Fessing up

I”m not sure if I should be admitting this, but early on Thursday morning I got up and got dressed to go and hit the Honeymoon Trail for a stair session before work. It’s an awesome 1km staircase through the bush in the Royal National Park.

I packed my headtorch as it was still dark and set out in the car. What I failed to remember when I planned this session in my head the night before was….. spiders. I hate them. I’m scared of them and I will avoid them at all costs. So I got out of the car and proceeded towards the steps and did a few warm up exercises. I then started the ascent and went up about 4 stairs before I froze at the sight of a giant, no humongous, hairy spider that was blocking the path. Needless to say I legged it back down the stairs and quickly got back into my car. There was no way I was going up those stairs.

What a wuss!!

I know, I can hear you saying it. But i didn’t let it stop me from training as I drove to the local running track in Sylvania and punched out some intervals instead. Now that I have gotten that off my chest and it is out in open I can start from the beginning….

In preparation for the killer mountains that I am going to face during my races in March and May, I have decided to make stairs my friend. So last Tuesday a work colleague and I set out to run some stairs in Woolloomooloo, Sydney and it was not as hard as I had expected. I”m not sure if this is because we only did a short session or if I am getting stronger. I have been doing some hilly loops around home more frequently than usual so maybe it was helping. So when I got home that night I made a plan to incorporate more stairs into my training, and that’s when the Honeymoon Track came into my mind, and you know how that turned out!! ha ha

Anyway, last night while I was taking  my dog for a walk around the neighborhood I decided to go a slightly different way and I’m very glad that I did because I found a large staircase that will be great for training (and won’t have any spiders). Yay!!

Happy Friday and Happy Running! 😉

Following the pack

The Coastal Classic Course is a beautiful trail run which starts at Otford and ends in Bundeena. The logistics can be a bit tricky with a big group but it was well worth it. This is the most beautiful coastal course I have ever run.

sunrise

Our Sydney Striders crew met at 7.00 to start the Coastal Track, which is easily accessible from the Otford Train Station, you just have to walk up the big hill and turn left at the end of the road. I think I actually rode past this spot when I cycled the Sydney to the Gong a few years back as it looked very familiar. We had a few people turn up after the shot below, so i’m sorry if i’ve missed you you guys!

group before shot

The first section of the trail was tough as there was a lot of overgrowth and fallen trees, this was going to be a challenging run. For most of the first section I had to duck and weave and there were vines and long grass covering lots of the trail. A few sections were so covered that you could hardly make out where to head but luckily some of our crew had run this before so they knew where they were going.

My plan was to not get lost this week and to try and go a little faster than the week before. So I tried to stay with the biggest group that was closer to the back, one that had some experienced guys in it. It was tough keeping up with them for some sections but at other times it was easier.

Here’s a few shots of the long grass sections near the start. It was kind of cool being able to just see these heads popping out of the grass and not being able to see the ground. A little scary too as you’re not too sure what’s underfoot sometimes.

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running through the long grass 2

Our first really big hill came quite soon and I was looking forward to the view at the top.

up hil sun shot

And the view was spectacular!! We had just run a lot of that coastline…..

view of where we had just run from

And here’s a shameless selfie of Maria and I heading up one of the big hills.

uphill shot of maria and I

We also came across some really rocky sections ad I could feel my knees getting angry with me, I hoped there would be more softer ground to come. But this wasn’t exactly the type of softer ground that I had in mind.

beach run group shot

We ran across a couple of beaches and there were some campers at some of them too. They probably thought we were a crazy bunch of people running along as we were. I had half a mind to stop and take my shoes off to make it easier but that would have required a lot of effort and getting too much sand in my socks!

beach group shot

One of the experienced guys in our group Scott made sure he looked after the slow-bies like me at the back which was very much appreciated, as a few of us were really struggling today. Myself included. My knees got continually worse as the run went on and it wasn’t muscular, I wasn’t sure what it was but it did ease every time we were on the dirt/grass tracks. However the stones, rock and beach sections were not so nice to them.

