Race report – Tower Trail Run Mount Gambier

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With the rest of the crew! Thanks to Wendy for this pic!

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Race Report – Barossa Marathon Festival 2017

This week, we go back to where it all (ie this blog) began!

2 years ago I ran the Barossa Marathon and wrote a little report about it, which I posted on my Facebook page. The positive feedback I received about this report (in some cases from people I hadn’t even met before) in the subsequent days, led me to create ‘Random Thoughts and Race Reports’ and I guess you could say the rest is history!

I am in the process of creating a new blog which I’ll share when I’ve finished playing around with some of the formatting (amid much swearing, at times!)

Anyway, back to Barossa. Some months ago, knowing that it was 6 weeks after Boston and 2 weeks after I got back to Australia, I volunteered to do the 2 hour pacing gig for the half marathon. I figured, I wasn’t really going to be in ‘race shape’ and I find pacing really enjoyable and rewarding, so it would be a great way to be involved!

Up until last weekend, I hadn’t run 21.1km since Boston, so I was actually a bit unsure if I could even run a sub 2 hour half, let alone pace one! So I went out and ran about 10 laps of the Uni Loop (2.2km) and came in about 4 minutes under the 2 hours. I wasn’t trying to push hard but by the same token I wasn’t trying to run ‘slow’. I was just running at the pace I was comfortable with. So that pretty much confirmed to me that I could do the pacer gig! 

Ideally you want to be able to run about 15 minutes faster than the time you’re pacing. I don’t think I could run 1:45 at the moment but I was definitely confident I had this!

I bought a new costume to run in – ostensibly to make me easier to spot for those trying to run with me, but just quietly because I kind of enjoy dressing up in wacky outfits! This one was a psychedelic hippie dress, complete with belt and headband. I even found a pair of sunglasses which were left at my house a few years ago but never claimed, that fit the outfit perfectly – and my yellow Boston calf sleeves were a perfect match! Underneath was another brand new item, my new 2XU compression shorts.

The weather wasn’t looking too good! There was a lot of rain overnight (both at home in Adelaide and up in the Barossa) and more rain forecast for race day. I was not looking forward to the idea of running in the rain – mostly for the reason that it would slow me down, and I couldn’t really afford to lose too much speed!

I went up with Beck, who wasn’t running this year due to injury but was still happy to go up and cheer! She picked me up at 5:45am so we would get to Tanunda in time to see the start of the marathon at 7. (The half didn’t start until 7:45)

Fortunately, although it was cold (and colder when we got to Tanunda), the rain appeared to be holding off.

We made it with minutes to spare – just enough time to wish the marathoners all the best and see them set off! (One thing I like about Barossa and Adelaide as opposed to some of the larger marathons, is that, as spectators, we could actually get into the starting area literally minutes before the start!)

Voula and Beck wishing Gary all the best!
And they’re off, in the 2017 Barossa Marathon!

The next 45 minutes went very quickly – just enough time to collect my bib and pacer balloons, stand in a lengthy toilet queue, then attempt a contortionist routine in trying to change out of my warm multiple layers and into my race ‘kit’ within the confines of a small toilet cubicle. Once that was done it was pretty much time to go to the start line! Luckily I had Beck there to take my bags as I probably would not have had time to getto the baggage tent!

I was one of 3 pacers in the half. We had Bryn doing 1:30 (his first pacer gig) and Jim 1:45 (Jim’s a veteran pacer and pretty much has the 1:45 slot sewn up!) with me doing my favourite, 2:00. I wasn’t sure exactly where to stand, as I couldn’t see Jim. In the end I just chose a spot well behind Bryn, and behind a few people I knew were planning to run sub-2. It didn’t really matter that much – 21.1km gives plenty of time to sort out pace and position!

(As it turned out, Jim wasn’t there – he actually missed the start due to bib issues, and went flying past me a little while after the start! He did eventually catch up to the 1:45 group and expertly paced them to the finish!)

I started my watch on the gun, rather than as I crossed the line. That way, if I crossed the line in 2:00 exactly on the clock, everyone who was with me would get under 2 hours, regardless of whether they started in front of me or behind me. (That was a lesson I learned during my very first pacing gig!)

For those who aren’t familiar, the role of a pacer is to run as close as possible to a specified time, and people who want to run that time (or thereabouts) just need to stick with the pacer and don’t need to worry about their own pace. It is particularly useful for runners who don’t use a GPS watch. As a pacer, there is definitely a bit of pressure but it’s also really enjoyable and rewarding to see your pace group achieve their goals.

I know I’m going to forget some people so apologies if I do! There were a lot of runners either with me or just ahead of me. Michelle was trying to stick with me as long as possible but her main goal was a sub 2:15 to qualify for Wonderland trail run. Eventually she dropped off my ‘bus’ but she got in well under her goal time! Regular running buddy Nat was with me for a while and ended up finishing just a few minutes behind me, saying that she really enjoyed the run. 

Sally thought she would be running just ahead of me but ended up smashing out a huge PB and on top of that won 2 bottles of wine in the random prize draw!

Others running ahead of me included Gary (different Gary from the one we’d seen off in the marathon!), Victoria, Ali and Peter. There were definitely a few PBs among that lot – they didn’t need any pacing help from me!

With me pretty much from the start were Brianna, fresh off a PB at the Paris Marathon, and first time half marathoner Kathryn from Brisbane (who was unaccustomed to the cold weather that we turned on for her!) Brianna was hoping to go sub 2 but hadn’t run that far since Paris, and Kathryn was just hoping to stick with me as long as possible – she’d done a half distance in training, in about 2:10.

Due to the staggering of the start times for the marathon, half, 10k and 5k, there were never any issues with congestion. We didn’t see the 5k or 10k runners at all (in fact, I never even saw race ambassador Jess Trengove, who won the 10k race) but we did get to see the marathoners on multiple occasions, and due to the ‘out and back’ sections we also got to see all the half marathoners (over 500 finishers!) – from the leaders all the way to the back of the pack!

Pace-wise it took me about 3km to hit my goal pace of 5:37 – 5:38 mins per km. I found Barossa the easiest out of all the halves I’ve paced – due to the flat nature of the course and the favourable weather conditions. Once I hit my pace I managed to hold onto it. Towards the end I did a few calculations so I would come in JUST under the 2 hours, so I did need to slow down just a touch!

I think with about 5km to go, Brianna took off but Kathryn was still with me! She was determined to stick with me until 16km, then it would be ‘just a parkrun to go!’ Personally I don’t find that comparison super helpful but it certainly works for a lot of people!

Eventually we reached the ‘parkrun turnaround mark’ (2.5km to go) and it became apparent that Kathryn was going to get under 2 hours! It was kind of like a proud mother bird moment for me when she took off with around 1km to go – I had to hold onto my pace so couldn’t go with her but I was thinking ‘Fly, my pretties!’ as each runner left my ‘nest’!

There were a few other runners around me who were looking good for sub 2 – some just in front and some just behind. One guy, Gerard, had not long given up smoking and was on track for a PB (and finished just seconds behind me) and regular running buddy Deb was ahead of me for a good portion of the race, but stuck with me after I passed her, and also came in under 2 hours. Another girl, whose name I didn’t get but who was wearing a Step Into Life top and not wearing a watch, was also hoping for a sub 2 and I’m not sure if she finished ahead of me or behind me but she came up to me afterwards and told me she got the sub-2! And then there was another regular running buddy Fiona, who was determined not to let me pass her (jokingly telling me I was going too fast) and ended up finishing about half a minute ahead of me.

I crossed the line with 1:59:42 on the clock. My official time was 1:59:18 which I was pleased with!

Just before the finish line – pic courtesy of Dave Munro.

And the timing was perfect because not 5 minutes after I finished, the heavens opened! Unfortunately that meant missing the presentations for the 5, 10 and 21.1k as I hightailed it back to Beck’s car to get changed into some warm, dry clothes and then head back to see our friends finish the marathon!

Luckily I had time to pose for a pic with Kathryn before the downpour!

