‘Lemonade Icy-Pole!’ And OMG if that was not the best damn Icy-Pole I’ve ever tasted… and again gave me the lift I needed at the time. Maybe it was the caffeine in the coffee. No doubt it was at least partly the sugar in the Icy-Pole. Either way, the man that brought me said treats had a massive impact on how well both of those events went for me!

Next let’s talk about Beck. Beck and I have run together a lot in the past year, on roads and trails, and in training and in events. We seem to have very similar pace so it was great to run all of the Yurrebilla training runs, and most of the event itself, with her. We were also going to run Heysen together at least to start with (Beck was doing the 57km but we all started together) but that didn’t quite work out – she did end up finishing second in her event though – not too shabby! Yurrebilla we ran together until 38km, I don’t know how things would have gone had I not had Beck’s company for that first part, but I’m sure that it would not have been as enjoyable! As a fellow physio we always have plenty to talk about, and with all the time we’ve run together there’s been a fair bit of ‘running therapy’ thrown in as well!

Speaking of Heysen, one person who had a massive impact on my run that day was my buddy runner Kirsten. From the time I saw her just out of Checkpoint 4, to the time we crossed the finish line around 4 hours later, I had such a great time! (Hopefully she did too!) We had run together at times but never for a particularly long time. As a result we hadn’t really talked in depth before but by the end of Heysen there wasn’t much we didn’t know about each other! I really have no idea what my race would have been like without her help! Hopefully I can return the favour one day!

Last but not least I’d like to mention Barry, a local ultra-running LEGEND and one half of the Yurrebilla Race Director team with his lovely wife Bev. Not only did he direct the event that was the highlight of my running year, he was so encouraging and supportive to me and to all the other Yurrebilla newbies. One of the most memorable moments was between Checkpoints 2 and 3 at Heysen when we found ourselves running together (having also run together for a short while after Checkpoint 1). Barry said he was not surprised that we were running together as he saw us as quite similar athletically. That blew me away as he is such a great runner! He also said, when I mentioned that I had selected the 8:30 start group for this year’s Yurrebilla, that this was the right group for me as it is the elite group! Massive thanks to Barry for all his support and filling me with confidence!

So there you have it – six of the best from 2015!


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