Scott on rock

That’s Scott above and below is the rest of our group posing on a rock probably at about the 20km mark. The rock here was spectacular and the view incredible. I took a lot of photos this day and the views were a good distraction from how awful I was starting to feel.

group shot on rock

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coastal shot

Below is probably my favorite spot that we went past on the trail. There was a stream of water running down the hill and into the ocean and I felt so special to be able to see this beautiful little spot tucked away in the middle of nowhere.

beach view shot

We eventually got to what I thought was the last section which was a small road section to the Bundeena RSL club, however my crew had a different thought. The group had decided to run an extra 2-3kms along the soft sand all the way down to the beach and around the coast and I was not very happy about this. It’s not often I feel so negative and usually i’m the one wanting to run more. But by this point my knees were not very happy and I had been falling a good distance behind the main group. Luckily Tanya was kind enough to wait behind and give me directions for the last few turns and I’m grateful to her for this.

I’m also thankful to Emma who gave me the kick up the butt that I needed, telling me that I could do this.. even if I just walked it. So I gritted my teeth and followed the group down to the beach. I got overtaken by some other runners and also by one of our own Striders who had missed us at the start point. But I kept moving. And I finally got to the last beach….

bundeena beach

What an effort. It really was a struggle that day and i’m so lucky to have such a wonderful bunch of people to run with, without them I would have given up and at the end of the day it’s made me tougher than ever.

We had a quick dip in the beach at Bundeena and even though the water was freezing cold it felt amazing! Then we all hopped onto the ferry and headed back to Cronulla to get the train home.

I highly recommend this run to anyone considering it, and I will be back again soon to give it another shot despite feeling a little beaten. I love a good challenge!

Happy Running 🙂

Get Lost!

Last Saturday our Sydney Striders crew ran a trail in the Ku-Ring-Gai National Park which was named after one of the group’s runners who created the course, Clare’s Calamity.

We had a huge group of over 40 runners show up for this run which was great to see. And with just 7 weeks until the 6 Foot track Marathon it’s clear everyone was putting in the kms to be as prepared as possible. I can’t believe it’s only 7 weeks away, scary!!

group shot

Andy met us at the start and gave us all a map of the course with some directions on the other side, and it looked like we were running the shape of a butterfly. I stuck the map in my front pocket and hoped that it would stay dry. Must remember next time to bring a plastic sleeve to put the map in!

So we started off down the first section of the course which was fire trail and then hit some single-tracked rocky section down to the water. I could not believe the view with the fog over the water, it was supposed to hit over 40 degrees that day! Check it out!

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PICTURE 2

We also came past a local toilet block and everybody ducked in for one last pit stop before carrying on the trail. We crossed a bridge and made our way along some beautiful trails along the side of the mountain. It was very narrow and there were a lot of fallen trees to contend with but it was a lovely place to be.

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Here is a shot of my running buddies Lorena and Karen contemplating a river crossing, there were a few tricky spots but we helped each other across.

PICTURE 3

It was really heating up and the humidity meant that I was going through water quicker than normal, so I made a note to slow down a little to make sure i had enough to last the whole 30km trip. I had also put 2 Shotz tablets into my 2 litre hydration flask today, just trialing it to see if it makes a difference. I wanted to put it into a separate, smaller container but I didn’t have one so I guesstimated this measurement. Funnily enough I did notice that I felt better and more consistent for a longer period of time this week, there didn’t seem to be any peaks and troughs so maybe this had something to do with it.

I have put in an order for 500ml soft hydration flask but it hasn’t been delivered yet. I will use this to put 1 tablet with water and have it separate on my runs in future, well that’s the plan.

PICTURE 7

Leonor even decided to have a little rest on the wooden bench that had been provided, ha ha Actually she’s the fittest of us all and we thought it was hilarious that there were benches at every bend of this steep section on the course.

Leonor is running through the Sahara desert in April and is doing the equivalent of a marathon each day for 5 days, how hardcore is that! She’s an inspiration let me tell you. Such a bright, bubbly lady and I got some really good tips from her during the run too. Like the Gurney Goo, stops blisters entirely and is killer stuff.