There was a large group of runners around the 3:30 pacer (I think the only pacer in the marathon) including Coralie, Rebecca and Jenny. Not long after that were Carrie, Amanda and Leon (doing his 347th marathon for the year, by my calculation!) with a small gap to my 2015 Barossa running buddy Kay and fellow 2017 Boston Marathon finisher Graham! Then came a few more familiar faces, Peter and Dave, but for me the best moment of the day was seeing Gary finish.

Gary’s daughter Tahlia had run the 10k, and as I approached the end of my half, I saw Tahlia running back to meet her dad. We waited what seemed like ages at the finish (but it wasn’t actually that long – we were just cold and in need of wine!) until we saw Mark, who had been running with Gary when I’d last seen them, so we knew Gary couldn’t be far behind! And sure enough, around 30 seconds later, there was that distinctive purple T-shirt! We gave Gary a huge cheer and I think he might have been a bit fired up (after pretty much crawling across the finish line in his first marathon at Adelaide last year, he had, as he put it, ‘some running demons to vanquish’) and was yelling and cheering and high fiving! It was definitely a highlight for me and I’m sure it was a very special moment for Gary and Tahlia!

Proud father/daughter moment! Thanks Voula Nisyrios for the pic!

As we were getting cold and Beck had post-wine family commitments, we left pretty much straight after Gary finished, for a well earned wine tasting at Hentley Farm (I tasted 9 wines and liked them all – unfortunately the budget would only stretch to one bottle – I went with a Grenache Shiraz Zinfandel, mainly because I’ve never tried or even seen that blend before!

#willrunforwine – a very enjoyable tasting at Hentley Farm!

So once again, SARRC have put on another excellent event – the weather wasn’t kind to everyone (the marathoners and some of the half marathoners behind me certainly copped it a lot worse than I did) but it was ideal running weather for me, the volunteers were fabulous as always, the spectators were great, and my fellow runners were always friendly and supportive!

Thanks to everyone involved in making this such a great day! And especially to Beck for chauffeuring me – I owe you one!

A nice red and some sweet bling – what more could you want?

Race report – Bravehearts Semaphore Coastal Marathon

Solo long 30k run or half marathon? #willrunforbling

So, 7 weeks to Boston! 

Only 7 weeks? Are you sure? Oh well, I guess it’s time to start training!

In previous years I have used SARRC half marathons as part of my training programme. In 2014, 2015 and 2016 I did Clare and Greenbelt, and also did Barossa half in 2016.

In 2017 the timing of my marathon means that none of the SARRC halves will fit with my programme. Clare would be possible, but is a bit close in time to the marathon  (2 weeks) not to mention a bit far in distance. I would want to stay overnight the night before, which would make it a pretty expensive exercise. Which is a pity as it’s a great event. I will definitely have the FOMO happening that day. Oh, bugger it, I might just go up on the day and run the 5k!

The Coastal Fun Runs series is the brainchild of one Chris Glacken (better known as Chris Glacks – actually for ages I thought that was his real name!). The events are low cost and all money goes to the Bravehearts charity. This year alone he is putting on 32 MARATHONS! (Most of his events have shorter options as well – except the ‘5 marathons in 5 days’ and ‘7 in 7’ – but only crazy people do those!)

My bib from the half. To see what other events are on offer throughout the year, check out http://coastalfunruns.com

This was my first time doing one of Chris’ events. They are mostly run in the same area, coincidentally the same area where I do a lot of my long runs. And last week’s Dolphin Run! So this weekend, if I hadn’t done the half I probably would have run into some of the runners in the event while running 30+ km, and undoubtedly would have wished I’d done the half!

With so many events scheduled, it was almost inevitable that there would be one that fit into my programme. There was also a 3k, 5k, 10k and a marathon. The course was a ‘loop’, although probably would be more accurately described as an ‘out and back’ course. For the half marathon, we would run south then back to the start, then continue north and back to the start. We would do that twice, the marathoners did it 4 times and the 10k just the once.

Couldn’t really get a more straightforward course than this!

With the 21.1k starting at 7am it was a 5am start for me on Sunday to get an early breakfast (a shake consisting of Weetbix, oats, cacao, chia and almond milk) before getting myself organised. I opted for my Mekong top with aqua lululemon skirt, Skins shorts underneath, calf sleeves, Steigen socks and 2XU hat. I also threw on my rainbow arm warmers as it can be quite cool in the early mornings down the coast!
I got there early enough do a quick warmup before we had our race briefing and group photo. The marathon had already started, an hour earlier. The bib collection process was very smooth – the volunteers were very friendly and seemed to be well on top of things!

21.1k starters photo courtesy of Ian Fagan. I’m on the left of the pic – aqua calf sleeves!

The half kicked off around 7 (Race Director John making sure that we weren’t going to run into any marathoners before getting us started)
I hadn’t worked out a pacing strategy nor did I really have a goal time. I guess sub 1:50 was a minimum, with all but one of my previous halves being in the 1:40s (there was one inexplicable sub 1:40 in there, and I’m not counting the 3 times I’ve run as a pacer!). 1:45 was roughly 5 minutes per km, so I supposed I should be able to manage that. Anything under that would be a bonus!

I ran the first kilometre at 4:48 pace, running just behind 2 other girls, Coralie who I knew, and another girl I hadn’t met before called Carrie. I thought that was way too fast for me to be starting, and I was expecting that they would stay ahead of me but before too long we were all running together which was really nice! It was a smaller field than most of the events I’ve done, and with less random strangers spectating, so it could have been a very quiet few hours for me if I’d ended up running on my own!

An awesome thing about the layout of the course was that we got to see all the other marathoners, half marathoners and 10k runners during the race (the full and half marathoners on multiple occasions!). There were a LOT of familiar faces out there. I’ll probably forget some! In the marathon we had the organiser Chris running with Tim for quite a bit of the race – Tim hoping to do 70 marathons before the age of 70! There was Dave, who was going at a cracking pace! We also had Dione, who kept insisting to me that she WAS running as well as walking (she just happened to be walking most of the times I saw her!), Rebecca who looked very strong in the first half but apparently faded in the last 10k, Louise who had planned to continue on to run stairs at Largs AFTER COMPLETING THE MARATHON (she later decided that was a bad idea!) and Jac, one of a large contingent of Mount Barker parkrunners participating across the different events (my running buddies Coralie and Carrie both being Mt Barker parkrunners as well!). There was also Leon who is aiming for 42 marathons this year (plus ultras and halves!) – he is one of those 5 in 5 and 7 in 7 crazies! He did give me a good recovery tip – ice bath! (I had tried that after a previous long run but the water clearly wasn’t cold enough as I had managed to sit in there for an hour!)

In the half we had Mark and Mel who were both pleased with how they went, and we spent a while afterwards reminiscing about last week’s Guns N’Roses concert! There was also regular trail runner Neil who was doing his first road event (in trail shoes!) regular parkrunner Reece, and Chris, who was coming back from injury and showed excellent taste in running kit by running in a Norwood footy guernsey in arch-rival Port Adelaide’s heartland! 

So, the 3 of us girls ran together and it seemed like we all had pretty similar time goals. I knew Coralie would be faster than me in the end (unless she was holding back!). Carrie was, by her own admission, a ‘fader’ (in other words, NOT a negative splitter!) so when she took off from Coralie and me, we thought we probably would be a chance to catch her.

My Strava pace graph. See the spike at the beginning? That’s called ‘getting carried away (no pun intended) and going out too fast’. You’d think I would have learned by now…

The weather conditions were PERFECT, similar to last weekend’s event. Mild conditions to start with (I had my arm warmers pulled up at the start but by the 2k mark I’d rolled them right down) and once again NO WIND! 

According to the source of all useful information, Strava, at the end of the first lap, 11.2km, I was on 4:54 pace. The first lap was slightly longer and the second lap was exactly the same as the 10k course. That was great – we knew that once we reached ‘halfway’ we were actually well past halfway and ‘only’ had 10k to go!

On the second lap, it was a bit mental, running south and then back north to the finish line again, but having to run PAST the finish line to complete the last lap! Past the finish line, with about 5k to go, was where Coralie took off. I could see quickly that she wasn’t going to be catchable so I set my sights on Carrie, who Coralie very quickly passed! I could see I was making ground but it wasn’t until after the final turnaround (just over 2k to go) that I eventually caught up to and passed her.

