Actual epic adventures!

Not really – but stunning nonetheless!

I describe my recent USA holiday as ‘epic’ but as we know, that word is thrown around waaaay too much. It was amazingly fun, and action-packed, but epic? Probably not. I don’t think the tale of my month in the States will be handed down from generation to generation, somehow!

I do want to do something proper epic though, one day. The idea of running from one city to another has definitely entered my mind (Melbourne to Adelaide maybe? Mount Gambier to Adelaide?) and with the right support, could happen! (Actually with a good group of people it could be a lot of fun!)

One race that I would LOVE to be able to do, but which is WAY beyond me at the moment (never say never, but I can’t see it happening anytime soon!) is Coast2Kosci – about 240km from the coast at Eden to the summit of Mt Kosciuszko, the highest point in Australia. I’m not particularly interested in mega long races (although I do want to tick off a 100 miler one day) but this one appeals to me greatly.

Maybe not so much ‘epic’ but something that would take a lot of work, would be the ‘Not The Adelaide Cup’ human races (as opposed to horse races) – pretty much all the fun of a day at the races but with humans racing instead of horses. That WILL happen one day! 

I don’t have to look far to see actual epic adventures. I just have to go down my Facebook news feed and I thought this week I might highlight a few friends who have done (or are in the process of doing) freaking amazing stuff!

First cab off the rank, being freshest in the mind, was David Turnbull’s record-breaking run which ended last Wednesday night – the entire Heysen Trail, just under 1200km of it, from north to south in 13 days 16 hours and 16 minutes – breaking the previous record by a massive 16 hours!

I first met DT after The North Face 100 (now Ultra-Trail Australia 100) 2 years ago. He did brilliantly that day and made a good first impression on me by buying a bottle of wine for fellow ultra running legend Andrew, Andrew’s wife and crew Lara, and myself! 

We’ve shared the track a few times since then – I got to watch him smash out 130+ km in the Adelaide 12 hour event in 2015 while I was running around in circles for 6 hours, and we were both winners in the 100km state track championships earlier this year (although he was long gone by the time I eventually finished!).

I was fortunate enough, along with fellow trail runners Tina and Ryley, to be able to join DT for a very short section of the trail (around 4km!) last Monday, and was amazed at how well he was travelling, despite the fact that he was approaching 900km at that stage! On a few occasions he would start running up a hill, and I’d be thinking, “Are you kidding? I’m not going to be able to keep up with a guy who’s run almost 1000km?” but then after a few steps he’d be walking again and Tina and I would be able to catch up!

DT in the middle, with Ryley on the left and Tina on the right, during our short run on Monday!

DT was posting his location on his Facebook page every hour or so, which allowed people to find him and run with him for a bit – if they could keep up! It was a privilege to be able to share a small part of what turned out to be a FKT (Fastest Known Time) and a real eye-opener to see what goes into these audacious (and in this case ultimately successful) attempts! I believe there will be some kind of book about this and I really look forward to reading it!

Great to see the story getting some mainstream media coverage!

During the epic run, DT was raising funds for DEBRA Australia, supporting people with Epidermolysis Bullosa. Which leads me neatly into the next epic adventure!

Still in progress is another massive undertaking, The Million Dollar Run. This is a 3000km run from Adelaide to Brisbane to raise $1m for DEBRA Australia. I first met Andrew in December 2015 at a birthday run for fellow runner Barry, 6 hours around the 2.2km Uni Loop, sounds like fun, right? Well I only did 5 laps that day (my excuses being that it was a stinking hot day and plus I had to go to work!) but Andrew completed his first marathon and as I recall in not too shabby a time! The Million Dollar Run was already on the cards then, but it’s taken a while for it to actually happen! At the time of writing he’s pretty close to Melbourne! Amazing stuff!

Finally for this week we have School of the Road – last year, fellow runner Travis, Fiona and their son Patch, who has autism, embarked on a truly epic adventure, cycling from Washington State to Washington DC, around 5000km, an absolutely amazing and inspiring journey, showing, as they said, that ‘anything is possible’!

So there you have it, 3 inspirational people doing amazing things for very worthy causes! Hopefully I will be able to come even remotely close to such epicness one day!

Race report – 2017 SA 100km championships

My Garmin data. I think the elevation is wrong!

Here we go again – around and around and around! And around. And how appropriate that this is also my 100th blog post! 

Last year I ran in the inaugural Yumigo 100km state championships. You can read all about it here.

I remember distinctly, immediately after the race, when race director Ben announced that it would be run again this year, fellow competitor Karen and I looked at each other and said “Never again!” (I was reminded twice of this in the past few days – by my mum and by friend Maree). And yet, here we were again!

After a 30k long run the previous Saturday which was very evenly paced, I had 2 runs during the week, both slower than usual – perfect preparation for a 100k ultra! I did go out and run a parkrun with Mum on Saturday morning but there was a fair bit of walking.

Nutrition-wise I went with 3 sandwiches (some peanut butter and some coconut spread – it’s always good to have a bit of variety because you never know what you’re going to feel like eating!), some almonds, 3 nut bars and some mashed sweet potato with a little salt. In the process of peeling the sweet potato with my awesome Y-peeler I discovered that the peeler is also very good at peeling human flesh! 

Last year I’d made up a big container of Gatorade but I remembered it was a bit of a hassle pouring it into the cup. This year I decided to fill up 6 bottles which I could then pick up and run with.

As per last year, I had lunch for breakfast, dinner for lunch and breakfast for dinner! Breakfast was peanut butter on toast, lunch was sweet potato mac and “cheese” (recipe here) and dinner was a smoothie. 

Carbing up like a BOSS!

I had a few hours’ nap in the afternoon as I was going to be running all through the night.

Gear-wise I had my usual Skins shorts with my black lulu skirt over the top. I went with blue calf sleeves, a pair of road shoes (the same ones I normally wear but half a size bigger to minimise blisters) and my Steigen socks (guaranteed blister-proof!). I started with a (newish) Mekong top, it was a Yumigo one which seemed appropriate given it was a Yumigo event! I thought it was pretty safe though, even though I’d only run in it once before – in this kind of event there’s always the opportunity to change tops if it isn’t comfortable.  

I packed a few extra singlets, some arm warmers and a long sleeved top in case it got cold during the night – although that didn’t look likely.

We started at 7, an hour earlier than last year, so it was pretty warm when we started. I think someone said it was 29 degrees at the start and still quite sunny. Consequently I started the race with a hat and sunnies, and with sunscreen on, but the good thing was that I would not need to reapply the sunscreen!

Another piece of good news was the change in the toilet arrangements. Last year we had used the toilets in the grandstand. Nothing wrong with that apart from the fact the it involved walking up stairs! This year they were at ground level which cut out all unnecessary elevation! (Although, by the time I kind of needed to go, I was worried I might get lost so I didn’t end up going! It would have broken my momentum anyway)

There were 12 starters in the 100k and I think 15 in the 50k. This year, the 100k and 50k runners were separated – we had lanes 1-3 and they had lanes 4-6. While last year the 50k runners had done 125 laps, this year the number of laps was calculated based on the slightly longer length of lap in lane 4, and consequently they started at a different point on the track (but at the same time) so they would still finish on the finish line. There were only 3 women in the 100k which meant that we only needed to finish to get a podium position!

The 100k starters!

ONLY needed to finish – I probably shouldn’t use the word ‘only’ there. Last year, out of 12 starters, there were only 5 finishers. 2 more runners ran for the full 12 hours but did not manage to complete the 100k, and possibly some of the ones who dropped out, did so because they knew they wouldn’t make the time cutoff. The last official finisher was averaging 7:10 min/km and only JUST made it. Compare that to trail events of the same distance like UTA100 (28 hours) and Heysen 105 (25 hours). Sure, those events are COMPLETELY different, with lots of elevation, but running 100km on a flat track is not necessarily easier!

There were a few things happening to break up the monotony (I use the term ‘monotony’ in the nicest possible way) – every hour or so the whiteboard near the start/finish line was updated to show each runner’s current lap count, and every 3 hours we got to turn around! I did very much look forward to that, although it did feel quite weird running anticlockwise!

One of the hourly updates!

My strategy was simple. Run 30 minutes, walk 5 minutes. It was the same strategy I’d started with last year, but over the course of the night the “run” sections became shorter and shorter, but I never allowed myself to walk for more than 5 minutes at a time. Last year I’d put an alert on my watch to remind me every time it was time to walk (or start running again) but this quickly drained the battery, and I knew that watch wouldn’t last the distance anyway, plus once I’d changed the run/walk intervals, the watch alerts were useless. So I decided to keep track of it in my head!

As there were only 12 runners in the 100k, I got to interact a bit with all of them – either as I passed them, or as they lapped me with monotonous regularity! I was running with one of the 100k runners, Stephan, at (I think) around the 5 hour mark and was surprised when he told me he hadn’t walked at all up to that point! I guess the run/walk strategy isn’t for everyone, but it certainly works for me over this distance. Even the super fast runners were walking at times (eventual 100k winner David T and 2nd placegetter in the 50k Simon).

I managed to keep the 30/5 intervals going until 3½ hours, which seemed like a logical point to change to 25/5 – much easier to keep track! It worked out well with the stadium clock too, because the race had started at 7:05, so the idea was that on the half hour and on the hour (by the clock), I would walk for 5 minutes. During the walk breaks I would take in nutrition and grab one of my drink bottles. Over the course of the night I only had one lot of sweet potato – maybe about ¼ cup or maybe even less than that – and didn’t fancy it after that. I didn’t touch the almonds, I just existed on sandwiches, nut bars, Gatorade and Coke.

When walking, I started walking on the line between Lane 1 and Lane 2. I got the idea from Kaven, one of the 100k runners who was walking a fair bit and eventually pulled out due to injury – it meant that the faster runners could pass on the left, thereby running the shortest possible distance. At walking pace, it wouldn’t make much difference to the distance I would cover. When running, I’d stay as close to the inside of the track as possible – so when I went from ‘walk’ to ‘run’ I’d drift back across to the inside (after checking of course that DT wasn’t about to fly past me – he was a man on a mission!

The singing started early this year, and surprisingly it wasn’t me who started it! And Michelle, who had started it last year, wasn’t running this year. She was volunteering and was there at the start but didn’t stay the whole night. And I wondered why it seemed quiet! This time it was Karen who started the singing – she had her iPod going within the first hour I think! I was saving mine for after the halfway point (after the 6 hour turnaround) – I didn’t want to get too reliant on it, and it would be later in the night, as 50k and some of the faster 100k runners finished, that it would be needed – less people out on the track to chat to, and less spectators!

As there were only 3 women in the 100k race, and Karen had already said she didn’t think she had a hope of reaching the 100k, and Bec wasn’t confident at all either, I expected I would probably be mainly ‘competing’ with myself, although I wouldn’t count Bec out – she had won the 12 hour race in July and had cracked the 100km on that day. I was confident I would make the distance, I wasn’t expecting to beat last year’s time of 10:43:14 but hoped to do something similar. Anything under 11 hours would be good!

