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!
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!
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!
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!
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!
As per tradition we gathered at the fantastic Metro Cafe and Bakery for coffee and some pretty spectacular looking cakes!
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!
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!
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!
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!’
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!
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!
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!
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!
Last year, I volunteered at this event with Karen, it being 1 week after we’d done the Ultra-Trail Australia 100km. We’d both decided to wear Snow White costumes. Why, I hear you ask? To which I reply, have you met us?
This year, given that I’m not doing UTA, I entered the race. So what if it was only 2 days after I arrived back in Australia? And so what if, aside from running in a forest in Portland a week and a half ago, I had not run a trail in well over 2 months?
There was a 6k, 12k and 20k. I entered the 12k, so I at least had some sense in me! After the trail run in Portland last week I realised I was going to be very underdone and would have dropped down to the 6k if there wasn’t a fee attached to the change!
I went into this race with zero expectations. Which meant I couldn’t really be disappointed, whatever happened!
Kit-wise I went with a new black lulu skirt (one of my overseas purchases) and my new pink argyle calf sleeves bought at the Boston expo, which I absolutely did not need but which were pretty and only $10!
Given that I was running the 12k, I figured my small race vest would be enough – 500ml of Gatorade should see me through, and there were a few drink stations along the way where I could refill them with water if needed.
I arrived at the start, at Blackwood Football Club, early enough to see the start of the 20k, which started at 8.
It was chilly at the start but it was sunny and it was likely to be warmish out there. So I needed to factor in both arm warmers and sunscreen.
I had originally chosen black and white arm warmers, then remembered I had pink and grey, so I threw both pairs in.
I asked Chantal which ones I should wear. Pink and grey was the winner. What was I thinking? Of course I should wear the pink!
I hadn’t studied the course. I rarely do. And as a ‘non-competitor’ in this race, I could comfortably rely on following the people in front.
Pretty soon we were away – starting with a nice comfortable downhill.
“IT’S A TRAP!” I thought to myself. As all trail runners know, “What goes down must come up!” (I certainly learned that at Boston!)
It wasn’t long before we hit the first hill. And then I quickly remembered how not good at hills I am. (I remember, late in the race, someone behind me telling someone else “I’m great on downhills but I suck at uphills”. I was almost going to turn around and say “Me too! Except the bit about being great at downhills!”)
The course was quite technical. Which was actually good. There were multiple water crossings, and a bit of rock climbing in amongst the uphill slogs and the downhills! I found it easier than just running up hill – the variety was a good distraction, and it was kind of fun! (I didn’t see anyone fall into the water – I very much hoped I wouldn’t!)
Climbing over boulders is relatively easy for me, being blessed with long legs! Getting under low branches (along with finding a height-appropriate man!) is not so easy – thankfully I can only recall one ‘limbo’ that I had to do!
There was a guy behind me who had run the practice run last weekend and mentioned a few times that he’d got very lost! I had told him to let me know if he wanted to pass me, but after hearing that, jokingly told him I didn’t want him taking the lead! (In his defence, there were no course markings last week, and the trail at times was difficult to pick out!)
On the course marking, I have to say, this course was IMPECCABLY marked. As one who is, shall we say, ‘navigationally challenged’, I never felt like I was in danger of getting lost – thanks so much to the awesome volunteers who marked the course!
After around 6k I said “OK that’s enough for me!” – again cursing myself for not entering the 6k in the first place!
But of course we all know that’s not how it works. I entered the 12k, and I would run 12k (or thereabouts – the other thing we all know is that trail distances are approximate at best!)
From about 10k to 11k it was a hard slog – and the elevation profile backs that up! There was a lot of walking in that kilometre but I knew it was ‘nearly’ over. (Fellow parkrunner Alex had passed me at around the 7k mark, telling me there was ‘only a parkrun to go’ – which is a lot more encouraging with 5k to go in a marathon than it is with 5k to go in a 12k!)
There was a nice little bit of downhill towards the end. Even though there was a bit of up as well, I managed to keep running, albeit a slow plod, because I knew the end was (metaphorically) in sight.
My normal rule when it comes to hills, is “Never run up a hill if you can’t see the end of it!” Meaning, I will run up a short steep hill (in fact, it’s usually easier to run it than walk it) but a long steady climb I will usually walk (and probably faster than I could run!)
Eventually I was at the finish line and ran under the arch – stopping the clock (figuratively) in a touch over 1 hr 25.