I could still see Coralie in the distance but I set my sights on catching Chris, who had faded somewhat since earlier in the race, when he had been well ahead of me.

As I approached the Semaphore Palais, around 500m from the end, I had a sneaky look behind and thought I saw Carrie, but she looked to be too far behind. Nevertheless I decided to pick up the pace just to be sure! I thought I might catch Chris but he must have found an extra yard in pace too. According to Strava I finished in 1:42:58, exactly 1 minute behind Coralie and only 11 seconds behind Chris! The next finisher WAS Carrie, 26 seconds behind me, she was very pleased to have taken a whopping 10 minutes off her previous half marathon time!

My kilometre splits. Very happy with my consistency and ability to kick it home!

Recovery started with a quick walk in the sea with Chris. Happily, despite having dispensed with my pre-race ritual of taping my feet, there were NO blisters – thanks to my awesome Steigen socks! T
hen it was time to go back for the presentations. The female winner of the half, a girl I didn’t know, was about 10 minutes ahead of me! The male winner, Kent, did it in 1:27. That wasn’t really surprising – this is the guy who did 2 parkruns on New Year’s Day, one at 7 and one at 9, and RAN the 23km between the 2 parkruns!

Always nice to finish a hard run with a trip to the beach! Especially when said beach is RIGHT THERE!

So on my return home I did run an ice bath (with a 5kg bag of ice) and had 2 x 10 minute stints in there, with a quick hot shower in between. Maybe 2 bags next time! And then with some difficulty I managed to get my compression tights on!

Ice Ice Baby!
My slightly unconventional post-long-run ‘fashion’ (and don’t even ask me how I managed to get my leg up that high for the picture!)

I really enjoyed this event. I have to say, I can’t see myself ever doing the marathon here – nothing against this event but I really don’t enjoy marathons in general, so I try to stick to ‘big event’ marathons when I do run them! It would be a perfect event for someone who wants to run without pressure. The atmosphere is very friendly, everyone is very supportive of everyone else. The team of dedicated volunteers is fantastic and the RD John did a stellar job.

Congratulations to Chris and team for putting on a brilliant event! I’m sure I will be back for another half before too long!

Race report – McLaren Vale Half Marathon

I’ll start by saying, I am prone to exaggeration, but that would have to be right up there with the hardest races I’ve ever done!

 McLaren Vale was my third time as a pacer. I’d locked in the gig quite early in the year, knowing that all my marathons would be done by now, and therefore I wouldn’t need to ‘race’. Pacing is a great way to be involved in an event and
volunteer at the same time! I first fell into the role at Adelaide last year when I had put my hand up to volunteer, and then saw an email asking for pacers. I thought, “So I get to run AND volunteer? Sign me up now!”

For those who aren’t familiar with the term, in a marathon or a half marathon (and sometimes other events too), usually there are a few pacers who run at a particular pace, aiming to cross the line just under a particular time. My preferred
pacing time is 2 hours, as my PB is close to
1:45 so for me to be able to pace that time would be too much of a struggle. 2:15 would be just that little bit too slow for me to do comfortably. It sounds weird but running much slower than your comfortable pace
is actually really hard! A pacer needs to try and run at a consistent pace which can be hard – if you’re running significantly slower than your PB pace, it’s easy enough to go out too fast and then maybe slow down at the end to get close to the right time,
but by doing that, you will lose a lot of passengers on your ‘bus’ early. You also want to make sure you finish under (or marginally over) the set time, but not by too much. It is a delicate balance!

At McLaren Vale we had pacers for 1:30, 1:45, 2:00 and 2:15. All of us had different coloured balloons. I’d requested red because I wanted them to match my outfit (of course!). I had initially planned to wear my Luigi (as in Mario and Luigi)
costume that I’d worn when I volunteered at Mount Misery earlier in the year. But the forecast was for a warm morning, so I canned that idea, because I thought it would be too hot to run in. Especially with the hat and gloves! Plus, I had never run in that
particular outfit. Most of my other crazy outfits have at least passed the parkrun test!

So, I’d opted for the devil costume that I’d bought a few Halloweens back. It came complete with horns and a pitchfork. There was a slight problem on Saturday when I realised it was still sitting at the bottom of the laundry hamper since
last Halloween. A quick sniff test established that I could probably get away with it but I thought no, best do the right thing and wash it. Having never been washed before I had to handwash it (I didn’t really want to dye all the rest of my washing pink!)
and fortunately it was a warmish day on Saturday so I hung it out on the line for a few hours to dry. The devil dress was a bit short so I went with an extra red tutu underneath for a bit more modesty, and I also wore Skins shorts for comfort and more respectability!

I went down to McLaren Vale on Sunday with regular running buddy Jim who was also running the half, hoping to be under the 1:30 mark. Therefore it was unlikely I’d be seeing him during the race, other than those out and back sections!

The first thing that hit me when we arrived at the Hardy’s Tintara winery (the location for the start/finish – only appropriate given that we were in a famous wine region!) was how windy it was – I wasn’t expecting that! Stuff was blowing
everywhere – bollards had blown over and  marquees looked in danger of becoming airborne. This was not going to be easy!

I went into the toilets to get my outfit ready – I like to keep it a bit of a surprise so I had arrived with my tracksuit on over the top of my devil dress. I put sunscreen on because it was already getting quite warm, and although there
was no sun at that stage, I was going to be out there for, well, 2 hours! I’d forgotten to bring my toggles with which I normally attach my race bib to my Spibelt, but in the end I decided that my Spibelt (with phone inside) would be best UNDER the skirt,
and I ended up pinning the bib to the top of the skirt. I thought it would be a good idea to pin it through the dress to my Skins shorts. And it probably would have been a good idea. But I had decided to get everything organised BEFORE my loo stop. Bad move!

Eventually I emerged in my devil costume and went to collect my balloons. David had brought the balloons and all 8 of them were still there (2 for each pacer), all tied to a weight but they had become tangled in the walk from David’s car
to the SARRC tent. After a while we managed to free the 2 red balloons and I tied them to the shoulder straps of my dress – from previous experience that seems to be the best place to tie them. I did wonder how they would behave in this wind – they can be
annoying at the best of times! Probably more annoying for those running behind me though – I’ve only run WITH a pacer once before, at this year’s Gold Coast Marathon, and I remember needing to give him a fairly wide berth if I didn’t want to be eating rubber!

Then I started thinking about how I was going to pace this thing. I had my Garmin pace alerts set between 5:30 and 5:45. I wanted to run around 5:36/5:37 pace. I would start my watch on gun time, so my official time could be well under
2 hours but I was aiming to get just under 2 hours from the gun time. That way, if anyone was ahead of me at the start, and I ran JUST under 2 hours, and they were ahead of me at the finish, they would still get under 2 hours. The issue was going to be, how
on earth would I be able to maintain a consistent pace when some of it was going to be into a very stiff (40+ km/hour) headwind (and probably also uphill)?

I wasn’t even sure if I could run under 2 hours in these conditions!

Shortly before 8:00 I found my place among the 700+ crowd and waited for the gun before starting my watch. I was walking at the start – it was a bit like parkrun! It didn’t matter that my watch was telling me I was going too slow – I knew it would
take a few kilometres to get up to goal pace. I did also have to factor in the extra distance I was going to cover – normally if I’m racing I would start my watch as I cross the start line, because that will give me (close to) my official time. As a pacer
I was going off gun time but that did mean that I would be covering more than 21.1km. The pace I had set for myself was based on running exactly 21.1km which of course we know never happens! Factor in the extra distance at the start, going around people, and
the general inaccuracy of GPS devices, and I would be having to do some mental maths as well to make sure I didn’t miss the mark.

OK so as it turns out, the devil costume was not all that comfortable to run in! Firstly I was constantly trying to adjust my skirt early on, trying to preserve some modesty for the benefit of those behind me. For some reason I’d put my
Spibelt in between the dress and my tutu so it wasn’t sitting all that comfortably. The Spibelt was a bit loose so I could feel my phone jumping up and down. I kept changing hands with my pitchfork (which was already falling apart – never buy a cheap pitchfork
people!) – mostly I carried it in my right hand because I wear my watch on my left and I wanted to be able to keep a close eye on pace, but every now and then I’d swap for a while. Oh and there was also the issue of the balloon ribbons getting tangled up in
my devil horns – possibly not a problem I’ve ever had in a race before!