I’m not sure exactly what point it was, but I think it was somewhere around 3 hours, I passed Bec and she said she was already up to run 1 lap/walk 1 lap so at that point she knew 100k was not going to happen – but she was determined to keep going for the 12 hours regardless! So effectively that meant that, out of the females, it was only me left!

Probably around the same time, the pizzas arrived – Ben as always had looked after the vegans by ordering a vegan pizza as well as a vegetarian one and one with meat on it. There were a few of us vegans out there, Simon, Sheena and Alan in the 50k and as far as I know just me in the 100k. I’m not going to say that the 50k vegans ate all the pizza, but suffice to say that when I finished there was no vegan pizza left! (Note to self for next time – ask for a slice to be put aside for me – I don’t like eating hot food during a race, and I’m happy to eat it cold afterwards!)

Team Vegan. Who ate all the pizza?

Even though there was a bit of physical separation between us this year, it was still great to have the 50k runners out there! I went back and forth with Graham for a while – he kept commenting on how my laps were shorter (which of course they were) whenever I passed him! Graham was the first person to tell me about running around in circles for a ridiculously long period of time (he was referring to the 24 hour race at the Uni Loop, and I recall telling him that sounded incredibly boring!) so I guess he’s to blame for all of this!

From the 4 hour mark, the 50k runners started approaching the end of their race, the track getting quieter and quieter with each finisher! The first male finisher was Randell in just over 4 hours – absolutely phenomenal! Not far behind him in second place was Simon who had also finished second last year. Brenton was third in under 5 hours.

The female winner in the 50k was Estha, followed by Debbie and Sheena. As each of the runners approached the end of their race, Ben announced over the PA system that they were on their final lap – it was really great to see everyone finishing even though we knew the finish was a LOOONG way off for us! It was a welcome distraction and very motivating!

The male 50k podium – Simon, Randell and Brenton, with Ben

The top 3 women in the 50km – Debbie, Estha and Sheena!

There were many visitors throughout the night – I won’t be able to mention them all, and there are probably some who were there and I didn’t even realise it! I will just mention a few but all the support from everyone was much appreciated!

First there was Liz who was there probably around the 4-5 hour mark and told me to run more upright as I was tending to lean forward (of course I didn’t realise it, but as soon as I corrected my posture it instantly felt better!). As it’s pretty impossible to be thinking about posture constantly for 250 laps, she suggested that I think about it every time I crossed the finish line. And you know what? I think that really helped! Not long after that, Scuba arrived to cheer us on for a while and i do believe he said he’s going to join in the fun next year! Then, probably around midnightish, Tracie popped in on her way home from a night out (oh yeah that’s right. It was Saturday night. That’s what NORMAL people do on a Saturday night!) and stayed for an hour or so? Maybe more? It’s hard to keep track of time! She sat in my chair and got me stuff out of my esky as I asked for it. So this is what it’s like having a support crew! Actually I managed pretty well on my own – it’s the type of event that is quite easy without a crew – but it was nice to have the support for that time!

Not long after Tracie left, the next turnaround marked the halfway point, time-wise anyway. At this stage I was on 58km so a finish within the cutoff time was looking comfortable. Although, I was somewhat slower than last year when I sat on 6 minute kilometre pace until about 65km. This time, by the 4 hour mark I had just fallen off 6 minute pace. Still, it was considerably hotter than last year, and I’d also managed to keep the 25/5 intervals going. And I was only marginally off pace so I wasn’t concerned.

This was also the point where I got the iPod out. I had planned to sing “Total Eclipse of the Heart” when we turned around (“Turn around…” – seemed appropriate!) but forgot! (Pretty sure that song did eventually come on!) I think from memory the first song was “We Like To Party” by the Vengaboys!

Throughout the rest of the night I had the iPod on and off – the earbuds kept falling out so it was a bit annoying – must get some decent ones for next year (YES I did just say ‘next year’!). I had difficulty hitting the high notes when running (probably not surprisingly!) but I think the highlight for me was when Mariah Carey’s ‘Hero’ came on. That, very conveniently, coincided with a walk break, so I was able to give it a good crack! I thought the lyrics were pretty apt too! Hope everyone enjoyed it!

I tried to limit the loud singing to when I was on the straight in front of the grandstand, where all the spectators and supporters were. I thought they would probably appreciate it more than the other runners, and of course I had to conserve some air for breathing! Also I had to pick my battles – for example, Beyoncé’s ‘Single Ladies’ is a great song to listen to and dance to but VERY hard to sing especially while running!

The music had added benefits too. My playlist has about 900 songs, for every occasion, so I found myself skipping through the songs until I found one that was appropriate at the time. It either needed to be something I could sing along to, or something that was the right tempo to suit my running. Surprisingly, the song that best fit the bill tempo-wise was “Umbrella” by Rihanna (I wasn’t tempted to sing that one!) and in fact it worked so well that I listened to it twice back to back! (Probably not a good long-term strategy though – I couldn’t imagine listening to one song for 10+ hours straight! Especially not that one!)

At the 7 hour mark I had 2 Voltaren (I know – anti-inflammatories – bad – but I’d done the same last year and it had worked well!) and an energy drink.

From about the 2 hour mark onwards, I was mostly 3 laps behind Toby, who was in 2nd place overall behind DT. At one point I had closed the gap to 2 laps, and at one point it had blown out to 4 laps, but 3 laps seemed to be the order of the night! I thought at one stage I might be able to catch up a lap or two or even get ahead of him, but he just seemed to get stronger as the night went on and although I was running well, I wasn’t able to make up any ground!

Karen and Bec were still going and in good spirits. At one point Bec went FLYING past me and soon after that, was walking again. This would have been at least 8 hours in – she joked that she was doing interval training! She said that was the only way she could run, and she would cover more ground this way than by just walking!

Around 8 hours 42 the first of the 100k runners, DT, finished! I think it was a tough day at the office for him, and as I said he was walking at times, but it was still a phenomenal performance! As I passed other runners, or as they passed me, I’d mostly call out encouragement (if I didn’t it was because I was concentrating on breathing or possibly singing!) but David looked so focused most of the time I stopped calling out to him! Plus he passed me so many times I would have used up all my energy!

Probably around the same time I cracked the 80km barrier (just goes to show how good DT is!) and that meant I had ‘only’ 50 laps left. I didn’t want to count laps and I had consciously avoided thinking in those terms, but I did get caught up in counting for a few laps after this!

These type of events result in notoriously inaccurate GPS recordings. Last year my Garmin showed I’d done over 102km. So, while initially I was going by my watch to work out how far I’d gone, I realised that I could only really rely on the hourly whiteboard updates, and if there was anyone standing by the computer as I went past the start/finish, I could ask them for an up-to-date lap count. I preferred not to know the exact laps though – all that mattered was, I would DEFINITELY know when I was on my last lap! I worked out that my Garmin was about 2km out so I used that as a rough estimate.

Then there was a quiet period, broken up by Cathie finishing her 50k with an unbelievable sprint finish!

At the 10 hour mark I was on 232 laps – still 3 behind Toby! And most pleasingly, while by the end of last year’s event I was down to 7 min/3 min walk/run intervals, I had managed to keep the 25/5 intervals going right from the 3.5 hour mark to the 10 hour mark!

So, with 18 laps to go (7.2km) I decided that by the time I got to my next scheduled walk break, I would be so close to the end I would be best to just keep going – and so I did! No more walk breaks!

That last 45 minutes went pretty quickly! I knew Toby would still be 3 laps ahead of me so I was just hanging out for his last lap to be announced! Then, I would be only just over 1km away from being done!

Still with my iPod in, Adam, who was in charge of the timing, informed me that I had 5 laps to go! I said, “5 laps? That, I can do!” and set to work getting it done! I left my iPod on my chair, and got down to business!

That last 5 laps was a bit of a blur! First, I got to watch Toby finish (I moved onto the line so he could pass on my inside – I’m sure he wouldn’t have wanted to go around me when he was so close to the end!) and then it was nearly time for me!

With 2 laps to go, Ben (maybe joking, maybe serious, who knew?) called for one last song! So as I ran around for my penultimate lap, I racked my brains trying to think of something appropriate, and something I could sing without the iPod! I was going to go with Michael Jackson’s ‘Ben’ but I wasn’t confident of hitting the high notes so I ended up going with ‘We Are The Champions’! (And failed to hit the high notes!)

That final lap!

I had a look at my split times for each of the 250 laps and even made a graph of it (OK yes I am a nerd!) and the last lap was around 1:50 (4:33 minutes/km pace) – by far my fastest lap of the night! It’s amazing what you can do when you can see that glorious finish line (even though I’d already seen it 249 times, it was different this time!)

My EXTREMELY nerdy chart showing every one of my 250 lap splits!

I crossed the line in 10:44:51 – just marginally slower than last year (under 2 minutes) but I was in a much better state at the end and I was so pleased with my consistency!

 

That finishing feeling!
Some well-earned bling right there!

First order of business – shoes OFF! As I walked past Toby who already had his shoes off, he said he’d been thinking about taking them off since the start of the race! I had said to first aider Susan as I ran past her late in the race that I didn’t think I had any blisters (unlike last year) so I wasn’t expecting any nasty surprises! My feet looked surprisingly not terrible for having just done 100km ( I won’t say ‘good’ – as they never look ‘good’!). I went back to the start line to see David B, 3rd placed male and the last of the 100km finishers, complete his race. I didn’t realise he was so close, he was only about as far behind me as I was behind Toby. He told me afterwards that he thought he would catch me!

With Ben at the trophy presentation!

With 3rd placegetter David B and 2nd placegetter Toby, and Ben. DT was long gone by the time we all finished! 🙂

Then it was time to change into some warmer clothes and eat the rest of my food! As it turned out I only ate 2 sandwiches and 3 nut bars (plus that little bit of sweet potato) throughout the race so that left me a whole sandwich to eat while I waited for the end of the 12 hours. The only 3 runners left were Karen, Bec and Stephan, who didn’t quite make the distance but did keep going for the full 12 hours.

I chatted with 2 of the other 100k runners who had pulled the pin early but were still at the stadium – Quinten and Alan. They had run together the whole way but were thrown by a big inaccuracy in the Garmin – their watches were showing they were on 56km when they were in fact only at 50! And that being at the 6 hour mark, it would have been an uphill battle to finish under cutoff time (I imagine it would be VERY difficult to negative-split a 100km ultra!). I saw them a number of times as we went around, and despite not getting the result they would have wanted, they said that they did enjoy it!

And before too long, the air horn was sounded to signify the end of the event. Karen, Bec and Stephan were all still standing at the end! Bec said “Never again” (or words to that effect) and Karen said “maybe the 50k”. I said nothing!

As is now ‘traditional’, Karen and I then went to her gym for a lovely hot spa, interspersed with a dip in the plunge pool, and finishing (as recommended by first aider Susan) with the cold plunge pool!