This course had some really steep, hilly sections and most of them we walked. The view in my next photo below shows a spot that we had just run from, on the top of the other side of the valley.

PICTURE 5

And then we got lost… ha ha. In the photo below you can see a bridge that we stopped at to take photos and this is apparently where we went wrong. Ooops! We went over this bridge when apparently we should not have, and we ran quite a distance after this photo was taken.

PICTURE 6

When we eventually realised that we didn’t know where we were going, we turned back around and headed for the road section we passed a little while earlier. We knew how to get back to the start point from the road so we decided to take the less risky option as we had already been running for over 3 and a half hours.

So just before turning back we decided to have a selfie…. so here’s Karen, Leonor and myself on the right laughing and having a blast. It really was such an enjoyable run sharing the road with them and I hope I didn’t slow them down.

gals shot

So we ran along the road back to the cars and gossiped the whole way. What a hoot! A most enjoyable run and it’s thanks to Karen & Leonor.

Thank you so much ladies and happy running 😀

Find Your Feet Training Camp – Day 3

I woke up feeling only a little tired and kind of sad that I knew it was going to be our last run for the weekend. We had breakfast, checked out and geared up ready for the run.

We met at the bus and headed back to the spot where we had ended our run on Day/Night 1, Furber steps. This time when we got to the bottom we turned right, the guys were a bit ahead of me but I got to take this great shot below.

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This was probably my second favorite run of the weekend. Once we got through all the tress the sky opened up and I stopped for a moment to look around me…. we were basically running on the side of the mountain with nothing around us for miles. It was brown and dusty and a totally different perspective from the views we had seen on the other trails this weekend. It was very tough terrain, and I wish I had taken some time to get a picture of that spot. I made a mental note to return and do this run again, breathtaking!

Julie, Louise and i kept moving and every so often we stopped so Julie could point out landmarks and mountains and just to take in the view. I got a great silhouette shot of the Three Sisters too.

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We followed the side of the mountain for a while and eventually got to the bottom of the Golden stairs, these were going to be hard work. I had been told it was a very steep ascent and the steps were all different sizes, shapes and surfaces, so my plan was so take it slow and keep my breathing steady.

Boy were they tough! I’m a tall girl and even I struggled with the height of some of these steps, so I wasn’t sure how my shorter mates were going to find them. I even had to use the railings to pull myself up at some points. This was seriously tough and i’m thankful this part would be closer to the start of the course on race day.

When I got to the top of the Golden stairs I was lucky to have a few minutes spare to catch my breath while I waited for the other runners. It also gave me some time to take some more pictures.

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When Julie & Louise got to the top we still had some time to kill before we had to be back at the bus, so we decided to head north up the path to our left and run for another 20 minutes before turning around. And I’m glad that we did, the views up the top were magical.

It was all Fire Trail so nothing too technical which meant that we had time to admire this beautiful view. The Blue Mountains truly is a spectacular place to run. I’m so lucky I had been a part of this camp and got to experience this place. We live in such a beautiful world.

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We turned around after a short run up the hill and made our way back down towards the bus. Along the way Julie told us about the Trigger Plant, a small pink flower that has a trigger-like arm that snaps forward quickly in response to touch, harmlessly covering the insect in pollen. We found one along the path and used small sticks to get the trigger moving, it was pretty cool stuff and I would make sure that I looked for them again on race day. It could be something that I need to take my mind off the running 😉

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We got back to the bus and did some much needed stretching. I felt sad that our running weekend was coming to an end, but felt so lucky to have had the experience. I thanked Julie for her hours of putting up with my questions and probing, I was very fortunate to have spent so much time with her and I hope she knows how much I appreciated it.

Here’s a shot of Julie, myself and Louise before our bus trip back to showers and lunch.

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I headed for the showers as soon as we got back and then headed to the garden for a snack and a final round up with the crew. We went around the group and shared what we loved/learnt most from the camp and I had trouble picking just one.