I think it took me about 5km to get up to goal pace, what with the crowds and also intermittently running into the wind. I was pretty happy with how I managed to maintain that pace after that.

As happens in every race but particularly those with out and back sections, I saw a lot of familiar faces. The good thing about out and backs is you get to see EVERYONE – from the front runners to the back of the pack. There were a few
people expecting to be on or around my pace (my ‘bus’ if you will) – Chantal (who had just got back from Europe), Annie (who was a last minute entrant) and David (who was confident of a sub 2 hour finish) among them. Early on I saw Sheena who had done so well
at Yurrebilla 2 weeks ago, looking comfortable on my bus (sometimes ahead of it and sometimes behind it) despite a dodgy knee. There were plenty of people who wanted to be ahead of me – Bec among them (she said she would cry if I passed her!) – when I saw
her on one of the out and back sections, well ahead of me, I threatened to stab her with my pitchfork if I got too close! I think that was a good motivator!

At around the halfway mark Sheena was with me and running well. I actually thought for a brief moment about handing over the pitchfork and balloons (if I could have figured out out to get them off) to Sheena and saying “Right, you can take
it from here!”

The worst bits were when we were running uphill into the wind. That is hard enough, but when you’ve got 2 balloons dragging behind you, you actually feel like you’re going backwards! I wonder if, in conditions like this, there is some kind
of alternative to balloons that pacers can use, because not only are they annoying for those behind and around, at times they actually slow you down! (I had to be extra careful when overtaking people to make sure they didn’t get tangled up in my balloons.)
When I was running into the wind I ended up pulling my balloons down and holding onto them which made things a bit easier but as a result I wasn’t able to swing my arms to give me a bit of a boost.

Normally as a pacer you want to try to stop your balloons from popping. On this occasion I was seriously considering taking one of the pins from my bib and popping them myself! I did try running close to the trees in the hope that they
might ‘accidentally’ pop, but no such luck – one of them did develop a slow leak though.

My preference, towards the end of a race, as I have said before, is to ‘count down’ by time rather than distance. And as a 2 hour pacer, when I’ve been running for 1½ hours, I can safely say I’ve got 30 minutes to go! I can’t say “5km,
I can do that in 25 minutes”! That would make me a bad pacer!

I slowed down a bit towards the end as I realised I was well under the 2 hour mark. The last few kilometres were a bit easier as we were running mostly downhill and not into the wind. For the last 500m or so I held my pitchfork aloft and
started yelling at people to encourage them as I knew they were all on track for sub 2 hours. When I crossed the line my Garmin time was
1:59:17. I was pretty happy with that, and I actually don’t think I could have run much faster if I’d been racing – I was
glad in that sense that I had opted to pace! (Last year I did it in
1:59 flat, so I’m getting better!)

I got some pretty sweet bling. This event was the final event in the Triple Crown series (whenever I hear that term I think of that Simpsons episode – “the 5th and penultimate event in racing’s Triple Crown”) so all those who
had completed the 3 half marathons in the series (Clare and Greenbelt being the other two) got a special Triple Crown medal as well as the also very cool McLaren Vale finisher medal. I think the Triple Crown has been very successful, so successful that SARRC
were overwhelmed with the number of entries for McLaren Vale, to the point where they thought there might be a chance of running out of medals! As a result us regulars were asked not to take a finisher medal (and we would get one later, when they ordered more)
which was not a problem for me, as long as I got it eventually! In the end I think maybe the weather put a few people off so by the time we left the start/finish area they let us have our medals. (The main thing they were worried about was that some of the
later finishers might miss out on medals and they are probably the people that appreciate them the most!)

It was great afterwards to catch up with people – most of whom had found it tough and very few of whom had run the time that they’d hoped! The wind had died down a bit at that stage so it was nice to sit in the square and hope to win one
of the random prizes (I didn’t!) and have a coffee and chat with friends.

I want to give a MASSIVE thankyou to all the volunteers and SARRC staff who made this event happen. As I’m sure I’ve said before, no matter how hard the conditions are for the runners, it is twice as hard for the volunteers – trying to
stop marquees from blowing away while constantly answering queries such as where the bag drop area was, and trying to keep the cups from blowing away on the water stations (to name just a few tasks!). It takes a lot of volunteers to make these events happen
and I am always grateful that people are willing to give up their time (and in some cases travel a fair way – McLaren Vale is about 45 minutes from the city) to allow the rest of us to enjoy what is always a fantastic event. You guys all ROCK!

If you get the opportunity, I highly recommend pacing as a great way to give back and to test yourself in a different way! It is so rewarding to hear from people you’ve helped, even those that you didn’t even realise were on your ‘bus’!

Oh and Bec did get her sub 2 hours, a massive PB and she did credit my pitchfork threat as a motivator! And Sheena just scraped in too!

Well done to EVERYONE who ran in one of the 3 events – the 5k, 10k and the half. It was a brilliant event and a fantastic day despite the tough conditions! And massive kudos to anyone who somehow managed to pull out a PB!

 

Race report – Barossa Marathon Festival


Barossa Marathon 2015 was my second marathon (a year to the day after my first), a new PB and the subject of my very first blog post. 