Bliss!
Aaand… not so much! But we were both glad we did it!

Sunday night I slept in my compression pants despite it being a pretty hot night, and on Monday my legs felt surprisingly OK!

So, that just about wraps up another fantastic event! But I can’t end without thanking some people.

Firstly to the supporters, it was great to see you out there especially through the night – I gather it was pretty chilly standing around, as many of you were wrapped in blankets! I can imagine it might be a bit boring watching people run and walk around in circles, so thanks for being there!

To my fellow competitors, thanks for all the support and encouragement out there, and for putting up with my singing! Well done to all of you, whether the night went to plan for you or not. Just turning up to run 50k or 100k on a track on a Saturday night is worthy of kudos!

To Adam for the awesome job on the timing, and to Susan and the First In Sport First Aid team who are always there and always appreciated, especially when their services are NOT required!

Now to the volunteers. I know I’m going to forget someone so please don’t be offended – there were so many of you, and probably some through the night that I didn’t even see! First those who were there from start to finish – Kelly, Kim, Tanya and the ever-present, ever-helpful and ever-encouraging Ziad (although I didn’t need any of his help, it was good to know that he was there if I needed anything!). And others who were there at different times – Kate, Michelle, Tracey at the beginning, Katie at some stage during the night, and Anna and Laura at the end (who also had the unenviable job of helping pack everything up at the end, while I sat there with my feet up and watched!)

And last but not least to Ben, who I am convinced must have cloned himself to be able to do all the things he does to put on these fantastic events (either that or he doesn’t require sleep!) Once again, another Yumigo triumph – a very professionally organised and (I can’t believe I’m about to say this) highly enjoyable event! Thanks Ben for all you do and good luck for your next big event!

Aaaaaand I guess I’ll be back next year!

Good times!

Heysen 105 2016 Part 2 – The race report…

Still looking fresh at this point!

Well! What a day!
I gave myself an hour to get ready which was ideal – I was ready in about 45 minutes so that gave me a bit of breathing space. Even if it did mean getting up at 3:30am!

Riesje picked me up (along with my 5 drop bags) at 4:30 and we drove to Louise and Jimmy’s place – Jimmy would drive us to the start. On the way I had my usual breakfast shake – it would have been way too early to have it at home!

There was a big crowd already when we arrived just before 6:15 – turned out the 6am start had been delayed and they set off not long after we arrived.

At the start line surrounded by Team Mekong. Mekong supplied my top and I found it fantastic to run in – thanks guys!

I realised that my hydration bladder was leaking – there was about 1 litre in it when I left home, and by now it was down to about 750mL. I decided that, given the cooler conditions, and the fact that I don’t tend to drink water during runs anyway, I would empty the bladder and carry it empty, just in case. (It was part of the mandatory gear anyway – capacity to carry 2 litres of water – so I had to carry it regardless.) Not only did it mean I wasn’t going to get unnecessarily saturated, it made my pack lighter and more comfortable to carry!
I collected my race bib and bought a new blue Yumigo buff (which matched my calf sleeves and shoes perfectly!) before depositing my drop bags in the appropriate places.

Happy days at the start line!

It was COLD! I was dressed to run, but while standing around waiting I think my lips matched my buff! Michelle’s husband Mark kindly lent me his big warm jacket! I soon gave it back and then Tina, on registration, took pity on me and lent me hers for a while!
I hesitate to write this but I think it’s an important part of the story. Before the race I decided that I couldn’t wait for Checkpoint 1 (around 18km, approx 2 hours) for a toilet stop. A few of the girls were venturing into the bushes and I thought bugger it, I want to be comfortable at the start! So off I went, first time successfully pulling off the ‘bush wee’ and was so glad I’d done it! It also gave me confidence that if I needed to, I could go anywhere and not have to rely on going at checkpoints!

That ‘TMI’ moment aside, it was soon time to make our way to the start line. Having been advised on Thursday that our waterproof jackets were NOT required (I didn’t 100% trust the weather so I’d packed a light spray jacket in my pack just in case), as if on cue, it started raining as Ben did the race briefing!

Because of the late start of the 6am wave, the other waves in turn started 15 minutes late. But given the rain, and after the crowd demanded it, Ben agreed to let us start at 7:10 instead of 7:15! This was greeted by rapturous cheering! This was the last of 3 waves, with all the 57k runners as well as roughly half the 105k runners setting off together.
At the start I saw Bronwyn who finished 3rd ahead of me last year, Kazu who finished 2nd at Yurrebilla last year, and Hoa, who is in awesome form. I had had thoughts of maybe going one better than last year and getting a podium finish, but after seeing those three I quickly put it out of my mind!

Photo courtesy of Shane – not quite sure what I’m thinking here! @shane.porto.triathlon (Instagram)

And we were away! The rain wasn’t so bad once we got moving. Very early on there was an absolutely stunning full rainbow against a grey sky. I was so tempted to take a photo but I didn’t want to waste a nice downhill runnable section. I thought about the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. In my case, it was a chocolate donut! The presence of the rainbow was very appropriate also, given that the Pride march was taking place on the same day!

That incredible rainbow! Photo courtesy of @chris_kaneko on Instagram

Early on I ran with Marc and an interstate runner by the name of George who I’d heard plenty about but had never met. Marc told me his reason for running was to try to better his UTA100 time from this year, because the last time he ran Heysen he was just aiming to finish. This time he was taking it seriously! I didn’t quite get a ‘why’ answer out of George but I think it was along the lines of ‘Because it’s there’. 
I also went back and forth with Uli and Justin – Justin would effortlessly power past me going up the hills, and sometimes I would pass him going downhill.

Very early I was passed by Hoa who told me she was volunteering at the finish line. I was gobsmacked until she told me she was ‘only’ doing the 57k! Ah, maybe there was a chance for me after all!

The first section is a relatively easy one, and I reached CP1 pretty much on target (I’d given Gary my CP splits from last year as a guide, and I’d also attached a laminated copy to my backpack). It was a quick stop – sunscreen on, a quick Coke and a handful of pretzels, and I was on my way – my watch showed 1 hour 50 which was 7 minutes slower than last year. 

Last year’s split times, I used this as a guide.

After CP1 came probably the hardest section elevation-wise. There was a lot of uphill in this section. It gave me the opportunity to take a few photos and really appreciate the scenery!

That’s Kelly up there in the distance!
They say ‘Never look back, you’re not going that way’. Sometimes it’s good to look back and see how far you’ve come. Wow, I’m deep!
Can’t see the woods for the trees! Lovely spot for a run!

It was around this point that I was reunited with George, and also met up with Kelly who had done the 6 hour with me earlier in the year. I quickly realised by looking at Kelly’s bib number that she was in the 57km event and therefore not competing with me! 

George had a lot to say and I really enjoyed chatting with him. He does an ultra about once a fortnight. He’s done quite a few events here in SA which is why I initially thought he was a local! We would end up running together for most of the first half of the race. He, like me, was having his buddy runner, Beck, meet him at CP3. He said that this was all he was focusing on – just get to CP3, that’s the end of one race, and then the race begins again! George hadn’t met Beck before. I hadn’t exactly met her but I’d heard her speak at a Trail Running SA social night about her experiences doing ultras around the world including iconic events like Western States 100 and Ultra-Trail Mont Blanc. I told George he’d be in excellent hands!

After the road climb there was a challenging trail climbing section including a lot of stairs before I reached CP2. This was also the finish of the 35k event. Tina had finished 2nd and Annie 3rd, apparently there was a race to the finish between Annie and Flic for 3rd place! I also saw Kate and James, who had both started at 6 and reported things were going well! I refilled my Gatorade, raided my drop bag for snacks, had a Coke and replaced my sunscreen – the next section was 22k and would take a good few hours. The time as I left CP2 was around 4:15 – about 20 minutes slower than last year (although I didn’t know that at the time!)

Fuelling up at CP2 and catching up with the 35k finishers.
Obligatory checkpoint watch shot!

I was with George early in the next section and I announced to him that this was the 10k I’d marked so if there were any problems he knew who to blame! I must say Tina and I did a brilliant job – one or two of our red and white ribbons had come down overnight, and we possibly could have more clearly marked the direction where the tractor and the bed was, but other than that it was a flawless 10k. I told George, who is a devotee of the ‘runfie’ and also the ‘cowfie’, as we were doing one of the climbs in Yulti Conservation Park, to look back and see the view. He did, was suitably impressed, and then asked me to take a photo of him with the view in the background. I crouched down to get a good pic and immediately regretted my decision! Fortunately I managed to get up without too much trouble!

Our section was quite overgrown in places – I could have done with a scythe to get through, I did feel a bit Indiana Jones-ish at times!

A funny moment came just after the 40k mark. We had to go over or under a fence that appeared to be just a rope. I opted to go over – and in the process discovered that it was an electric fence! I’d never been zapped by an electric fence before! George didn’t want to take my word for it, he had to touch it himself! And then decided that this was a perfect opportunity to get some free ‘electrotherapy’ for his injuries! I warned the people behind that it was an electric fence and we kept moving.

By the time we hit 45k and the end of Tina’s and my section, Kelly was back with us again. “Only City-Bay to go” I told her. The next 12k had been very ably marked by 2 course marking newbies Kate and James. 

With George around 45k – great fun running with this guy!
With Kelly around 45k – she only had 12k (or ‘City-Bay’) to go at this point!

My top was starting to chafe under my arms a bit by now, but George came to the rescue with his trusty 3B cream! (I returned the favour by giving him one of my chocolate sandwiches when he was looking for something to eat!)
The sandy sections through here were made much easier by the recent wild weather – wet sand is much easier to negotiate than dry! There was a lot of mud and water throughout the 105km and once my feet were wet and muddy I didn’t really care about trying to avoid it! There was also a lot of debris on the course which may have contributed to me being a bit slower than last year – I was extra cautious to avoid falling like I had last year (and the day before!) in this section.

Somewhere along here we were met by 2 runners coming the other way. I immediately thought, we’ve taken a wrong turn! But not to worry, it was just Maurice and Hayley who were demarking and sweeping! Phew!

I had taken my caffeine supplement at CP2 and at around the 49k mark it kicked in and I took off from George and Kelly. Partly I think I just needed a short burst of ‘alone time’ knowing that I was going to be meeting Gary at the next checkpoint and would be with him for the rest of the race. Also I was conscious that I was behind time so wanted to try to make up a bit of time. 

I’m not sure why but somehow I’d got the idea in my head that I was about to reach 55km. When I saw the next 5km marker and it said 50km, not 55km, I was a bit deflated but kept pushing on. 

At this point I became aware that not only did I have a few rocks in my shoes, but I could feel some rubbing on both my pinky toes – I hadn’t done a very good job with my taping! I was thinking about stopping at CP3 to get the first aider to look at my feet and re-tape if needed, but I didn’t have any clean socks on me and did not fancy putting my wet, muddy socks back on! I had thoughts about telling Gary the goalposts had shifted and we were no longer looking at a PB, just a finish!