Although I had no expectations leading into the race, there were a lot of pleasing signs:
Under 90 minutes ✔ (not that I had a time goal, but I really did)
Didn’t fall over ✔
Didn’t die! ✔
One thing I will hopefully remember for next time is to wear my cycling gloves – that would have been handy (no pun intended) for climbing over boulders. Plus if I did fall over, I could save myself with my hands!
I then proceeded to chat with a lot of the fellow runners, who all wanted to know about Boston and my holiday (which I don’t think I will ever get sick of talking about) in between eating my body weight in vegan brownies (thanks again Maurice!)
For once I didn’t win any prizes in the random prize draw but I guess it’s only fair to give some other people a go!
This was yet another fantastic event from the wonderful people at Trail Running SA. Great course, perfectly marked, brilliant weather – what more could you ask! Congrats to all the runners, and of course once again the amazing volunteers need to be thanked for making it all possible!
I could not think of a better way to ease back into ‘normal life’ – out on the beautiful Adelaide trails with great friends!
Next event for me is the Barossa half marathon (2 hour pacer). And I have my outfit organised – getting pretty excited! (Now I have 2 weeks to make sure I can actually run 21.1 in 2 hours!)
For many years I thought a horse race was a pretty bullshit reason to have a public holiday. Then in my late 20s it moved from often chilly and rainy May to March (conveniently also around the time of my birthday) for better weather. Ironically for the first few years it was pushing 40 degrees which wasn’t exactly ideal racing weather (and at that stage I wasn’t even thinking about the horses!)
Around the time Adelaide Cup moved to March I decided it would be a good idea to go. And I must admit it was a great day out – a good excuse to frock up and drink champagne during the day! I actually wasn’t really interested in the racing part. I did put bets on but just ‘cos, well, ‘when in Rome’.
One time my friend Tracie and I made the trek (actually a ferry ride – kind of a tough trek across the sea!) to the Kangaroo Island Cup. It was the first time I’d ever been there, so we tried to cram in a fair bit of sightseeing. One observation I made very early on was that vegetarian food was not exactly easy to come by. (I hadn’t made the jump to vegan at that stage)
The weather had been pretty crap in the week leading up to race day, with a lot of rain (very unusual for February which is traditionally our hottest month) and to our surprise, as we boarded the bus in all our finery to head to the racecourse, we were told the races were cancelled due to unsafe track conditions. But everything else was still going ahead so we decided to still go. After all, that was the main reason we had come to KI!
It was actually a really great day. The lack of horses in no way reduced my enjoyment!
Then, vegan happened, and along with it, the realisation that horse racing is not a thing I want to have any involvement with. But, I still like to dress up and drink champers in the daytime! What to do?
What about HUMAN races instead of horse races? People can still bet on those… on second thoughts, maybe we should just stick with sweeps. Betting on human sport is a slippery slope and a recipe for dodginess!
So, this week I turned 40, and as part of my epic weekend of celebrations I decided to have a trail run on Adelaide Cup day, and call it Not The Adelaide Cup. I would encourage people to frock up (yes, even the guys!), we’d have champagne, and a ‘Fashions on the Trail’ competitions. Also because my actual birthday party was necessarily a very tiny event and I wanted to have a celebration that could include everyone who wanted to come!
Before I’d even started planning (beyond what I said above), I was contacted by Katie, my fellow runner and ‘head shaver’ about maybe organising a fundraising trail run with dress ups. I told her about my idea for my birthday run, and suggested maybe we could combine the two?
I organised 3 prizes for best dressed – vouchers from everyone’s favourite specialist running store, ‘The Running Company’. There would be one for best dressed female, one for best dressed male, and one for best dressed male in a dress. Because, it wouldn’t be fair on the girls to have to compete with a guy in a dress! And not fair for the guys in suits!
It was a pretty cool morning and there was a bit of light drizzle but a small group of exceptionally well dressed punters turned up to celebrate!
Most of us ended up walking but a few ran (in their frocks!) A couple of them, Michelle and Bec, had already done some hill repeats (in normal running kit) before we even started!
At Long Ridge lookout we posed for photos with one of the best views in Adelaide while we waited for fellow organiser Katie, who was coming up with the refreshments!
One of the coolest things about the morning was the reactions of the random people who came up to the lookout, probably expecting a bit of serenity, and encountered our colourful and very LOUD bunch! While we were dancing there were a lot of people taking photos on their phones – I’m sure they were thinking, “No-one is going to believe this!” One guy, Nick, was celebrating his birthday – we had way too much champers for our little bunch, so we happily shared with the randoms (and most of them happily accepted!) Some of them even joined in the dancing!