A year later (give or take a few days) it was back to where it all began, this time to run the half marathon.
There could hardly have been a bigger contrast between the two events.
Last year, it was the culmination of 16 weeks’ hard work which was rewarded with a PB. 6 weeks later, I managed to scrape home at Gold Coast for another PB. This year I was definitely racing the half, but the big picture was the Gold Coast marathon in 5 weeks and a Boston qualifying time, therefore it was not just a race but also a marathon training run. (A repeat of last year’s Barossa or Gold Coast time will qualify me for Boston next year)
The bigger story here was that this was Beck’s Boston qualifying race. I ummed and ahhed over the last few months about giving the marathon a crack, in the hope that I might be able to get my BQ time and then be able to relax and enjoy Gold Coast. But I knew that was unrealistic, especially 2 weeks after UTA100. So I had entered the half, partly just to be a part of which last year had been a very enjoyable event, and partly to make sure I could still run long and fast. 
Given that the marathon started at 7 and I had organised to go with Beck, it was an early start. I was up at 4:30 and we hit the road at 5. My race didn’t start until 7:45 which would mean I could have a very relaxed start once we arrived at Tanunda. We were aiming to get there around 6:00. As it gets very cold in the Barossa, I decided to pack my race gear and wear warm street clothes to the start. 
I had had most of my gear organised before going out to a comedy gig the night before. I was in bed by 10:30 so I got close to 6 hours sleep.
Beck was happy to drive up there but I would drive back. That was fair enough, remembering how I had to drive myself home from the marathon last year (I do not recommend it!) We took Beck’s car, being an SUV. I didn’t like her chances of getting out of my little Corolla after the marathon and the drive home!
You know how you never try something new in a race? Well I did several things differently this time.
Firstly, I started speed training on Friday morning. It’s something I have been meaning to do for some time but it never quite fitted in. Then UTA got closer and I focused more on that. Once I had recovered adequately from UTA I was out of excuses. A fast marathon needs speed training. The session this week was 4 x 1km reps. I was not as fast as I had thought I would be, but remarkably consistent which was a good start. And I pulled up OK on Saturday. 
Next, I ran parkrun on Saturday. I ran by myself and I somehow managed to avoid getting carried away like I normally do even when I’m trying to take it ‘easy’. Interestingly I ran almost exactly the same time I had run the week before when I was actually trying to run as fast as I could!
That afternoon I went to a BodyBalance class for the first time in probably a year. For the uninitiated, BodyBalance is a hybrid of yoga/Pilates/Tai Chi. It can be quite challenging and I have been known to be quite sore after, especially if I haven’t done it in a while.
I decided to wear my new 2XU compression socks, which I had only worn once before for a morning run (around 10km). I want to run Gold Coast in them so this was a perfect o to road test them in a longer, faster run. I put tape around my arches to prevent blisters (which I do in every race longer than 20km. I think it’s just superstition now but with new socks I was taking no chances).
Other than this I went with the outfit I plan to wear for Gold Coast – SARRC pink top and lulu skirt with Skins underneath. Given the cold start, arm warmers were also a necessity!
The drive up was uneventful except for a few erroneous road closures delaying our arrival at Faith Lutheran College until about 6:15. Still plenty of time for Beck and ample time for me. 
It was chilly, so while Beck got herself ready I went into the warm room where bib collection and bag drop were happening, and helped hand out race bibs. As 7am approached I braved the chill outside and went to watch Beck and the rest of the marathoners start the 42.2km journey. Beck was running with Jim, another regular running buddy over the last few years who had had a bad run at Boston and was hoping for a better run here at Barossa. Also in the marathon were regular Thursday running buddies John and Liam who looked to be in great form, and ultramarathon legend Andrew whose wife was enjoying the novelty of watching him in a race which would be over in just a few hours rather than taking the whole day!
They were off! After they were out of sight I quickly went back inside to the warmth and started to get myself ready. I didn’t have any sunscreen on me and I didn’t realise at the time that the first aid tent had some, but being a chilly overcast morning, and given that I wasn’t going to be out there all that long, I decided it probably wasn’t necessary. I did wear a hat as always and not long before our start, the sun came out which reminded me to get my sunnies out of the car!
I needed a warmup. My hamstring does not like a cold start so I now have to warm up for every race. Probably not the real big ultras (because I can use the first few kms as a warmup) but when I’m going for a fast time, I know a warmup is now mandatory. I ran about 800m before the hammy started to feel normal and then turned around and ran back. It was a surprisingly fast warmup! Was that an omen? I didn’t know!
I saw many familiar faces at the start, among them Nat, who was hoping for a sub 2 hour half and who had not done a race since August last year; Kate, who I had started several races with and was going for a PB; and Alison and Kay, who were pacing 1:50 and 2 hours respectively. Kay had run most of the first half of Barossa Marathon with me last year.
I was hoping for somewhere between 1:40 and 1:45, and Kate was aiming for just under 1:45 so we decided to start together. I had convinced myself that time didn’t really matter to me. 
Of the 9 halves I had raced before (I have also paced 2 but I’m not counting those), 6 of them had been sub 1:45 including the last 4. My Masters PB of 1:37:54 is so far beyond anything else I’ve ever done that I tend to discount it. I find it hard to believe that I actually did that time and harder to imagine I could ever get close to it again!
We started solidly but not spectacularly. In the first km Alison caught up with us. A rushed start meant that her watch didn’t start until about 300m in, throwing out her pacing calculations. Kate offered to swap watches with her and they almost did swap but then Alison said “No, you’re going to do a PB today!” We then moved on ahead as we needed to stay well ahead of Alison to get our goal times.
Our first 5km (according to Strava, where I am getting all my figures from) was 24:50, average pace 4:58 per km. 4:59 pace would sneak us in just under 1:45. Kate was a bit concerned we were going a bit too slowly but I assured her that if we started conservatively we would have the capacity to take it up a notch at the end.
Our next 5km was a very similar pace – marginally faster at 24:46 or 4:57. A solid first 10km, 49:36, average pace 4:58. Right on target.
I had had my energy drink as per usual, about 30 minutes prior to the start. I had forgotten whether I normally had my caffeine supplement before or halfway through a half marathon. I had decided halfway was the way to go. 10km was close enough to halfway so I took it and estimated that at current pace it would probably kick in at around 16km. This was the point at which I’d hit the wall at Greenbelt 4 weeks earlier, so it would be an ideal stage to get a boost!
My only other fuel was Gatorade in a hand bottle. I had about 500ml and estimate I only had about half or less during the race. 

Sometime in the first 10km we first saw the frontrunners in the marathon. A little later we saw some more marathoners who didn’t look like they were in the lead pack, and then we saw Paul, the 3:45 pacer. We hoped that Beck and Jim were in the pack in between the frontrunners and the pacer. Beck was going for around 3:40. She would need at least 3:42 to be confident of getting into Boston. Unfortunately we did see her and Jim, a little way behind the 3:45 ‘bus’ – things looked like they weren’t going to plan! 
Just ahead of the ‘bus’ was regular Friday and Saturday running buddy Peter, running his first marathon. He was looking strong. 
Kate and I reached 13km still on pace at 4:57. It was here that we parted ways with around 8km to go. My legs seemed to want to go faster and Kate told me it was time for us to split! I wished her well and started to pick up the pace a little.
The great thing about Barossa which I’m sure I mentioned last year, is that with the multiple out-and-backs you get to see so many of the runners! Like last year, people were commenting that I seemed to know everyone, cheering them on as we crossed paths. Well, I did know a lot of them but towards the end I was just calling out names on bibs, and many of the people I didn’t actually know. I hope it helped!
I saw Beck and Jim again one more time and they were still well behind the bus. I suspected that Beck was not going to get her BQ time and hoped she and Jim would still enjoy the rest of their run! 
I saw the frontrunners one more time too, including John who was sitting pretty in the top 5 and Andrew was also up there!
16km came. I first had flashbacks to Greenbelt and the mythical ‘wall’, but this time I decided to punch my way through it. The caffeine had kicked in and I suddenly had this amazing burst of energy. The last 5km were honestly a blur. I remember seeing my friend Tracie taking photos a few km from the end (I had seen her on the way out but too late to pose for her!) and also occasional running buddy and Instagram legend Chantel like a ninja in the bushes with her camera! 
After splitting with Kate, I did not look at my watch at all except when it vibrated to indicate another kilometre had passed. I only looked at my kilometre splits but not my overall time. Kilometre 17 was surprisingly fast at 4:22 (as it turned out, my fastest km).
On the several out and back sections I had seen regular running buddy Maxine, quite a way ahead of me. Each time she seemed to be maintaining her lead over me. I doubted I’d catch her. But then with only a few kilometres to go, I came up behind her, ran with her briefly and kept going. She was running AWESOMELY but she said she was nearly spent.
With around 1km to go I could start to hear the finish line. I remembered the finish last year and all the familiar smiling faces and people cheering for me. Unfortunately I also ran into packs of walkers, walking 3 or 4 abreast, meaning I had to go around them – not exactly what you want after running 20k! 
I reached the road leading around to the finish. I remembered to smile, knowing that David would be there with his camera, having taken some of my favourite photos from last year’s Barossa. (He told me afterwards that he was calling out to me, but I didn’t hear. I was so in the zone by then!)
I remember seeing Chantal, who along with husband Neil had run the 10k. I don’t remember much else!
I rounded the corner and hit the finishing chute. I crossed the finish line, stopped my watch, got my medal from Naomi, and had a look at my time. 1:41:53 – far beyond what I had expected! That Masters anomaly aside, it was a new PB!
I had done my last 8km (since leaving Kate) at 4:35 pace and my last 5km in 22:43 or 4:32 pace. My overall pace was 4:49.

After taking all that in for a few minutes, I saw Kate finish. She got her PB! It was great to have played a small part in that story! Max ended up finishing only 10 seconds behind me and was understandably also very happy! 
I got cold really quickly when I stopped. I couldn’t bring myself to get completely changed so I put on a long sleeved top and Beck’s hoodie which I would give her when she finished. I noticed a few small issues – a hot spot under one of my toes that was probably the beginnings of a blister – served me right for trying new socks, but all in all I was happy with the socks. I also chafed a bit under one arm which was surprising considering I had run Clare half and also my Masters PB half in exactly the same top with no issues.
I got to see the first few marathoners finish. John finished 5th in 2:50 – a massive PB! Andrew also cracked the top 10 and a sub-3 hour time. 
Nat and Dave both broke 2 hours for the half. Nat later found out her official time was just over 2 hours but everyone knows Strava time is what counts. (My official time was actually 8 seconds faster at 1:41:45!)

I then went to get the all-important post-race coffee and then wine! (When in Rome…) and then see the rest of our friends finish their marathons.