Eventually after a long road section I reached CP3 where Gary was waiting for me. 

Heading into CP3 – thanks to Sharlene for this photo!

I took my shoes off to get rid of the rocks, but left the socks on. Here, as well as refuelling with Gatorade and snacks, I went for a quick wardrobe change, a fresh singlet and arm warmers. 
And off we went! This was the section where everything had gone horribly wrong last year! It was great to have Gary with me here as he had run this section 2 years ago as a buddy and remembered it well. 

Heysen involves climbing over a lot of stiles to go through cow paddocks. One such stile, early on in this section, happened to be over another electric fence! I found this out the hard way, giving myself an electric shock – it was quite a powerful zap compared to the last one! Best not be doing that again!

We navigated ‘that’ field with no problems – there is a new marker in the middle of the field which is really hard to miss. Especially with the Yumigo arrow attached to it, helpfully captioned ‘This way Jane!’

I was pretty sure I knew who was responsible for this. My suspicions would later be confirmed!

After crossing that field without incident, I was again thankful for Gary’s navigational skills. After last year’s incident, I had finally found my way out of the field by following Brenton. Consequently I hadn’t really paid attention to what came next, so I did not recognise the next few kilometres. Thankfully Gary did!
Soon I was back on familiar ground, a nice, comfortable runnable section through ferns. I knew we were back on track – we had to have gained about half an hour right there.

Gary had updated me on what was happening in the race. In the men’s, Howard was leading and looking strong. He wasn’t sure exactly where I was in the women’s race – Bronwyn was a runaway leader followed by Kazu. There were 2 other women who he didn’t know, and then me. He wasn’t sure if one of the two other women was an early starter (this would not only mean they were an hour behind me, but also that they would be ineligible for a podium finish). He said the last woman was 25 minutes ahead of me.

Gary and me just before another climb (aka walk break/time to eat!)

CP3 – CP4 was a longer section than last year – about 18-19k. The checkpoint had been moved about 4km further along the route, and off the road. It meant it was a bit of a hard slog to get to CP4, but it meant that after CP4 we would be only 8km from CP5 and 26km from the finish!
We had been warned that there was a river crossing in this section. I’m talking, calf deep water. No getting around it! When we reached it Gary was looking for a way around but I knew there wasn’t one so through we went! It was actually quite refreshing! We held hands going through because the current was quite strong and we didn’t want to get swept down the Finniss River! (I initially went a little deeper than required before Gary found a safer path!)

I later found out that other people had taken off their shoes and socks to go through – but then again, I only had my wet, muddy socks to put back on so I think it was for the best not to take them off!

Approaching CP4 we were greeted by Paul running the other way. He was on his way to meet Simon, who he was buddy runner for. Simon had been at CP3 getting his feet attended to when Gary and I had left, but had presumably recovered well as he was on his way. Paul told us we were only about 3k from CP4.

Gary insisted that we run into each checkpoint. It was a good psychological boost – if any of my ‘rivals’ saw me, they would know I was still going strong! And so we finally reached CP4 and duly ran in! We were told here that the previous female, Rebecca, had only gone through 8 minutes ago. We were catching up! (Earlier in the section we had passed another female runner – Gary sussed out that she was a 6am starter so again not a likely threat to me.)

Quickly I did what I had to do. I grabbed my hi-viz vest and head torch which would be needed later, topped up my bottles and snacks (I was going to have HEAPS of food left – I had predictably over-catered!), sprayed myself with insect repellent and got my energy drink. Still drinking it, we headed off. I had an inkling that I knew who this Rebecca was, and if I guessed correctly, she was a 6am starter! But I didn’t say this to Gary.

The 8km section went quite quickly and before we reached CP5 we caught up with, and eventually passed, Rebecca. It was the Rebecca I thought it was – a 6am starter! She was stoked with how she was going – she said I’d passed her at CP3 last year so she was happy to have nearly got to CP5 before being overtaken! I knew she’d marked CP3-4 so I asked her if she’d put the message to me on the sign which she first denied but then admitted she had!

So what this meant was, it looked like I was in 3rd place! With no idea how far behind me 4th was, we had to keep going for it! (I knew 2nd was out of reach so 3rd was all I had to shoot for!)

Before we knew it, after another river crossing, we were at CP5 where we donned our hi-viz vests, got our head torches out and had a quick snack before starting the final stage. I didn’t need to top up any of my drinks or food as I hadn’t consumed much in the short last section. The volunteers at CP5 confirmed that I was indeed in 3rd place! 

Gary told me that he had had a conversation with 2015 Heysen winner Andrew, buddying for David, at CP3 while waiting for me. Andrew had asked him why he was buddying and not running the event himself. Gary’s reply? “To get Jane a podium finish”. 

All fuelled up and about to leave the last checkpoint! On the home stretch now!

We left CP5 in broad daylight, 11 hours in. Bec and another guy Ryan who we’d met in the last section, were just coming in as we left. Last year I left CP5 with 11:35 on the clock so we were 35 minutes ahead. After being 30 minutes behind at CP3, I’d really made up some ground thanks to Gary’s constant encouragement, pushing me to run when I may otherwise have walked, and of course the added bonus of not getting lost! Given that last year we did the last section in exactly 2.5 hours, sub 14 looked to be a no-brainer so we were now aiming for 13.5. I would have been happy with sub 14 (especially considering I didn’t think it was possible after my slower first half) and a podium finish, well that was just a bonus!

The last section was beautiful – much of it through forest, with not another human in sight! The roos were starting to become active – I didn’t see as many as last year, because we were in daylight for much of this section. In fact we nearly missed a turn-off because we were looking directly into the sun!

Gary was constantly calculating how fast we needed to be going. He had set 8 minute kilometres as the goal from here to the finish. Many kilometres were faster. It didn’t really matter what I said, Gary was determined to get me in under 13.5 hours!

Gary running into the sunset!

Complicating matters was the fact that this part of the course was the muddiest and wettest of all. It meant we had to be more cautious in sections where we otherwise might have been able to fang it (as much as ‘fanging’ is possible after 90km!). We were glad to be doing most of this section in daylight. One of the hardest bits was right near the end when it had just got dark and we struggled to find a path through the mud!
We made it to about 96km (of an estimated 102km) before we put the headlights on. By now, we would be only about 45-50 minutes from the end. So close!

Probably around the 100k mark, with 13.5 hours looking good, Gary (who had all along been looking behind to see if any potential rivals were gaining on us) informed me that there were 2 people rapidly approaching. I told him I had no capacity to increase the pace! As devastating as it would be to be passed so close to the finish, if someone passed me now, there was no way I was going to be able to chase them down. Whoever it was, was FLYING! 

They passed us… I was excited to see that it was my old mate George and his buddy Beck! They were both looking SO strong for this late in the race!

Gary got a bit dejected, thinking Beck was overtaking me into 3rd place, before I quickly told him no, it’s all good, she’s a buddy, she’s not in the race! All was good again! Beck estimated there was only a couple of kilometres to go!

As we approached the finish I made sure Gary was on my left as we were going to cross the line hand in hand and my right hand was my ‘snot hand’ – the one I had been using to wipe my nose all day! (That was because I wear my watch on my left hand and am always paranoid I’ll accidentally stop my watch while wiping my nose!)

Eventually Gary announced that we were nearly there! What a rush, crossing that finish line in 13:26:46 – almost 40 minutes better than last year! Ben put the finisher medal around my neck and handed me the prized 3rd place trophy! AMAZING!

We did it! Now where are those donuts…

Gary’s wife Christine was there to capture the moment and help me get my shoes and socks off (we gave up trying to get my calf sleeves off – they were there to stay) and get my drop bag to put some warmer clothes on. Gary and I enjoyed our donuts – I doubt I’ve ever had a better tasting donut in my life, despite it being a day old! 

Best. Donut. Ever.

We had a chat to other runners – Leon had done well, and Marc’s buddy Arwen had told me Marc had had a great run too. Then it was time to go before we got too cold! Gary’s car was also at the finish line – Maurice had asked him if he could borrow it earlier in the day so he didn’t have to get his wife to pick him up, which worked out really well as we didn’t have to go back to CP3, we could go straight home! I got a lift with Christine and was home by 10! Took me a while to get my calf sleeves and tape off, shower and eat everything in sight! Possibly the biggest miracle of the day though was the fact that I managed to get my compression tights on!

Once again, SUCH a great day. Incredibly challenging but so rewarding! An extremely well supported event and very achievable if you’re thinking about tackling 100k for the first time. And there’s always 57 and 35 if you don’t fancy ‘the big one’ (those two options are looking mighty appealing to me now!)

I’d like to finish by thanking some of the people who played a big part in my day. Apologies if I forgot anyone, there were just so many!

To Ben Hockings for putting on yet another brilliant event. So many hours of work went into this. I don’t think he sleeps. Ever! And his hard work has paid off with numbers growing steadily by the year!

To Gary, my amazing buddy runner. He was everything a buddy runner should be. Encouraging, competitive and entertaining! I could not have done this without him!

To Christine, for letting me borrow your husband, for helping me get my shoes and socks off at the finish line, and for driving me home!

To Riesje for picking me up so I could leave my car (and importantly car KEY) at home! And to Louise and Jimmy for driving us to the start.

To Kelly and George for the company in the first half of the race (and in George’s case, right near the end too!

To all the course markers – having marked part of the course myself I have a new appreciation for what an important (and at times challenging) job it is! Having run the course I think I got an easy section to mark and I can only imagine how challenging that last section would have been to mark!

And of course to all the wonderful, wonderful volunteers along the way. Always willing to help out with getting drop bags, filling up bottles and generally doing anything that was needed. Events like this just could not happen without them!

Reckon I might have a few quiet weeks now! I’ve already told my Tuesday running buddies to slap me if I turn up to run on Tuesday!

Happy!

Heysen 105 2016 Part 1 – the lead-up…

By the time you read this, Heysen 105 2016 will be done and dusted, however I am writing it days before! Spooky!
If you’re just joining the party now, I’ll try to summarise as briefly as possible  (brevity not being one of my strengths!)

Heysen 105 is an ultramarathon run annually in South Australia, taking in part of the 1200km long Heysen Trail, starting at Newland Head (near Victor Harbor) and finishing in a campground in Kuitpo Forest. It is a growing event, with numbers rising steadily each year. It is run by Yumigo, one of the big players in the SA running scene, particularly in trail and ultra races. Last year for the first time there was a 57km option which proved popular and returned again this year as well as a new 35km event for those who may not feel up to an ultra distance.

Why run 100+ km? I asked that very question to some of my fellow Heysen entrants (as well as asking what they hoped to get out of it) and these were a few of their answers:
Michelle: “…because last year’s attempt went pear shaped, with quite a few “obstacles” along the way … This year I am determined to do the whole kahuna. It’s my 3rd attempt at 100km, since March last year.”