What a brilliant way to spend a morning! We definitely need to do this again!
Coming down from the post-Thredbo high and back to reality this past week, it’s time to start doing some proper marathon training.
I did my first long run of the programme on New Year’s Day and hadn’t done a proper long run since (although I don’t think all the running and hiking I did in the mountains would have done me any harm).
I was supposedly 4 weeks into a 16 week programme (12 weeks to go!) with only one long run of 21.1km under my belt.
On top of that, I was only a week away from a 100km ultra, and waaaay underdone in terms of training mileage. (On the plus side, I had successfully completed the corresponding event last year on pretty much the same training.)
We are really spoiled for choice here in Adelaide when it comes to running events and social runs. No wonder I have trouble focusing on one event!
For example, this past weekend I had the choices of (among others):
A 14k hilly trail run in Cleland (very close to home)
A 30k (with shorter options available) trail run along the Heysen trail, from the Heysen 105 finish line, into the Adelaide Hills – a section I’d never run or walked before
A 21.1k run at the Snakepit. That one needs a little more explanation. The Snakepit is a soft sand, undulating, running track of around 500m. A 21.1k would be approximately 45 laps. My previous longest run there was 11 laps. There were about 8 people doing the run on Saturday night.
I really enjoy the trail runs – the scenery is usually beautiful, you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere even when you’re actually very close to the city, and they are normally very social outings.
BUT – focus!
My ‘main’ event this year is the Boston Marathon, so I really need to focus on that. Not to mention the ultra that’s only a week away!
That’s not to say I won’t be doing other events this year. Here is a rough list of what I plan to do this year:
So I decided to do ‘none of the above’.
Given that Sunday was forecast to be hot, I thought a Saturday run was a good plan. I like getting my long runs out of the way on Saturdays and doing them on my own. That way I run at my pace and then I have Sunday free. I don’t especially enjoy long road runs (I’d much rather be out on the trails) but for marathon training there’s really no avoiding them! Also, with the ultra being on Saturday night, I’d have a full week to recover. (I won’t say taper – I think you actually have to train properly to be able to taper!) And, given that I’d be on my own for much of the ultra, it was a good opportunity to get used to my own company (and that of Dr Karl, whose podcasts I would listen to in order to distract myself!)
So here’s what I decided to do. First I planned to do a 3 hour run, from 5-8pm, starting and finishing at the Snakepit, where the half marathon was starting at 8. I’d run for 90 minutes along the coast (my favourite place for long runs), then turn around and head back. Then I would stay for an hour or so and cheer on the crazy people doing the half!
For the first few kilometres (running into a headwind), I was averaging about 5:35 minutes per km. I didn’t know the exact distance I would cover in 3 hours at that pace, but I knew it would be 32+ kilometres. I decided that was probably too much for only my second long run and only 4 weeks in, so instead I decided to turn around at 15km and make it an even 30.
I ran from the Snakepit to West Beach into the wind, then turned around and headed back, hoping it would suddenly become easy, but of course with fatigue in the legs my pace didn’t exactly set the world on fire. Still, by the time I got back to the car, I had managed to maintain a pretty consistent pace throughout, which was pleasing.
And then it was time to sit back and relax and watch people run round and round! I guess in hindsight running it would have been good mental training for next Saturday’s 250 laps, but the toll it would have taken on my legs would have far outweighed any benefits!
I must admit sometimes it’s hard to watch people run when I’m not running. On this occasion I had absolutely NO ‘runvy’! Alice and I were the cheer squad for the runners, and while Alice made herself useful taking photos and getting drinks/snacks for the runners, I played DJ and cranked some tunes to keep everyone motivated, while alternating between putting my feet up, dancing, and finding novel new uses for the gym equipment!
On Sunday I went and had coffee at Mt Lofty with some of the Cleland group and I really wished I could have run (although I did enjoy the sleep in!) but once again FOCUS! Right now, marathon training is where it’s at, and after Boston I will be all over those trails! Until then I’d better suck it up and hit the road!
I managed just under 70km this week including a reasonably fast parkrun (with a slow start due to the record number of people in attendance) and my first speed session in 3 weeks. I think I’m back on track!
Speaking of which, the track is where I will be next Saturday night and the subject of next week’s blog post!
This is the second part of my review of Thredbo Fun and Fitness Week (TFFW) – for part 1, see here.