I guess the whole camp had made me feel more confident that I can actually run 100km. I’ve now seen some of the course, the hard parts, and through each run, each session and each tip/technique, I now feel like I have the tools to get me to the start and finish line feeling positive (and not shit scared like I was last week, ha ha).

A huge thank you to Hanny, Graham, Simon, Julie & David for all their time, hard work, effort and encouragement throughout the camp. To all the other athletes it was a pleasure to meet you and run with you, as you were a lovely bunch. The camp has been one of the most positive and inspiring things I have ever done and I hope to attend another one very soon.

Happy trail running 😀

Find Your Feet Training Camp – Day 2 – Nutrition / Hydration

After a much needed shower due to the sweaty-but-totally-worth-it trails, I scoffed down some lunch & got my notepad and pen ready to learn all the Nutrition / Hydration tips I could from these experts.

I won’t go into all of the detail here, but there is some really good info on the Find Your Feet website. One of the articles on ‘Fueling for Performance’ you can view here: http://www.findyourfeet.com.au/blog/files/fueling-article-oa.pdf

From now on I will be hydrating with water, Shotz (electrolyte tablets mixed with water) and isotonic gels (as they don’t have too much sugar in them). I will probably be trialling some of the bars too so I will keep you posted.

After the session I had to leg it back to Sydney for a concert with my best mate, Melissa. I had bought us tickets for her birthday (which is next weekend) to see Paramore. Thankfully it was being held at Homebush and not all the way in the city. So after an enjoyable night with Mel I drove myself back up the mountains and tried to get some sleep for tomorrow morning’s run. I knew I was going to feel tired, but it would be the shortest run of the camp so I thought I would be okay.

I got back to our room at 12.45am and crashed……..zzzzzzzzzz

Find Your Feet Training Camp – Day 2 – Trail Run

Day 2 of our camp started with breakkie and meeting at the bus by 8am for a morning run. I wasn’t sure if my legs had recovered from the night before but I was about to find out.

Simon drove both groups out to the Iron Pot Ridge section of the course, and both groups would be running this section day. On the drive down (which took about 45mins) we passed some of the 6ft track and I felt like I was starting to get to know the area a little better (even if only by car at the moment).

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Todays section of the course called the Iron Port Ridge is normally off limits to the public as it is private property, however they had gained permission from the landowners for us to run it on that day, so we were all feeling very fortunate. We were also very fortunate to have Brendan Davies join us for the run, he won TNF100 last year in a record time of 9hrs 16mins, wow!!!

It was heating up and this would be a tough run, but I stuck to the longer distance (16km) and put myself in the slower group again, this time our leader would be Graham Hammond. Graham is a very smiley, positive, bubbly guy and you can tell he really loves the outdoors.

We set off down the hill from where the bus dropped us and Hanny started the session with some tips on downhill & uphill running. She explained her Butler pose and how to use gravity to your advantage to pull yourself forward. We did a few intervals up and down the hills for practise and then we got stuck into the course. These tips were most useful and I really started to feel comfier using the technique, so I made a conscious effort to try and make sure I used the tips during the whole run.

Our group of 7 runners including Graham our leader were an awesome bunch to run with. There was the speedy Collette & David up front, followed by Ian (who lost a toenail that day, ouch!) & Claude (our Noosa representative), then Louise and myself running at the tail.

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The first section of the course we went through paddocks and fields, opening and closing gates as we passed them, and we saw a beautiful horse roaming around on our path.

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Then we got to the tricky part which was a steep rocky ascent that was very technical. It wasn’t a long way up, but it was very rugged and you really had to concentrate and watch where you were going, it was easy to lose the path and in fact we did at some spots. Thankfully the trees weren’t too thick in this area (probably due to the large amount of rock) so we could easily look up and see which way the group was supposed to be heading. Here’s a shot of the view from the top of the Iron Pot Ridge.

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And here’s the spot where we started to head back down, very steep and uneven but we were all smiling!

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And I almost forgot to mention these little holes that Graham pointed out to us up on the ridge, they are said to be from when the aborigines lived on the ridge they used these to grind cook etc. Apparently there are some drawings in the area too but we weren’t fortunate enough to see them that day.