Shane: “Best friend is getting married on the same weekend as my normal Endurance long course Triathlon. So needed a new challenge for the year. So signed up for the 57km straight away. After some encouragement by yourself , Anna and Simon. Decided to go the full hog and do THE big one. Utterly scared shitless. But equally excited.”

(What are you hoping to get out of the day?) 
“The achievement of knowing I completed it. No one can take that away. I have found the whole journey from Christmas time to now to be exciting, and the trail running community is very friendly and encouraging”

Sheena: “This is my 3rd Heysen & I will always enter events that I’ve loved & I prefer not to miss a year….bit of a compulsion. I am planning to have a fun day/night out with Tracey & Michelle. Looking forward to seeing all the other crazies & as a side goal would like to finish my year with a pb.”

I did the 105 last year and you can read about it here. I did it last year as a precursor to the Ultra-Trail Australia 100km event in May this year – I wanted to know I could manage a 100k before tackling the Blue Mountains. This year I was hoping for a PB, sub 14 hours, given that I had wasted a fair bit of time getting lost last year. Unfinished business, you might say. Plus, it’s a fantastic day/night out with awesome people!

So, a quick summary of my week. I ran as usual on Tuesday morning and caught up with the regular crew for coffee where I made final plans with my buddy runner Gary. Buddy runners are permitted from Checkpoint 3 (57km), the idea being to have someone fresh to keep you from getting lost in the dark! I had told Gary he could meet me at CP4 or even CP5 as I planned to be well past the last checkpoint before dark, but he wanted to do a longer run so was keen to meet me at CP3. I was very lucky to have Gary as a buddy, he is a fantastic runner, has done buddy running before, and he ran Boston this year so I’d be able to pick his brains! Also he lives very close to me so his wife Christine would be able to drop me home after. So no car fiasco this year! (Fellow Tuesday runner Riesje, doing the 57, had offered to pick me up from home which was so good!)

Wednesday I thought it would be a good idea to go out to Masters Athletics at the track and do a 1000m race. I also entered the 2000 but decided quickly that this would be tempting fate. I ran a pleasing 3:45 for the 1000m (my first time running a 1000m race) and hope to improve on that during the season. 

Thursday morning I did an abbreviated run, an easy 5k with fellow 105-er Marc, his buddy runner Arwen, and 57k runner Louise. I started getting my food prepping done after work that day – so glad I did, this stuff takes AGES! Plus I really should be sponsored by Glad given the number of Zip-Loc bags I used!

Friday I went for a leisurely coffee with my regular running buddies and then drove to Myponga to mark part of the course with Tina (who had marked the same section last year). Fellow 105-er Justin had somewhat unkindly told me to let Tina do the marking and me just carry the gear. Some things never leave you!

Marking was enjoyable and we got to see some beautiful views that we’d never see during the race. Other than a lovely patch of mud (Tina nearly lost a shoe in there while she stopped to take a photo!) the section was pretty OK – no major detours required. At one point I realised I was only carrying one of the two 5km marker signs I was meant to have so I had to quickly dash back  (fortunately only about 100m round trip) to get the other one. On the way back to Tina I managed to slip and fall on my arse – best not be doing that in the race!

Once we’d finished marking I went to the Bakery On O’Connell for two of their amazing vegan chocolate donuts – one each for Gary and me – to go in my finish line drop bag. I told the girl behind the counter what I was doing and I finished by saying “I am REALLY looking forward to eating this!”

Then it was home to finish packing, sort out my outfits and have dinner  (vegan mac and cheese, same as before Yurrebilla, I had frozen the leftovers!).

I decided to tempt fate and try a different skirt that I’d never done a big race in, and 2 tops that had never done more than a 12k run.  Time would tell if that was a bad move!

Alarm set for 3:30am (yikes!) in preparation for my 4:30am pick-up, naturally it was an early night, but not before taping my feet up so you could hardly even recognise them as feet. A very wet course meant either frequent changes of shoes and socks, or potential blisters from wet feet. I opted to tape and hope for the best!

Stay tuned for Part 2 – I think it will be a long one!

​RACE REPORT – YURREBILLA TRAIL 56k ULTRA 2016

Yurrebilla can be many things. For many people, just an awesome day out with great food and fantastic company. For others, a chance to push themselves to the limit. 2016 marked the 10th edition of Yurrebilla and it was always going to be a special
day.

This was my second time tackling this challenging event. Last year was my first and you can read all about it here.

My preparation this year was, admittedly, not the greatest. Last year, after running the Gold Coast Marathon in early July, I focused all my attention on getting myself prepared for Yurrebilla. This year, I have done way more big events and therefore found myself very underdone in the trail running department. After UTA100 in May I
didn’t even run a trail for over 3 months while I focused on my 2 marathons and
trying to let my hamstring recover.

My only Yurrebilla training run, 3 weeks ago, was a 41k which covered the last 2/3 (and a bit) of the course and took me 6 hours. I was hoping for a sub 7 hour Yurrebilla, which looked pretty far from reality after that run! (Last year I ran 7:07 and did ‘waste’ a fair bit of time stopping at checkpoints. Realistically all I had to
do was cut down a bit of time at the stops to get my sub 7.)

A week and a half before the event, a freak storm hit Adelaide and washed away parts of the trail, and even one of the roads we were meant to run on! Amazingly, within a
very short space of time, the organisers redesigned the course to bypass the
unsafe/inaccessible sections, and ensure the race would go on! There was some
debate among people who were familiar with the usual course and the new bits,
as to whether it was going to be faster or slower.

A few informal training runs took place in the week leading up to the event, introducing people to some of the new bits. I decided it was best to stay in the dark – I
had run UTA100 having seen only a small section of the course, so I didn’t think there was really anything to gain by getting a preview!

Despite taking it relatively easy in the week leading up to Yurrebilla, I had done 46km prior to race day. Tuesday I did my fast run for the week, followed by a ‘bonus’ 5k trot
with The Running Company Run Club on Wednesday evening, where we were joined by Yurrebilla ambassador (and all round top chick) Lucy Bartholomew. Thursday’s
regular run was meant to be an easy one but ended up being a bit faster than planned! On Friday, rather than the speed training I’ve been doing, I went for a gentle hill run with my running group. Then on Saturday I did a very cruisy parkrun in the rain. I realised after that, that after Yurrebilla I would have done 99.5km for the week. So I did what any sane person would do – went for a quick trot around the block in the rain to make sure I reached that magical
100km milestone – it’s pretty rare that I would get close to 100k in a week so
of course I had to!

This year I had opted for the 8am start wave instead of 7am like last year. Having completed last year’s event in just over 7 hours, I was confident that 9.5 hours would be more than enough to complete the course (the cutoff time is 5:30pm regardless of start time). 

I had originally entered Yurrebilla in the
super earlybird period prior to Christmas, and had selected the final,
8:30 wave. I had thought, if I’m going to start at 8, I might as well start at 8:30 with the elites, what’s another half an hour? (Plus, another half hour’s sleep!) I was convinced by regular running buddy Gary of the merits of starting at 8. In the 8:30 group I would surely be one of the slowest, and therefore
would be on my own for much of the day.
8:00 would be a happy medium and I
would have more chance of having company out there, as well as eventually
overtaking some of the
7am and 6am starters. Decision made. I was starting at
8!

For the 8am start I needed to be on a bus near the finish at Athelstone at 7. (The 7am start bus ended up being at 5:30, due to the size of that particular start group! Another
good reason for me to start at 8!)

I hadn’t settled on my kit until the night before. I had a few parts of my outfit organised but there were a few pieces of the puzzle that still needed to be put into place. My black lululemon skirt over Skins shorts was a trail running standard – black
being the most practical colour for what promised to be a muddy run, and the skirt has a zip pocket plus a couple of waist pockets to stash snacks. I had my Salomon Speedcross 3 shoes and black Nike socks (the socks which would probably be due for the bin after Yurrebilla, having run through some pretty stinky mud over the last few months – at least I hope it was mud!) I did have a BEAUTIFUL new pair of trail shoes but decided this was NOT the day to break them in! My usual white hat was in the kit as well as a buff.

I ended up going with a green lulu T-shirt which I’d done one long run in. Normally I run in a singlet but it was to be a cooler day and also a T-shirt would make reapplication of sunscreen a lot easier. Then I added my signature rainbow arm warmers and blue Compressport calf sleeves. In addition I decided to wear my
cycling gloves that I’d worn for UTA. I was reliably informed that the climbs at the end were a bit brutal and I thought I might be on hands and knees at some point! Plus, if I did fall over (which, let’s face it, was not out of the realms of possibility) the gloves would save my hands.

I had opted to wear my larger Ultimate Direction backpack rather than the smaller one I’d used last year. This was so I could carry more in the way of food and drink, and thereby cut down the time spent at aid stations. Food-wise I’d packed 2 ‘Snickers’
sandwiches (peanut butter and chocolate spread on white bread), 2 nut bars, and
a bag of almonds and Lifesavers (which I didn’t end up touching!) I didn’t need
much in the way of food because there was plenty of good stuff at the aid stations, but it was good to have something to eat in between stations, especially when climbing steep hills when I’d have to be walking anyway. Hydration-wise I had 2 500mL bottles of Gatorade, plus 3 extra scoops of
powder. In my bladder I had around 750mL of water – I don’t tend to drink much water at all during runs and with the cooler weather I thought that would be ample.

This year the organisers had seen fit to give us all 2 bibs, one to be worn on the front
(with timing chip) and another one, just with our first name, to be worn on the
back. I really liked this idea and I hope they keep it going in future, because it meant we could yell out encouragement to the people we were passing, and people passing us could also encourage us. I think it really adds to the community feel of Yurrebilla. (Unfortunately a lot of people didn’t wear the back bibs, or they put them on the back of their shirts and then put a backpack
over the top!)

The night before, I had an early night, after having had a delicious vegan mac and cheese and a glass of red for dinner. I got up at 5:30 for the standard brekky shake
(Weetbix, oats, cacao, chia and almond milk) and getting all my gear together.
I had opted for a drop bag at Morialta (around the 35k mark) purely because the
course promised to be wet and muddy, and I thought a change of shoes and socks
would be wise. I also threw in a change of top and arm warmers, and some more
Gatorade powder and a sandwich. We also had the option of a drop bag at Cleland
(22km) and at the finish. I did have a finish drop bag which was mainly warm clothes, sandals, and my 2016 Yurrebilla singlet which, superstition dictated that I could NOT wear before the race!

At 6:30 I was at Gary’s place to get a lift to Athelstone. Gary’s partner Christine had already started, in the 6am wave. Fortunately she had managed to get a lift to the start at Belair, otherwise she would have had to be on a bus at 4:30!

It was only a small group on the bus, I think there were 17 people booked but a few of them didn’t show. There were a few familiar faces – Uli, Josh and Leon among them. I didn’t see anyone that looked like my pace – they were all quite fast! However, I had always planned to do my own thing so that didn’t bother me!

We arrived at Belair Railway Station with about half an hour to spare. I had my energy drink, put on some sunscreen and did a quick portaloo stop before taking my drop bags to the correct places and getting my bib scanned to ensure I received a finish time. And a quick selfie with a couple of guys in bright rainbow outfits.