Tuesday started with a group of us doing the now traditional early morning Crackenback climb – we would normally leave at 7:30 to allow a generous 1 hour to complete the ascent and time it with the first chairlift down. From there we went back to the lodge to grab a quick bite to eat before heading down to the village for the start of the Alpine Adventure. This is a fun, all inclusive, family-friendly and über competitive team activity which involves collecting points by finding clues around the village. Most of the people from our lodge were taking part and as one of the last to sign up, I was paired with Jeff, who told me that no-one had ever agreed to team up with him a second time! Despite this I found it really fun, especially knowing we had NO chance of winning. He is also a veteran of many TFFWs so had the advantage of knowing his way around the village. I think we managed to accumulate 180 points in our allocated 40 minutes, slightly behind the winners who were well over 400! Oh and there may or may not have been some ‘cooperation’ with other teams including John (aka ‘Speedo Man’ due to his unusual, very distinctive attire during every event in TFFW!) and his wife Jackie. The Armstrong family put on a fantastic event, very well organised and prizes for everyone in the barrel draw despite a huge crowd of over 100 teams!
Given the pretty good weather, a few of us decided to head up to Mt Kosciuszko, the highest mountain in Australia. It is actually a pretty easy climb, considering that the elevation is only about 300m above the top of the chairlift. Certainly a MUCH easier climb than Crackenback!
As we walked across the metal walkway with which we would become VERY familiar by the end of the week, we noticed that there seemed to be a lot of snow up on the higher mountains. Last year I’d seen one small patch of snow but this time there was a lot more than that!
And sure enough, when we got closer, we realised that there was a large patch of snow just next to the walking track! And of course we couldn’t resist playing in it!
It was pretty windy and misty on the walk up, and when we reached the summit we couldn’t see a thing, but unlike last year I did manage to stand up on the highest point in Australia!
We made it back to town in time to watch the Mile handicap and participate in the ‘Mile’ (actually 1km) fun run. The handicap race was good to watch, there were 16 runners who did 3 laps around the Village Green with the last one setting off a full lap after the first, and finishing 5th overall – I reckon if there had been another half a lap he would have crossed the line first!
The fun run was literally just a bit of fun but the main reason I got involved was for the barrel draw that follows every event in TFFW – and this one had some pretty great prizes including a lot of running gear and the prized TFFW mugs! Unfortunately I didn’t win anything this time but I’ll have to encourage more people from our lodge to enter next time!
On Wednesday I left at 7:30 to climb Crackenback. There wasn’t anyone with me, although I saw a figure in the distance that I assumed was Mandy, who has a tradition of doing it every morning. As it was the first time I’d done it on my own, I didn’t have anyone to follow and consequently took a rather ‘scenic’ route!
After a coffee I headed to the Village Green for the women’s Yacht handicap. The distance was 3.8km and I had estimated about 20 minutes, however when I saw Fiona, Christine and Sue all going off at 24 minutes, I decided it would be more fun to run with other people and take it a bit easier. Also I’m hopeless at judging time/pace without a watch! It was a lovely course, and I was tempted to take my phone out and take some photos, but I thought people might think I was cheating so I resisted the temptation! I did get somewhat distracted near the end and tripped on a tree root and fell over, thankfully in relatively soft dirt. In the end Fiona finished just in front of me, just 1 sec behind our estimated time (the winner guessed her time to the second) and jokingly said that if she hadn’t turned around to check I was OK after I fell, she would have won!
The damage wasn’t too bad – a grazed knee with a fair bit of blood that I cleaned up back at the lodge, and a grazed elbow.
A little later a group of us set out to run the Thredbo Valley Track to Lake Crackenback Resort, approximately 20km. Jeff was going to pick us up from the other end so thankfully we didn’t have to run back! The track is popular with walkers, runners and mountain bikes – we didn’t see many other runners but there were a lot of bikes – they were supposed to be giving way to foot traffic but I don’t think many of them got the memo!
The highlight for me was seeing my first echidna! A year to the day after seeing my first snake! Needless to say the look on my face (and the words that came out of my mouth) were somewhat different on this occasion!
I ran with David and Geoff for most of the run but after the second campsite I decided to take off and just run! It was exhilarating, it is mostly downhill and running down the mountain bike switchbacks was so fun! There were a few points where I had trouble seeing which way to go and I had to ask for directions a few times but I made it to Lake Crackenback! I would have given the $20 I had on me for a cold Coke but the first place I found was closed – eventually I found the place and David arrived not long after me, followed by the rest of the group. I ended up having 2 Cokes because the first one didn’t even touch the sides! Then Karen, Geoff and I dipped our feet in the lake to cool off before heading back to Thredbo.