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Graham gave us some good advice for the next downhill sections too and we made like ducks (heel to toe) all the way to the bottom. We even quacked a few times to help re-iterate the point (and because it’s fun). We slipped and slided down the loose leaves which covered the downhill section and used trees as brakes at some parts. It was important to keep the body low, almost squatting into the hill, and use small steps to keep moving. When we got to the bottom of the tricky section Graham pointed out some landmarks and we took a 2 min break to take in the view, spectacular.

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We were now making our way back to the bus, back towards the big hill at the end and I wasn’t looking forward to that. However I was determined that it wasn’t going to beat me, I just had to keep moving. Collette and David had been speedy & were ahead of us and I now ran with Ian and Claude. We egged each other on and took the winding hill, with it’s thousands of bends (well, it felt like thousands, and I’m sure it was much longer on the way back up!!) and eventually it flattened out at the top just before the bus so I convinced the guys we should run the last part and not let this hill beat us. And we did! We felt great for it too. What a blast!

The crew lumbered back onto the bus and we headed down the road to pick up the speedy guys who had added an extra few km’s to pass the time. It was starting to heat up and we all planned to take a dip in the hotel pool when we got back. After a quick swim & some lunch we were headed into the conference room for an afternoon of learning about Nutrition, Hydration and the mandatory gear required for TNF in May.

It had been so rugged out there on the trails today, but there was so much to see and do that I didn’t really even think about running on this course. I was so amazed at how much these trails brought me back to earth, made me feel so relaxed and at ease. It had been another top run and again something that I would never forget!

Happy Trail Running! 😀

Find Your Feet Training Camp – Day 1

Last Friday I took the day off work as I was booked into a training camp in the Blue Mountains with Find Your Feet, a camp specifically designed to assist with training & preparation for The Northface100 in May.  We didn’t have to be there till after lunch so I decided to visit my grandmother in the morning as it was on the way.

I will be running The Northface100 for my grandmother and raising funds for Dementia research, as she has Alzheimer’s disease. I had not told her yet so I thought it fitting to spend the morning with her and give her some information about the race, the course and that I would be running it for her. She was very excited and a little overwhelmed, and I know her smile and positivity will be with me during the race.

So I gave Nan a hug and I got into my car feeling very nervous about the camp and not really sure what to expect. I was also freaking out a little about the 100km journey that awaits me in a couple of months. Can I really do this? Is this a really stupid thing to be putting my body through?

I’m not sure why I started being so negative, probably the fact that 100km is a FRIKIN long way, but I hoped that the camp might give me some tools to prepare myself through training and learning about proper nutrition and hydration. So I was on my way, there was no turning back now.

I pulled into the Waldorf Laura Gardens Hotel and checked-in at the reception desk. I went to my room and started unpacking and I met Louise from Melbourne who would be my roomie for the weekend and a fellow TNF100 runner. Then the phone rang and we were asked if we didn’t mind changing rooms to share with another lady too, so we packed up our stuff again and moved to our new room. There we met Matilda who was from Canberra and even though she wasn’t competing in TNF she was a client of Hanny’s and had come along for the experience.

We got organised (me stealing the double bed, thanks ladies) and then heading to our conference room for the first session which included a little Introduction on what the camp would entail, followed by an insightful talk from our camp leader Hanny Allston about her life and career up to this point.

Hanny is an amazing women and she has come so far in her life thus far. A lot of what she said I could relate to very easily, and her openness and honestly helped me to relax into the camp. It’s amazing the journey that life can take you on and I had an inkling that this weekend would be one I would never forget.

So we finished up and headed to our rooms to gear up for the first run. We had to pack mandatory items and I was going to need my new headlamp and backup thermal gear (just as a precaution). The 50km runners would be doing a 9km route from the Resort along Hordern Road and the 100km runners would be doing a 20km night run from the Queen Victoria Hospital, through Kedumba Pass and up the Furber Steps. All of our training runs would be the course sections that we would be running on race day, and I was really looking forward to seeing the different areas so I could prepare for them now and mentally during the race.