I saw Mark finish, followed by Peter, who had done remarkably well in his first marathon considering his longest long run had been 27km! I missed seeing Liam finish but he had done a PB of just under 3:25.

We saw the 3:45 bus go by without Beck and Jim, and around the same time we saw Kath who had entered with not much training and had done amazingly well, along with Tina who had only entered on Wednesday and was treating it as a training run. A marathon as a training run? I couldn’t even contemplate that!
The cheering got really loud when Arwen approached – she broke the 4 hour barrier and had her own personal cheer squad! Even though her partner Vince later noticed that her marathon medal ribbon said ‘HALF MARATHON’ like mine! Oops!
Finally, not long behind Arwen we saw Beck and Jim. They had broken 4 hours but were both understandably disappointed that they had not achieved their goal times. I quickly ran around to the finish line to see them finish and (reluctantly) give Beck her hoodie. While she recovered I went to the car to get my warm jacket and her warm jacket and track pants. I put on both the jackets and went into the bathroom. People had told me my lips were blue but I was shocked when I saw my reflection – they were a lovely shade of purple!
We hung around for a while before heading back home. It was a funny drive home as I had never driven a BMW before and wasn’t used to the European indicators and windscreen wipers! I lost count of the number of times I put the wipers on or indicated the wrong way! Anyway, we made it home in one piece and a few hours later after a shower and quick lunch I picked Beck up again and we headed to the pub for the traditional post marathon drinks. Beck had had a chat to husband Steve who was already planning Beck’s next marathon, Adelaide in 11 weeks, with a longer taper. Steve was not willing to give up on the Boston dream and by the time we all headed off after drinks, the Adelaide plan was well and truly taking shape!
I was super impressed with Beck’s reaction to her race. I think I would have been a basket case! I do know now though, that if Gold Coast in 5 weeks doesn’t go according to plan, I will have a second chance at Adelaide and now I will have a buddy to run it with!

Race report – Greenbelt Half Marathon

Sunday was my 3rd Greenbelt Half. My first, in 2014, was my second ever half marathon and a huge PB for me, 1:42:43. Last year I missed out on a PB by only 10 I seconds. I couldn’t see where I could have gone any faster, so I was happy with that time.

Since then I somehow beat that PB during the Masters Games – 1:37:54. I’m not quite sure how I managed to do that time especially on a 4 lap course that wasn’t exactly flat. I’ve sort of discounted that time as a PB as I currently can’t see how there is any way I’ll beat that time!

My new time to beat was my 1:42:27 at Clare just a few weeks ago. Clare being a notoriously challenging course (not the most challenging ever but 10+km uphill followed by an almost undetectable downhill back half does not make for a great PB course), I was confident that anything I could do at Clare, I could do better at Greenbelt!
I had recovered well from the previous weekend’s 24k trail race at Cleland. In the days leading up to Greenbelt, my hamstring tendon issue that had been bugging me since the 100k in January, miraculously disappeared (well, temporarily at least). I did a hilly run with my UTA100 mandatory gear on Tuesday, a now traditional fast flat run on Thursday, and a gentle (somewhat soggy) ‘jogette’ on Friday morning.

Several weeks ago I had planned to make Greenbelt an ‘out and back’, running from the start at the top of the River Torrens at Athelstone, to the finish in the city at Pinky Flat, and then donning my UTA backpack and running back up to Athelstone. No, hear me out, there was method in my madness!

A fast, downhill course known for being good for PBs would be an ideal marathon training hit-out. From memory I was due to run about 30k as part of my Gold Coast training plan. I wasn’t too concerned about distances at this point as I was committed to events. Besides, a hard half marathon race is equivalent to a longer training run in terms of training effect.

However, there was something else to consider, and that was the small matter of a 100km ultra in 2 weeks. I may have mentioned that before. Well don’t worry, you’ll be hearing a LOT more about it in the next few weeks and beyond!
To get more ‘time on feet’, the run back up to Athelstone would be an ideal solution. Plus I’d be wearing my race vest, which I’ve run a few 10k runs in, but 21k would be better for ultra training. AND, I could have a bonus sleep-in on Sunday – rather than having to get to Pinky Flat to catch a bus up to Athelstone for the start, I could drive straight to Athelstone.
Apart from it being a bit insane, this plan was thrown into disarray when Adelaide United qualified to host the A-League (football/soccer for the uninitiated) Grand Final on Sunday afternoon. Running Greenbelt, waiting for the presentations, then the slow plod back up to Athelstone, would mean I’d really be pushing it for time to get home, showered and on the bus back into town for the big game.

I found a compromise. Beck was also running Greenbelt and lives near me, so I would get a lift with her to the city, leave my backpack in her car, bus it up to Athelstone, run the race, smash out a PB, see the presentation, don the backpack and then run the approximately 8km home. With a short warmup before the race itself, that would make 30km all up. A pretty good day at the office, incorporating training for both a marathon and an ultra!

I had to carefully consider my race day outfit. I wanted to run in one of my South Australian Road Runners Club singlets (as I had at Clare), as I wanted to fly the SA flag at Gold Coast and needed to train in the top I would be racing in. I also needed something that would be comfortable under the backpack on the way home, so that meant no metal bra clips (spoiler alert – this would lead to chafing and probably tears). 

Although my ‘wounds’ from Cleland had healed up nicely, the graze on my hipbone was still causing me some trouble and was in the MOST inconvenient spot, I still couldn’t wear jeans comfortably even by Friday! (On discussion with a colleague during the week we decided that rather than a graze it was probably actually a friction burn from my clothing – that would explain how it happened with no damage to my clothing!) I therefore had to pick shorts or a skirt that would not rub in that area!

During the week I had bought some 2XU compression socks which I had tried on and LOVED. And they were such a pretty shade of purple! I was SO keen to wear them for Greenbelt! However sanity prevailed and I decided not to take the risk of trying something brand new on race day. I went with the old tried and tested Compressport compression sleeves. Maybe I will wear them for UTA100 and/or Gold Coast but I will definitely be road testing them first!

On Saturday night there was some pretty wild weather, mostly strong winds with a bit of rain. Not exactly ideal conditions to run a PB!

On race day I got ready as usual as well as preparing my race backpack for the run home. Beck picked me up at 6:15 and we made our way to North Adelaide to catch the bus to Athelstone. I pointed out a girl in front of us as we walked to the bus (she ended up getting on the bus in front of ours) and said, “See that girl there? She’s gonna win it”. It was Micarla, who in the past 4 weeks had won both the Clare half and the Cleland 24k.

We arrived at Athelstone Primary School in plenty of time and had to make the tough choice, toilet first, or warmup? We decided on the former, and it was a good choice, because the toilets were already struggling to flush (presumably not used to 800 people using them in the space of an hour) and were likely to get worse as the start approached! The sky was looking pretty black and it seemed inevitable that it would rain on our parade at some point.

Beck and I did a quick 1km warmup to loosen the legs and then she peeled off her extra layers as we counted down to the 8:00 start. I got to catch up with a number of people, some of whom I had only previously met in passing, some who I had not seen in some time. That’s probably one of my favourite parts of events (well that, and of course the finish!)
Beck and I were aiming for sub 4:50 average pace. That would be a PB for her and pretty close for me. Hopefully I would have a bit left at the end to be able to increase the pace.

With 800 starters, the start line was pretty congested. I couldn’t even find Beck at first but I saw her off to the side. Within the first few hundred metres we had managed to connect! The 1:45 pacer, Rick, was a little way ahead of us (we’d eventually need to pass him to get our goal time) but we were happy to sit behind him for the first little bit, and just keep him in sight.

The first few kilometres were a bit slower than we would have liked, primarily because of the congestion and also because it was marginally uphill. As soon as we could overtake people and get a bit of daylight in front of us, we did. It meant we would have to run a bit faster to get back to our goal pace.

We hadn’t planned to overtake the 1:45 ‘bus’ at any particular stage, just sometime before the finish line! At around the 6.5km mark, the ever expanding group was starting to impede our progress. It was time to make a move. We overtook the bus and almost immediately after that, the threatened shower eventuated. It wasn’t heavy and it wasn’t long but it was enough to make the ground a bit slippery. Especially since pretty soon after that we would encounter a wooden walkway – I called out to everyone around me to be careful.