Later that afternoon I noticed my right ankle was a bit swollen, and locally quite tender, so I assumed I must have sprained it when I fell during the morning run. I had noticed it tended to roll outwards (not inwards like most people tend to roll their ankles) during the river run. While most of the people from our lodge went to the official TFFW dinner, a few of us had opted not to go, which gave me the opportunity to ice it and put it up to try to get rid of the swelling. And it appeared to work because by the morning it was fine.
Which was fortunate, because Thursday was the day we’d organised to do the Big Walk, approximately 30k from the top of the chairlift, along the metal walkway to Rawson’s Pass, and then in a big loop along the Main Range Track before going back along the metal walkway. Last year we had split into 2 groups and my group went anticlockwise. This time we decided to stay together and all went clockwise, although it wasn’t long before we split into 2 groups anyway, the front group walking way faster than we were interested in walking! We had allowed ample time (starting at 8:45 after catching the first chairlift, and needing to be back only for the last chair at 5) and so we had no interest in going fast. I was with Sue, who had done it many times before, and Christine and Fiona, both TFFW ‘virgins’.
The weather was perfect. Sunny, not a cloud in the sky, and very little wind. We could only hope it would be like this for the Classic on Saturday!
It was also ideal weather for 2 of our less favourite creatures. The march flies were relentless, and appeared to scoff at even the most hardcore insect repellent. And of course it was also perfect snake weather. We saw one, just after morning tea, I got a good look at it as it slithered off into the bushes. It was black, similar to the one we’d seen last year but nowhere near as big. I actually was not expecting to see any snakes up there – thinking that as they don’t have legs they wouldn’t be able to get up that high! I mean, they’re not exactly riding the chairlift are they? At least I hope they’re not! That’s a comforting thought!
The most noteworthy part of the walk was seeing 3 kids, all in electric wheelchairs, trying to go down a steep and not particularly smooth path, with 2 adults that turned out to be their parents. We chatted to them for a while, they had come from the Central West, where it was very hot, to be somewhere a bit cooler. They all seemed to be enjoying it, but decided that going down the path was probably not a good idea as it would require quite a lot of manual assistance to get back up! It put things into perspective for me, whenever I think something is too hard I can think of that family and realise that it’s actually not hard at all!
Friday morning started with my stubbing my toe quite hard on the tiles at the bathroom door – ouch! Then it was time for the final Crackenback climb and was particularly memorable for being Daryl’s first – after watching us all head out day after day, he had finally been convinced by Karen to give it a go. Along with Geoff they got to the top in around an hour to rousing applause from Fiona, Marg and me at the top!
After a well earned coffee we headed back to the lodge to get ready for Eric’s run. This is a ‘veterans’ run (women over 35 and men over 40) which is always put on by the SA contingent. It was formerly run by Eric and May Fazackerley, and Eric, who I’d met last year, had been unable to make the journey to Thredbo this year but was definitely there in spirit and never far from anyone’s mind! I had offered to marshal but they had plenty of marshals so I ended up running. The marshals always dress up and this year it was a ‘Great Gatsby’ theme – they looked great!
The run itself is described as a ‘fun run, NOT a race’, with many hazards along the 3ish kilometre course including a nice new wombat hole! I ran with Fiona and Christine and there was actually a lot of walking too, especially up the stairs! It is a surprisingly tough course! As soon as I finished I put my hand up to marshal next year when we will lose one of our regular marshals – Ryan, who is TFFW royalty, not a South Australian but always marshals at our event, will be eligible to run it next year! So let me put it out there right now that I’m willing to take his spot!
The barrel draw was epic too – people were called back 3 times before all the prizes were gone! For once, the wine wasn’t the most popular prize – the distinctive purple SARRC Barossa Marathon tops that we had been wearing at the events all week, proved particularly popular!
We then went down to Eric and May’s bench by the river and a number of us got our shoes off and put our feet in (OMG! SO cold!) while we enjoyed sparkling wine (we polished off quite a few bottles!) and some nibbles. I really like this tradition! And even though Eric couldn’t be there in person, Dave, who organises our group every year, had arranged to call him from the river so we could all say hi.
That night we had our traditional party night at the lodge – we had invited a number of people but the torrential rain (which had very kindly held off during the day’s festivities) would have put a lot of people off venturing out. Still, we had a great time, with Fiona and me (also coincidentally the youngest 2 in the lodge) being the last left standing at midnight when the last guests Ryan and Lyn left. I’m not sure I would have danced anywhere near as much as I did, if I’d had to wear shoes!