We all hopped on the bus driven by Simon (Hanny’s Dad) our chauffeur for the weekend, and we headed to the start of our trail run. The section we were running tonight is the last section of our 100km journey. It’s probably going to be the hardest part of our course as there is a huge drop at the 80km mark, followed by some very tough ups and downs, then the Furber Steps.

I was the only female runner doing the 20km run and I chose to go in the slow group which would be lead by Julie Quinn, a three time winner of TNF100 (how awesome!). Turns out all of the men thought they were speedy so that left Julie and I to run the course together. I knew this would be a great opportunity for me to learn from Julie and find out as much as I could from her during the run. She must have got sick of me asking so many questions, but she never showed it. I watched her technique and foot placement as we went down the hills, and she filled me in on lots of information about the area and what to expect.

The first downhill section was on fire trail and it was pretty speedy compared to everything else that would follow, but I didn’t want to go too hard as I knew it was going to be a hilly end. We made a sharp right turn at the bottom of the track and started the trek of challenging ups and downs, twists and turns….. some of the course looks so similar in so many parts, and during the race I will be coming through this section at night which will be even tougher as I’m guessing we won’t be able to see the top and know when we’re getting closer.

Julie was so positive and even though we walked up most of the hills, she said that we were holding a nice steady pace and that’s what I should aim for on the day. I was felling it, it was quite tough, but I knew there was a flatter section coming up soon. Soon just took a lot longer than I was expecting.

Finally we reached the section where it turned into a single track, fern covered rainforest and the light was starting to fade. We stopped at a picnic table and got out our headlamps (I wore a Petzl R+) and fluro vests, good practise as I would have to wear both on race day too. Julie let me take the lead from this point so that I could get some practise in with my headlamp (I wore a buff underneath to keep it steady & prevent rubbing) and I must say this was my favourite part of all the runs we did that weekend. Don’t get me wrong, I was blown away at so many views and sections of our runs this weekend, but this was my favourite. There was just Julie and I and the flowing track and it felt like were in the middle of nowhere. The green shrubs, the cool night air, the small rain drops that called as we ran….. it was magical.

Then our silence was broken by some walkers above, they seemed to come from nowhere, but apparently there was another track above us that came down and would meet us up ahead. We said ‘hi’ to the walkers and kept going.

I stopped in my tracks, a huge spider had started spinning it’s web right in front of me and there was no way I was running through that. Julie found a stick and we cleared the path so we could get through. I had run through a few webs previously but thankfully there were no spiders. And on we went.

As we approached the Furber steps some of the fast group came up behind us, they’d taken a wrong turn and ended up behind us somehow. So we all started to make our way up the steps that would be the last ascent for the night (and also what would be the last ascent during the race). And boy was it tough! Steps of different sizes and terrain, some rock steps, some wood, some steel, and some so steep that you had to use the handrail to pull yourself up (well I had to use them, but maybe not everyone). At one point we looked back and we could see the three sisters lit up behind us, more magic.

When we got to the top of the stairs we met up with all of the other runners and we all chatted about how hard it was, but also how much we enjoyed the course. We all agreed it would be the toughest section during the race, but also quite a spectacular one.

And I forgot to mention the leeches!! Most of the guys had them on their ankles and thankfully all I found was a bit of blood on the back of my ankle so it had dropped off. They are gross! I think I’ll make sure my legs are covered for the night section!!

We piled back onto the bus and headed to the hotel for some much earned dinner and rest. I knew I was going to sleep well that night!

I wish I had taken some pictures that night, but they may not have turned out very well due to the lighting. However the memories and feelings from that run will stay with me for a long time, it felt so amazing like I was connected to the earth in some way. Just awesome!

Stay tuned for more information about Day 2 of the training camp.

Happy Running! 😀

If you are interested in reading a bit more about my grandmother and/or donating towards Dementia research, here’s the link to my fundraiser page: https://CHeBA2.everydayhero.com/au/running-hailey