It was around this time that Beck and I found ourselves running behind two men, who she jokingly thanked for being a windbreak for us! They didn’t come with us when we overtook the bus, but it wasn’t long before one of them, Tom, was with us again. I had seen him before at parkrun but we’d never run together before in an event. We would end up going back and forth for the rest of the race. Also around us was Peter, who I had run with a bit at Clare. He wasn’t having the best day – we also went back and forth but after I passed him later in the race and then didn’t see him again, I knew something wasn’t right! He ALWAYS beats me – not by much, but by enough!

Greenbelt is an undulating course. Some very nice downhills (although with the congestion early on, we weren’t able to make the most of them) and some nasty little uphills. On the uphills I contemplated getting the whip out. This was something I picked up from another Peter. He would often give his thigh a slap to get him up hills. I thought of him as I went up the hills and wondered how he was getting on! (He later told me he got the ‘whip’ out once – he ran a pretty good time too so it obviously worked!)

I knew Beck wasn’t far behind me because at one point I heard her distinctive laugh. It sounded like she was going OK but I dared not look behind me. How does the saying go, ‘Never look back, unless it’s to see how far you’ve come.’

15km was my ‘wall’. I’m not sure why, but as soon as I passed that marker, I guess I knew it wasn’t going to be a PB for me. It was just a hard slog. (Kym, who I had seen marshalling at 2 points along the way and who is pretty much trail running royalty around these parts, said to me after the race that you can’t expect to have a great race after a tough trail race the previous week. He was probably right.)

The slow start and subsequent push to get back under 4:50 pace probably took a bit out of me and meant that my ‘traditional’ fast finish wasn’t on the cards. Then there was Cleland last week. So yeah, there were probably a few contributing factors.

Around this point I saw a few friendly faces. Chantel, who is on the comeback trail from a nasty bike accident was out taking photos because she wasn’t yet ready to run it. It was great to see her smiling face out there. Hopefully she’ll be able to join me at Gold Coast in July! Then not long after that I saw Nat, my cycling coach, on a drink station. I gave her a cheer and a thankyou – I didn’t stop at all for drinks because I was carrying my own. It was great to see her regardless.

The rest of the race was a bit of a blur. There was my friend since high school, Tracie, official photographer in Elder Park – hopefully I gave her some good shots! After passing Tracie I said to those around me (but probably more for my own benefit) “Look straight ahead. Do not, whatever you do, look right”. That was because on the right, across the river, was the finish line. We were still more than 1km away from reaching it – we still had to run up a nasty little hill, back across the Torrens Weir, and along the other side. Seeing the finish line now would be just demoralising. We knew it was there, but seeing it just made it more real!

I had stopped looking at my watch by now. “Que sera, sera”, I thought. I didn’t think I had made up enough time and I didn’t really have a whole lot left to smash out a fast final km.

When I felt my watch vibrate to signify 21km I knew I had about 200m to go. My watch had consistently been about 100m ahead of the actual distance. Possibly because I hadn’t started right at the front of the 800-strong pack, maybe the overtaking along the way, and maybe simple satellite inaccuracy, or a combination of all 3. I entered Pinky Flat and could finally see the beautiful sight of the finish line! Despite being pretty much spent by this point, I was sure I had another 200m left in me!

I picked up the pace and managed to pass a few runners as I approached the finish line (admittedly mostly 10k runners, but still…) and rounded the bend to cross the line in 1:42:47 by my watch. A little disappointing, being 20 seconds SLOWER than Clare, which most would say is a tougher course. (My official time was 1:42:44 – a lousy 1 SECOND off my Greenbelt PB from 2 years ago!)

I remembered to get my medal first before ducking under the bunting to collapse in a heap! It was not 30 seconds later that I saw Beck cross the line for a new PB! She was stoked and I was too, for having been a part of it! She said she had been able to see me the whole way – my choice of a hi-viz yellow top probably helped! We are both hoping to run Boston qualifiers this year and based on that run today she is well on track!

I then got to my favourite part of any race, getting to catch up with friends to see how they went. Greenbelt being a point to point course, after the start you don’t see anyone unless you pass them or they pass you. The fast people at the front I would not see again until the finish. That girl I said would win? She did! Not a bad 4 weeks for her – 2 half marathon wins and a state trail championship! I saw both the Peters – one had a great run, the other not so much. Another regular running buddy John (well we don’t run together that much, mostly because he is too damn fast!) had done a PB and come so very close to his goal of breaking the 80 minute barrier. Imagine. 80 minutes. At this point I’d be happy to break 100 again! (I know it is possible. I’ve done it once!)

After the presentations it was time for the hard run home. It ended up being a bit over 9km, mostly (ever-so-slightly) uphill, on tired legs with my UTA100 backpack. I was so happy that Adelaide United had forced me to abandon my plans of running 21k back to Athelstone. 9km was more than enough, thankyou very much! I was never so happy to crack open an icy cold can of Coke than I was when I staggered in the front door just after midday! I had managed to fit in a relatively fast half marathon as part of my marathon training, as well as some ultra training on top of it. It had been a good day.

And as history shows, it got better. There wasn’t time to collapse on the couch and become a vegetable for the rest of the day – I had an A-League Grand Final to get to! So I quickly demolished a pizza and got a bus into town. And my team, Adelaide United, the mighty Reds, prevailed 3-1 in front of 50000 roaring fans at the Adelaide Oval, which I had run past only hours before.

So yeah.

It was a pretty good day!

Race Report – Clare Half Marathon

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Before I go any further, this is a significant milestone for me – my 50th blog post! Who would have guessed when I first published my race report from the Barossa Marathon last year, that I would still be going 50 posts later? What started as a way to disseminate my marathon report to the wider community after having received a number of positive comments from its initial airing via Facebook, has become somewhat of a hobby for me – at times it has been challenging to find a topic to write about, and other times one race has provided 3 weeks worth of material! Thanks to you for reading it and keeping me inspired to keep writing it!

A few weeks ago I found my pace band from last year’s Clare Half, lovingly constructed in an Auburn motel room while inhaling a vego pizza, sipping on an ice cold cider and watching a forgettable football game on the comically small TV. (I say forgettable because I now can’t recall even who was playing.)

For the uninitiated, the pace band was a piece of paper with the numbers 1-21 written down the side, and next to each number, the overall time I would need to be at (or under) to achieve my PB goal. I cut it into a narrow strip, laminated it and made it into a bracelet. Fat lot of good it did me that day.

Clare being an out and back, uphill on the way out and theoretically downhill on the way back, it was the ideal course to try to run a negative split (faster in the second half). Indeed, that strategy had worked perfectly for me in my first Clare.

Unfortunately, in my quest for a PB, I neglected to consider the fact that this course was significantly more difficult than the Greenbelt course on which I had run my best HM to that point. Greenbelt is undulating but essentially downhill and is considered a relatively fast course.

So, I had set myself 5 minute kms for the first 11, with the idea being to increase the pace after that. Unfortunately after running 11km uphill at 5 minute pace, I had nothing left, no chance of increasing the pace and I ended up walk/running the last 10km (this remains the only road race I’ve ever done where I’ve had to walk part of it – marathons included), cursing all the way and actually considering quitting!

Needless to say, the PB eluded me that day. I finished in what most would call a respectable time and made my way back home to a gathering at regular running buddy David’s place, as he and amigos Sally and Fiona were about to head off to Vancouver for the marathon.

It was great catching up with running friends outside of running events (the ‘running’ joke was, “I didn’t recognise you with clothes on!”) and a perfect way to distract myself from what I perceived as a disaster.

That day I met Australian distance running royalty in Jess Trengove, a great friend of David’s. David introduced me to her and told her I had had a ‘shit run’ that morning. I can’t remember exactly what her words of wisdom were but I think the essence of it was, everyone has a shit run at some stage.

Interestingly enough it seemed to do the trick. I went on to 2 marathon PBs in the ensuing 3 months and eventually cracked the HM PB later that year. You could say it was something of a turning point.