Awake much earlier than I’d hoped, I watched Saturday dawn from my window and it looked like it was going to be beautiful – but looks can be deceiving, things can change very quickly, and the conditions in the village can be VERY different from those up the mountain.
Last year’s Kosciuszko Classic had been blessed with perfect weather. I think from memory there were 40-something entrants. Could we be so lucky again? Probably not. The Bureau was forecasting strong winds, but thankfully no rain.
First, we had to walk that metal walkway yet again. It was cold and windy – it was hard to even have a conversation with Fiona who was walking right next to me! We had some experienced TFFW’ers with us, who had advised us to take our time on the walk, firstly to conserve energy for the actual race, and secondly so we didn’t get to the start too early and have to stand for longer in the cold.
We timed it perfectly. The official start was at 11am but there was an earlier option for people who were planning to walk/run. The walk/runners had just enough time for a toilet stop and to change into their race clothes, before they made the 3k trek down to the start at the Snowy River. I’d gone with my pink SARRC top, arm warmers, gloves, Skins shorts, green skirt purchased from an op shop on the drive up from Adelaide, and pink calf sleeves. I’d also worn my new pink hat and had a buff over the top of it to keep it blowing off!
A lot of people were wearing long sleeves and tights but I didn’t feel underdressed when I saw that John (Speedo Man) was wearing shoes, socks, gloves and Speedos. And that’s all! (Last year he also wore a T-shirt, and it was a lot warmer that day!)
There were just 12 people setting off at 11am and 6 of those were from SA – Geoff, David and me from our lodge, and 3 generations of the Sandery family – patriarch and SA running royalty Peter, son Rhys and Rhys’ son Fin. Peter was doing his 30th Classic and Fin his first – they also became the first family to have 3 generations running the Classic together! They were all running in their distinctive red and white Adelaide Harriers tops which looked great but not quite as great as my pink SARRC one!
Next came the easy 3k trot down to the start. (Remember how I stubbed my toe? Well it turns out that made running downhill kind of difficult. Fortunately it had no such effect on my ability to run UPHILL.) We jogged down to the river, where almost all the runners then made a pitstop in the bushes. I wished I could have been bothered getting my phone out to take a photo – it would have been quite comical! I jokingly said to Phoebe, the only other girl in the group, “Do you feel left out?” I decided to start a new pre-race tradition – walking down to the edge of the river to splash some cold river water on my face. Mostly to wake myself up!
I had my light spray jacket on me, at Rhys’ suggestion, to keep the wind out. By the time we got to the start the conditions were actually quite pleasant so I tied it round my waist.
At 11am on the dot we set off for the approximately 4.8km run up to the summit. I knew all the other women in the race were walk/running (they were all from our lodge – I think there were only 24 entrants in total) so I pretty much knew if I could run most of the way I could be guaranteed a placing. And Phoebe looked like a proper runner and set off well ahead of me so I was happy to settle for 2nd place!
After about 1km or so I was warm enough that I didn’t need the gloves anymore, so I took them off in preparation for throwing them at the pile of bags we’d left at Rawson’s. I was tempted to ditch my spray jacket too but I knew that would probably blowaway!
I ran most of the way just behind Phoebe and with Speedo Man and another guy Trevor who had finished just ahead of me last year. At times we were running straight into the wind and seemingly going backwards. It didn’t ever really seem to offer any assistance!
There was a moment when I thought I could get in front of Phoebe (well, I definitely could have, but whether or not I could have stayed there was a different question) but I decided to just keep her in sight. Eventually both Trevor and John went past me but they were never far in front. I had expected to pass some of the earlier starters but never did – in fact most of them were already on their way back down while I was still running up! It wasn’t the kind of day to be hanging around at the top of the mountain – you would get very cold very quickly!
I was tempted to walk at one point but I knew I was so close and plus I didn’t want our team photographers Harry and John to catch me walking!
I could see Phoebe tantalisingly close but didn’t really have a sprint finish in me. Plus, if she’d heard me coming at her I’m sure she would have found an extra gear! In the end I finished 10 seconds behind her, 4 minutes slower than last year and I was satisfied with that.
I waited at the top for the rest of the SA runners, Geoff, the 3 Sanderys and David, before a casual walk back down (and one last play in the snow!), layering up at Rawson’s and a nice cruisy walk back to Eagle’s Nest where most of the rest of the SARRC group were having lunch. There wasn’t time for me to get lunch though as the presentation was back in the village at 2pm. I got my first podium finish for an event at TFFW (2nd) – the trophy being one of the coveted TFFW mugs! That’s going straight to the pool room! Fiona ended up finishing 3rd and I won yet another bottle of wine in the barrel draw so it was a good day for our team all round! (And a good day for the stalwarts at Friday’s party with Ryan getting 3rd place for the men, just behind brother Chad!)