And before I knew it, we were away!

Echo Tunnel was about 2km in and it is one part of the course I never enjoy! It’s quite low which means I have to duck to avoid hitting my head, and also very dark, even with the lanterns that were there to light it up. I had my hand torch on but that didn’t even seem to do anything! I hoped no-one behind me was wanting to run because I was walking with my hand on the wall the whole time, until I could literally see the light at the end of the tunnel and with relief I started running again!

I had printed out the estimated splits at all the aid stations for my goal 7 hour time, laminated it and attached it to my backpack, so I could see how I was tracking. 

Aid station 1 was at Sheoak Road at 5km and other than a quick selfie and picture of my watch, I didn’t stop. I was 4 minutes ahead of schedule. As per tradition the volunteers were all in onesies and seemed to be having a great time!

Then we hit the awesome fun of the switchbacks which were a bit slower than last year because of the mud and general slipperiness – it was a bit early to be falling over! Thankfully I didn’t, and heading down Brownhill Creek Road I started following
a guy in a bright orange T-shirt (and no back bib!). We got off the road and onto the trail heading up to the next station at McElligott’s Quarry. I saw him stop to a walk and then head into the bushes so I decided to stop following him at that point! Eventually he caught up and we ran together for a bit. I didn’t get his name but he had a Spanish-ish accent. I think from memory it was his first Yurrebilla and he was aiming for about 6.5 hours. After the quarry I didn’t see him again.

I reached the quarry in 1:03, 12 minutes ahead of my cheat sheet. Again, I didn’t need anything other than a quick selfie and watch photo! A few of the people at the aid station were laughing at the whole selfie thing and saying things like “You know this is a race, right?” but it was really only for my records, just so I could look back on it afterwards and see where I could have done things differently!

The next stop was Kavell’s, where my parents were going to come and see me. Not long before this the first of the 8:30 runners started to overtake me. The first one took me by surprise, and the second one was a familiar face, Andrew, who passed me just as I went through a gate, so I thought I’d hold the gate for him!

I reached Kavell’s 10 minutes ahead of schedule, luckily my parents were early otherwise I would have missed them! I grabbed one of Maurice’s famous vegan brownies and went to have a quick chat and photo with the folks. I also reapplied my sunscreen at this stage – Mum finally managed to find the little bottle in my backpack which saved me the trouble of having to take my backpack off!

From there it was up Mount Barker Road into Cleland. The course had changed a bit there – the Waterfall Gully to Mount Lofty track was closed, and part of that track is part of the Yurrebilla Trail. Before reaching the Cleland aid station I was passed by a few familiar faces, Mick and Dej, who both seemed to be in great form. I also caught up to regular parkrun buddies Liam and Tom who were both struggling a bit. I ran/walked with them for a little while before taking off.

After what seemed like an eternity I reached the Cleland aid station. First stop was the toilets, before heading into the station to fuel up. I was looking forward to some boiled salted potatoes but was a bit devastated to find that they’d run out! I did manage to grab a vegan brownie and some fruit cake and top up my Gatorade bottle. Regular running buddy Kay was there, in a bad way with cramps, and I thought that was the end of her day but in the end she got to 45km, unfortunately not quite able to make it to the end of her first Yurrebilla.

Another good friend Nat was there, volunteering her podiatry services and by
all accounts she was kept quite busy!

I left Cleland just a few minutes ahead of schedule. The next milestone was the 28km, or halfway point. At around that point, at a slightly tricky road crossing, were 2 familiar faces as road marshals – Shannon and Brian. I broke into the chorus of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” before crossing the road and heading back up the trail towards the Coach Road aid station. (That would be the only singing that I did throughout the day!)

I was a bit behind schedule when I reached Coach Road but didn’t really need to stop here so pushed on. I had thought I was still well ahead of schedule and I was getting close to where I thought Beck and Kate were coming out to cheer me and some of the other runners on, Norton Summit. So as I headed into the next aid station at Woods Hill, I quickly texted Beck to request a lemonade icy pole. This had been so appreciated last year when James brought them for us, but I had been doubtful as to whether it was the right weather this year for an icy pole! As it turned out, despite a few showers earlier, it had warmed up a bit and I had decided yes, I definitely wanted one.

I reached Norton Summit and couldn’t see any sign of Beck and Kate, so I gave Beck a call. Turned out they were a few kilometres up the road at Morialta Cottage, so I kept going. As I heard them yelling at me to hurry up, I could see two familiar backs in front of me, Di and Michael. They, along with Marc, had decided that it might be fun to start at Athelstone at 8pm the night before, run the trail in reverse, then start in the 6am group with Arwen, Michael and Toni. Hmm, yeah, that sounds like fun – NOT!

 Alas Kate had forgotten the icy poles but they did have some DELICIOUS vegan Anzac biscuits for me, along with Coke and water. I grabbed some chips and a sip of nice fresh water (the water in my bladder was by now warm with a delightful hint of plastic, so wasn’t very appealing!) before getting going again! As much as I would have loved some Coke, I was saving that for after the 40km mark. Having reread last year’s race report, I had wished I had started drinking Coke from around that point. I had been reluctant to start drinking it in case I then craved it. Consequently I hadn’t drunk it at all until the finish.

Apparently I was back ahead of schedule by the time I reached Morialta Cottage. At the official aid station I was excited to see potatoes! I quickly downed one, dipped in salt, and a brownie, and topped up my Gatorade. Nat was there again and got a pic of me stuffing my face!

I think it was here that I saw Graham, an distance running veteran, looking a bit shabby in the back of a station wagon and doubtful if he would continue!

Not long after Morialta I saw a very familiar runner – Terry Cleary, the Godfather of Yurrebilla (the one who started it all!) I caught up with him and had a quick chat with him before taking off. He said he was struggling a bit, and given that he lives in Darwin where there are NO hills, his training was a bit lacking!

The next aid station was Moores Road, 40km, staffed by the CFS fireys. After the bright yellow uniforms, the first thing I saw was that they had Coke! I was very excited by this and decided to have 2 cups because it was just so damn delicious! I was right on target – 40km in 5 hours. Just 16km to go!

Somewhere around here I saw a few more familiar faces – first there was Stirling, who looked like he was limping a fair bit and when I caught up with him he told me that he had torn his calf a week ago! Naturally, the thought of not running Yurrebilla probably hadn’t even entered his mind! Then I heard the familiar voice of Ziad, and ran/walked with him briefly.

The next stop was the bottom of Orchard Trail and I’d actually made up some time, according to my cheat sheet I was 2 minutes ahead of schedule. I think this was the station where there was a creek crossing just afterwards and I pretty much chose the hardest way across the creek and ended up on my hands and knees on rocks in the middle of the creek. Fortunately I didn’t fall in as there would have been plenty of witnesses and undoubtedly photos!

AND THEN…

That was when the big climbs started. First we had Orchard Track at around 45km, with about 30% gradient over 500m. Here, for the first time ever, I felt the need to pick up a big stick and use that to drag myself up. Around me at this point was a woman with poles and a guy who seemed to be doing it way too easily. From then on my ‘running’ joke was offering people $20 (all the money I had on me) for their poles. Surprisingly no-one took me up on the offer! I ditched the stick at the top of Orchard Track as there was a runnable section after that and I didn’t fancy carrying the stick while trying to run.

After Orchard, which seemed to go on forever, we met Boobook Track at about 47.8km which was a similar distance to Orchard and just as steep! As I saw the track up ahead I screamed out “NOOOOOO!” and said “I think I’m going to cry now”. (I didn’t – I needed every scrap of energy just to get up that damn hill!)

Next was ‘Ambers Loop’, the ‘sting in the tail’. At 49km there was a group of pirates, and then I saw a regular running buddy Paul who had started in the 8:30 group and had passed me earlier. I was surprised to see him as I thought he would have been further ahead of me. Turned out, he was on his way back down after the loop. He was WAY ahead of me! We had to go along a track where we met fellow runners on their way back out of the loop and heading towards the finish line. Although I hated the fact that we got that close to the finish STILL with over 7km to go, I did like seeing other runners who I wouldn’t otherwise have seen – the likes of Karen, Sue, Christine and Gary (Gary was ahead of Christine, unlike last year when Christine finished just ahead of him and MC Karen took great pleasure in announcing that fact!). 

After that section we ran downhill for about 2km. That can’t be good – “What goes down must come up”. And boy did we come up!

had met Ambers Ridge once before but didn’t remember it. I won’t forget it now!

It is way worse than Black Hill, the normal big climb towards the end of Yurrebilla. It is a climb of about 1.5km, mostly on Besser blocks (a bit like Black Hill). The slope is up to 38 degrees. Here I met James, who I’d done a few trail runs with since the Adelaide Marathon. He had started at 7 and was still looking pretty strong.


He’d been to a wedding interstate on Friday and had entered Yurrebilla semi-last minute when he realised the wedding was not on the Saturday as he had first thought!

Also on the climb I ran into Tim, who was a fellow 8am starter who I’d done a couple of group trail runs with. He was also aiming for 7 hours but had pretty much decided that was out of the question (this was the point at which I decided that I wasn’t going to be able to crack 7 hours, and decided to stop looking at my watch except to see the kilometres tick over).

The whole loop, from when we first met the pirates to when we saw them again, was around 5.6km. And it was a looooong 5.6km!

Then we were back onto familiar territory, the usual descent back down to the finish. That is a technical steep descent of around 1.5km. I wasn’t able to run it as quickly as usual because I’d smashed my legs on the climbs, plus it was a bit slippery and of course I didn’t want to fall over, because I highly doubted I’d be able to get back up!

 Somewhere around here I passed Simon, who was an 8:30 starter, having passed me much earlier. I said as I passed him, “I’m just going to pass you, because then I can say I passed you, feel free to pass me again!” (He didn’t, but he still managed a sub-7 hour time)

And then, after the challenging descent, that finish! What a great feeling, getting called across the finish line by MC Michelle, and then seeing both my parents there to watch me finish. My watch showed 7:19 on the dot (around 12 minutes slower than last year) and my official time was exactly the same.

Then came the best part – celebrating with friends, and watching others finish. 

Beck and Kate presented me with a glass of sparkling wine which I gladly accepted, and the long-awaited lemonade icy pole!

It was great to see that Graham had finished. He had been picked up by Liam and Tom after being on the verge of pulling out, and ran/walked most of the rest of the course with them. Whe I saw him he was wearing a T-shirt that said ‘Everything hurts and I’m dying’ which summed it all up nicely!

I stayed until the cut off time of 5:30. Karen’s husband Daryl, who had walked with Mike, made it with half an hour to spare (last year he made it by mere minutes). We were standing around anxiously awaiting the last 2 Yurrebilla Legends, John and Terry, who both made it within the last 10 minutes. All the other Legends had already finished. Not long after those two, Kristy finished with running buddy Uli, who had long since finished but went back up to run the last little bit with her. I saw a fair bit of that, lots of people crossing the line in pairs or threes, and people going back to finish with their friends. MC Michelle even went back up to cross the line with her husband Mark.