Skip forward 12 months and it was Clare time again. This time I had got myself organised a bit earlier than last year but even 2 months out, it seemed all of Clare was already booked out! (I later found out there were 3 weddings in town that weekend – that’ll do it!) With probable chronic hamstring or glute med tendinosis in my left hip, driving the 2+ hours to Clare on race day was out of the question – long periods of sitting are not my friend and do not make for a good race! Hence I needed to find accommodation or I wouldn’t do the race. Fortunately I managed to find an AirBNB within walking distance of the start – perfect!

An engagement party the night before meant a late arrival into Clare but it was still preferable to a race day drive.

Given that I was running better than at the corresponding time last year, I thought, why not give the old pace band another crack? I wasn’t expecting a PB (given that the new mark I set last year was 5 minutes faster than the PB I had hoped, and failed, to break at last year’s Clare) but it would be nice to do another sub 1:40. Or beat my previous PB of 1:42:43. Or at least beat my previous Clare PB of around 1:46.

It was a good, solid pre-race week. I was away for Easter the previous weekend, and had an essentially run-free weekend (excluding parkrun of course). Tuesday morning’s run effectively dispersed the cobwebs accumulated during Monday’s day of driving, and on Thursday I managed to push out a 12k at just under 5 min/km.

Thursday night I (probably not very cleverly, in hindsight) went for a short reccy run up a fairly steep hill, which will make for good Ultra-Trail 100 training. “Possibly not the best preparation a few days before a race” – said my quads on Friday. I skipped Friday’s hill run, opting for a relatively easy walk instead, and decided to change my Saturday plans to include a leisurely parkrun (I had planned to skip parkrun altogether, knowing my history of being unable to ‘take it easy’, however decided that the stiffness in my legs on Friday would be best resolved by a gentle 5k ‘jogette’.)

I tried rolling on Friday night, with my new BFF ‘The Stick’ (like a more convenient but brutal version of a foam roller) but my quads were too tender for me to roll properly! Yep I definitely need more hills training, but, again, maybe not mere days from a big race!

Saturday’s parkrun was a good leg loosener, pacing my mum to yet another PB, with the quads still complaining bitterly especially, interestingly enough, on the downhill section! My Saturday was busy and involved a lot of driving, firstly down to McLaren Vale and back for lunch (an hour each way) and then that night up to Clare which was a touch under 2 hours. And wow, were my legs stiff when I got out of the car on each of those occasions!

I was in a bit of a rush to get everything done before heading out to Clare (via an engagement party) so didn’t spend much time planning my race day outfit. I ended up going with the same as Bay-City – I seem to favour the same style skirt for all my long races, and I went with the SARRC top as I plan to wear that for the Gold Coast Marathon so it made sense to test it in a half. (It is also the top I did my HM PB in last year so I thought that might be a good omen!)

I got into Clare at about 9.45pm, having eaten my traditional pre-race pizza on the way there (homemade this time!) and tried a bit more rolling before I hit the hay (the quads were still sore, not as bad as the day before but still difficult to roll!) I was very thankful for the extra hour’s sleep I was to get due to the end of Daylight Savings (thanks SARRC for that genius bit of scheduling!). I was staying with a lady called Helen who has accommodated people involved with the half marathon in previous years – not surprising given her perfect location in relation to the race start! She herself had also been involved in the organising of the event in the past.

Race day morning dawned cool and crisp. I was a tad unprepared, having packed purely for the race itself, not having considered the possibility of needing layers for the chilly Clare morning! Note to self for next time – bring a tracksuit!

Helen and I walked over to the race start, getting there super early at around 6.45 for the 8am start – I wanted to allow time to collect my race bib, but that took mere seconds! The only semi ‘warm’ gear I had was my arm socks which I recalled not needing at previous Clare events but which were definitely required this time!

Getting there so early gave me the opportunity to catch up with a whole lot of people and suss out who would be good to run with. In the end Beck, who had bravely driven up on race day (and as a result was MUCH better equipped for the cold start than I was), said she was hoping for a sub 1:45, and I thought that sounded pretty good, so we started together. Jim, the 1:45 pacer started well behind us and we hoped it would stay that way!

The gun went off and we were away. In the end, I didn’t go in with a specific pacing strategy, but Beck’s plan to sit on just over 5 min kms for the first half sounded pretty good. I’d done 5 min kms for the first half of the race last year, and came undone in the second half.

The first km was a little fast (as always – no matter how much you tell yourself you won’t, it’s really hard not to get carried away at the start!) – let’s just call it a warmup! From km no. 2 onwards we started to sit on 5:05 pace and were able to sustain that pretty well. Jim passed us pretty early on and quickly moved away from us. It was a little off-putting but we knew what we were doing and were confident we could get him before the end!

At around 9km I decided to make a move and my next 2 km were back down in the high 4’s. Just before the turnaround point I saw Jim and his 3:45 posse coming back the other way. I made note of the time and when I passed the same point it was around 70 seconds later. 70 seconds? Pfft! Piece of cake!

For the first 11km my average pace was 5:02 per km. Last year I did the corresponding section at 4:59 pace.

I was on my own for a little while and took the opportunity to settle into a rhythm. My DOMS-afflicted quads didn’t give me any trouble – turns out I don’t really need them for a flattish run! I distributed the requisite high-fives to a number of the kids lining the sides of the route, and eventually caught up to Peter, a regular at running events (and always just that little bit ahead of me) and also a keen parkrunner. We had a good conversation about the Pichi Richi Marathon (an event I am keen to do one day) and also the New York Half Marathon, where he related the story of the two top women who ran together for the whole race before one of them stuck her arm out to hold the other back right at the finish line! The distraction was welcome during the difficult 3rd quarter of the race!

I finally passed Pacer Jim at 15km. It was a little demoralising to have taken that long to get past, but he was running even splits and I was aiming for a negative split. So theoretically, once I passed him, he should not get past me again!

There was a little glitch with the signage too which caused me some initial confusion. I was sure we were at 17km but the sign said 18km. That could have been an issue if we’d really thought we were at 18, but Peter and I compared Garmin distances and decided that yes, we were definitely at 17km. Still, less than a parkrun to go!

From the start, the kilometre markers were showing how far we had to go, not how far we had come. That’s awesome in the final kilometres but seeing a sign that says ’20km to go’ in a 21.1km race – not so much! Things were back on track at 18ish km – the sign said 3km to go.

My pace for the last 10km was 4:38 per km. Last year was 5:09 – not disgraceful by any means but definitely a fail as a negative split! I was super happy with my pacing this time especially considering I didn’t go in with a real pacing strategy or even a goal time.

In the last km I tried to pick up the pace – I managed a 4:28. My goal was to finish strong but with nothing left in the tank. Towards the finish line I was behind Peter and I didn’t especially want to pass him but I wanted to let him know I was there, so he could either pick up the pace (which he did) or, if he didn’t, I was going to pass him (and no guy likes to be ‘chicked’!) In the end he finished probably about a second ahead of me (no need for him to stick an arm out to hold me off!), and I managed to sprint past quite a few others in the last few hundred metres.

My time was 1:42:27. That was my second best ever HM time, a good 4 minutes faster than my best Clare time, and interestingly faster than the PB I had been aiming for this time last year! A slightly slower first half resulted in my taking almost 5 minutes off last year’s time. That is a huge advertisement for the importance of good pacing!

I ran through the finish line, around the corner to collapse behind the timing tent for a moment. Peter came over for a chat and he had his medal. I’d forgotten to get a medal! Me, Ms AllAboutTheBling, forgot to get a medal! Peter kindly gave me his and went and got himself another one!

I quickly went to catch up with Beck, who had finished not long after me, and importantly also ahead of Jim, and was happy with her result too. I beat a hasty retreat back to Helen’s place for a shower and change of clothes, making it back in time for the presentation. It was well worth it too because I won a bottle of wine in the lucky prize draw!

I’d say redemption is well and truly mine after last year’s ‘disastrous’ outing. It was a fantastic day, a great first half for the year, and in perfect conditions! Thanks as always to the wonderful people of SARRC, the fantastic volunteers and the community of Clare for once again putting on a wonderful event. I will definitely be back!