After that I decided it was time to take it up a notch. As part of our lift ticket we were entitled to 16 rides on the bobsled. I’d had a couple of rides and this was my last chance so I rode 3 times in a row, on the last one had a nice clear track in front of me so I decided to record it on my Garmin and see just how fast I could go! I did the 600m in 1:30 and got up to a top speed of just under 40km/hour!
And that basically sums up the whole week. Just a brilliant time, in a beautiful setting, with awesome people.
As I was on holidays in Melbourne last weekend hanging out with my sister, there was no Sunday run for me! But with all the AWESOME vegan food in Melbourne I naturally felt the need to engage in some form of physical activity in an attempt to justify eating All. Of. The. Food.
So on Monday, with my sister working, I went out for a trot along the coast from St Kilda to Port Melbourne and back. A cruisy 14k on a warm morning. It’s always nice to squeeze in a run in a different city!
On Tuesday, normally one of my regular running days, I was on the road all day driving home to Adelaide. I did contemplate going for a quick few km at one of my many stops along the way (most notably on the border of Victoria and SA) but the heat and the flies put me off, plus I wanted to be home well before dusk.
As it turned out, I made it home in plenty of time to get to my regular Tuesday evening trail circuit session – a welcome relief following a day spent predominantly sitting on my arse! (Even though I did fall over, running UPHILL, and graze my knee!)
I was really looking forward to my Thursday morning run, to get back to my regular routine. However, sometime between Wednesday night and 5am on Thursday when my alarm went off, I suspect I was bitten by something as my left foot was red, swollen and tender. There would be no running so I set the alarm for later and resigned myself to the fact that I would have to be one of ‘those’ people who just turn up for the post-run coffee!
By the end of Thursday the foot had really swelled up – probably a combination of a day at work and a couple of ciders over dinner! I decided it wasn’t even worth contemplating a run on Friday morning so I once again had a bit of a sleep-in and went for coffee in the morning!
Friday night it was possibly even more swollen so I elevated it with an ice pack and watched the cricket (thanks Cricket Australia for embracing the Day/Night test format – much better for us 9-5 workers!)
By morning it looked a lot better. Still, I didn’t think I could get a shoe on so I went to parkrun as a spectator only. By the end of a busy day it was a bit swollen but nowhere near as bad as Friday night.
I decided this whole ‘not running’ thing was not working for me, so decided I was going to do the 12k social trail run on Sunday morning. My trail shoes are slightly bigger than my roadies so that meant a bit less pressure on the foot. Morning came and the shoe went on – success! Still a bit tender but relatively comfortable.
The run itself was fine – I noticed the foot when I was on my own but mostly I was running/walking with other people so that was a good distraction. And there did not appear to be any increase in swelling or redness afterwards!
I had contemplated running a 5k event on Sunday but, even prior to the bite (or whatever it was) I’d decided not to, partly because it is a good time of year to have a mini-break, and partly because I’ve been haemorrhaging money lately and I could do with saving on event fees. VERY glad I’d made that decision as I probably would have been tempted to run it even with the foot not 100%. The trail run was a good compromise – I still got to run, but at a more leisurely pace. And closer to home. And fantastic coffee afterwards!
I think the little mini-break has done me good. Next weekend (which also happens to be Christmas!) the training for Boston begins – it’s 17 weeks today!
Last year’s Kuitpo race was my first trail half marathon (you can read all about it here) and was a great race for me, and I somehow managed to sneak in for 3rd place, my first podium finish in a trail race! So naturally I was all too eager to sign up and do it all again!
The timing of it was the same as last year – 2 weeks after the Heysen 105. It didn’t seem to affect me negatively last year, although I was having thoughts about downgrading from the 21k to the 10k. Possibly if I’d entered AFTER Heysen I would have entered the 10, but as I’d already entered and couldn’t be arsed changing, 21k it was!
My prep was somewhat more conventional than last year. I did actually eat dinner the night before, and while I did drink a fair bit of wine on Saturday, the wine was consumed in conjunction with a lovely hearty lunch.