Once the finish line was closed I made my way back home, as a few of us were going out for a Thai meal. I find that spicy food is an excellent recovery meal so I went with a green curry which was delicious, along with the best part of a bottle of Jansz sparkling – I’d forgotten that last year I’d brought a bottle of Jansz to the finish line! I guess that’s tradition now! I managed to manoeuvre myself into my compression pants, which I would leave on for a good 24 hours to aid recovery.


So – time for a quick bit of analysis. According to Strava I got 15 personal records (ie segments faster than last year). I was on track for a sub 7 hour until the 44km mark. The ONLY thing that stopped me was those f***ing climbs at the end. And that’s just a training thing. My lack of hill training really found me out. Considering the
training I’ve done, I have to be really happy with that run.

A MASSIVE thankyou to Race Director Barry McBride, MC and general legend Michelle Hanlin, and all on the Yurrebilla committee for making this event the brilliant day that it always is, especially given the massive challenge of having to change the course at the last minute (yeah, maybe not so much thanks to Barry and Matt Angus and any other sadists involved in devising the last 12km!!!) Thanks also to the fantastic volunteers and supporters, the fabulous Race Ambassadors Majell and Lucy, and last but not least all the wonderful runners/walkers for the brilliant camaraderie out there – according to the results it looks like we had 464 finishers, a big jump from last year’s record of 400!

So, what’s next?

In 4 weeks I’ve got the Heysen 105km ultra where I am confident of a PB. Before that, I’ve got the McLaren Vale half marathon in 2 weeks where I am the 2 hour pacer. I’ll try to sneak in a few nice long trail runs too!

Next year – that sub 7 hours will be mine!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking the scenic route!

Trail running is a funny thing. Distances are not precise like they are in road races. Case in point, last Sunday’s trail race which went from 18k to 19 to 21 before settling at 19.5k. There is always going to be variation – different people will follow different paths while still staying on course, surprise obstacles can crop up, and of course a whole group of people can run the EXACT same route and ALL get different distances on their watches.
(Road runs are not ALWAYS a set distance. Local knowledge is important. Last weekend I went to a parkrun (not mentioning any names!) and managed to make what should have been a 5km run into a 5.2km run. The absence of the turnaround flag was not an issue for most of the runners, who were regulars and knew where the flag was MEANT to be. I found myself on my own, not seeing where the people behind me had turned, looking at my watch and realising I must have gone too far, and seeing the guy behind me turn around. It may have been an omen for the trail run to come that night – we’ll get to that.)

Then, there’s the other way that trail runs become longer (or shorter, but nearly always longer) than expected. Getting lost, or as we like to call it in trail running circles, ‘going exploring’.

One early example of this was during the Summit to Sea social run a few years back. It is a run from the top of Mount Lofty down to Brighton beach, traditionally following the Sea to Summit trail. It is ‘meant’ to be 34km and includes a hill climb at O’Halloran Hill late in the piece (but on the plus side there was a drink station there). Somehow we managed to miss a turn, cut out the OHH climb and drink stop, and cut it back to 32km. I later found out that SA trail running legend Terry Cleary said that the run was “from the Summit to the Sea, doesn’t matter which way you go!” 

It wasn’t a race so it didn’t matter.

I memorably ‘went exploring’ in a large field during the Heysen 105 last year, a mistake I won’t make again. I can’t guarantee I won’t stray from the traditional route at some point, but I won’t make THAT mistake again!

This past weekend I organised a small group to run the last section of Heysen 105, usually around 18km, on Saturday night. This training run is traditionally held at night as the majority of people will finish, if not start, this section in darkness. The fact that the training runs are being held earlier this year meant that daylight saving hasn’t yet started, so instead of starting at dusk, it was already dark by the time we kicked off the run. Partner in crime Kate and I had decided to do the run a week earlier than the scheduled group run, because next weekend is the City-Bay Fun Run and we didn’t really fancy a potentially very late night and long trail run the night before what we hoped to be a fast road run! We put the call out to see if anyone wanted to join and on the night we had 13 other keen runners join us for our little adventure!

We had organised that people would stick together in small groups so no-one would be on their own, and I asked people to message me when they got back, so I would know we hadn’t lost anyone. 

After meeting at the finish and carpooling back to the start, we headed off shortly after 7pm. Ziad, who I am guessing probably knows the trail better than any of us, and is frequently seen at trail races as sweeper, offered to stay at the back. He was running with Laura, who was hard to miss in her hi-viz yellow top and amazing glow-in-the-dark tights! Everyone else settled into their small groups and followed the Heysen trail reflective markers. 

It was super muddy and wet, as Ziad had warned us (he had recently run this section during the day) and we quickly gave up on the idea of trying to find a dry path. There wasn’t one.

I ran with Glen for a while – he had done Heysen several times and he pointed out to me where he had gone astray last year. Once again – once you’ve made a mistake on a particular route, you can be sure you won’t do the same thing again!

I dropped back to run with Kate and James. I had met James 3 weeks earlier at the last Heysen training run and had seen him every weekend since – our 41km Yurrebilla epic training run, and Mt Hayfield the following week. 

Things were going well – we were following the arrows, crossing creeks, running through mud and sand, and we’d got to about 13km, expecting we had about 5km to go, when we ran into Ziad and Laura. Supposedly they were the back of the group! We had somehow taken a 3.5km detour and STILL had 8.5km to go! How had this happened? We were definitely following the Heysen arrows!

Apparently we went wrong twice, but I can only explain one. It was a good lesson to learn. At some point we had followed the wrong arrow and gotten off the Heysen trail. The Heysen arrows are red but we had followed some blue ones. In the dark of course, they all looked the same! By the time we ran into the others we were back on the Heysen alright, but we were going in the opposite direction to what we were supposed to be! So theoretically, if we hadn’t run into them, we could have kept going all the way back to the start of the run! 

(The purple line on the map shows the route we SHOULD have taken – thanks to James for this map!)

So from then on we were very careful to make sure we were following the HEYSEN arrows. (Of course, on race day, there will be a lot of additional markers, and the markers in this section will be reflective.)
I checked my phone from time to time and got text messages from people who had finished and were heading home. We wondered if we might be the last ones back!

The other time when we could potentially have gone very wrong was right near the end when the Heysen marker indicated to go straight ahead, but we actually had to go right, up a road to the campground carpark where the cars were. On race day that will be marked with an arrow. Of course, the race doesn’t finish ON the Heysen trail. If we’d kept going we would have ended up in the Flinders Ranges! (I like to think we would have figured it out well before then!)

By the time we got back we’d done 22km and Ziad and Laura were the only ones yet to come in. They arrived maybe 10 minutes after us, and we could all go home to shower and clean our shoes!

So we did our fair share of exploring, but we learned some valuable lessons which will stand us in good stead on race day in 6 weeks. Plus, I got a blog post out of it!

Race report – Adelaide 6/12/24 hour


This past weekend I followed up my Gold Coast marathon in the only way I know how – with a 6 hour trot around a 2.2km loop…
I did this event for the first time last year and if you’re interested you can read about it here: https://randomthoughtsandracereports.wordpress.com/2015/07/12/47/
Just in case you don’t want to read that, here is a brief synopsis of what the event is all about.
There are 3 events – 6, 12 and 24 hours. The idea is to cover as much distance as possible in the allocated time.
During the week, I ran on Tuesday and Thursday. Tuesday was a bit rough but by Thursday the legs were feeling pretty good!
The race being on a Saturday rather than the usual race day of Sunday, I opted to do my shopping at the Central Market on Friday night rather than Saturday. As I often do when I go to the market on a Friday night, I had dinner at the food court – an AWESOME vegan place called Pure Vegetarian. Plenty of carbs in there – noodles and pumpkin, along with some eggplant and chickpeas. 
I was in bed reasonably early – I set my alarm for 4:15am so I could get to the start line at the Uni Loop super early – the plan being to get a spot as close to the start line as possible. I hadn’t organised a table or a spot in a tent, and I didn’t have any crew (not many 6 hour runners use crew) so my car was going to be my base camp. That way, if it rained (and the forecast for the morning was clear, but we all know the Bureau can get it wrong!) all my stuff would stay dry, and I’d have a place to sit undercover if needed!
Gear-wise, I would be better prepared than last year. For a start, GLOVES! It had been pretty chilly in the mornings and Saturday would be no exception. I went for ‘layer upon layer’.
The bottom half was the favourite Skins/lulu skirt combination and calf sleeves and socks rather than compression socks (I had a very iffy toenail from Gold Coast, which my awesome running friend and podiatrist Nat had very kindly patched up for me, and I thought the extra pressure from compression socks would be a bad idea) – I’d opted for black socks rather than white as I was fully expecting blood by the end of 6 hours! I’d also gone with trail shoes rather than roadies as the trail shoes are a bit bigger and therefore would give me more toe room.
On the top I started with a long sleeved running top, vest, arm warmers and a zip up long sleeved top. Also a buff to keep my ears warm. On top of all that I had a hoodie and track pants. And, of course, gloves!
Food-wise I went pretty simple. 2 white bread sandwiches. A new flavour combination – peanut butter and chocolate spread – like a Snickers! I also packed some nut bars, almonds and Lifesavers. Hydration would be Gatorade – I had a 500ml handheld bottle and also a big cooler bottle with 1.5 litres.
On Saturday I was up, breakfasted, dressed and out the door around 4:50. At the last minute I had thrown a singlet in my bag along with a T-shirt. I’d run all of last year’s event in long sleeves but it had been a cold, wet, miserable day. This time, the morning promised to be chilly but there was no rain forecast until the evening. 