Kit-wise I’d opted for the same green lululemon T-shirt I’d worn for Yurrebilla and my purple lulu skirt. This may or may not have had something to do with the fact that my pretty new trail shoes were green and purple! I also went with my purple 2XU compression socks (21k is about the maximum distance I’ll wear them for, because of the damage they do to my toes on longer runs, and I had pre-taped the night before), rainbow arm warmers and my cycling gloves to protect my hands if I fell.
I used my large hydration pack rather than the small one I used last year (even though the small one IS purple and would have been better for colour coordination!) as I didn’t want to use my leaky bladder and the large pack holds 1 litre in the bottles – 1 litre of Gatorade would be enough. Thankfully the weather forecast was good – no rain, and not too warm.
Riesje, Beck and I went together in Riesje’s car. We were there in plenty of time for a portaloo stop and a quick application of sunscreen.
I didn’t realise it at the time (because I’m not one to study course maps, yeah I know, with my history of ‘creative navigation’ I’m probably not the best person to be ‘winging it’) but this year’s Kuitpo course was the reverse of last year’s. I had read last year’s race report and noted that I hadn’t walked until 19k so naturally I was hoping to replicate that this year. I had finished 3rd in about 1:48 and while I didn’t think that was likely to happen this time around, I thought sub 2 hours was a reasonable goal. After all, if I’d managed sub 2 into a howling gale at McLaren Vale, surely I could do it here!
At 8am, after the race briefing from RD Maurice, and a quick start line selfie, it was go time!
Last year I started slowly and gradually made my way through the pack. This year, I somehow found myself at the front at the start – not where I like to be! However, order was quickly restored when people overtook me and I was back in my comfort zone.
Things were going OK early on but I knew I was going to have to work hard for anything close to last year’s time. I felt every uphill, even the smallest gradient!
I reached the 10k turnaround point (about 5k in, also the first decent climb) and immediately had a sense of what I like to call ‘Rungret’!
The next 5k was reasonably comfortable too. During this section was the first little ‘out and back’ where we got to see all the fast people looking way too comfortable! I stopped counting the girls in front of me after I’d seen 4 – Riesje was 4th at this stage and MILES ahead of me. Unsurprisingly, a podium finish was out of the question!
We also got to see the people behind. At this point Beck informed me that I was 10th female, to which I responded “That won’t change!”
Just before 10k I walked for the first, and by no means last, time! This was when I realised it was not the same route as last year – even when I was having a good day last year, I DEFINITELY would not have run up that hill!
I was running with Scuba for a lot of the race. He, like me, was going for sub 2 hours. At 11k he said ‘2 parkruns to go’. Somehow, that didn’t seem to help a great deal!
I could see one girl in front of me, her name was also Jane! Every now and then I’d go past her and then soon after she’d be back in front. I wasn’t too concerned – if I was indeed in 10th place, I wasn’t fussed if I stayed there! Top 10 is not too shabby – 9th wouldn’t make much difference to me. I used Jane as a bit of a guide – whenever she would start walking up a hill, I’d follow suit, and ditto when she started running again!
On the next ‘out and back’, around 17k, I started to really struggle. I was breathing heavily (I’m normally a quiet breather because I like to sneak up on people!) to the extent that the guy behind me (soon to be in front of me) asked if I was OK! I quickly assured him that I wasn’t actually dying and tried to keep my breathing less audible!
Soon Scuba was with me again and was super supportive. Like towards the end of Heysen, I did not seem to have much capacity to run up ANY hills. He’d encourage me to run the downs and the flats, and walk, breathe and drink on the ups!
Also helping me at this point was Adam, who always seems to be around my pace in whatever race we do. Today he came from behind and ended up finishing just ahead of me. Along the way he gave me great encouragement. I owe a lot to Adam and Scuba as I was in a world of hurt at that stage and their support really helped to get me through!
As we got to the last little bit I encouraged Scuba to take off if he wanted to, which he did, but I tried to keep him in sight. By now, I could run uphill because I knew at the end of the hill would be the finish line. And Maurice’s legendary vegan brownies!
Finally, I could see the glorious sight of the big green finishing arch! I crossed the line in 1:57:09 and, 10th female! (Just like I told Beck!)
After going behind the marquees to sit on a tree stump and die quietly for a while,
I went to indulge in some brownie deliciousness and get myself a well earned coffee while catching up with so many friends who were there!
Thanks as always to Trail Running SA and all the amazing volunteers. I say it every time but their importance cannot be overstated. You guys/girls are the lifeblood of these events! Thanks to all the awesome, super supportive runners – we truly are blessed here in SA to have such a wonderful running community. And special thanks to Scuba and Adam for giving me the boost I needed at the end!