I got to the start location about 5:05 and got a prime parking spot, just near the food tent. The race started at 6am and I’d already collected my bibs and timing chip (I totally just wrote ‘chiming tip!’) so I had plenty of time to get myself organised. I was seriously considering running the first few laps in my trackpants and hoodie! I had all the gear I might need, located in the front seat of my car. My bag of sandwiches was open, and my singlet conveniently located on the seat so I could quickly grab it if needed. I also had my iPod and headphones on the seat, in case I needed them later. I hadn’t used them last year simply because it had been raining and I didn’t want to get water in them! I was pretty confident I could get through 6 hours without music but it didn’t hurt to have it there just in case.
Unlike last year, I was there in plenty of time for a pre-race portaloo stop (pre-race is ALWAYS the best time to use a portaloo – they get increasingly unpleasant as the day goes on!) and then all I had to do was wait for the briefing and the 6am start!
And we were away!
We started in the dark – I reckon it was probably about an hour before the sun came out.
Within the first lap I was passed by fellow 6 hour runners Sarah (a well known ultra and trail runner and a great competitor – her partner Robbie was also there, awaiting the start of the 24 hour) and Samantha who I didn’t know but who also looked to be a big threat. Plus another girl called Tia who I didn’t know, from the 12 hour event which started at the same time. 
Last year I went in expecting nothing and was surprised to finish 2nd. This year I was hopeful of another podium finish but in the first lap I thought that was unlikely so I focused on my other goal of a 6 hour PB. I couldn’t remember exactly what distance I’d done last year but it was 60-point-something. So I’d aim for 61 just to be sure. I thought I’d count laps rather than rely on the distance my watch showed. 28 laps would do it.
After a couple of laps I took off my first layer, the zip-up top, and grabbed a sandwich from my car. I’d opted to lock my car – I had contemplated leaving it unlocked, but given that I’d worn gloves, my hands were functional enough to operate a key!
One hour in, I’d completed nearly 5 laps or 11km. It was a good start but that was with no walk breaks – walk breaks would be needed throughout the 6 hours, if only to get some food in. Eating real food as opposed to gels, you do need to walk in order to eat. I didn’t go in with a ‘walk/run’ strategy as I hadn’t needed it last year. I would run as much as I could and ideally only walk if I was eating. If I was doing 12 or 24 hours I would certainly be adopting a walk/run right from the start.
There was a computer screen with live results just past the start/finish line but I didn’t end up stopping to look at it at all – I didn’t want to lose momentum or get psyched out by seeing what other people were doing. As long as I kept count of my laps I didn’t need any more information.
Among the runners were many familiar faces and some new ones. A lot of people had come from interstate which goes to show what a highly regarded event this is!
In the 12 hour was Wayne, back again after being the event ambassador last year. He was on fire – I lost count of the number of times he lapped me! There was Luke, well known for running in sandals! I asked him if he had cold feet – he said no, and he still had all his toenails! Might be something in that… 
Rebecca I had met during the track 100k earlier in the year. She was aiming for 100k in the 12 hours after having finished second and missing out on the 100 last year. This was a training run for her. I asked, what is a 100k run a training run FOR? Oh, just a 100 miler next weekend! Also in the 12 hour was Matt, who along with Race Director Ben was the brains behind the trial 6/12 hour trail loop run I’d done a month or so back. He was also training a young guy called Tyler, only 15 years old, who is a real up-and-comer and was doing the 6 hour. Other familiar faces in the 12 were Toby, whose partner Bridget was doing the 6, Kath, who had done the 24 before but never the 12, and Anna, who I’d met last year at the same event. Early on I met Emma who was going for 100km and who had run last year through the night with Lee, the eventual winner.
The 6 hour had 60 listed starters, the most popular of the 3 distances on offer. Not surprising really – 6 hours is really doable and a good chance to do a first marathon or 50k.
I knew a lot of the 6 hour runners but a few need to be mentioned – Debbie and Karen got the ‘best dressed’ award for their matching tutus and Debbie was even wearing a blue wig for the whole 6 hours! Carolyn, who I didn’t actually meet until after the 6 hours was over, had only been running for a few months! Remarkable! The always quiet and reserved Michelle was there, modelling the new Yurrebilla T-shirt, along with her daughter Emma. The usual suspects from last year included Chris and Shannon who I would see frequently throughout the morning!
It wasn’t long before the gloves came off. Soon the buff was replaced by hat and sunnies as the sun actually made an appearance! Heading east in the back half of the loop, I was very grateful for the sunnies, as the sun was a bit blinding! Bit of a contrast from last year!
9:00 marked the halfway point and the first turnaround (turnarounds happen every 3 hours to break up the monotony!). I reached 14 laps right on 9:00 – I was halfway to my goal and right on track. 9:00 also marked the time when my friend Leanne arrived with the pre-arranged coffee (my coffee deliverer from last year, James, had abandoned me this year to go on a trail run!) which once again was MASSIVELY appreciated! I walked with Leanne as I drank my coffee and then she was off to have brekky with James and the rest of the trail running crew.
Amazingly, at some point in the morning, I actually decided it was too warm for the long sleeves! I was very glad I’d thrown the singlet in – the next time I passed my base camp (aka my car) I did a quick wardrobe change, leaving the arm warmers on just in case it got cooler again. It was a bit of a procedure which started probably 500m from the car – first I removed my Garmin, being careful not to accidentally stop it, then my arm warmers, and I had my key in my hand, ready. I got to the car and quickly changed the long sleeved top for the singlet, grabbed a sandwich and kept moving. Over the next few hundred metres I put my arm warmers back on and then my watch. In the process I realised my watch had stopped – disaster! I quickly started it again and checked my watch on my other wrist which displayed the time. It seems the watch had only been stopped for a minute or less – crisis averted!

Around this time the 24 hour runners started assembling for the 10am start. There were a few veterans, notably Barry and Karen. There was Marc, having a second crack at it after having to pull out due to injury last year. There were also a LOT of first timers! Rula was ably supported by Hoa and Bev. Tania, Katie and Laura were all also doing 24 hours for the first time.
I had my energy supplement not long after the 24 hour runners started. Not surprisingly, I passed a lot of them on the first few laps – they had a LONG way to go – while being regularly lapped by the likes of Wayne and Tia.
My pace was sitting comfortably around 5:46. 6:00 pace would put me at 60km, so even factoring in the inaccuracy of the GPS, I was well on track for a PB.
I reached the 5 hour mark. One hour to go! According to my watch I was on just under 51km which was on target. I was around the other side of the Uni Loop from the start/finish area. I set myself a goal – 5 laps, or 11km, in the last hour. That was ambitious (average pace 5 min 27 per kilometre) but achievable, and kept me focused for the last hour.
As per last year, my pace increased significantly over the last 5km or so. I managed to pull out a 5:13 right near the end! With about 15 minutes to go. I passed the start/finish line. Each runner was given a personalised sandbag with a flag sticking out of it. My average lap time was 12:44 (although I didn’t know that at the time) and I was confident I could get around one more time before time ran out. The sandbag was awkward to carry so I didn’t want to pick it up until I was sure it was my last lap.
I made it around in plenty of time, grabbed my sandbag on the run, and pushed it to the finish. I was looking at my watch – I knew I was about a minute out, and not long after that, there was the siren to signify the end of the 6 hours! I dropped my sandbag and made my way back to the start. Some smart person pointed out that we could walk straight across the grass rather than all the way back around! This was when I met Carolyn who had just completed a marathon after only a few months of running! My legs were so stiff after I stopped running, it was incredible!
After a slice of vegan pizza I quickly went back to the car to get some warm clothes on, take off my shoes and put my comfy sandals on (SUCH a relief!) and await the presentation. I was told I’d done 28 full laps, plus the part lap which was yet to be measured. So it was definitely a PB, I was stoked with that!
The medals were presented to the females by distance covered (lowest to highest) and then to the males in the same order. As names and distances were read out, I thought, I could be a chance here! I hadn’t looked at the computer screen because I hadn’t really contemplated a placing, but once 4th place had been announced and I hadn’t heard my name, I knew I was on the podium! 3rd place went to Sarah on 57.668km and then 2nd was Samantha on 58.155. Next, I was blown away to be announced as the first female on 62.199km and rewarded with a sweet trophy and bottle of Fox Creek Vixen (sparkling red, my favourite!). There was also a perpetual trophy which would have both the male and female winners names engraved on it. The male winner, Paul, had done an amazing 74.274km! I was 5th overall out of the 6 hour entrants (out of 58 starters, 34 females). Needless to say, I was pleased!
After treating myself to a vegan pasty and donut from the nearby Bakery On O’Connell, I went home for a shower and to get my compression tights on – ahhhhh! 
As I got organised to head back down to the Uni Loop for the end of the 12 hour, I got a missed call from Race Director Ben. I quickly called him back and he told me there had been a mixup with the results. Immediately I knew what he was going to say. In the event briefing it was stated that 12 hour runners were eligible for placing in the 6 hour event. Tia from the 12 hour had lapped me 3 times so of course she had covered more distance in the 6 hours! I had seen that in the briefing but assumed I must have read it wrong, it didn’t really seem fair! I was relegated to 2nd, still a podium finish, and Ben said I could keep my wine. I told him (possibly a bit tongue-in-cheek!) “I’ll bring back the trophy but you were never getting that wine back!”

So I made my way back to the Uni Loop, trophy in hand to return to Ben, to see the end of the 12 hour. I was expecting to see Tia fly by multiple times but surprisingly didn’t see her at all.
Just after the finish, and before the presentations, Channel 7 news were doing a live weather cross. Ben had got Michelle to organise some people to be ‘pretend runners’ to run small loops past Tim, the weather guy. I was one of the ‘pretend runners’ – most of them were volunteers and supporters – I think Michelle and I were the only ones who had participated in the actual event! Luckily I keep ’emergency running kit’ in my car so I threw on my old running shoes and shorts over my compression tights and socks. A few people said they saw us on the news – pretty cool! (By the 4th ‘lap’ the Channel 7 guy said that was enough. My legs said the same thing!)
The presentations for the 12 hour followed soon after. I was surprised to find out that Tia had finished second (no disrespect to the actual winner) – then found out she had pulled out after 100k in less than 9 hours and wasn’t there for the presentation! D’oh, I should have kept the trophy! (Just kidding!) The winner was Rebecca who had done 104km and was a very deserving winner! Third was Emma who had just missed out on cracking the 100km milestone. In the men’s 12 hour Wayne was a clear winner and Toby was 3rd, amusingly taking home the ‘3rd female’ trophy!
I stopped off at a nearby convenience store to buy a couple of loaves of bread after they had run out at the food tent, and was tempted to order myself an Indian takeaway but decided to have homemade curry from my freezer. Curry, wine, chocolate was my recovery meal!
Sunday morning I went to see the finish of the 24 hour. The eventual winner, Nicole, was looking strong and still running which was remarkable (most people were walking by now). Barry was in second place overall (first male) and on track for a PB. It was great to see such amazing performances – Nicole ended up breaking the course record and Barry got his PB. They were both worthy winners! Most of the 24 hour runners  were looking a little worse for wear at the presentation!
In preparation for this event I re-read last year’s blog. I am very happy with how my run went and I managed to avoid making the same mistakes as last year. I said last year that I would like to do the 24 hour ‘one day’. Without Gold Coast the week before, next year could have been the year for it. But now, unfinished business and all, I am determined to give the 6 hour another crack. If I can come into it fresh, unlike the last 2 years, I’m confident I can get another PB, and who knows, maybe I might even go one better than this year!
I was talking to Sarah and Robbie on Sunday morning (Robbie had pulled the pin due to injury but not before completing 100k for the first time – remarkable given that for a lot of it he was wearing what looked a lot like full scuba gear!)  and Sarah had said she had struggled with the loop concept -she has the endurance but feels she is much better suited to trails. Which got me thinking. I love road running, trail and even track. But maybe loops are my ‘thing’! I’ve done 2 6 hour races now and finished second both times, and got first female in a 100k loop race. Weirdly enough, I seem to enjoy the monotony! 

Well done to everyone who participated this year and ESPECIALLY to all the volunteers and of course Ben for making it all happen! See you again next year!